A Virgin Birth
As with the passage we read yesterday from 2 Samuel, today’s passage includes some statements that not only spoke of a reality that was to come in the near future, but also a reality that would come in the distant future. In Isaiah 7, we read God’s promise to give King Ahaz, the king of Judah, a sign that his kingdom would not be defeated by the kings of Israel and Syria. That sign would be a virgin birth. Scholars have found no evidence of a child conceived to a virgin mother in the time of Ahaz. But we know from the New Testament that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a virgin when she conceived Him, and we know from the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus’ birth took place to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy to Ahaz (Matthew 1:22). Notice what these passages tell you about God’s presence and power.
When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“ ‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.’ ”
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
- Why do you think God would use a virgin birth as a sign of His presence and power?
- What do you think Matthew and the early disciples—who would have grown up learning Isaiah’s prophecies—would have felt when they heard Mary conceived Jesus as a virgin?
- What impact does the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of a sign of God’s presence and power have on your faith in or relationship with Jesus?
- How might your perspective, prayers, and practices around Christmas change as you consider that Jesus was the fulfillment of a sign of God’s presence and power?
Jesus, God with us, thank You for who You are and that You came to be human among us. You know what it is to have a body that hurts and emotions that overwhelm. You know what it is to be tempted, betrayed, and tricked. In the midst of my suffering, remind me that You know this, and that in You, I can find wholeness and freedom. Amen.
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