Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)
This is one of the most beautiful prophecies of the birth of Jesus Messiah in the Bible. I have heard it every Christmas my whole life and sung about it in carols. But I never really looked at the context of this prophecy until recently. God gave this prophecy to Ahaz, one of the most wicked kings in the history of Israel.
[Ahaz] followed the ways of the kings of Israel and also made idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 2 Chronicles 28:2-3
The setting of Isaiah’s words to Ahaz is the coming against Jerusalem of two kings and their armies. Isaiah records that when this happened “the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” So, God sent the prophet to Ahaz to encourage him and assure him that these two kings would not be successful. God then commands Ahaz to ask for a sign that he indeed would save Israel from her enemies. But in rebellion, masquerading as false-humility, Ahaz refuses, “I will not ask; I will not test the LORD.” Exasperated, Isaiah replies, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God as well?” But then God himself gives the sign, the glorious promise, not just for Israel, but for all the world, for all time.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)
Think about this: Ahaz would be Jesus’ 16th great-grandfather. And, just as God did not have to bring his Son into the world with such an evil person in his family tree (see Rahab), God did not have to introduce this most wonderful of prophecies about his Son to such an evil person in such a depraved place. It must have seemed like such a waste to Isaiah, like the pouring out on the ground of a drink offering – as Jesus’ blood dripping down from the cross must have seemed a waste to the grieving disciples. But God pours out his healing saving miraculous redeeming amazing Word over and over into the muddied swill of the human pigpen. He doesn’t give up on us.
And look! Even more amazing, God didn’t just prophecy, through Isaiah, that Jesus the Savior would be born; he didn’t just prophecy that Jesus would come to us. He prophesied that Jesus would stay with us. Immanuel. God with us.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 (ESV)
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10
If you feel like you are too terrible, too far gone to come to God, remember this. God is with you even now. And remember that it was in a pigpen that the prodigal son decided to go back home. Salvation
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