The Prophetic Virgin Birth of Immanuel
Truth Taught- Jesus is the final and greater prophetic fulfillment of the sign that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a Son who is Immanuel, God with us.
The OT context of the Immanuel prophecy…
King Ahaz had proven himself to be a disobedient and idolatrous king. His life was summarized as one who followed after false gods, worshipping them in every way and in every opportunity. He had led the Southern Kingdom down this same path. For this reason God had passed just judgment upon Ahaz and upon Judah.
To carry out this judgment the Lord sent The Northern Kingdom in alliance with Assyria to attack Judah. They killed over 100,000 people many of whom were the heart of Judah’s fighting army. Then they took captive 200,000 Women and children. If the Lord had not interceded through the prophet Obed from the Northern Kingdom, Judah may have been entirely destroyed. (2 Kings 16; 2 Chron. 28).
Now the threat of another invasion is looming over Ahaz and Judah. God reaffirms His commitment to Judah and tells Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah not to fear and have faith. The enemy’s threats are empty words and they will not come to pass.
Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen
Isaiah 7:10–17 (ESV)
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”
In this passage we must not loose sight of the way God fulfills His purposes in spite of the sinfulness of man. Here is a prime example. You couldn’t get much worse than Ahaz. He worshipped Baal, Ashterah, he even had sacrificed his children to Molech. He has nothing to do with the God of his fathers and Judah is paying the price.
2 Kings 16:1–4 (ESV)
16 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, 3 but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.
Because of these offenses and because of the fact Judah followed in step God had passed judgment upon them. Now that judgment had passed. Ahaz was still as evil as ever but it was time for God to show mercy to the remainder of Judah.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks to Ahaz and tells him to ask Him for a sign that judgment is past and a time of peace is to come. Because Ahaz does not worship God nor believe Him, he refuses.
Would Ahaz show any obedience or belief at all? The answer was no, none whatsoever.
There is often a misconception concerning asking God for a sign. Sometimes, as in this case, it was actually a sign of belief. An example of this is found in…
Judges 6:36–40 (ESV)
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
Gideon believed but needed a little help from God to cement this belief. He wasn’t asking for a sign as a skeptic or a pagan but as a believer, perhaps with a mustard seed sized faith. However, to do what God was commanding he needed a mountain sized faith. Once that fleece was set out He didn’t look back. He knew God was with them.
Ahaz did not believe God’s promise. He did not believe that God was with them and so he did not ask God for a sign.
The sign could have been anything. God said as deep as the grave or as high as heaven. It could have been a resurrection or an eclipse but Ahaz’s heart was too hard and in refusing the direct command of God, he covered it with a little piety…I won’t put God to the test. Oh well, I guess if God is dependent on man to get anything accomplished He’s simply out of luck isn’t He? I’m thankful today that God’s will is done with man cooperating in prayer and obedience or with man rebelling in disobedience.
13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Here we see the Lord taking the initiative in the salvation of His covenant people. Because Ahaz refused to ask God for a sign, God, Himself gives the prophetic sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Now, many people always want to make the point here that the Hebrew word translated virgin technically does not mean virgin but young maiden. To be perfectly accurate they are right. However, the Hebrew word is in everyplace else used in the Old Testament with an unmarried and pure young maiden. In all cases it means this. So, a very accurate translation is virgin, a young maiden of a marriable age.
15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”
For Isaiah, Ahaz, and the people of Judah who were currently in very distressed situation, the sign was almost immediate. Isaiah and his wife would have a child in a few months proving that God was with them. This child is the immediate fulfillment of this Immanuel promise. During the time of impending attack by the two greater armies of the Northern Kingdom and Assyria, the fact that Isaiah and his wife would see their child born would be proof to all of Judah, including Ahaz that God is, in fact, with them. The child’s name was Maher-Shalel-Hash-Baz (quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil) the very name meant that after the appropriate time it would be Judah who would judge the Northern Kingdom and Judah would be quick to plunder and swift to the spoil.
Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
The NT context of the Immanuel prophecy…
Joseph is engaged to Mary, but before the marriage he discovers that his “young maiden of marriageable age” is pregnant. Joseph is deeply troubled and realizes because they have never had sex that he’s not the father. Being a very gracious man he desires to minimize Mary’s shame so he decides to divorce here privately. Divorce was required to end an engagement/betrothal in those days.
God sends an angel to explain things to Joseph. The child she carries was conceived by supernatural means of the Holy Spirit. He should go ahead with the marriage. The angel tells Joseph to name the child, Jesus (Yahweh is salvation) and explains that He will be the Savior of His people.
What Matthew, the Apostle, does here is an amazing bit of Divine Biblical Theology. He connects the Sign of Immanuel from Isaiah 7:14 to the virgin birth of Jesus. In doing so he reinforces the virgin birth of Jesus for us. It’s in the context of the angel telling Joseph that Mary is carrying a supernaturally conceived child and she is still a virgin and still a “young maiden of marriageable age”. The Bible even tells us that after they were married they still did not have sex until Jesus was born.
So, Matthew sees the final and greater fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy and doesn’t hesitate to explain it to us.
Matthew’s Godly agenda is to prove to his readers that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He does this by really proving two things at the beginning of his Gospel: 1) Jesus is the fulfillment of the eternal King or Messiah who will sit forever on the Davidic throne. He did this through His painstaking genealogies. 2) that Jesus is virgin born Son of God, Immanuel, God with us.
-It’s Prophetically Vital.
It’s vital because God promises it. The OT gives us two predictions. We have the Isaiah 7:14 passage and then we have the prediction in…
Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
In the Hebrew the word technically means seed not offspring. They are similar but not the same. Here we see something very strange the woman’s seed does not make sense except for a virgin birth.
-It’s Theologically Vital
Jesus had to be virgin conceived and born to escape possessing a sinful fallen human nature that was bound for death and yet being a human person. He skipped the fallen human nature because He was not conceived the natural way and yet He was given a human body because His birth was like everyone else’s birth.
Because Jesus did not have a Human Nature the pattern of death or as the Apostle Paul puts it, the Law of Death did not apply to Jesus. He did not have to die for sin. The curse that God pronounced on Adam did not apply to Jesus because He was without a Sinful Human Nature. He was not In Adam. He was not a part of Adam’s cursed race but He did have a human body.
Romans 5 (ESV)
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— …
17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
All this is possible because the death curse or the Law of Death did not apply to Jesus because His was conceived by the Holy Spirit, supernaturally in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
This is how Jesus could be called Immanuel, God with us. The only way God could literally be with us physically is through the fact that…
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
He was named Jesus because as the angel said, He will save His people from their sin. You see God took the initiative and saves us not based on our goodness or righteousness but because we are His people and He must take care of our sin if we are to have full and complete fellowship with Him. To be veiled in the righteousness of Christ is to be able to bring maximum glory to God…
Because of our Savior who is reversing the curse one believer at a time we sing.
That’s why we sing Christmas Songs like …
Joy to the World…the one line that connects with today’s sermon and the virgin birth…as far as the curse is found.