Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Isaiah 7: 10-16


The Child Immanuel

10 Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying,
11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!”  
13 Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
15 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. 16 For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.

Been left hanging long enough, waiting for the response from Ahaz to God? The wait is over today! But, even more than the response comes a word from God "which will be for all the people." (Luke 2: 10)

In one more measure of grace to Ahaz, God says, "Ask a sign for yourself." God knows that Ahaz is scared out of his mind because Israel and Syria have plotted against him (with Assyria watching in the wings). Just because He has told him that their stand against him will not come to pass, He also clearly sees the problem with Ahaz's faith. He said, "If you will not believe, you surely shall not last." (vs. 9) And so, to help his unbelief, God offers up the opportunity for Ahaz to ask for a sign to verify all of this. Pick a sign. Any sign!

"Ahaz was a bad man, yet God is called the Lord his God [vs. 11], because he was a child of Abraham and David, and of the covenants made with them. See how gracious God is even to the evil and unthankful; Ahaz is bidden to choose his sign, as Gideon about the fleece (Jdg. 6:37); let him ask for a sign in the air, or earth, or water, for God’s power is the same in all." 
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

After all of this, Ahaz goes with what classic Let's Make a Deal host, Monty Hall, would say: "Let's see what's behind Door #3, Carol Merrill?" Ahaz decides the best answer to God is not to ask nor to test. Perhaps he was remembering the trouble the Israelites got themselves into in the wilderness:

"'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. [The place at which the Israelites, in the wilderness with Moses, questioned and quarreled over whether God was with them or not.] You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you.'"
--Deuteronomy 6: 16 and 17

Of course, as you are reading the Scripture, you can see how if that was Ahaz's thinking it was terribly flawed. You put God to the test when you do not keep His commandments, testimonies and statutes, although the weariness of God in dealing with stiff-necked Israelites--and Judean kings--also tests the Lord. This results in Isaiah's words about Judah trying "the patience of my God as well." (vs. 13) Not to mention the problem with that quarreling episode from the Exodus in the first place. God was ALWAYS with them. Likewise, through His covenant, God could have been with Ahaz, too. But, Ahaz did not recognize God as "the Lord your God" nor that God gave Ahaz permission, if you will, to ask for a sign. God said it was OK. Nope. The level of rejection and rebellion at the hand of Ahaz tipped the scales.

But, and this is the noteworthy point of the day, God gives Ahaz--and all of us--a sign anyway! What?! Why? Covenant promises. Can God extend His grace to the most vile of offenders? Yes! Can He continue to work through the rejection of that grace? Absolutely! Did Hope come as a sign in the midst of unbelief? Who can do that?! Isaiah brings forth the word of the sign in verse 14: "Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." More than 500 years after this prophecy--and long after Ahaz "slept with his fathers"--Christ, Immanuel, God with us, would be born to a virgin named Mary. And now you know the rest of the story.

OK, not quite the rest yet. But wasn't that great?! Stories like that should give us hope!

There is more to our passage today, and there is more to Chapter 7. Verse 15 speaks of the child, Immanuel, eating "curds and honey." This is notable because this was not a typical child's diet. My study resources tell me that this indicates the land was in poor condition for growing crops as a result of the post-exillic period and the takeover of the land by foreigners. This would not be a child brought up with the luxuries of a king's palace. Already, we understand something about Christ's humble origins, even before He is born, not to mention how quickly He would mature to "know to refuse evil and choose good," (vs 15) "increasing in wisdom and stature...." (from Luke 2:52)

Verse 16 looks as if to quote the end of verse 15: "...know enough to refuse evil and choose good." The NASB uses the capital 'H' in verse 15, referring to Christ, while lower case 'h' is used in verse 16 in reference to "the boy." We need to go back to verse 3 to remember who "the boy" is--Isaiah's son, Shear-jashub. This is a fancy way to indicate time, by the maturing of the Son of God and the son of His prophet. When you think about the timeframe of a boy reaching the age by which he should "know enough to refuse evil and choose good"--which, in the day, would be in the early teen years--you then figure it is not many years before Isaiah's next spoken prophecy would come about: "the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken."

[Pekah/Israel/Ephraim] "I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me;
For now, O Ephraim, you have played the harlot,
Israel has defiled itself."
--Hosea 5:3

[Rezin/Aram/Syria/Damascus] "Thus says the Lord, 
'For three transgressions of Damascus and for four
I will not revoke its punishment....
So the people of Aram will go exiled to Kir,'
Says the Lord."
--Amos 1: 3 and 5 (excerpts)

Matthew Henry ties it all up with a bow:

"This was fully accomplished; for within two or three years after this, Hoshea conspired against Pekah, and slew him (2 Kgs. 15:30), and, before that, the king of Assyria took Damascus, and slew Rezin, 2 Kgs. 16:9. Nay, there was a present event, which happened immediately, and when this child carried the prediction of in his name, which was a pledge and earnest of this future event. Shear-jashub signifies The remnant shall return, which doubtless points at the wonderful return of those 200,000 captives whom Pekah and Rezin had carried away, who were brought back, not by might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. Read the story, 2 Chron. 28:8-15."
--Matthew Henry

The boy, Christ, the Messiah, will also signify that a remnant shall return, bringing the covenant promise full circle through Immanuel, God is with us. Because God is ALWAYS with us!

Since Ahaz went for "Door #3," now, the "Trials Come for Judah".... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 7: 17-20

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).