A Journey of Faith
Matthew 1:22 Now all this happened so that might be fulfilled that which was spoken of the LORD by the prophet, saying,
Matthew 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive in her womb, and will bear a son. And they will call His name Emmanuel," which being interpreted is, God with us.
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The Bible tells us Jesus was born to a virgin.
Luke tells us also. We know it's true. We have no debate about that. It isn't hard for us to believe. (Personally, for me, compared to everything else Jesus has done for me, it isn't hard for me to believe His momma was a virgin). No debate.
But what do we do when we read that 700 years before Jesus was born it was predicted that He would be born to a virgin?
What do you do when you read those 2 verses?
Our Bibles have the cross-reference, we could look up the Old Testament reference to this prophecy.
We could accept it by faith and keep reading, moving on to verse 24.
There really are only two reasons to check out the reference:
#1. To prove to ourselves that this prophecy is true
#2. Or to use as evidence to prove to someone else that Jesus was the Messiah. Which really is good proof.
- The book of Matthew was written to Jews - One reason was to convince them that Jesus is/was the messiah.
- Matthew uses lots of Old Testament prophecies about the messiah.
- So those prophesies should be good evidence/proof of Jesus.
- The Jews would have a good understanding of OT scriptures.
- Matthew knew the experts (Pharisees) would know the context of each of the prophecies.
- Therefore Matthew knew (in 1:22) he needed to be quite correct when quoting the prophecies.
- Therefore Matthew's prophecies should be excellent proof, even today, that Jesus is who He claimed to be.
- Studying those prophecies should give us good evidence to present to others.
1. So we are going to look at a lot of fascinating facts today.
2. We are going to explore the context of the prophecy of the virgin birth.
3. We will struggle with some of the details.
4. And in seeking the facts we will find some lessons in faith. We are going to take a little journey of faith.
Matthew 1:22 Now all this happened so that might be fulfilled that which was
spoken of the LORD by the prophet, saying,
Matthew 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive in her
womb, and will bear a son. And they will call His name Emmanuel," which being interpreted is, God with us.
Wow, what better proof that Jesus was the messiah!
Not only was Jesus born to a virgin but Old Testament prophecy states that it will happen 700 years before. The Old Testament actually predicts that a man will be born to a virgin. The Old Testament tells us that man would be the Messiah, Jesus.
So in Matthew 1:23 he quotes from Isaiah 7:14:
Isaiah 7:14 So, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.
Let's read all of chapter 7 to get the context.
This was the time of the divided kingdom
Pekah was king of Israel (also called Ephraim)
Ahaz was king of Judah (they were both bad kings)
The north and south divisions of the country hated each other.
Pekah, king of Israel joined with Rezin king of Syria to fight Judah (the lower part of the country)
(That is Syria, not Assyria.
Syria is/was a small country to the north of Israel;
Assyria was one of the world powers at the time.)
Isaiah 7:1 And it happened in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not overcome it.
This was about 740BC
Ahaz had been king about 2 or 3 years
Israel and Syria had already invaded Judah and did or were about to take parts of Judah captive. (2Kings 16:6)
The killed a lot of people and captured a lot of people (2 Chronicles 28)
So they could not overcome Jerusalem but did big damage in Judah.
Isaiah 7:2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is allied with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the woods are moved by the wind.
So the people had good reason for fear.
Isaiah7:3 Then Jehovah said to Isaiah, Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the Fuller's Field.
God told Isaiah to bring his son whose name means "the remnant shall return"
It is interesting that God told him to take his son. The son's name is directly relevant to the prophecy that Isaiah is about to give, but it appears as though Isaiah makes no reference to his son at all in any of the following dialog.
Isaiah 7:4 And say to him, Be careful and be quiet. Do not fear, nor be timid of heart because of the two tails of these smoking firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and of the son of Remaliah;
God refers to the 2 kings as (smoking firebrands) past their prime and almost worthless. Burned out and almost over.
And God refers to Pekah as "the son of Remaliah".
What caused God to not want to use Pekah's name?
I don't remember any other place in the Bible where this happens.
So who is Pekah?
· Captain in the army of Israel
· Killed the former King and took over
· Was God angry at his treachery?
· At his warfare with his brothers in Judah?
Whatever the reason it must have been severe for God to refuse to use Pekah's name.
That is something we don't ever think about:
We are God's adopted children,
through the gift of Jesus,
We know God knows our names.
We know God calls us by name.
We can be grateful for that. We don't have to worry that God will refuse to use our names. We are part of His family.
Isaiah 7:5 because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted against you, saying,
Isaiah 7:6 Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and break her for ourselves, and set a king in the midst of it, the son of Tabeal.
The country of Syria, and God uses the other name Israel was called "Ephraim" (called Ephraim as that was the largest tribe in the northern kingdom. )
So God is saying Syria, Israel and the king of Israel are coming against you, and they have already picked out who they are going to put in charge of Judah when they take over: the son of Tabeal. (little is known of him)
God is telling King Ahaz not to worry about this invasion because:
Isaiah 7:7 So says the Lord God, It shall not stand, nor shall it come to pass.
Then comes a confusing bit:
Isaiah 7:8 For the head of Syria is
Damascus, and the head of Damascus is
Rezin; and within sixty-five years Ephraim shall be broken so that it shall not be a people.
Isaiah 7:9 And the head of Ephraim is
Samaria, and the head of Samaria is
Remaliah's son. If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.
Damascus is the capital of Syria.
Samaria is the capital of Israel at this time (also called Ephraim)
There is a theory that a scribe transposed parts of the above. That the part that says: and within 65 years... should be after "the head of Samaria..."
The first prophecy Isaiah speaks in this passage:
"within sixty-five years Ephraim shall be broken so that it shall not be a people." Now this presented the first problem for me:
If those 2 countries are attacking right now, it would not have made me feel any better thinking that one of them will be destroyed in 65 years.
I would have said: "I don't care what happens to them in 65 years, what about NOW?"
It's almost like you are driving with your 2 year old son -about to run out of gas, and God speaks to you and says don't worry, I will take care of your son's college education expenses.
And Isaiah's 2nd
prophecy in this passage:
"If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established."
Isn't that funny?
I start this Bible study looking for "facts" not faith, and what does Isaiah say to King Ahaz: "if you don't believe it, you won't survive".
This was my first lesson in faith.
"If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established."
Words from God's mouth about the importance of faith.
The next section starts:
Isaiah 7:10 And Jehovah spoke again to Ahaz, saying,
Isaiah 7:11 Ask a sign of Jehovah your God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
God, and probably Isaiah too, knew Ahaz didn't believe he and Judah would be saved.
So God told Isaiah to tell Ahaz to ask for a miracle so that God could confirm that what God was saying was true.
In other words, God is saying "ask Me to prove what I am saying by asking me to perform a miracle to prove it".
And Ahaz could have asked anything at all "either in depth or height". Anything.
Isaiah7:12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, nor will I tempt Jehovah.
Ahaz tries to appear that he is such a strong believer that he does not need to ask for a sign. He is implying that he, Ahaz will believe it without a sign. 2nd lesson in faith.
Ahaz tries to appear that he has so much faith that he won't ask for confirmation of God's word to him, even though God said to ask.
But if he truly had that much faith why didn't he ask?
If it was me I would have told Isaiah, if God really wants to confirm His word to me, He could give me a Cherry Red 1959 Cadillac DeVille. You
would probably have said "Lord, You have asked me to ask for a sign of confirmation of Your word of deliverance. If you are truly going to deliver us Lord, show us by providing 3 sacks of grain and a new donkey for each of our families living here in Jerusalem".
truly have faith in the Lord, why aren't you asking for what you want. And even more, why aren't you asking for what you need?
But that is not what Ahaz did. He refused to ask.
(the truth is he had probably already sent to ask Assyria to help out. He had probably already asked help of another country instead of God. Proving his lack of faith.) Now we get to the next section of the prophecy:
Isaiah7:13 And He said, Hear now, O house of David; is it
a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?
Isaiah says it is not bad enough you are making me mad, but you want to make God mad too?
But Isaiah here is speaking to all the people, not just to King Ahaz.
Isaiah7:14 So, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.
That prophecy, (that a virgin will give birth) appears to be given to prove what God is saying.
To prove that He will deliver Judah from this attack by Syria and Israel.
But is that really what God is saying here? Let's read on:
Isaiah7:15 Butter and honey he shall eat until he knows to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Butter and honey he shall eat, as a small child.
Did I tell you this passage, this entire prophecy, is greatly disputed among the experts? There are lots of different opinions on this entire passage we are looking at today.
But this term "eating butter and honey" or "curds and honey" is also disputed, with exactly opposite ideas.
One idea is that this will be a time of prosperity, (the land of milk and honey, promised land)
one idea stated that this was typical food for little kids, and
one idea (which seems to be supported here) is that the little kids had to eat butter and honey because that was about all there was to eat in the land.
So while preparing this Bible study I spent a lot of time researching this term, what it means, what the experts say.
Then I realize something I almost missed.
But first let's review for a moment:
- We started this study with Matthew and the prophecy
- We, you and I, know that this prophecy of the virgin birth is true
- We know the Bible is true, so that means that when Matthew says this Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled with the birth of Jesus, that is true.
- So we know that this passage 7:14 is about Jesus.
Do you see what verse 7:15 says?:
"he knows to refuse the evil and choose the good."
This tells us what?
Something really cool about Jesus.
Jesus was tempted like we are. He lived daily, choosing the good, and refusing the evil. He was faced with all the choices we are.
This verse tells us Jesus did not live above these things; He fully took on being a man. And faced the same things we did, He had to choose to do good. He always had the option to do evil, but He refused it. He chose to do good.
These are the same choices we make.
Isaiah 7:16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you loathe shall be forsaken before both its kings.
Now I will share my theory. I would love to tell you any of the experts agree with me, but I couldn't find any so I am probably wrong but I think there is a possibility here that this is a different child. I think Isaiah could have pointed to his child (whose name means "a remnant shall return") and said before "this" child knows to refuse the evil and choose the good...
There are two reasons I think this; Isaiah uses two different words for child, and this is the only place there could be any purpose for God telling Isaiah to bring his child with him. (see verse 3)
But as I said, no one agrees and it makes the first word in 7:16 hard to explain.
Then we start a new section of this prophecy:
Isaiah 7:17 Jehovah shall bring on you, and on your people, and on your father's house, days that have not come, since the days that Ephraim departed from Judah, the king of Assyria.
When "Ephraim departed from Judah" was when the country split in two. Ephraim = Israel, the northern part of the country.
Hard times are coming, hardest since the country split.
Notice that God is saying Assyria will come and attack Judah. Assyria is the country that King Ahaz is turning to help fight against the two countries attacking Judah.
During this period Ahaz takes a lot of the gold out of the temple and the treasury and sends it to the king of Assyria and asks them to come and help Judah out by attacking Syria and Judah.
Ahaz trusts in Assyria instead of God. Ahaz has faith in Assyria, not in God.
And we need to be careful of what we have faith in. Because we are going to have faith in something. God calls us to have faith in Him.
And Assyria does come,
attacks Israel and brings an end to both the kings that are attacking Judah now.
So Ahaz's request for help from Assyria seems to work. Except
what God is saying is "the country you turned to for help, will attack you"
This prophecy, and to the end of the chapter, is in response to verse 9: If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.
We always think having faith in God will bring us good things. I never think about not
having faith in God will bring me bad things.
But in a sense it was Ahaz's lack of faith that resulted in the ultimate attack of Judah, by the country he turned to, by Assyria. Had Ahaz not called for Assyria, they may not have attacked Syria, then Israel and then also Judah.
Isaiah 7:18 And it shall be, in that day Jehovah shall hiss for the fly at the end of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is
in the land of Assyria.
Isaiah 7:19 And they shall come and all of them shall rest in the desert valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and on all thorns, and on all the pastures.
Isaiah 7:20 In the same day the Lord shall shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by those Beyond the River, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet; and it shall also sweep away the beard.
God is saying, they will come after you
The next section talks about how bad the devastation will be:
Isaiah 7:21 And it shall be, in that day a man shall keep alive a young cow and two sheep;
Isaiah 7:22 and it will be, from the plentiful supply of milk they shall give, he shall eat butter; for butter and honey shall everyone eat who is left in the land.
This is the reason I believe, in this passage at least, the reference to the child eating "curds and honey" means it is a time of extreme hardship and poverty.
The reason that the milk is plentiful is that the only thing growing is grass. There is no one to plant crops or tend farms so they all go back to wild grass so the cows have plenty to eat, producing lots of milk. And the honey is wild.
Isaiah 7:23 And it shall be, in that day every place where there were a thousand vines, worth
a thousand pieces of silver, it
shall even be for briers and thorns.
Isaiah 7:24 With arrows and with the bow men
shall come there, because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
Isaiah 7:25 And all hills which were hoed with the hoe, you shall not come there for fear of briers and thorns; but it shall be for the sending out of the ox, and for the trampling of sheep.
Speaks of the devastation to the country from the inevitable destruction.
All these things God is predicting here do come true.
Now here is the first problem I had with this Bible study: Isaiah 7:14
So, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.
This appears to be a prophecy that the Lord gave to prove that Judah would not be destroyed by Israel and Syria.
But if that was the case, how did Jesus being born help? This was spoken about 740 years before Jesus was born.
And it says:
"For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you loathe shall be forsaken before both its kings."
And yes that was true, before Jesus was born 740 years later, the kings of both those countries had been removed but a time frame like would not be too helpful for the people at that time.
In fact this part of the prophecy was
fulfilled AND within 3 years
. Assyria attacked Syria and Israel within that time.
Both kings were gone within 3 years of this prophecy. The length of time it would take a child to be born and weaned.
There is a theory that this prophecy, of the virgin birth, has two fulfillments, one time during this period,
and a fuller fulfillment in Jesus.
There is speculation that when God spoke of this virgin birth He was speaking of the next child Isaiah would have.
And in fact, in the very next chapter, Isaiah does have another child, and there is a bit of evidence that points to this as a possibility.
Some experts think this is a generic way of saying a young unmarried woman somewhere is going to have a baby and by the time the child is weaned both kings will be gone and neither country will be a threat anymore.
So the time frame would be 3 years or so. (she get's married, pregnant and then weans the child)
I understand the "double fulfillment" idea of prophecy, (I don't like it, but I understand it) but it is sounding really unclear to me. To make that work you have to use the word "virgin" to have a different meaning in one sense of the prophecy and another meaning in the fuller sense of the prophecy. My next lesson in faith:
Some of the experts think that God was speaking of an unmarried woman at the time of the prophecy that was in the household of Ahaz the king.
So she was, therefore, still a virgin at the time the words were spoken.
Ahaz had a son, his name was Hezekiah. He eventually became king after Ahaz dies.
It turns out that many Jews, because of these words spoken by Isaiah:
Isaiah7:14 So, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.
Expected a messiah soon. In fact, many Jews thought Ahaz's son Hezekiah was the messiah. Time proved them wrong.
But that did show me that at the time Isaiah spoke those words, they were interpreted by many to be referring to the messiah.
So they expected the messiah
because of the words Isaiah spoke, They didn't get one
so therefore this prophecy would have remained unfulfilled
until the time of Jesus(See commentators: Gill & Keil and Delitze)
So that's the answer, everyone understood he was talking about the messiah. But now we have a new problem.
Or at least it didn't make sense to me:
Look at verse:
Isaiah7:16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you loathe shall be forsaken before both its kings.
Ahaz and the people are worried about being attacked by Syria and Israel. And God says in a few years both kings will be gone. And in fact that happens (2Kings 15:29; 2Kings 16:9) in just a few years. Assyria comes and takes a lot of the people captive, back to Assyria.
So the prophecy is fulfilled.
Isaiah7:8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken in pieces, so that is shall not be a people:
If in 3 years it is done, why say in 65 years? Yes both are true, 3 years is within 65 years, but that doesn't make much sense to me, why did God say both?
Within 3 years a lot of the people in Israel were taken away, taken to Assyria. Wasn't that a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:8? "Ephraim be broken in pieces, so that is shall not be a people"
I wonder what the people living then thought. Maybe they didn't think of it at all. Maybe in 3 years when Assyria carried off the people of Israel, the people in Judah were so happy that the threat to them was over, maybe they forgot Isaiah's words.
But still it troubled me:
Assyria comes, takes away a lot of the people,
in 3 years, that means Ephraim is "broken in pieces"
Doesn't that mean the prophecy is fulfilled? Why did God say 65 years and only take 3?
Yes He can do that, yes it is logically correct but something didn't seem right about it. My last lesson in faith:
The answer is:
It turns out that 65 years from the time of these words Assyria brought people from Eastern Asia to settle in the land that formerly belonged to the people of Ephraim. (2Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2 Keil and Delitzse)
The few Jews that remained in the land mixed with the people that the Assyrians brought in.
Thereby making the people of Samaria a mixed breed people. The ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 7:8 "so that is shall not be a people"
In 65 years exactly.
God fulfilled his prophecies just as He said He would:
The northern kingdoms were destroyed and the kings removed within 3 years, in 65 years the people of Ephraim were truly no longer a people group. The point is:
We today have the fulfillment of messianic prophecy,
we today have archeology discoveries proving the Bible's truth,
We have years of Biblical discovery,
We have lots of facts we can rely on,
But God's way includes faith, it is God's exercise plan for our lives.
The people of Judah that heard Isaiah's prophecy had 62 years of no way to understand all he said in chapter 7.
62 years of not understanding.
They had to either accept God's word on Faith or not believe it at all.
62 years. The span of an adult Christian life. God is calling us to an entire life of faith.
I started this Bible study in a search for facts.
I ended the search with a good understanding of the facts, but also with a greater respect for the need for faith.
What about you? What things is God asking you to accept on faith?
For me it is financial provision, facing being totally broke as an older person with no means of getting an income, loss of relationship with my grandkids, missing my homeland. For me it is accepting on faith, God's word about these things. I won't live 62 more years. I expect I won't understand these things until I get to heaven.
What about you? What is God asking you to accept on faith?
I love the fact that so much of God's existence can be proven.
But God's exercise plan for our lives is faith.
Our lives are a Journey of Faith
Author: Mike Pritchard
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