The Promised Messiah

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 3 Sep 2010


Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)

The prophet Isaiah ministered in Judah during the reigns of Uzziah (792-740 B.C.), Jotham (750-731 B.C.), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.) and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.). It was a time of great turmoil for the people of God. And this is reflected in the theme and content of Isaiah’s prophecy. The theme of this prophecy is “The Chastisement & Comfort for God’s Covenant People.” 

In so far as the content is concerned, the first 39 chapters of the Book of Isaiah focus on God’s judgement and chastisement of His people. This was the time when Assyria was rising in power under the leadership of Sennacherib.

During this time Israel, the Northern Kingdom of the People of God, under king Pekah, and Syria, under king Rezin decided to join forces to resist the Assyrians. They wanted Judah to join the alliance too, but when Judah refused, they decided to attack her. Judah turned to Assyria for help and became a tributary. Israel was conquered by Assyria and eventually when she rebelled, she was completely destroyed in the year 722 B.C.

Judah eventually also rebelled against Assyria. Had it not been for God’s miraculous intervention, Judah would also have been destroyed by Assyria.

Now, in chapter 39, Isaiah prophesied that Judah would fall under the hand of the Babylonians. But from chapter 40 onwards, he comforts God’s people with the assurance that the LORD would restore them on the basis of His covenant love, and urges them to repent of their apostasy.

Now, we are on a series of messages on the promises of God. Which is the most famous and most important promise in this Book? Isaiah 7:14, no doubt!

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 

In which part of Isaiah is this promise found? Well, it is actually found in the first part, where the emphasis is on chastisement. But it is often the case is it not, that the brightest promises are found against the darkest backdrop.

It was around the year 735 BC. King Ahaz was sitting upon the throne in Jerusalem. He was a terribly wicked king who practiced human sacrifices. The situation in the kingdom of Judah was desperate. The king of Israel in the North had ganged up with the king of Syria to attack Jerusalem.

King Ahaz was no doubt greatly troubled. But the time for Judah’s destruction had not yet come. So God sent the Prophet Isaiah to meet Ahaz at the conduit of the upper pool. Perhaps Ahaz had gone there to check if there was sufficient water left for his people.

Despite Ahaz’s unfaithfulness, God gave Isaiah a comforting prophecy to bring to him. The two kings would not succeed in what they sought to do: “It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass” (v. 7).

We are not told about Ahaz’s reaction to the prophecy, but it appears that he did not care. Yet, God condescended to allow him to ask for a sign: “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above” (Isa 7:11). But arrogant Ahaz refused. He said: “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD” (v. 12).

Isaiah saw through his false humility. Indignantly, he replied:

“And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” (v. 13).

Notice that Isaiah is no longer just speaking to Ahaz alone. In verse 11, he said “ask thee a sign.” He was speaking to Ahaz alone,—as the singular pronoun in our translation shows us. But here in verse 13, he says, “hear ye…” Hear all of you! Hear, king Ahaz! Hear, you members of David’s house! Hear all of you, young and old, men and women. What does he want God’s people to hear? He wants us to hear one of God’s most important promises to be found anyway in the Old Testament:

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14).

Most of us would know this verse very well. It is perhaps the most famous verse in the book of Isaiah, if not of the whole of the Old Testament. 

Ironically, many commentators think that this verse is one of the most difficult texts in the Old Testament! I do not think they are right, but you need only to read any commentary on Isaiah to realize that many think this verse is difficult.

Now, I do not think it is necessary to list all the different views. Suffice to say that the controversy surrounds who the virgin and the child are. Anyone who does not believe that the whole Bible, including the Old and New Testament is the Word of God, will make some flimsy speculation as to who they are.

But we have absolutely no doubt that the Holy Spirit is right when He tells us that the virgin refers to Mary and the son refers to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. This is clearly taught in the Gospel accounts such as in Matthew 1:18-15; which we are all very familiar with.

This then, is how we will understand Isaiah 7:14. The virgin-born Son is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Although Ahaz would not live to see the fulfillment of the sign in his lifetime, it was nevertheless a sign for him which he should have received by faith. God has spoken. He would keep His Word. If Ahaz had believed the sign, he would have found everlasting comfort and salvation. So likewise it is a sign for all people in this world. Those who look to it, understand the implication of it and believe it will find everlasting comfort through all the changing scenes of life.

With this in mind, the Lord helping us this evening, we would like to consider three things about the Lord Jesus from this text. First, we must consider His conception; secondly, we want to consider His birth; and thirdly, we must consider His name.


1. His Conception

“Behold a virgin shall conceive…”

What is special about the Lord’s conception? It is special because it is a virgin-conception. Isaiah is obviously saying that the virgin shall conceive and still remains a virgin even when she bears the son. If this were not the case then it would not be a sign. But now as a sign it is unique in the Scripture and in all the history of mankind.

It was fulfilled more than two thousand years ago, around the year 4th or 5th B.C., in the relatively unknown town of Nazareth in Galilee (Lk 1:26). Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, but He was conceived in Nazareth.

His mother Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. They were both descendants of David. But before they came together, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she had found favor with God and would conceive a child, whom she would name Jesus.

Mary was surprised! She and her fiancé have walked righteously before God and had kept themselves chaste. “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man” she asked the angel (Lk 1:34).

The angel answered her:

“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35)

Apart from the virgin Mary, no woman in sacred history or in the history of the world ever conceived a child by the direct intervention of God, without a husband’s participation. Apart from the Lord Jesus, no man in sacred history or in the history of the world was ever without a biological father.

There is a theological reason why it has to be so, which we will explain when we consider the Lord’s birth.

But for now, let us understand that by this miracle, the Lord was also showing to His people that without the special intervention of the Lord, the people will perish.

Man cannot save himself. Ahaz was too proud to receive the Lord’s help. Ahaz is not alone. The vast majority of men throughout history, great and small, have rejected the living and true God, and are seeking to find peace, meaning in life and hope by their own efforts.

But there is no peace, meaning and hope to be found for man himself, for man has fallen into sin and is at enmity with God who is both the creator and sustainer of the universe.

Unless God intervenes dramatically, man has no hope. God intervened miraculously by sending a sinless Saviour into the world though a virgin-conception and birth.

But let us consider secondly, the Lord’s Birth.


2. His Birth

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son…

The virgin Mary was pregnant with child miraculously conceived. Though there were no ultrasound equipment in those days, she and her husband knew that it was going to be a boy.

Why? Because 700 years before, His birth was already prophesied by Isaiah; and the angel had confirmed that it would be so.

And it had also been prophesied that He would be born in Bethlehem (Mt 2:1-2; Mic 5:2). And so in the providence of God, at about the time that Jesus would be born, a decree from Caesar Augustus went out that all the Jews had to return to their hometown to be counted in a census. And providentially Joseph was of Bethlehem; and so Mary and Joseph headed to Bethlehem.

There in Bethlehem, all the inns were fully occupied. Mary and Joseph had to stay in a stable. That night, labor began, and Mary brought forth her firstborn child. It was, as expected, a son. Joseph named him “Jesus” according to the instruction of the angel.

What is the significance of the fact that the child must be a son and not a daughter?

The answer is that He came as our covenant head and redeemer; and in God’s dealings with man, it is the men who must serve as covenant head. As the first Adam implicated all men into sin and death by breaking the covenant of works; so the Lord Jesus must come as the second Adam in order that we might be redeemed from the curse of a broken covenant.

But why must the Lord be born of a virgin?

Well, it must be so in order for Him to qualify to be our mediator.

You see, if Christ descended naturally from Adam, then He would also be imputed with Adam’s guilt, and inherit his sinful nature. If He has Adam’s guilt and sinful nature, He would be a sinner. If He is a sinner, how can He be a savior; for if He is a sinner, He cannot even save Himself, for all that He does would be tainted with sin?

Christ therefore must be born of a virgin that He might not be imputed with the guilt and sinful nature of Adam.

But what about the flesh? The Lord Jesus, of course, would take on the flesh of His earthly mother. Well, the answer lies in the fact that we justly inherit a sinful nature because we are guilty in Adam. So, since the Lord is not guilty in Adam being born of a virgin, He was justly kept from inheriting a sinful nature. Thus the angel told Mary:

“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

Because Christ was born of a virgin, He was not guilty in Adam as we are, and therefore He was kept by the Holy Ghost from inheriting a sinful nature from Mary. Christ, in other words, had original righteousness rather than original sin because He was born of a virgin. Christ had to be born of a virgin in order to be our Redeemer.

Oh what a marvel isn’t it? God seemed to be covering every loophole to make sure that we have a qualified covenant head to represent us.

God did not send an angel to represent us. Angels have a different nature. He sent a person. And not just any person. He sent a man. And not just a man, but a virgin-born man!

And not just a virgin-born man, for consider His name…


3. His Name

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Joseph named the baby boy who was born, ‘Jesus.’ But Jesus had another name. It is not Christ, for that is His title, which means ‘annointed one’. It is rather, ‘Immanuel’. The name means, ‘God with us.’ The Lord Jesus Christ is,—by His birth,—God with us. He is God with us in a very special sense.

Yes, throughout Old Testament history, God was said to be with His people in some sense. He was with Israel in that she was His covenant people and He was their covenant God. The fact that God graced the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem with His shekinah glory speaks of Him being with His people.

But God is with us in,—in Christ Jesus,—in a very special sense never experienced by the saints of God in Old Testament days, for Christ Jesus is the Immanuel. He is God with us. No one else in the history of mankind can be described as Immanuel. The Lord Jesus is not only fully man, He is also fully God.

In speaking of Christ Jesus, the Apostle Paul proclaims that “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9).

The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God, fully Man. He is a divine person, the second person of the Godhead, the eternal Son of God. But in the fullness of time, He took on human flesh in order to be our mediator.

But why? Why must Jesus be the Immanuel? Why is it not sufficient that He be a virgin-born man?

Well, the answer is really found in the name ‘Jesus.’ Jesus means “Jehovah saves.” Jesus came to save us from sin and the wrath of God that God might forgive us our sins.

Were the Lord Jesus only a perfect man,—how ever righteous He might be,—He would not have been able to bear with the intensity of God’s wrath against our sins. For we and our father Adam have sinned against an infinitely holy God. We deserve God’s infinite wrath.

We deserve the pains of hell. In order to represent the church justly, the Lord must endure the pains of hell a million times over according to the number of the elect assigned to Him to save. No mere man, how ever righteous, would be able to bear the pain. He must be divine.

And besides, if God were to forgive our sins, He could not simply appoint a perfect man to represent us; for that would be injustice, would it not? We are justly punished in Adam for we descend from Adam, but how could God simply appoint another man to be punished on our behalf. No, no; He has to be the God-Man, a divine person.

Think of the parable of the unmerciful servant. The master forgave the unmerciful servant who owed him 60 million denarii, which is an impossibly large sum. What he meant was that he would not pursue the debt. He would suffer the loss himself. That is forgiveness.

What if the master had said: “I forgive you, but give me a list of your creditors, and I will get them to pay. Or I forgive you, but I will pursue your rich uncle to pay your debt.”  Would he really have forgiven? Of course not.

So it is with God, we owe Him a great debt. He could not simply overlook the debt. And yet at the same time, He would forgive us. What is the solution? The solution is in Immanuel, the God-Man. God would take the punishment upon Himself in the God-Man.


Conclusion

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 

What a wonderful sign! When I think about it, fills my head and my heart with wonder and comfort. This sign was first given to Ahaz and his house, but it did not benefit them because they did not receive it by faith. But what about you, beloved brethren and children?

He came to die for our sins. The Son of God became the Son of Man, that the sons of man may become the sons of God.

This is why he had to be born of a virgin. This is the reason why must be Immanuel—the God-Man.

And dear brethren, and children remember that the suffering of our Lord was real and infinitely intense. Were it not the case, He need not be God. But though it was the case, God’s perfect justice demanded that He suffered as much as we should suffer for our sins in order that we might be forgiven. It is no wonder that the sun could not shine as the Sun of Righteousness hung on the Cross. It is no wonder that He cried in anguish—“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me.” Such was the pain that our Lord was suffering in His body and soul the favorable sense of His Father’s love which He enjoyed for all eternity hitherto was completely eclipsed.

Such was the suffering of our Lord for us that we might have lives abundant and free. May we never forget that! Amen. Ω