Isaiah 7:10-14 – Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
In order to understand this portion of God’s Word we need to look at some of the details surrounding this prophecy. We look at the kind of king that Ahaz was and then we look at the events that were going on in Judah. King Ahaz was not a good king. He worshipped many false idols and he encouraged the people to do the same. He set up idols for worshipping Baal. He put an altar to a false god in the temple. Later he closed the temple and put up altars to false gods on every street corner. He was one of the worst kings that Judah ever had.
During the reign of King Ahaz, the nation of Judah was threatened by King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel. Rezin and Pekah had formed an alliance because the empire of Assyria was threatening to conquer the entire land. Rezin and Pekah wanted King Ahaz to join them but when he refused, they attacked Judah. The people were very afraid because of the two kings who were attacking their nation. That is when God sent his prophet Isaiah to speak to King Ahaz. Earlier in chapter 7 we have the first part of Isaiah’s message to the King. Isaiah told Ahaz that God would not allow Rezin and Pekah to conquer Judah. Isaiah told Ahaz to not be afraid and to believe and trust in the Lord. In response to the promise of deliverance, Ahaz does absolutely nothing. He ignores the Word of God.
That is where our sermon text begins. God gives Ahaz a chance to see that God’s Word is true. God is going to allow Ahaz to ask for a sign. Any sign that Ahaz wants, God is going to give it to him. If we didn’t know who Ahaz was, we might miss the reason that the response of King Ahaz is so horrible. King Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). Certainly, we are not to put God to the test. We are not to ask for signs when God has not promised to give us a sign. However this situation is different. God wanted Ahaz to ask for a sign. God told Ahaz specifically that he would give him a sign. Ahaz showed that he did not believe in God. Ahaz refused to listen to a direct command from the Lord.
When Ahaz showed his unbelief, the Lord showed his anger against Ahaz. Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?” (Isaiah 7:13). God was angry that Ahaz was abusing the Lord’s patience. Our patient God certainly wants all men to come to repentance. But when people refuse to listen to his Word, he is angered. God had already told Ahaz that he was going to destroy Kings Rezin and Pekah. God would have protected Ahaz and Judah if Ahaz would have believed God. But now there was only judgment for Ahaz. Eventually Assyria would attack Judah and later Judah would be conquered by Babylon.
The prophecy that we have in verse 14 is a prophecy about our Savior. Before we talk about the details of the prophecy, we will first look at how the coming Savior was a message of God’s judgment. For King Ahaz and for all the unbelieving Jews, Jesus would bring God’s judgment. Before Jesus was born, the people of Judah would be carried off into captivity. Their nation would be conquered and they would no longer have the power and prestige that they enjoyed during the time of King David. Even when Jesus was born, the Jews were ruled by the Roman Empire. They were looking for a Messiah to deliver them from the Romans but that is not what they got in Jesus.
Jesus confronted the Jewish religious leaders. He pointed out their sins and their unrepentant hearts. He judged them for their lack of faith. Jesus used the harsh message of the law to lead many people to return to a true faith in him and yet many people rejected Jesus. Now Jesus has returned to heaven and we wait for his return. On that day of Jesus’ second coming, there will be many people who will fall under Christ’s judgment. Right now Jesus speaks to this world through the message of the Bible and yet many people reject that message. On Judgment Day Jesus will condemn all unbelievers.
Think about all the people who try the patience of God just like King Ahaz. Many people don’t want to believe God’s Word. Many people want to pick and choose which portions of God’s Word they want to believe. If they disagree with a portion of the Bible, they think they don’t need to follow it. Think of the arrogance – a person who thinks they know better than God. Some people ask God for foolish signs. They want signs that God has not promised. They try to make a bargain with God. They say something like this, “God if this one good thing happens in my life, then I will come to church more.” God doesn’t give those kinds of signs. He has given us the most important signs through his Word.
It isn’t just people outside of our church who try the patience of God. Many of us sin against God by trying his patience. How often do we hear the message of God’s Word on Sunday morning and then ignore that message the rest of the week? Do we skip the Bible Studies that are offered because we have more important things to do? Do we read our Bibles daily or do we watch an extra TV show and get a few more minutes of sleep? God wants to teach us about his grace. He wants us to see the proper use for his law and gospel. He wants to work in our hearts through the Word and Sacraments. Why would we try his patience by not making use of opportunities to grow in our faith?
The sign that God gave to Ahaz and to us is a sign of judgment. People who don’t trust in Christ will be condemned. And yet this sign is also a sign of mercy.
Verse 14 tells us, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” The King James Version of the Bible includes a word that the New International Version of the Bible does not have. In this instance, the King James is closer to the original Hebrew text of the Bible. The word that is missing is “Behold” – the original Hebrew says, “Behold, the virgin will be with child…” This word “Behold” tells us that what follows is a very special, very important prophecy.
The next word to highlight is that word “virgin.” Many people today do not want to believe this part of the prophecy. They think that this miracle is impossible. There are many reasons that they don’t want to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin mother. One of those reasons is that their human intelligence tells them that every child needs to have a human father and a human mother. While this is true of every human child – Jesus is different. Jesus is true God and true man. Of course unbelieving hearts have trouble accepting this truth but it is still the truth.
Some of these unbelievers will try to use the Hebrew language to prove their point. They point to the word that is translated “virgin” and say that it can also mean “a young girl.” While it is true that the word can mean both “young girl” and “virgin,” a good translation of the Hebrew will let the surrounding context determine what the word means. If you look at the times that word is used in the entire Old Testament then you see that there is no time when it can be proven that it is talking about a young girl who is not also a virgin. Also, here in Isaiah, when it says “Behold, the virgin will be with child” it is talking about a special event. There is not much special about a pregnant young girl. But a virgin who is pregnant, that is incredible.
We also look at the gospel lesson today from Matthew. This portion of scripture showed that Isaiah 7:14 was talking about Mary and it shows that she was a virgin. The angel came to Joseph and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). The angel confirmed that Mary was still a virgin. Verse 25 states that she remained a virgin until after Jesus was born. It says, “But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” Anyone who denies the virgin birth denies the clear words of the Bible.
The miracle of the virgin birth is very important to our salvation because it shows that Jesus was true God and true man. Only God could have been born in this miraculous way. If Jesus had not been true God then he could not have been our Savior. If he had not been true God then he would not have been perfectly sinless. He would not have been our substitute to take away our sins. But because he is true God, he truly is our Savior. The name Immanuel comes from two Hebrew words which mean “God with us.” Jesus is God. He is perfect. He is also man. He lived as one of us. He is our brother who was tempted like us in every way and yet was without sin.
He forgives us for those times that we have tried God’s patience. For all the times that we have not honored God and his Word as highly as we ought to, Jesus always honored God and his Word. The example of the boy Jesus at the temple shows us just how highly he regarded his Father’s Words. Even as a 12 year old boy he wanted to spend as much time in God’s Word as possible. He wanted to talk to the religious teachers about the Word and he wanted to spend time in the temple. Jesus, our perfect substitute, gave all the glory to his heavenly Father. Jesus suffered and died for our sins and because he is true God, born of virgin, his suffering and death is credited to all of us. We are forgiven.