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GOD’S SIGN, IMMANUEL

Isaiah 7:1-8:22
Key Verse: 7:14

Thank God that we can prepare 2015 Christmas through the study of series of Isaiah chapters 7-11. Today’s passage, 7-8, is about God’s merciful help through Isaiah for Ahaz to depend on him and God’s concern for Isaiah to live a life of faith in a faithless generation. In helping Ahaz God would give him a sign of Immanuel meaning God with us. In this study we can think of the deep meaning of Immanuel and how to live with faith in Immanuel.

First, the sign of Immanuel (7:1-8:10). Ahaz was 11th king of Judah as son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah. 2 Chronicles 28:19 says, “he had been most unfaithful to the LORD.” In the early part of his reign, around 735/734 BC, King Rezin of Aram (Syria) and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to flight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. Then at the news of alliance of Aram and Ephraim northern, most probably the 2nd invasion for Israel the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest were shaken by the wind. Their hearts being shaken was certainly due to their fear. Not long ago there were fearsome events that Arameans defeated Ahaz and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus, and in one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers of Judah. Yet, according to the Bible such dreadful events took place because Judah had forsaken the LORD (2 Ch 28:5-6). King Ahaz had to know that God had caused this event to happen and turn to God in repentance. But he did not view the event in God’s way. He thought that the nations were strong, and feared the kings, not God. Then he was seized by fear and his heart was shaken like the trees of the forest being shaken in a storm, and let the hearts of his people being shaken in the same way. When parents are shaken in fear, so are their children. When a leader is shaken in fear, so are the members. Fear is the very thing we should watch out and overcome.

How did God help Ahaz? Look at verse 3. “Then the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field.’” Shear-Jashub means “a remnant will return.” Isaiah’s taking his son itself would be a message to Ahaz that he might be a remnant in that generation as a king. At that time Ahaz was carrying out his own plan for water supply connecting pipes from Siloam to the city of Jerusalem as a survival strategy at the invasion. But God knew that it would not work out. God wanted him to solve the problem fundamentally. God was giving him a long message in verses 4-9: “Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of fire wood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel (Ezra 4:7) king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” In this message of the LORD the word “head” is written four times. The fighting is up to who the head is. God depicted the two heads Rezin and Remaliah’s son as two smoldering stubs of firewood, which is ready to be extinguished. And their plan and saying would never take place, never happen, for they themselves would be gone with the wind, in fact in three years (2 Ki 16:9; 1Ki 15:30; 17:10). God wanted Ahaz to know that all things would happen according to the Sovereign Lord. The Sovereign Lord set the limit of the existing period of the people of Ephraim. In history Northern Israel was destroyed by Assyria in 722 B.C. and within sixty-five years the people became the people of mixed blood with Assyrians, losing the racial purity as God’s chosen people of Israel. In this passage Ahaz is called the house of David. It is the Sovereign LORD who established David’s kingdom and made it glorious and powerful over all other neighbouring countries, when David acknowledged the LORD as the head of his life and kingdom. In delivering the message God wanted Ahaz to hear the word of God and accept the Sovereign LORD as the head of Judah and so stand firm in his faith. That would be the only way of standing.

Ahaz did not seem to accept such a heartfelt message from God through Isaiah and his son. It was likely that he kept stubbornly his own plan of relying on a newly rising power of Assyria. However, God extended his gracious offer, speaking to him continually through Isaiah, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” Ahaz seemed to be decent and mindful of the LORD, but what he said was nothing but false piety. At this Isaiah’s patience ran out and he said, “Here now, you house of David! Is not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?” Then he continued, “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.” It is a dreadful thing to try the patience of God. In giving this sign the LORD wanted Ahaz to believe that God is Immanuel meaning God with us and put his trust in Immanuel. The true meaning of the sign that the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son was beyond human understanding at that time. To the best understanding of people the sign meant that a young woman of marriageable age would marry and be with child and would give birth to a son. Then verses 15 and 16 says, “He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” God’s continuous message is that Aram and Ephraim would be gone in a matter of time, (in 12 years) so Ahaz had not to dread the two kings. When Ahaz did not accept God’s word, God tried to help him to the end even by giving him a sign. In chapter 8 Isaiah went to the prophtess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to him, “Name him Maher Shalal-Hash Baz. Before the boy knows how to say, ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” The same kind of message concerning the impending end of Aram and Ephraim was repeated, this time talking about an event in 2 years after the prophetess had conceived. Also God’s message to Ahaz in 7:17-25 and 8:6-8 is God’s warning that Judah would also be destroyed, urging him to repent.

Here we see God’s persistent shepherd heart for Ahaz. The evidence of God’s being with him was that the prophet was there throughout his lifetime. Ahaz was called the house of David. God’s promise given to David would not fail that the Messiah would be born in the lineage of David. The sign given to Ahaz that “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” was truly an amazing promise and finally and accurately fulfilled when the baby Jesus was born of virgin Mary. In the event of the baby Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary Matthew saw the fulfillment of this prophecy and wrote, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’” (Mt 1:22-23). And the promise of virgin birth goes back to the promise of God given at the time of man’s fall. God would send a Saviour through the offspring of woman, who would bring victory over Satan to mankind who lost the first fighting.

It was obvious that God was with his people in the Old Testament. The signs of God being with his people were many. Especially in the desert God was with the Israelites by the pillar of cloud at daytime and by the pillar of fire at night (Ex 13:21). God also rained manna from heaven for forty years. These are the undeniable signs of God’s being with this people. Jonah who was in the belly of a huge fish for three days and still survived was the sign that God is living and he saves repentant sinners, even Ninevites (Lk 11:30). However, the uniqueness of the sign of virgin birth is that God himself was the sign coming into this world in flesh. Compared to manna which the Jews thought Moses had given them but in fact God, Jesus is the true bread from heaven, the bread of God (Jn 8:32-33). The invisible God became visible in time and space. This is the deepest sign and the highest sign. He became not only visible but also audible in human voice and touchable. Virtually the holy God lived with sinful human beings. Matthew was one of them and he was changed into St. Matthew form a terrible selfish sinner. Immanuel was well expressed when Jesus found Zecchaeus sitting in a sycamore fig tree and said to him, “Zecchaeus come down immediately. I must stay at his house today.” Now Jesus is Immanuel dwelling in us through the Spirit. He is Immanuel here and now. He is with us even groaning with words that cannot be expressed (Ro 8:26).

Long time ago a soldier deserted from barracks, for the solder’s life was too difficult for him. Then as a deserter he was arrested and put in prison. Since the soldier was one and only son, his mother got a room near the prison and began to live there. She always opened the window and was looking at the place where her son was. Because the son slept in a cold room, she also slept in a cold room. Because the son ate prison food, she could not eat good food, but coarse one. His friends and lover left him, but his mother was there always, worrying about him and taking care of him and praying for him. In the hot summer she brought cool clothes; in the cold winter she brought warm clothes. She also gave him the Bible she used to read. Time passed by and he was released from the prison. Then his mom became like a grandma full of white hairs on her head. At this the son knelt down before his mother and made a poem: “When I was in prison, my mother came near me. When I was cold, mom’s warm hand covered me; when I was lonely and cried, mom’s hand wiped my tears; when I was lying in the lonely room, mom’s heart enveloped me and I could overcome loneliness.” During the time of lonesome and hard prison life what sustained the young man was mom’s love that was with him and the Bible she put in. However, such a good mother leaves someday. All the loved ones leave one by one. But the one who never leaves me and is with me always and forever is the Lord Jesus, who name is Immanuel. The Immanuel Jesus is the very one, the sure sign we should believe to the end and hold firmly.

It is noticeable that the unique and amazing sign of Immanuel was given to Ahaz, the worst kind of king. He can be a representative of all sinners, unbelieving, fearful and stubborn. To such a king God gave the most importance promise. This is the most glorious sign, the deepest and highest sign and at the same time the last sign. In his marvelous grace Immanuel Jesus can be with such sinners and change them into believing, fearless, obedient and gentle in heart, transformed in his likeness. And he would bring us to his eternal kingdom. May we bear this grace and stand firm in faith in him hearing his words and obeying them.

Second, the life in Immanuel (8:11-22). “Immanuel” was an important message to Isaiah also. In God’s judgment message on Judah in 8-11, the end of the message, “O Immanuel.” Isaiah must have believe that God was still Immanuel even amid the judgment upon Judah through Assyria. Then he said in verses 9-10, “Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” When he had faith in Immanuel, he was not afraid of powerful nations that raised the war cry. He knew that all their strategy and plan against God and his people would be in vain for Immanuel was true to him. Here we are reminded of Romans 8:31, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” We can be victorious in any situation through faith Immanuel.

Then God gave Isaiah a personal message. Look at verses 11-14. “The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: ‘Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” God strongly warned Isaiah not to follow the way of the people. He did not want Isaiah to be swayed by politics and the consensus of the people. The people of the world are afraid of outward visible frightening events and are shaken as Ahaz and his people were at the news of the coalition of Aram and Ephraim and the people of our time at the new of terrorists attack. God wanted Isaiah to fear the right one, the LORD Almigty, who is holy, and dread him only. God wanted Isaiah to have refuge in him in the midst of all the troublesome and fearsome happenings. God also wanted Isaiah to know that he is the righteous Judge who deals with the unbelieving conspiring wicked people at the right time.

Then Isaiah shares his personal testimony in verses 16-18. “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” The testimony and the law stand for God’s word. When God precious message of Immanuel was given to Ahaz and his people, it was like giving what is sacred to dogs and the peals to pigs (Mt 7:6). But in such an atmosphere Isaiah engaged in raising disciples who would consider God’s word so precious and have the joy of the bounded testimony and sealed law being disclosed to them and keep the treasures of God’s word in them. He did this ministry of disciple-raising waiting for the LORD and putting his trust in him, who had a higher thought and bigger plan for the nation and the world. He thanked God for his children who along with him became signs and symbols of Immanuel in that generation. They were to signify and represent God in that generation. Through them people would be warned and find hope in God (warning signs and hope signs in MSG). His family was an exemplary family who feared God and served the generation together in God.

In verses 19-22 we see the pitiful condition of those who reject the LORD. They are marked with distress, hunger, roaming, enragement, cursing, darkness, and fearful gloom. They will be thrust into utter darkness. There cannot be any solution in their politics, religion and the created world. Apart from the testimony and the law, which are the words of the LORD, there would be no words that give light and life to men (20).

Through Isaiah we learn how to live with faith in Immanuel. We are reminded of the last words of the risen Christ to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:18-20). Immanuel is the risen Christ who has all authority in heaven and on earth. He wants us to engage in disciple-raising in any circumstances with faith in him and according his great commission.

Thank God Immanuel, who is Jesus. May we live with him to be more and more conformed to the pattern of his life and his image and give our lives to disciple-raising (learning of Jesus together, life together) according to his command and with faith in his authority and promise, not fearing anything in the world.

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