The date for this prophecy is around 734 and the city of Jerusalem is about to come under siege from the Kings of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and Aram. So Ahaz, the King of Judah, found himself in a desperate predicament, yet still he found it difficult to trust in God, preferring instead to offer tribute to Tiglath Pileser, the King of Assyria, the same King who around ten years after this situation, in 722 BC, overthrew the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In response to this behaviour from Ahaz, God offers the words of this prophecy that we now all know so well. However, when we look at it as a whole, on first reading it doesn’t really sound like such good news – so what then are we to make of this.
Read Isaiah 7:10-17
As we look at these verses we find some verses that have given rise to much theological debate over the years. Who was the young woman and who was Immanuel?
- The young woman symbolised Judah or Jerusalem and that Immanuel symbolised the Assyrian King who was to be God’s instrument of justice at that time. Possible, But unlikely!
- Isaiah’s own wife and son. Unlikely!
- The wife of Ahaz and a Royal Heir from the House of David as of yet unborn, namely Hezekiah. Very Possible!
- Mary and Jesus.
Whatever the answer, it was clearly taken by the early Christians to refer directly to the Birth of Christ, one of the most famous Messianic Prophecies and Matthew’s Gospel in particular appears to endorse that belief. But could it have had more than one meaning? Did Hezekiah fulfil this prophecy in his own way some 30 years later when he surrender to Sennacherib thus saving Jerusalem from destruction at that time? And what was Isaiah thinking at that time?
But at a personal level there is something else we need to consider here.
- Ahaz, for whatever reason, seemed reluctant to trust in God.
- Yet even when prompted to do so, as a means of providing ‘evidence’ that God can be trusted, still Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign from God.
- There is little doubt Ahaz believes in God yet still he wants to ‘hedge his bets’ and form an allegiance with others – just in case??
- What then does this say about his relationship with God?
And what can we learn from this?
What does it mean to be a loyal and faithful believer in God?
How does our trust compare to that of Ahaz?
Do we ever ‘hedge our bets’ in others – just in case?
And when God does send us a ‘sign’ how do we respond to it?