Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sign of Immanu_el

The Sign of Immanu-el
Text: Isaiah 7:1-17

7:1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
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. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

”‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
8 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.
9 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.’”

10 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. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 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. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

Sermon Statement

The sign of Immanu-el for us is that God is in control, God saves and God is with us.

1. Introduction

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Advent is from the Latin word adventus which means waiting or anticipation. Advent is the period where we wait for the coming of the Christ. During the Old Testament times, it is waiting for the coming of the Messiah. In New Testament times, advent , known in the Greek as parousia means waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. Christ came as Jesus about 2000 years ago. The four candles signify the four Sundays before Christmas. Purple signifies waiting while pink signifies joy. The green wreathe in a circle signifies life. The pink candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent.

2. Isaiah’s The sign of Immanu-el
Isaiah 7:1-17 gives us an understanding of Isaiah’s Immanu-el.

a. The historical situation (7:1-2)

7:1-2. Most chronologies of the Old Testament place the reign of King Ahaz of Judah from about 735-715 BC.

The immediate event it describes is a planned attack against Jerusalem by a coalition of "King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel." This Syro-Ephraimitic coalition, as it is known, was an attempt to forge alliances among the nations of the area to withstand an impending invasion from Assyria to the north. Pekah, king of the northern Kingdom of Israel, had tried to get Jotham, Ahaz’ father, to join the alliance against Assyria. Pekah stood in the immediate path of the Assyrian invasion if they marched south. However Jotham had refused to join and so Pekah, with the help of Rezin king of Aram (Syria), had decided to send an army to Jerusalem to replace King Jotham with a puppet king who would agree to their demands to join the coalition (Isa 7:6).

However, before the plan could succeed, Jotham died and left his son Ahaz to face the crisis. While apparently the coalition did manage to lay siege to Jerusalem with considerable loss of life (2 Chron 28:1-15) Isaiah and 2 Kings both tell us that the plan failed (7:1).

The prospect of such formidable enemies as Aram and Israel caused the People of Judah to be afraid. The house of David (v. 2) refers to King Ahaz who was of that kingly line. Hearing of the Aram-Israel alliance Ahaz was terrified. Ephraim, Israel’s largest tribe, represented the entire nation. Perhaps Ahaz thought he could call on the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727) to come to his aid and attack the Aram-Israel confederacy.

b. The assurance that Judah would not be destroyed (7:3-9)

7:3. God told Isaiah to go with his son . . . to meet King Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool. This pool was a reservoir that held water from the Gihon Spring near Jerusalem. (Isa. 22:9 refers to a Lower Pool.) perhaps Ahaz was there to inspect the city’s water supply in anticipation of an attack by Aram and Israel. The aqueduct was near the road to the Washerman’s Field, just outside Jerusalem’s city walls. The name of Isaiah’s son, Shear-Jashub (which means ”a remnant will return“; cf. 10:21) illustrated the prophet’s message. The nation of Judah would not be destroyed by the Aram-Israel alliance.

7:4-6. Isaiah told Ahaz not to be afraid of Rezin and Pekah, for they were mere smoldering stubs of firewood. Their lives would soon end; like firewood they would be burned up and gone. Both men died two years later in 732 BC. Aram and Israel threatened to invade Judah, split it between the two conquering nations, and set up a Puppet king.

7:7-9. In response to the Aram-Israel threat the Sovereign Lord had an answer: It (the attack) would not take place; it would not happen. The reason was that both of those nations were headed by mere (only, vv. 8-9) men. Ironically Isaiah referred to Pekah by name only once (v. 1). Four other times he called him the son of Remaliah or Remaliah’s son (vv. 4-5, 9; 8:6). He and Rezin could not thwart God’s plans.

In fact Isaiah made the startling prophecy that within 65 years Israel would no longer even be a people because they would be so shattered (7:8). Isaiah gave this prophecy in 734 BC., so 65 years later was 669. When Assyria conquered Israel in 722, many Israelites were deported to other lands by Assyria and foreigners were brought into Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). However, in 669 many more foreigners were transferred to Samaria by Ashurbanipal (Ezra 4:10), king of Assyria (669-626). This ”shattered“ Israel, making it impossible for her to unite as a nation (”a people“).

The second sentence in Isaiah 7:9 has been translated in various ways. But it challenged Ahaz to believe what Isaiah was telling him. Obviously Ahaz was not alive 65 years later. But he could have faith that God would fulfill both predictions: that Israel would be shattered 65 years later and that in his day the northern confederacy (Aram and Israel) would not overpower Judah. If he did not believe those predictions he too would fall.

c. Ahaz’s rejection of a sign (7:10-12)

7:10-12. As a means of strengthening his faith Ahaz was told to ask the Lord . . . for a sign, an attesting miracle that would confirm God’s word. The king could choose any miraculous work he wished, from the deepest depths to the highest heights. With a miracle performed simply for the asking, Ahaz would have visible confirmation that Isaiah’s words (vv. 7-9) were truly from the Lord. Ahaz could count on the fact that the northern alliance would not defeat Judah.

But Ahaz refused to request a sign, saying he would not . . . test God (cf. Deut. 6:16). This answer sounded pious but probably the way he said it showed he was not believing Isaiah. Perhaps he did not want to believe Isaiah, who had been prophesying about the eventual destruction of Judah if her people did not return to the Lord.

d. The Lord’s response (7:13-17)

7:13. Ahaz, by rejecting the offer of a sign from God’s messenger, was in effect rejecting the One who sent the prophet. The house of David (cf. v. 2) refers not to all David’s descendants, but to Ahaz and those kings of Judah who would descend from him. Ahaz’s answer was impious. He said he did not want to test the Lord, but by refusing to follow God’s directive to ask for a confirming miracle, he was testing the Lord’s patience (as well as man’s patience).

7:14-16. Though Ahaz refused to request a sign that would have confirmed the truth of Isaiah’s message, the prophet said God would give him one anyway. The sign was to be a boy named Immanuel. Three elements pertain to the sign:

(1) The boy would be born (of a virgin) (v. 14).

New Century Version, NIV, KJV, NKJV, American Standard, Darby Bible, NLT
14The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and she will name him Immanuel

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New English Bible (NEB), New English Translation Bible (NET), New Jerusalem Bible
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel

(2) He would be raised in a time of national calamity (v. 15 -The abundance of . . . milk was a distressful factor, not a good one. With many animals dying, a farmer’s young cow and two goats would have no young to nurse, and so the milk (and curds from it) would be plentiful for the people. Honey would also be abundant because wild flowers would grow in the desolate fields and bee swarms would be more plentiful).

(3) While he was still a youth, the two-king alliance would be broken (v. 16).

Most Bible scholars hold one of three views on the virgin in Isaiah 7:14-16:

(1) The boy of whom Isaiah wrote was conceived shortly after Isaiah spoke this message. A young woman, a virgin, married and then had a baby. Before he would be old enough to tell the difference between good and evil the northern Aram-Israel alliance would be destroyed. According to this view the woman was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his prophecy but was not when the boy was born because he was conceived by sexual relations with her husband.

Some say this child was born to Isaiah (8:3-4). They point out that 8:1-4 corresponds in a number of ways to 7:14-17. But this view must be rejected because
(a) Isaiah’s wife already had a child (Shear-Jashub, v. 3) and so was not a virgin, and
(b) the second child born to Isaiah’s wife was not named Immanuel but Maher-shalal-hash-baz which is a judgment on Judah while Immanuel is one of hope (8:3).

In this view Ahaz would have known this woman, and hearing of the child’s birth and his name Immanuel he would understand that Isaiah’s prophecies were correct.

(2) A second view sees the predicted birth as exclusively messianic and the virgin as Mary, Jesus’ mother. It is argued that in Isaiah 7:14 the virgin is said to be with child (lit., ”the virgin is or will be pregnant“). Edward Hinson points that the Septuagint’s interpretation of Isa. 7:14 is of a virgin birth. This messianic pre-Christian interpretation is shared by the rabbinic, Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews. It is also argued that Matthew, stressing the fact that Joseph and Mary’s marriage was not consummated till after Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1:18, 25), affirmed that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Matt. 1:21-23).

Proponents of this view point out that since Isaiah spoke this prophecy to the house of David (Isa. 7:13) and not just to Ahaz himself, the sign was given not just to the king but to the entire kingly line and the entire nation. However, if the fulfillment did not occur until Joseph and Mary’s day, how does the prophecy relate to Isaiah’s point that the Aram-Israel confederacy would soon be defeated? And how does the birth of the Lord Jesus relate to the eating of curds and honey (v. 15) and to the breaking of the alliance before the boy was old enough to know good and evil? (v. 16) Proponents of this view answer that the time is similar: the two years of Jesus’ babyhood (before He would know between right and wrong) point to the same time segment, two years, within which the Aram-Israel threat would be gone.

(3) A third view, a combination of the first two, sees the prophecy as directed primarily to Ahaz regarding the breaking of the alliance. The ‘almâh was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his message, but then she would marry and have a baby. When the Aram-Israel alliance was broken the boy would still be young. Centuries later the Holy Spirit led Matthew to quote Isaiah 7:14 as a statement that was also true of a virgin birth (i.e., a birth to a woman who was still a virgin). This is the first of many prophecies about the Messiah given by Isaiah.

The sign must have had some significance for the historical situation in which it was given. The sign involved not only the birth and the boy’s name (Immanuel, ”God [is] with us, “ would assure the people of God’s presence), but also a designated length of time: before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings will be laid waste.

Within about three years (nine months for the pregnancy and two or three years until the boy would know the difference between good and evil) the alliance would be broken. It was broken in 732 BC when Tiglath-Pileser III destroyed Damascus. After Tiglath-Pileser had defeated Aram and put Rezin to death. Ahaz went to Damascus to meet the Assyrian monarch (2 Kings 16:7-10). Ahaz liked an altar he saw in Damascus, and had a sketch of it drawn so a similar altar could be set up in Jerusalem. No wonder Isaiah and God were angry with Ahaz. Even after the alliance had been broken by Tiglath-Pileser Judah had no peace. Though Assyria did not defeat Judah, she had to pay Assyria a heavy tribute. Isaiah foretold the consequences of Ahaz’s attitude (Isa. 7:17-25).

Three children’s Names
(1) Isaiah’s son (Shear-Jashub) Shear-Jashub means a remnant will return.
(2) Prophetess’ son (Immanuel) Immanuel means God with us.
(3) Isaiah’s son (Maher-shalal-hash-baz)

Therefore, Isaiah’s Sign of Immanuel = God with us

3. Matthew’s The Sign of Immanu-el

The Septuagint
The Septuagint simply "LXX", is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC in Alexandria.

It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language, the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean from the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). The word septuaginta means "seventy" in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars translated the Pentateuch (Torah) from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285–246 BC.

The Septuagint includes some books not found in the Hebrew Bible. Many Protestant Bibles follow the Jewish canon and exclude the additional books. Roman Catholics, however, include some of these books in their canon while Eastern Orthodox Churches use all the books of the Septuagint. Anglican lectionaries also use all of the books except Psalm 151, and the full Authorized (King James) Version includes these additional books in a separate section labelled the "Apocrypha".

The Dead Sea Scrolls include a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah, a fragmented copy of Isaiah, containing much of Isaiah 38-6, and fragments of almost every book in the Old Testament. The majority of the fragments are from Isaiah and the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The books of Samuel, in a tattered copy, were also found and also two complete chapters of the book of Habakkuk. In addition, there were a number of nonbiblical scrolls related to the commune found.

These materials are dated around 100 B.C. The significance of the find, and particularly the copy of Isaiah, was recognized by Merrill F. Unger when he said, "This complete document of Isaiah quite understandably created a sensation since it was the first major Biblical manuscript of great antiquity ever to be recovered. Interest in it was especially keen since it antedates by more than a thousand years the oldest Hebrew texts preserved in the Massoretic tradition."

• The Septuagint was held in great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors.
• Of significance for all Christians and for Bible scholars is that the LXX is quoted by the Christian New Testament and by the Apostolic Fathers.
• Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century AD

Hebrew Bible (supported by the earliest manuscript)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The ‘almâh will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

In the oldest Isaiah text available, the word is ‘almâh, a word used of an unmarried woman of marriageable age. The word refers to one who is sexually mature. It occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament only in Genesis 24:43 (”maiden“); Exodus 2:8 (”girl“); Psalm 68:25 (”maidens“); Proverbs 30:19 (”maiden“); Song of Songs 1:3 (”maidens“); 6:8 (”virgins“). It also occurs in 1 Chronicles 15:20 (alamoth) and in the title of Psalm 46 (alamoth may be a musical term).

The Septuagint’s translation of Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The parthenos will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Parthenos means ‘virgin’.

Question: Is it possible for seventy-two Hebrew scholars to mistranslate one word, ‘almâh in Isaiah 7:14?

Question: Could the mistranslation be a Divine Intervention?

It predicts the virgin birth of Jesus 735 years before it happens and also reveals the nature of God incarnate.

Matthew’s use of a passage from Isaiah 7:14:

Matt 1:20-24
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream 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. 21 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.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”

Matthew was only able to read Greek. In the New Testament times, very few people can read Hebrew. Hence he was dependent on the Septuagint. However, he was inspired to see in Isaiah 7:14, the nature of God incarnation as a sinless Jesus through a virgin birth and understand the story of Jesus’ conception in the conversation of Joseph and the angel.

Thus Matthew was able to understand the gospel from the perspective
• The virgin birth
• The sinless nature of Jesus
• The salvation of God
• God with us

It is interesting that as much as we talk and sing and discuss Jesus as Immanuel, he is never actually called by this name outside this one verse in Matthew. The name Immanuel (or its Greek form Emmanuel) never occurs anywhere else in the Gospels applied to Jesus. In fact, the name never occurs elsewhere in the New Testament.

4. Our Sign of Immanuel

We have come to understand the true nature of God in Jesus and his virgin birth. What does this sign of Immanu-el means to us?

(1) God is in control
God is in total control. He even uses our mistakes-a mistranslation for his purpose. As we look around at the world today, it is good to know that God is in control. That every single atom in this universe is under his control.

(2) God saves
Jesus, God incarnate came to save us. God plan of redemption continues even as we speaks.

(3) God is with us
God is always with us. As we move and have our being, God is with us.

Soli Deo Gloria

John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 1046-1049.


Steven Sim said...

Wow, which church you preach that sermon?

I can't imagine that being preached in my church, ppl will just be suddenly raptured out of their chair.

Too much thinking required. :D

Steven Sim

Alex Tang said...

Hi Steven,

I preached this in a church in Johor Bahru. Gauging from their response, the congregation was able to follow my sermon and nobody was raptured :)