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Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Prophecy in Context

There are many mysterious verses and chapters in the Bible and sometimes we just accept it as mysterious because it is in "The Bible."

Sometimes, though, you read the context and that helps, or doesn't help, depending on the book. Other times, you can't just read the context, you need to get some commentaries out and start digging.

Isaiah's prophecy about the Messiah in Chapter 7 is just like that.

Isaiah 7:10-14 The LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

This is traditionally a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus. So what's the problem?

The problem is when you start thinking about it only as a prophecy of the birth of Christ, it doesn’t make sense. Even if we start asking some basic questions, it doesn’t seem to help.

Who is Ahaz? He is the King of Judah 700 years before Jesus is born.

Why does he need a sign from God? He needs a sign because it looks like his kingdom will be destroyed.

What is the sign? The sign is that in 700 years a virgin is going to have a baby who will be called “God with us.”

That would be sort of like me saying to someone, "I see that there are some real troubles in your life, but don’t you worry one bit. In 700 years, a girl is going to have a baby."

That is a problem interpretation when you stop and think about it. How does this interpretation change when we dig deeper into scripture?

The context and the historical background are the key.

At the time that this event is happening, Assyria, whose capitol is Nineveh, is the world power.

Samaria, which is the capitol city of northern Israel located in the tribe of Ephraim, and another city named Damascus, the capitol of Aram, had been paying tribute to Assyria.

They decided to stop paying tribute to Assyria and get Judah to join them in their rebellion.

Ahaz, the King of Judah, refuses to join in their rebellion. So, the King of Samaria and the King of Damascus go up to fight against Ahaz the King of Judah. Their goal is to defeat him in battle and then put a man named Ta’be-el on the throne of Judah in his place. Once Ta’be-el is King of Judah, Judah can then join in this rebellion against Assyria.

At this point, something must be kept in mind.

God promised to King David that there would always be an heir to the throne of David. God told David:

2 Samuel 7:16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'"

King Ahaz was sitting on that throne 300 year later, except that there are some people coming who want to take it away, therefore bringing an end to the dynasty of David.

So the throne of David is threatened, so here is what God does:

Isaiah 7:10-14 The LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

This is fulfilled in the very next chapter of Isaiah 8 when Ahaz’s wife conceives and gives birth to a baby boy. It is as if God is telling Ahaz, "See, the kingdom will go on through your son. I am with you. I am the God who keeps my promises. The kingdom under your guard will be safe."

How then is this prophecy again fulfilled in Christ?

Well, by the time Jesus was ready to be born the Kingdom of David had been gone for 500 years. David’s descendants were still alive, but to come forward as any king of claimant for the kingship would have meant death. The Romans in Jesus’ day had only one king and that was Caesar.

Matthew 1:18-23 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).

This was the second and greater fulfillment of the prophecy, which should be read in light of the first fulfillment. No matter what, God would have someone on the throne of David even if it seemed impossible.

It is there on that throne that Jesus sits today in the Heavenly places and in holy hearts.

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