6. Jesus in Isaiah

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As a teenager growing up in the late 60’s, I found that I had a problem with the Bible. Even though my parents had taken me to SS & church every Sunday as I was growing up, by the time I was 15 or 16, I had become convinced that the Bible was just a book of ancient mythology and no longer relevant in our modern world. And I had come to this conclusion in spite of the fact that I hadn’t actually read very much of it for myself.

Basically my attitude towards the Bible at that time was: “Why would I believe something that was written thousands of years ago by nomadic tribesmen in the Middle East?” I assumed that most of the Bible, especially the OT, was made up of fanciful stories and legends that had gradually been distorted and exaggerated over many generations of retelling.

And I suspect that kind of thinking reflects the attitude of many people in Canada today. In fact a recent survey commissioned by the CBS found that only 18% of Canadians agree that the Bible is the Word of God, and 69% said that it has no relevance to modern life.

But then after I became a Christian at the age of 20, I dusted off the Bible my parents had given me one Christmas, and I started to read it for myself. And I was amazed by what I found! And the more I read the Bible and discovered what it actually had to say, the more I came to realize that this book was much more than just the superstitious writings of illiterate tribesmen, as I had always assumed.

I came to understand as the apostle Peter writes:

“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable… no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21 NLT)

And even though the Bible had been written thousands of years ago, I found that God could actually speak into my personal situation today.

That was because the people who had originally written the Bible had heard from God themselves, and the Spirit of God had moved them to write down the words that we have here in this book today.

And I believe that one of the strongest arguments in support of the authority & divine inspiration of the Bible is the fact that so many details about Jesus’ birth, life & death were predicted accurately by the OT prophets hundreds of years before they ever happened.

For eg, the OT prophets predicted, as we saw last Sunday, that the Messiah would be a direct descendant of King David, from the tribe of Judah. They predicted that he would be born in the town of Bethlehem. They predicted that he would one day enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. That he would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver. That he would be executed among other criminals, that his hands & feet would be pierced with nails, that he would be mocked & despised by those who crucified him & that they would cast lots for his clothing.

Now what do you suppose the odds might be of Jesus accidentally fulfilling all of those predictions just by chance? For me the only credible explanation was that the God who already knows the end from the beginning, had given the OT prophets the knowledge & insight they needed to be able to record these prophetic statements

And nowhere is this amazing prophetic insight regarding the coming of the Messiah more evident than in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, who lived and died more than 700 years before Jesus was born.

Now I don’t know if you’ve read the book of Isaiah lately, but I can tell you that Isaiah's life was remarkable for 3 reasons:

1. He served as a prophet of God for some 45 years, speaking the word of God faithfully thru the reigns of at least 4 Judean kings who sat on the throne in Jerusalem, during a very turbulent time in that nation's history.

2. He became the author of one of the longest & greatest books in the Bible, what we know as the book of Isaiah

3. Thru the prophetic vision that God gave him, Isaiah looked ahead to a day centuries later when a very special child would be born, a child who would reign upon the throne of David as God's anointed one, the Messiah. He also looked ahead to a day when that same child would grow up, & suffer greatly for the sins of his people.

There are a number of very significant prophecies that Isaiah makes which point ahead to Jesus’ future coming. Next month as we get closer to Easter we’re going to see how Isaiah pointed ahead to Jesus’ suffering on the cross in Isaiah 53. But the one I want to focus on for a few minutes this morning is our scripture reading, Isaiah 7:14:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"

Before we look at this prophecy in more detail, let me give you a bit of the historical context here: In Isaiah 6, somewhere around the year 740 BC, Uzziah the king of the southern kingdom of Judah died, & during a time of national mourning, God called a young man named Isaiah, to be his spokesman to the nation of Israel.

When we get to chap 7, it is about 5 years later & things are not going well for the city of Jerusalem. For over 100 yrs, Israel has been a divided nation, comprised of Israel to the north & Judah to the south. The northern kingdom has now formed an alliance with Syria and is threatening to attack Jerusalem.

And all of the citizens of that city, including King Ahaz, are terror-stricken by the possibility of being overrun by their enemies, and David's throne being obliterated once & for all.

But in the midst of this crisis situation, the Lord sends Isaiah his prophet to meet with king Ahaz & assure him that God will not allow David's line to come to an end. Now you need to know that Ahaz was not the most noble king who ever sat on the throne of Israel. 2 Chro 28:3 it says: “He made cast idols for worshiping the pagan god Baal, & even sacrificed his own sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites."

But in spite of his idolatry and his sinful ways God assures him that he is not finished with Israel and one day he will send them a very special child as a sign of his love for his people.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"

Now how are we to understand Isaiah's words here? It's doubtful that King Ahaz or even Isaiah himself fully comprehended the significance of these words when he first spoke them. It's quite likely that he expected this prophecy to be fulfilled within his own lifetime. Perhaps he took it to mean that that a son would be born into the royal family to carry on the line of David.

But this prophecy tells us 2 significant things about this child to be born. 1. That he would be born to a virgin. 2. That he would be given the name Immanuel. And what Ahaz and Isaiah didn’t know was that this prophecy would not be fulfilled for another 700 years.

It’s not until we get to the NT, that we come to understand the full significance of these words & how they were to ultimately be fulfilled

And so when we turn to the very first chapter of the NT, & Matthew's account of Jesus’ birth, he describes how a young woman named Mary, while still a virgin, became pregnant. And how an angel visits Joseph, the man to whom she was betrothed, & the angel explains that this child that Mary is carrying has been conceived through the Holy Spirit, and they are to give him the name Jesus. And then in v22, Matthew makes for the first time a comment that he will make again & again thruout his gospel: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet"

And then he proceeds to quote directly from Isaiah 7:14: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

And so Matthew seeks to show very clearly how Jesus’ supernatural virgin birth was a direct fulfillment of the prophecy which had been given to Isaiah centuries earlier.

He also explains that the name to be given to this child: "Immanuel", is a Hebrew word which means “God with us”. The only 2 times we find this name in the Bible are here in Isaiah 7 & in Matt 1.

The reason Matthew has no trouble applying this prophecy to Jesus is obvious I think: Here in the form of this tiny fetus in the womb of this young mother, was the son of God himself: very God of very God.

He who had existed before the creation of the universe- He who had fashioned the stars & the planets- He had now come to planet earth to become one of us. Jesus was the Immanuel that Isaiah spoke of, “God with us.”

Well, what significance does all this have for us? As we look at this prophecy in Isaiah, & its eventual fulfillment 700 yrs later, what does it tell us?

1. It shows us the Wisdom & sovereignty of God, in the remarkable way that he carried out his salvation plan. It assures us that Jesus’ coming into the world was not a last minute mission that God came up with on the spur of the moment. He had been carefully planning & preparing for hundreds, even thousands of years.

And you see, God never does anything significant or important without first of all telling people he is going to do it ahead of time.

Isa 42.9 (NLT): “Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens."

And so as God prepared for that day, he gave his prophets divine insight into what was going to happen.

As you look at all of the OT prophets, not just Isaiah, but Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, & all the rest, it's like each of them had a separate piece of the puzzle. (Remember this picture that we looked at a few weeks ago) Even tho none of them individually could see the whole picture, when you put them all together they form a remarkable mosaic of what the Messiah would look like.

And as we saw at the beginning of this series, after his resurrection, Jesus took great pains to explain to his disciples how all of these prophecies had been fulfilled by him. (Luke 24:27) "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

Why did Jesus do that?

2. To give us reason to believe truth of the Scriptures.

So that those who saw the fulfillment of these prophecies, including you & I here this morning, would put our faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the son of God. You see Isaiah & the other prophets could never have foreseen what was to happen years later, unless it was God himself who revealed it to them. And Jesus could never have come to fulfil all of those prophecies, unless he really was Immanuel, the chosen one of God.

Maybe like me, you have struggled with the Bible. You’ve asked yourself the question: Why should I believe the words of this book? What makes it different from all the other religious books that have been written over the centuries?

And I would encourage you to take a careful look at the evidence that we have examined this morning and we will continue to look at in the coming weeks. How could these prophecies about Jesus have been written hundreds of years before he was born, unless these men like Isaiah “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

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