Ahaz is scared. Oh, he probably wouldn’t use those words, but he was.
Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel joined forces to march against the southern kingdom of Judah. Though they were prevented from taking Jerusalem, the king of Syria was able to regain a key town from Judah through which they gained control of a key transportation route. Ahaz turns to the king of Assyria for help, giving him silver and gold from the temple of God in exchange for protection.
But God was waiting for him to turn to him in faith.
Granted, Ahaz likely had no reason to think God would listen to him. After all, he was an evil man who had even burned his son as an offering to the god, Molech.
But God pursued him through the prophet Isaiah.
In Isaiah 7, God instructs his prophet to go to the king with a simple two-part message:
- In 65 years, nothing will remain of your enemies.
- You (Ahaz) must have faith or you will not stand.
Then, again speaking through the prophet, the Lord makes an astonishing invitation.
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” (Isaiah 7:10-11 ESV)
But, in a false show of piety, Ahaz refuses. He has just been invited by the Almighty himself to ask for a sign from the depths of hell to the heights of heaven to prove that God would do what he said through the prophet Isaiah and he refuses.
It’s into this contentious scene that one of the most profound prophecies of the coming Messiah is spoken.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14 ESV)
There is some debate among scholars in whether this prophecy, like many others in the Old Testament, have a double fulfillment, meaning they are immediately but incompletely fulfilled in the near future, or a single fulfillment, meaning that it is fulfilled solely in the birth of Christ. Some believe that Isaiah’s son or Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, provide partial fulfillment.
No matter which side of the debate one takes up, this much is clear. The sign offered by the Lord himself reaches its final fulfillment when the Lord himself is born of a virgin.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from 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 fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
(Matthew 1:20-23 ESV)
Today, we can rejoice that the sign was fulfilled in Jesus and we can rest in the assurance that the Lord keeps his promises.
We just need to stand in faith or we won’t stand at all.