Isaiah 7:10–14: 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Earlier in this text, God has promised to deliver his people from their enemy. To confirm that promise to Ahaz, the King of Judah, God offers him a sign. Any sign Ahaz wants to help his faith become confident in God’s deliverance, yet Ahaz declares that he “will not put the Lord to the test.” Sounds pretty spiritual right? “Oh, I don’t need a sign. I don’t want to test the Lord?”
Ahaz was actually saying, “I don’t trust the Lord.” “I’ll find another solution.” Instead of trusting the Lord, he trusted in his own wisdom and followed the pattern of the world. He took the gold and silver from the temple, gave it to the King of Assyria (Tiglath-pileser), became a servant, and acknowledged pagan gods over Jehovah (2 Kgs 16:7-8).
Nevertheless, God was determined to provide a sign of his deliverance of his people, and a sign he provides. Isaiah proclaims, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The sign is a virgin-born child called “Immanuel.”
This sign is not ultimately given until 700 years after Isaiah’s prophetic utterance when an angel declares to Joseph that his wife “will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). God’s ultimate sign that he will deliver his people from the greatest of enemies: sin and death. Matthew goes further to ensure that we will not miss the connection to Isaiah’s prophecy and God’s deliverance by writing: “22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Again, this sign was not fulfilled until over 700 years later. Certainly, God is not slow about his promises, but is faithful to fulfill them.
Now, reflecting back on Isaiah’s time and the turmoil Ahaz is experiencing, a principle is pronounced to us.
Our present difficulties do not dismiss God’s future promises.
Despite how we feel, how we act, how we think, and despite how victorious the enemy appears, how much he consumes, how far he invades, the beacon of God’s promise is not diminished in the least.
In Isaiah’s time, the king of Syria and the king of Israel were knocking on the door of the capital waiting to overtake it. These kings had already invaded the land, routed Judah’s army, and had laid siege on Jerusalem (2 Chr 28:5, 8; Isa 7:1). All the circumstances around the people of God screamed, “Despair! Doubt! Give up! Abandon hope! Failure!”
But again, 700 years later, an unexpected dream, a feed-barn birth, and an angelic announcement all confirm that Immanuel has come, the sign has been given, God has not forgotten his people. Time skews perspective, but not God’s. No matter how dark things get, no matter how overwhelming the odds, not matter how deep our despair, we are reminded that our present difficulties do not dismiss God’s future promises.
Jesus is still our signaling King. He is the sign that God has delivered us and will finish his delivery when he establishes his kingdom at the end of the age.
Immanuel signals victory. When we understand that, we can push through discouragement, sorrow, hard times, letdown, slowdowns, and showdowns.
When we wonder if God cares, we can remember Immanuel.
When we wonder if we’ve been “good enough,” we can remember Immanuel.
When we wonder if evil wins, we can remember Immanuel.
When we wonder if we can make it, we can remember Immanuel.
When we wonder if we can live in victory of our circumstances, we can remember Immanuel.
Whatever we are facing, whatever doubts come, we have a Savior who signals victory for his beloved and judgment for his enemies.