The virgin shall be with child: A sign of hope and a warning to all

Christmas is a reminder that we are called to have steadfast hope in the most bleakest of situations. As we go through life one thing is certain we all will have trouble.We may lose our job. We may experience a serious financial setback.Our health may deteriorate.We may lose a love one or be betrayed by someone we hold dear.And as these dark clouds roll in it is tempting to give into despair.

Nearly 800 years before the birth of Christ there was a Judean king named Ahaz who was having one of these tough times. And he was about to give into despair – the Bible actually says he was quaking in his boots. The kings of Israel and Syria wanted Ahaz to join into an alliance to take on the super power of the day, Assyria.Ahaz was smart enough to realize that this was a stupid idea as even combined the three countries armies had no chance of standing up to the mighty Assyrian army. So he declined the invitation.However Ahaz heard through the grapevine that the two other kings had decided to depose him and appoint a puppet king over Judea so they could bring Judea into the alliance. At this news Ahaz became fearful for his life and his hold on the kingdom. However, instead of trusting in the Lord to protect him, or relying on God's promise to David that one of his descendents would always remain on the throne if they remained faithful, King Ahaz makes secret overtures to the Assyrian king to secure his position. But God is nothing but merciful.So he sends one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah to tell him that he needs to put his trust in God rather than in his own efforts.

So Isaiah goes to king Ahaz, and I am paraphrasing here, and he says, "get a grip on yourself and listen to what I have to say. These two kings you are so worried about are nothing but hot air, smouldering embers who's fire have gone out". And he warns Ahaz that if doesn't place his trust in God it won't be the king of Israel and the king of Syria that remove him from the throne but God himself.

Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign from the Lord, a sign that would serve to strengthen his faith in the Lord to keep him safe from harm. A sign so great that it could reach up to the heavens or the bowels of the earth. In other words don't hold back ask for a sign that will be so great, so supernatural that there could be no dispute that God can do what he says.

But Ahaz trying to play clever and using the language of Scripture says he is not willing to put God to the test. He reasons that if he saw a sign, that he would have no choice to put his faith and trust in God – something he didn't want to do.Having already decided to put his trust in bribing the Assyrian king with gold from the temple treasury instead.

But Isaiah says, if you won't ask for a sign God himself will give a sign to you. A sign so great and magnificent that there can be no dispute that the Lord keeps his promises. Do you know what that sign was?

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good." (Isaiah 7:14-15)

The sign is incredible for three reasons – One its say a child would be conceived by a virgin (only God can bring life out of nothing or in this case through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit).Two the name Immanuel "God with us" indicates that the child will be God manifested in human flesh. Three, he would live a sinless life, for even as a child he will refuse to do evil and do good. In Matthew 1:22 we are told that the sign that God gave Ahaz was the foretelling of the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

Unfortunately Ahaz fails to heed Isaiah's words or understand the significance of the sign and a short time later heads off to Damascus to pay tribute and homage to the Assyrian king. While in Damascus he makes plan of a pagan alter he sees and sends the plans back to Jerusalem to be built.When he gets it back to Jerusalem he offers sacrifices on this unbiblical altar.God's patience runs out and Ahaz dies a short time later.

So what is the message of Isaiah 7? The message is simply that when we feel overwhelmed by the darkness, when we feel the urge to given into despair we need only remember that God gave his son for us. In him we have hope and our reason for living.There is no greater sign that God loves us and wants the best for us than the incarnation.If we fail to heed the significance of the virgin birth, because we would rather save ourselves with our own efforts, then we will have no hope of being established in God's kingdom. So Christmas is both a reminder of our hope and a warning to all who chose to ignore its true significance.


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