Saturday, October 3, 2009

10/3- Isaiah 7:1-17 Believing in a sign from God

(Seal found of Ahaz King of Judah)
10/3- Isaiah 7:1-17

1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
2 Now the house of David was told, "Aram has allied itself with [a] Ephraim"; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, [b] to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer's Field. 4 Say to him, 'Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it." 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
" 'It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only
Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.' "
10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test."
13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of human beings? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and [e] will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria."

Calvin Abridged (7:12-17) Ahaz refuses the sign the Lord offers him by saying he is unwilling to tempt the Lord. But do we tempt God, when we accept what he offers us? Certainly not. Ahaz’s problem was one of faith. God was giving him a sign to strengthen his faith. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs of the faith given in the gospel. Must they be regarded as superfluous? Not at all- they are aids for our support given by God. The refusing of the sign by Ahaz shows stubbornness and ingratitude on his part. Some fanatics today likewise disregard Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as childish elements, but in their rejection they reject the whole gospel; for we must not separate those things which the Lord commands us to join in. Some may ask if we should ask for signs from the Lord as Gideon did (Jdg. 6:17). But Gideon did so under the operation and influence of the Holy Spirit, and we should not abuse his example, restraining ourselves from frivolous asking. We should be satisfied with the signs the Lord offers us. There are two kinds of signs: some are extraordinary and supernatural (as here), and some are ordinary and daily (as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Spirit is at work in both kinds- more visibly in the extraordinary signs, but silently in the ordinary ones. 14- “Trying the patience of human beings…and God”- It is not really possible to make a separation between God and the prophets and holy teachers – who are God’s instruments, making common cause with Him (Lk. 10:16). “Behold a virgin shall conceive”- this passage has become obscure over centuries of misinterpretation. Some have alleged that the person spoken here is Hezekiah, others that it is the son of Isaiah. But Hezekiah was grown when Jerusalem was besieged; the Lord did not promise deliverance from the seed of Isaiah. The title “Immanuel” was far too illustrious to be applied to any human being. Others conjecture it is some obscure child born at the time foreshadowing Christ. But they do not produce a strong argument, say who the child was, or bring forward any proofs. Some say that this passage was not talking about Christ’s birth 500 years later when Jerusalem was not besieged- because the Prophet was giving a sign of deliverance then. When Ahaz rejected the sign of the prophet, Isaiah was reminding him of the covenant given to his Davidic ancestors of the whole deliverance of the nation provided in the Messiah who was God with us. The Prophets in establishing God’s promises, often spoke of a coming Redeemer, however remote. It was as if Isaiah said, “True, you do not believe the promises of God, but yet God will fulfill them; for he will in time send his Christ, for whose sake he determines to preserve this city.” Instead of relying on God’s promises for deliverance, Ahaz relied on the Assyrians for help, and they ended up destroying his kingdom in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Thoughts: Most commentators today speak of only an immediate, obscure fulfillment. Yet Calvin, more than any other commentator I have seen, speaks of this as a prophecy of the messiah’s coming only. Isaiah’s wife was not unmarried nor a virgin (she already had a son 7:3, and her second son was no Immanuel). Some say it was someone in Ahaz’s house- but this is real guesswork too. If Isaiah was speaking of a child born right then, the child’s identity (or parents) is not made clear. Calvin points out that the ultimate fulfillment and sign to us is made clear. The virgin birth is a sign given by God. Some say the sign is not important (as Ahaz did in his day). But the sign of Jesus’ birth by the virgin Mary is a confirmation to strengthen our faith, and should not be made light of.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the signs- extraordinary and ordinary you give us in life. Thank you for being our deliverer from fear and death.

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