By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
(Read Part 3)
With a thorough understanding of the background and setting in place, we now move directly toward considering the first of Isaiah’s major Christmas prophecies.
Not only did God communicate with Ahaz, but he offered him the opportunity do something that most of us have wished for—the opportunity to “ask a sign” (v. 11).
Ahaz’s much more godly son Hezekiah (cf. 2 Chron. 29:2) would surely one day appreciate his opportunity to see “a sign” (cf. 2 Chron. 32:24; Isa. 38:7-8). The Apostle Paul tells us, in fact, that this is inherent in the Jewish thought process (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22).
However, few signs in the history of the world would ultimately compare with the one that Isaiah was about to foretell. Ahaz was first given the ability to “ask it either in the depth or in the height above” (Isa. 7:11).
Imagine it! Ahaz was given the choice to ask for anything he wanted as a sign “from the LORD your God” (Isa. 7:11).
But his fear caused Ahaz to reject this amazing proposal altogether—hiding his unbelief within a pretentious cloak (Isa. 7:12).
Since Ahaz neglected this tremendous opportunity to offer his personal input, Isaiah instead provided a sign to the “house of David” (v. 13).
After giving Ahaz a well-deserved rebuke, Isaiah unleashes one of the greatest prophecies in all of Holy Scripture.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
Two intertwined issues govern our basic understanding of this passage.
The questions before us are these: (1) Is the word “virgin” restricted to its obvious meaning? and (2) Is there one (or more than one) possible fulfillment of this prophecy?
Higher-critical attacks upon the Bible and the doctrine of the virgin birth brought new questions to bear on this text, and the results have yielded a multitude of opinions.
Dr. Ed Hindson gives important background that helps us to understand these issues in context:
Historically, the Christian church has interpreted Isaiah 7:14 as a messianic prediction. Only after a barrage of critical attempts to reject that interpretation did evangelicals switch to the so-called ‘double fulfillment’ view of this passage as an attempted compromise between the two positions. Like most compromise views, it created more problems than it solved… While the question of Immanuel’s identification is still debated, more evangelicals than ever are returning to the single fulfillment view of Isaiah 7:14 as a messianic prediction of the virgin birth of Christ… Isaiah’s Immanuel was not just a sign of his times—he was truly THE SIGN OF THE AGES!