Sunday, December 14, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "O Immanuel!"

“O Immanuel!”
December 14, 2014
Isaiah 7:1-8:10

As I said a couple of weeks ago, we’re going to take a break from Romans until the first of the year and focus this month on some advent and Christmas oriented themes.

Last week, Pastor Jeff Powell reminded us what Christmas is all about. It’s about focusing on Jesus Christ and who He is. We’ll continue that this week.

Last year, I started a new preaching tradition. Each year on the Sunday before our normal Christmas service (which will be next Sunday), I’m planning to preach on an Old Testament prophecy or foreshadowing of the Messiah. A prediction of Jesus Messiah from the Old Testament.

Last year, I preached on Genesis 49 which was a fairly obscure passage where we get the phrase, “Lion of Judah.” The Messiah would be the Long-Expected Lion. Remember that?

This year, we’re going for something much more familiar. It’s where in the Old Testament that we get the prophecy of Immanuel.  And Immanuel means? God with us.

All four of our advent readings are about Immanuel. Next Sunday’s message will be about Immanuel from Matthew chapter 1. And my message on Christmas Eve this year will also be about Immanuel.

But this is where it all started. Isaiah chapters 7 and 8.

Our message is entitled, “O Immanuel!” From chapter 8, verse 8. “O Immanuel!”

Now, this passage, if you haven’t studied before, will probably surprise you.

It’s not what you might expect.

You and I might guess that this is one of those places in the Old Testament that says something like this, “One day there will be a Messiah. He’s coming. He’s not here yet. Let me tell you what He will be like.  (And then there’s a list of predictions. And they’re pretty straightforward. He’ll be like this, and like this and like this. And you’ll recognize him like this.) And on top of everything else, the list says, that the Messiah will carry the title Immanuel.”

But that’s not how it is.

There are places in the Old Testament that are more like that than others. Isaiah 9:6-11 and Isaiah 53:1-12, and Micah 5:2-5 and Psalm 110 and others.

But many of the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament aren’t like that at all. Jesus is all over the Old Testament, but often in types and shadows and prefigurements and patterns. He pops up where you don’t expect Him and then melts into the rest of that story, leaving you longing for more.

I think that’s more the kind of prophecy we have here today.

Now, if you thought Romans has been a little hard to follow, you might want to strap on your seatbelt because there are some parts of today’s passage that are also hard to follow.

The story takes place in the days of King Ahaz of Judah somewhere around 735 BC.

That’s right. More than 730 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s a few hundred years since King David was born and ruled. So, this takes place much later than 1&2 Samuel that we studied last year. In fact, it takes place, during the time, not of 1 Kings, but of 2 Kings and towards the end of that. Around chapter 16.

King Ahaz is the king of the Southern Kingdom that we call Judah. After the break-up of Israel into 2 kingdoms, the northern kingdom called Israel or sometimes Ephraim had consistently bad kings and the southern kingdom had sometimes good and sometimes bad kings.

Which one was Ahaz? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Unfortunately, as we’re going to see, Ahaz was a thumbs down.

He is the line of David. He is the ruler of Judah from Jerusalem, but he does not make wise and godly choices.

And the issue of the day for Judah is what to do about Syria and Israel.

Syria and Israel are the two national neighbors to the north of Judah, and they have become enemies of the house of David and of the kingdom of Judah. Yes, even though Israel and Judah are brothers. They are enemies right now.

In fact, Syria and Israel have teamed up against Judah and threaten to overthrow it.

And it’s in the context of that threat that the word “Immanuel” first appears in our Bibles.

Isaiah chapter 7, verse 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.”

Now, it looks like you’re going to need a scorecard, but there’s really just 3 people there. Ahaz is king of Judah. He’s in the line of David. Grandpa was Uzziah who got talked about in the previous chapter. Daddy was Jotham.  Ahaz is the guy being tested in this story.

The other two kings are Rezin of Aram (that’s Syria) and Pekah of Israel. His father was King Remaliah. Rezin and Pekah have teamed up against Ahaz. Got it?

So far, they’ve been unsuccessful. But that doesn’t mean that Ahaz is not scared. V.2

“Now the house of David was told, ‘Aram has allied itself with Ephraim’; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.”

Ahaz is told that these two have gotten together to take him down.

And he’s shaken. He and his people are shaken like the wind whipping through the forest.

Can you think of that sound?  Do you see the trees shaking? Leaves everywhere?

Have you ever felt like that?

Your enemies are conspiring against you. The world, the flesh, and the devil.

And you can’t see any way out. Any way forward. Life is just scary.

Life is overwhelming.
Life is unbearable and frightening.

Some of you felt that way this week.
Some of you feel that way today.
Some of you will feel that way tomorrow.

Where will you turn?

The Lord gives Ahaz a chance to turn to Him. V.3

“Then the LORD said to Isaiah [there’s our prophet!], ‘Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman's Field.”

So Isaiah and his son are sent on a prophetic mission. Ahaz will be checking his resources in light of the coming attack. Isaiah and Shear-Jashub have a message for him.

By they way, Isaiah’s son’s name is probably not a coincidence. “A remnant will return.”

Here’s the message they are to deliver.

“Say to him, 'Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. [Anybody else need to hear that this week?] 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.”

The message is, don’t worry. Don’t get scared.

Rezin and Pekah aren’t anything but “smoldering stubs of firewood!” They’re about burnt out.

Oh, they have bad plans, but don’t be scared of them. V.5

“Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son have plotted your ruin, saying, ‘Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.’ [Overthrow and puppet dictator replacing King Ahaz!] 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 [ha!]. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. [That’s where we get the Samaritans, in fact.] The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son [Pekah! Ha!]. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.'’”

Here’s the application. It was good for Ahaz, and it’s good for us today.


God has promised so much to us. So when the storms of life come and shake us like the trees of the forest, we need to not give in, but to stand firm in faith.

V.9 “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”

God says these threats are nothing.

Rezin? Pekah? You’re scared of them?

Stand firm!

And God’s probably saying the same thing to you about the threats of your enemies.

Trust me. Don’t be scared of those things! “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” “Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid.”

Now, what do you think that King Ahaz will do?

Sadly, I have to report that he does not do well.

He is determined to worry. He is determined to be frightened. He is determined to go on his own.

He doesn’t believe Isaiah and Shear Jashub. He hardly listens to them. He doesn’t listen to God.  Here’s how it works out. In vv.10&11, God offers him a blank check. V.10

“Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’”

Go ahead! No limits! Ask for a sign. And so v.12:

“But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.’”

Ahaz failed his test.

Now, it sounds good. “I will not put the LORD to the test.” It’s good to not demand a sign! But not good when the LORD offers you one and tells you to ask for one. V.13

“Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?”

God told you to ask for a sign. He told you to trust him. He told you to test Him out.

And you refused?

That’s a lack of faith.

Now, let me tell you what foolishness apparently going through Ahaz’s mind.

He was trusting in himself, and his resources, and his wisdom.

And he was planning on trusting in Assyria. The nation of Assyria.

Ahaz has a plan. He is going to ask the big ravenous nation of Assyria to help him to deal with his problem of Syria (Aram) and Israel.

Ahaz is going to put his trust in his alliance with this bigger power of Assyria. 2 Kings 16 tells us that he does just that. And the rest of Isaiah tells us the same thing.

Ahaz doesn’t feel the need to test the Lord because he’s got other things to lean on.



Sadly, we do this a lot.

We put our faith in our own abilities and our own resources, and we lose sight of God and His presence and promises.

When going gets tough, the tough get going!
Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!
You’ve to make a plan, and work your plan. Trust your plan.

Those all have limited truth to them.

But nothing like the truth of Proverbs 3:5&6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Don’t make the mistake that Ahaz did and trust in your own understanding and in anything else than God to save you.

It tries the patience of God! I don’t want to try the patience of God.

I want to trust in the presence and promises of God.

I want to believe in Immanuel. V.14

Ok, King Ahaz. You don’t want a sign? Well, you’re going to get one anyway.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

There’s our verse. There’s our prediction. There’s our prophecy.

Now, next week, I’m going to take up Matthew 1 and show you how Matthew sees this miraculously fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.

But I think that there was a partial fulfillment in the days of Isaiah.

This baby with the special name Immanuel was a sign to King Ahaz.

So, I think that Ahaz must have seen the first fulfillment of Immanuel in his own day. See what vv.15&16 says about the boy?  

“He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. But 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.”

You see how it is fulfilled in Ahaz’s time?

“You didn’t want a sign, Ahaz, but I’m giving it to you now.

A young maiden will have a baby and his name will be Immanuel and while he’s still on soft foods or before he can tell right from wrong, the very thing you’re so shaken about and not trusting Me about will be all over.”

Now, you can see that that’s a different way of looking at verse 14 than some of us have been taught. Some people only see Jesus in verse 14. And I highly respect those that do. They have good reasons. They believe the virgin is Mary and the baby is Jesus, and that’s it.

But I think it’s more like what we’ve seen with King David.

Remember last year when we said that King David was the first Messiah? The first anointed one?  And when he is at his best, he prefigures the Messiah to come?

That’s a pattern throughout the Old Testament that David was a type or a pattern of Christ to come.

We saw a few weeks ago that Adam was a type or a pattern of Christ to come, as well.

I tend to think that the first Immanuel was a pattern of the greatest Immanuel who was to come, as well.

So, who was this first Immanuel?  Scholars are split on that. Those who don’t think that it just refers to Jesus don’t necessarily agree on who it was in Isaiah’s day.

Some think that it was an unknown woman with an unknown baby. She didn’t know about all of this, just named her little one Immanuel, and it worked out that it was God’s plan to send Ahaz a message.

Some think that it was a son of Ahaz and an unnamed new queen. That’s because the baby eats curds and honey which are sometimes referred to as royal food. And that would make him also a son of David in the line of the Messiah.  But I don’t think the timing is right for it to be a son of Ahaz.

I tend to think that it’s a new son of Isaiah. Isaiah and a new wife. His first wife is probably dead (Shear Jashub’s mom), and Isaiah takes a young maiden, of marriageable age (a virgin at the time of their wedding) and they come together and produce a little one that fulfills the first part of this prophecy.

In a second, I’ll show you why I think that.

But first, we’ve got see what happens to Ahaz and Judah.

God has said, “Don’t trust in yourself. Believe in Immanuel. Believe that God is with us.”

But that’s not what Ahaz did.

And the truth is that Assyria will not just come and wipe out Aram and Israel, but it will decimate the land of Judah, as well.

You want Assyria, King Ahaz? Well, that’s what you will get. V.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 [trouble]–he will bring the king of Assyria.’ In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River–the king of Assyria–to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also. In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. And because of the abundance of the milk they give, he will have curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. [There will be so few people that one guys’ cow and goats will feed them all, so to speak!] In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. Men will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.”

Ahaz was given a chance to trust in the Lord. To test out His mettle and might.

But he wasn’t going to test the Lord. He was going to trust Himself.

He wasn’t going to believe that God was with them. He was going to believe in the King of Assyria.

Well, the King of Assyria is what he was going to get.

There are consequences for not believing in Immanuel.

But that does not mean that God is truly not with His true people.

He is. Even when they are faithless, God is faithful.

Now, chapter 8, verses 1 through 4 is the big reason why I think that Isaiah’s son was the first fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy. Let’s look at that. Chapter 8, verse 1.

“The LORD said to me, ‘Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me.’”

Something new is happening here.

The LORD is talking not to Ahaz but to Isaiah. And he’s telling him to get out his iPad and stylus and put down this unusual name: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. I just love saying that.

Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Which means, “Quick to the plunder and swift to the spoil!”

How would you like called to dinner like that? “Hey, Quick to the plunder and swift to the spoil! Get over here. Time to eat!”

And Isaiah is supposed to get that name witnessed on some kind of a legal document. Probably to certify that God is prophesying the meaning of this name will occur.

Now, it seems like an ominous name. “Quick to the plunder and swift to the spoil!” Somebody is going to get ransacked and soon. Judgment is coming on somebody rapidly. It’s still to be seen who that is.

Now, listen to the parallels between verse 3 and 4 with chapter 7, verses 14-16.

“Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, ‘Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the boy knows how to say 'My father' or 'My mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.’”

I tend to think that this prophetess (either a female prophet or a way of saying a wife of the prophet) is the first fulfillment of the virgin of 7:14.

And Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz is the first fulfillment of Immanuel. Before he can say, “Mama” or “Dada,” Syria and Israel will be defeated.

And yes, it is by Assyria, but not because of Ahaz’s wisdom but God’s.

Assyria will be quick to the plunder and swift to the spoil of the capital cities of Damascus and Samaria.

Why? Because God is with His true people.

God can be trusted. This prophecy of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz whether or not it’s a fulfillment of chapter 7, verse 14 is a certainly a fulfillment of chapter 7, verse 7.

God can be trusted because He is with His people.

Believe in Immanuel. Believe in the message of Immanuel.

God is with us.

But Ahaz did not. Judah, at this point, did not. And they would have to face the consequences of trusting in themselves and trusting in Assyria.

Verses 5 through 8 of chapter 8 are the parallels with verses 17 through 25 of chapter 7. They are the consequences of not trusting the LORD. V.5

“The LORD spoke to me again: ‘Because this people [Judah] has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah [God’s grace] and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah [as if their own great power had defeated them!], therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River [Euphrates]–the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!’”

There’s our title.

Judah was failing the test, and will have to reap the consequences.

They didn’t trust the gentle stream, so they were going to get the flood.

But, notice that God cares! See this, that God cares.

He’s isn’t dispassionate about what is going to happen to His people.

Even as they are experiencing the righteous discipline of the Lord, He is still with them.

Notice, that they are overwhelmed but not drowned. Up to the neck, but still on tiptoe. Not in over their heads, why?

Because God is with them.  “O Immanuel!”  It’s Immanuel’s land.  Promised. And promised to him.

The message of his name is still true. God is with us.



I was surprised at how negative these two chapters were. I thought that if it was going to be about Immanuel then they would be a bright light shining out of the darkness of the first half of Isaiah.

But aside from the greatest fulfillment of chapter 7, verse 14, these are pretty dark verses.

God is not taken up on His offers!

He offers to defeat their enemies.
He offers to give them a sign of His good intentions.
He offers His own presence to cheer and to guide.

But, except for a remnant (Shear Jashub, a remant will return!), they don’t take Him up on these offers.

They shake instead of standing firm.
They trust themselves and their wisdom and resources and allies instead of believing in Immanuel.

It’s really kind of depressing.

But that’s how life can be, isn’t it?

In fact, this time of year is often one of the most depressing of the year for many people.

Financial pressures.
Temptations to greed and gluttony.
Less daylight always makes me feel bad.
Getting the whole Christmas thing together.
Maybe your family doesn’t want to get together. Maybe they’re not get along.

Maybe you’ve lost someone this year and they won’t be at Christmas.

Maybe you lost someone 10 years ago and you still feel it every Christmas.

Life can get pretty depressing. And even pretty scary.

What does the future hold in the next year?

What will be the Fergusons and the Ebola crisis and ISIS and the Ukraine of 2015?  And will we get swept up in it?

What if I die in the next year?

What if I get attacked the world, the flesh, and the devil?

It’s easy to give in to despair.

But this text ends with a reminder of the meaning and message of Immanuel.

It ends with a reminder that no weapon fashioned against the Lord will prosper.

That, as the Williamsons’, if God is for us who can be against us? Chapter 8, verse 9.

“Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”

Don’t despair. Trust in the message of Immanuel.

Don’t believe that you are alone.
Don’t believe that you are abandoned.
Don’t believe that you are on your own.

Believe that God is with you.

Because you belong to Jesus Christ.

Who was born of virgin (not just a maiden!) and bears the title, Immanuel.