************ Sermon on Isaiah 7:14 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 25, 2011

Isaiah 7:1-17
Isaiah 7:14
Christmas Day 2011

"God with us." That is the assertion Christians make about Christmas. "God with us." God took human form and came into the world as "God with us." To Jews living at the time of Jesus this whole idea would have been inconceivable.

Remember the picture in Genesis of God walking through the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening (Gen 3:8)? Remember the picture of God talking with Abraham as a man talks with his friend (Gen 18)? Remember the time of the Exodus when God descended upon Mount Horeb with thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud, with a very loud trumpet blast, with smoke and fire (Gen 19)? Remember when God appeared to Elijah upon the exact same mountain in much the same way (1 Kings 19)? Remember when God's glory filled the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 34; 1 Kings 8)?

God also made pronouncements and proclamations through angels and prophets. These words assured God's people that God really was there and was watching over them.

Yet, in all of this God never (as John puts it) became flesh and made His dwelling among us (cf John 1:14). God was with His people but never in the flesh.

Yet, Christians assert "God with us" in Jesus, in the flesh, on Christmas.

This year for Christmas/Advent we've been looking at the promises of God. Unlike us, God remembers His promises and keeps His promises even if they have been made thousands of years earlier. We see one of those promises in Isaiah 7:14.
(Is 7:14) 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.

I A Prophecy of Deliverance for Ahaz and Judah
A Isaiah 7 starts with an alliance: Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah, king of Israel, became allies against Ahaz, king of Judah. They said to each other,
(Is 7:6) "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it."
The result? The hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind (Is 7:2). This was in the year 734 B.C.

B God told Isaiah to meet King Ahaz. In the name of the Lord, Isaiah gave three promises. Promise one: Rezin and Pekah are mere "smoldering stubs of firewood" (Is 7:4). Meaning what?
Think of a campfire at night. When you get up in the morning, there are bits and pieces of logs still smoldering and burning and within a few hours they will be gone.
That describes Rezin and Pekah. Like smoldering firewood, they would soon be burned up and gone. In fulfilment of this, both men died two years later in 732 B.C.

Promise two: Not only would the other two kings shortly die, Isaiah also said the attack will not take place, it will not happen (Is 7:7). And, it didn't!

Promise three: Isaiah made the startling prophecy that within sixty-five years Ephraim which is name for Israel would be no more (cf Hosea 4:17; 5:3,5, 9-14). "Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people" (Is 7:8). In 722 B.C., twelve years after this prophecy was made, Assyria conquered Israel; at that time the Israelites were deported to other lands and foreigners were brought into Samaria, the capital of Israel (2 Kings 17:24). And, in 669 B.C., sixty-five years after the prophecy was made, many more foreigners were transferred to Samaria (Ezra 4:10).

C Isaiah's word to Ahaz ended with a challenge: "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (Is 7:9). "Ahaz," said Isaiah, "you need to have faith in God and His promises. You had better believe what God says."

Ahaz was challenged to believe because he doubted God and His promises. Ahaz was challenged to believe because he was looking in the wrong direction: instead of looking up to God, Ahaz was looking East to Assyria. Ahaz thought/hoped/ prayed Assyria would come to his aid and attack the Aram-Israel alliance.

God knows when His children falter and waver in their faith. God knows when His children are filled with doubt and temptation. God knows when His children need to be strengthened and encouraged. So what does God do? God gives a sign that confirms the truth of Isaiah's message.

A sign is a mighty act of God which gives a message of wonder or terror. For instance, all the plagues on the Egyptians are called "signs." The shadow's advance on the palace steps was a "sign" for king Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:9; Isa 38:7). Likewise, God showed Gideon a "sign" by burning the offered food (Jud 6:17).

What is the sign given to Ahaz? In the words of our text:
(Is 7:14) 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.

Ahaz was so worried about his throne and his kingdom and his enemies. In response, God gives a sign, the sign of "Immanuel." A footnote at the bottom of our pew Bibles says "Immanuel" means "God with us." A more literal and better translation is, "with us God." "Immanuel." "With us God." Notice the emphasis: on the "with us."

"Don't worry, Ahaz." "Don't have sleepless nights, Ahaz." "Don't give up hope, Ahaz." Why not? "Because God is with you."

D I want you to take note of a beautiful thing in our Scripture reading. Ahaz refused to listen to the voice of God. Ahaz refused to put his trust and faith in God. Yet, God kept His promises anyway. God did not withdraw His promise because of the king's unfaithfulness.

Men might buckle under pressure. Men might betray one another. Men might break their promises. But not God. Never God. God remained with His people. God remained with a faithless king. God keeps His promises.

II A Sign Fulfilled
A On this Christmas Day we need to turn from Isaiah to Matthew. Matthew looks at the conception and birth of Christ. Matthew looks at the conception by the Spirit and the birth of the virgin and sees the fulfilment of Isaiah's sign:
(Mt 1:22-23) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (23) "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."
According to Matthew, Isaiah's Immanuel is one big arrow pointing forward to the birth of Jesus Christ.

Now, think about the situation at the time of Jesus. The Promised Land was under Roman rule. Roman soldiers roamed the land. A Jewish pretender was on the throne. Greek culture and language was prevalent and dominant. It was a time of darkness. It was a time when God's people doubted God and His promises.

In this situation what does God do? God responds the exact same way He did at the time of Isaiah and Ahaz. God responds with a sign! God responds with a sign of His presence. God responds with "Immanuel." So, "do not worry. Do not doubt. Do not give up hope. Because God is with you."

B Think about this: Jesus is the "Immanuel." In the person of the baby in the manger we see "God with us." In Jesus, the immortal, invisible, transcendent, untouchable, and holy God is with us!

For instance, God alone treads on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8); Jesus is the Immanuel so it should not surprise us that Jesus walked on water (Mt 14:25-26). God is the Maker of the Bear and Orion ( ri n), the Pleiades (pl d z) and the constellations of the south (Job 9:9); Jesus is the Immanuel should it not surprise us that a brand-new star was created to announce His birth (Mt 2:2). God performs wonders that cannot be fathomed and miracles that cannot be counted (Job 9:10); Jesus is the Immanuel so He, too, performed signs and wonders; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (Jn 20:30; Jn 21:25). When God passes me, I cannot see Him; when He goes by, I cannot perceive Him (Job 9:11); Jesus is the Immanuel; therefore, He had the power to hide Himself in a crowd (cf Jn 8:59). No one can say to God, "What are you doing?" (Job 9:12); Jesus is the Immanuel so, likewise, there were times when no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions (Mk 12:34).

Jesus is the Immanuel. In Him we see the immortal, invisible, transcendent, untouchable, and holy God. The staggering wonder of Christmas is that Jesus is the God Who stands absolutely above and outside the Creation, the God Who is perfect and uncreated and inscrutable.

C This almighty, awesome, holy, perfect, and transcendent God is with us. He took on our flesh, says John. He became one with us. One of us. He did not come as an animal, bird, or fish. He did not come as an inanimate object like a rock or a tree. He did not come as an angel. He did not come as a spirit. He, Who is God, came as a man.

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. One of us. In the flesh like us. Which means He suffered as we suffer. He was tempted as we are tempted. He experienced emotion as we experience emotion. He cares for you, understands you, loves you, and sympathizes with you.

There is as much darkness and pain today as there was in the days of Ahaz and Joseph and Mary. There are hurting people. Lonely people. Broken people and broken relationships. No matter who you are, no matter how lonely you are, no matter how bad you feel, no matter where you are in life, know this: God is with you.

Jesus is the everlasting Father of the orphan. He is the Husband of the widow. He is the omnipotent Companion of those going through the valley of the shadow of death. He is the Friend of the lonely. He is with you and knows you and understands you and loves you.

He is Immanuel, God with us.

D Now why? Why? Why did God become one of us, one with us? You know the reason. Or, at least you should:
(1 Tim 1:15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ...
God in the flesh means salvation, deliverance, eternal life, forgiveness.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Paul told Timothy that this "deserves full acceptance." I don't know if you are a Christian. So let me tell you, if you don't Jesus, if you don't know Immanuel, then you cannot be saved. If you do not believe in Jesus, then you will die in your sins.

(Is 7:14) 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.

As I've been saying over and over again in this Christmas season, God keeps His promises. So, some two-thousand years ago, in Bethlehem, we see a baby a tiny, little baby being lowered to the hay. This baby, amazing as it may seem is God. This baby is God with us. This baby has come to save us from our sins.
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