Calvary Road Baptist Church

“Christ’s Virgin Birth Predicted”

Isaiah 7.14

 

Merry Christmas to you one and all. I am so thrilled to see you here this morning, and I trust our time together will be a blessing. Before we turn to our very familiar text for this morning’s message, there are two lines of thought I want to mention by way of introduction.

First, it is properly observed that the Christmas season is an especially hazardous time for Christians and their families, especially so because our guards are usually down. We typically get so caught up in the excitement of Christmas and the holidays that we can lose our situational awareness. More frequently at Christmas time than at any other time, Christians have a tendency to forget that we are soldiers of the cross, that we are engaged in deadly spiritual warfare, that no matter where we are we are in enemy territory, and that the entire world is arrayed against us to harm our families and us and to discredit our testimonies. This is especially so with those of you who have small children, while at the same time having unsaved family members in the form of grandparents and aunts and uncles who have very decided opinions about how Christmas ought to be celebrated without any concern for the spiritual impact their approach to Christmas might have on your children.

My Scriptural support for the warning I have cautioned you with comes first from First John 5.19: 

And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” 

Then there is Second Corinthians 10.3-5: 

3  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

4  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 

Then, of course, there is Paul’s reminder to young Timothy in Second Timothy 2.3: 

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 

And we mustn’t leave out the Apostle Peter’s warnings in First Peter 2.11 and 5.8: 

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” 

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 

Clearly, Christians in this world live in an environment that is hostile, and while we are to live our lives with graciousness and joy, we would be naive to fail to recognize the dangers to us and our little ones and to take steps to provide spiritual protection for them. I have cited just a few of the many passages that make it more than obvious that the unsaved people who surround and love our children will seek to express their unenlightened love for us and our kids in a way that is rooted and grounded in materialism, while seasoned and wise Christian parents recognize that what our children need more than amazing toys and a pleasure-oriented outlook to live by are expressions of love, guidance, and training that are Christ-centered and rooted and grounded in spiritual truth.

So long as your children are unconverted, you recognize, of course, which of the two kinds of influences they are subjected to they will naturally tend to appreciate more and gravitate toward, especially during the Christmas season. I am not suggesting that you squabble with anyone about anything. What I am suggesting is that you may want to minimize the materialism your children are exposed to over the course of their lives so that you can maximize the spiritual message that is so crucial to the formation of their worldview. God’s plan for this is godly parents and the ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Will other people be bent on spending large amounts of money to prove the sincerity of their love to you and your children by maximizing materialism? Yes. Of course. Might it become a great distraction to your kids? Yes, it might. Is it a bit late for this message to have any effect on this Christmas season? To be sure. Understand that I am not suggesting this deep into the holiday season what you should do during this Christmas season. Such plans should be made in the Summer and the Fall. If you wait until Thanksgiving or afterward to plan your strategy for Christmas, you will have been outflanked. I seek at this time only to remind you of the challenges you face and to point out the two obvious approaches to reality that your children are exposed to, all the while praying that you wisely determine to set before your children the spiritual realities that form the truthful basis for our way of not only living life but also celebrating Christmas. Simply being here on Christmas Day is a major step that puts you far ahead of most parents and grandparents. I congratulate you. And what is that spiritual reality which forms the truthful basis for Christmas? The birth of the virgin-born Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, on that chilly afternoon so long ago in Bethlehem.

Make your way to the book of Isaiah, where we find one answer to the two most important questions surrounding Christmas. Of course, the Christmas story is told as a firsthand historical account in Luke chapter 2. However, it is in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, where the Christmas story was predicted centuries in advance of its actual occurrence.

This morning, in the book of Isaiah, we will look to one portion of God’s Word that predicted what would happen. This evening, in the book of Micah, we will look to that portion of God’s Word that predicted where it would happen. But for now, some introductory remarks that will bring us to Isaiah 7.14. The Book of Isaiah is one of the most loved books of the Bible, perhaps the best known of the prophetic books. It is one of the largest of the prophetic books, more in chapters but a bit smaller in size than Jeremiah. Though the Book of Isaiah has always been understood by Jewish people and Christians to be a single literary unit, one book if you will, it was in the 1700s that liberal theologians began to question the unity of the Book of Isaiah, drawing wrong conclusions from their observation that the first 39 chapters of Isaiah dealt with the retribution of God toward the nation of Judah while chapters 40 through 66 dealt with the restoration of the Jewish people by God.

Those two dramatically different parts of Isaiah’s prophecy were thought by liberal scholars to indicate that the material contained in the book was written by two different authors in what used to be two separate books. Of course, the underlying motive of the liberal scholars was their refusal to consider the supernatural source of the predictive prophecies of Isaiah, supposing that those predictions which came true must have been written after and not before the fulfillments of the predictions. However, as I said, conservative scholars and Christians have for some 2,000 years accepted the Book of Isaiah as a single unit, just as Jewish people had for seven centuries before the birth of Christ. How embarrassing it was, then, for liberal scholars when an Arab shepherd boy discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran caves containing among other things an Isaiah scroll as a single unit, preserved for more than 2,000 years as providential evidence of the unity of the Book of Isaiah.

Christians had always accepted that Isaiah was a single unified book, because we believe the Bible, and because we accept the testimony of the Gospels concerning our Lord Jesus Christ’s use of the Book of Isaiah. It was in Luke 4.17, while the Lord Jesus Christ was in the synagogue, that the scroll containing the Book of Isaiah was delivered into His hands (a single scroll mind you). That portion of Isaiah the Lord Jesus Christ began to read in Luke 4.18 was Isaiah 61.1, clearly in the second half of Isaiah’s prophecy. Of course, this shows that the entire book of Isaiah was obviously a single unit in the Lord Jesus Christ’s day. The liberals are once again proven to be wrong, as they are always shown to be wrong who doubt the supernatural origins of the infallible Word of God. As I said, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah deal with God’s retribution. By this time in Jewish history, the 8th century before Christ, the twelve tribes of Israel has been divided by Civil War into two kingdoms, with Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Chapters 1-6 of Isaiah contain the Lord’s indictment of the kingdom of Judah. Beginning with chapter 7, Isaiah gives us prophecies of Judah’s future deliverance.

Rezin, king of Aram, located to the northeast of Israel, and Pekah, king of Israel had made an alliance. Evidence suggests that Rezin may have usurped the throne of Aram, and Pekah was a usurper. Rezin was Aram’s last king, and Pekah was Israel’s next-to-last king. After Jeroboam II of Israel had died the northern kingdom became increasingly weak. Rezin convinced Pekah to join him against Pekah’s southern neighbor Judah. They threatened to replace Judah’s King Ahaz with a puppet king, “the son of Tabeal,” Isaiah 7.6. The prospect of such formidable enemies as Aram and Israel caused the people of Judah to be afraid. The house of David referred to by Isaiah in 7.2 refers to King Ahaz who was of that kingly line. Hearing of the Aram-Israel alliance, King Ahaz was understandably terrified. Ephraim, Israel’s largest tribe, represented the entire nation, as is also the case in the Book of Hosea. This was the year 734 BC. Perhaps King Ahaz thought he could call on the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pilesar III to come to his aid and attack the Aram-Israel confederacy.

From Isaiah 7.3 we learn that God told Isaiah to go with his son to meet King Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool. This pool was a reservoir that held water from the Gihon Spring near Jerusalem. Perhaps King Ahaz was there to inspect the city’s water supply in anticipation of an attack by Aram and Israel. The aqueduct was just outside Jerusalem’s city walls. This was the place where, about 33 years later, Sennacherib’s spokesman would terrify King Hezekiah by hurling a challenge to the Jerusalem fighters on the wall who were defending the city against the Assyrians. The name of Isaiah’s son, Shearjashub (which means a remnant will return) illustrated Isaiah’s prophetic message to King Ahaz. The nation of Judah would not be destroyed by the Aram-Israelite alliance. In 7.4-6 Isaiah told Ahaz not to be afraid of Rezin and Pekah, calling them little more than smoldering stubs of firewood. Their lives would soon end. Like firewood, they would be burned up and gone. Though the kingdoms of Aram and Israel threatened to invade Judah and divide it between the two conquering nations and set up a puppet king, the way Germany and the USSR divided Poland at the beginning of World War Two, both of those nation’s rulers would end up dead two years later in 732 BC.

In response to the threat against Judah, the Sovereign LORD had an answer. The attack would not take place. It would not happen. The reason was that both of those nations were headed by mere men. It is of some interest that the prophet Isaiah referred to Pekah by name only once. Four other times Isaiah called him “the son of Remaliah,” likely for the purpose of slighting him in the eyes of King Ahaz. He and Rezin could not thwart God’s plans. In fact, Isaiah made the startling prophecy that within 65 years the northern kingdom of Israel would no longer even be a people because they would be so broken, Isaiah 7.8. Isaiah delivered this prediction in 734 BC, so 65 years later was 669 BC. When Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC, many Israelites were deported to other lands by Assyria and foreigners were brought into Samaria. However, in 669 BC many more foreigners were transferred to Samaria by Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria at the time. This is what actually “broke” Israel, making it impossible for her to unite as a nation. We see that kind of cultural annihilation presently taking place in Europe with the mass migration of Arabs unwilling to assimilate into European culture.

Notice the second sentence in Isaiah 7.9: 

“If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” 

Should that declaration not be applied to each one of us, as well? This is a challenge to Judah’s King Ahaz to believe what the prophet Isaiah was telling him. Would he have faith that God would fulfill both predictions? Would Israel to the north be shattered 65 years later? And would he trust God to keep the northern confederacy of Aram and Israel from overpowering Judah in the immediate future? If King Ahaz did not believe those predictions, he too would fall. As a means of strengthening his faith, Ahaz was told to ask the LORD for a sign, an attesting miracle that would confirm God’s Word to him. The king could choose any miraculous work he wished, from the deepest depths to the highest heights. With a miracle offered to him simply for the asking, Ahaz could have visible confirmation that Isaiah’s words (7.7-9) were truly from the LORD. Ahaz could count on the fact that the northern alliance would not defeat his kingdom, Judah. But King Ahaz foolishly refused to request a sign, saying he would not test God. 

“I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.” 

This answer may have sounded pious but probably the way he said it showed he did not believe what Isaiah told him. Perhaps he did not want to believe Isaiah, who had been preaching about the eventual destruction of Judah if her people did not return to the LORD.

Ahaz, by rejecting the offer of a sign from God’s messenger, was in effect rejecting the One who sent the prophet. God responds to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah in verse 13: 

“Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” 

As I said before, “O house of David” refers not to all David’s descendants, but to Ahaz and those kings of Judah who would descend from him. Ahaz’s answer was only a pretense of piety. He said he did not want to test the LORD, but by refusing to follow God’s directive to ask for a confirming miracle, he was testing the LORD’s patience (as well as man’s patience). Though Ahaz refused to request a sign that would have confirmed the truth of Isaiah’s message, the prophet said God would give him one anyway, which brings us to our text for today, Isaiah 7.14: 

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

Incredible, is it not? One of the most important predictions in all the Bible was given by the prophet Isaiah to a belligerent Judean king named Ahaz to prove something to him that he did not want to have proven, but which prediction was so far-reaching as to constitute one of the most important prophecies to be found anywhere in the Bible, announcing the means by which Israel’s long-awaited Messiah would be given to them by God.

This is the background leading up to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, which has over the course of time morphed into what we now call Christmas and which presently has little to do with the birth of Christ except as Churches here and there, and Christian families like you here and there cling to the truth of the Savior’s birth. Because it is Christmas Day more than 2,000 years since the fulfillment of Isaiah 7.14, which was a prediction made more than 700 years before its fulfillment, I want to set before you three simple considerations of what God was actually doing with this prediction and its fulfillment, by reflecting on its Distance, its Difficulty, and its Design: 

First, THE DISTANCE OF THIS PREDICTION AND ITS FULFILLMENT 

Each of you has been given a handout that I have reproduced containing twenty-two prophecies in the Book of Isaiah that will be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ. They are listed in no particular order. Some of the predictions have already been fulfilled while others have not yet been fulfilled. Our text for today is the second prophecy on the list. Thus, from the time of Isaiah’s prediction to King Ahaz of Christ’s virgin birth until His arrival in Bethlehem more than seven centuries passed. Think of it. A prediction made in 734 BC was fulfilled, as predicted, explicitly, two thousand years ago. That is what we are celebrating today.

That is what I refer to by the word distance, more than seven hundred years passing between prediction and fulfillment. That is more than three times the age of our country, the United States of America. That is a greater distance in time than was Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492. The time distance alone predicting Christ’s birth should give each of us pause. 

Next, THE DIFFICULTY OF THIS PREDICTION AND ITS FULFILLMENT 

I want to point out for your consideration, and for the consideration of all the doubters in the world who sneer with curled lips at those of us who believe God’s Word, the difficulty of bringing to pass a prediction made more than seven hundred years in advance. Have you ever thought of how difficult it is to pull something like that off? It is utterly astounding.

And don’t think you can explain this prediction away by claiming that it is bogus because the Dead Sea scrolls found in the Qumran caves take that argument clean away, since that scroll of the prophet Isaiah that was found, referred to as The Great Isaiah Scroll, is dated from 124 BC.[1] Thus, a prediction was made in 734 BC, is recorded on a scroll that was produced in 124 BC, was then hidden in a cave for more than 2,000 years, was then fulfilled at the birth of Christ, with the scroll then being found in 1947. These facts taken together show that inventing this prediction or writing it down after Christ was born is an impossibility shown to us by archaeology.

Consider, for a few moments, how extraordinarily difficult it is to accomplish something predicted more than seven hundred years before its fulfillment. Where are the sneering skeptics and doubters now? Doing what they usually do with their hypocritical and compartmentalized thinking, ignoring the evidence. The only explanation for such a thing as this is God. The next question for our consideration is why. 

Finally, THE DESIGN OF THIS PREDICTION AND ITS FULFILLMENT 

It is Christmas Day, and we can’t take all that much time to explain and prove it all, but allow me to rehearse it quickly to you.

The cosmic problem God is dealing with is sin, brought into the angelic realm by Lucifer’s rebellion and introduced into the human realm in the Garden of Eden when Adam sinned against God. Since that time God has orchestrated His unfolding drama of redemption to not only reverse the great harm done by man’s sinful rebellion but to be greatly glorified by His astounding display of mercy and grace in so doing.

On the way to providing for the salvation of individual sinners from their sins God has dealt with mankind in a variety of ways so that man’s inability apart from God could be established in many ways as a means of showing the greatness of God and the salvation that He provides to deliver sinners from the depths of such sinfulness: The first dispensation was the dispensation of innocency, when mankind was placed in moral innocency in the Garden of Eden but still experienced moral failure. The second dispensation was when God dealt with the fallen human race through conscience. There, too, mankind failed, resulting in Noah’s Flood. Third, there was the dispensation of God’s dealings with mankind using human government. Of course, there was failure and the confusion of tongues at Babel. The fourth dispensation was the dispensation of promise, when God dealt with the patriarchs from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and including Joseph, without success. The fifth dispensation was the dispensation of the Law of Moses, extending over Israel’s history to the cross of Jesus Christ, revealing that no principle of law is a remedy for sin. The sixth dispensation is referred to by some as the dispensation of the Church or the dispensation of grace and will continue until the Rapture. The seventh dispensation will be the millennial kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ when He sits on the throne of His father David to rule and reign for a thousand years.

In each of these various dispensations God deals with mankind using a different economy, though in each economy mankind fails. All the while, though, God’s plan unfolds according to predictions made by prophets at various times. Here is what we know: For God’s justice to be established sins must be punished. But for God’s grace to be exhibited a means of saving the undeserving is showcased. This will be accomplished by punishing an Innocent Substitute in place of the guilty sinner. The concept of the kinsman-redeemer is introduced in the Old Testament, whereby one who is related, who is able, and who is willing to redeem may do so voluntarily. We are shown an example of this when Boaz redeemed Ruth in the Book of Ruth. But for a kinsman to redeem sinful men from their sins, the kinsman has to be sinless. How can this be when all men are sinners by inherited nature from their father, Adam? That is where the prediction of Isaiah 7.14 and the miracle of the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ comes in, the Second Person of the Trinity leaving heaven’s glory to be born a sinless human being to the Virgin Mary, qualified by His sinless humanity to redeem us from our sins, and qualified by His deity to reconcile us to God.

So, you see, the whole grand purpose and design of the prediction made seven centuries before and fulfilled when Christ the Lord was born of a virgin in Bethlehem was to execute the grand design of God to provide a sinless Substitute to die on the cross in our place.

 

I asked you to consider the distance of it. But it is much more than seven centuries’ distance since the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13.8. Then I asked you to consider the difficulty of it. But it is much more difficult than working the miraculous birth of a child without a father. After all, God did form Adam from the dust of the earth and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. But to fulfill this miracle required fitting God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One Who is bigger than the universe, first, into a young virgin’s womb, and then, into a human body. Now that’s difficult. Finally, I set before you the design of it all. It is a design of such intricacy, of such detail, and of such precision. And the grand design has not yet been completely executed, has it? Not all who are to be saved have yet been saved. The Lord Jesus Christ has not yet come in regal glory and terrible majesty to reclaim His earth. Not all His enemies who will be put down have yet been put down. However, these things will take place according to the Grand Design.

So you see, Christmas is part of a much bigger picture of things than we normally think about and appreciate. It is way more than just a baby born and placed in a manger and the singing of an angelic choir. It is an integral part of the workings of God with men to save sinners from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

I sincerely hope you are an active and conscientious part of God’s great plan with Christ as your Savior.

Merry Christmas.

__________ 

[1] http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah   12/24/2016

 

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org