Today’s devotional may be the first time some have studied Isaiah 7:14 in its context. The beloved promise of a sign to Judah, a miracle that only God could give, reads: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).
Consider with me the historical context of that sign that was fulfilled in the coming of the virgin-born Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 7 – The King of kings is Coming
Many years had passed from the death of Uzziah (6:1), to the reign of his grandson Ahaz, the son of Jotham (7:1; 2 Kings 15:32-34; 2 Kings 16:1). Two kings are named as contemporaries of Ahaz, and they had conspired to invade and war with Judah. “Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it” (7:1).
Historical Context of the Prophecy of the Virgin Birth (7:1-13)
King Ahaz and all Judah were terrified by the coalition of nations aligned against them (7:2). The LORD, ever compassionate toward His people, commanded Isaiah to go with his firstborn son, Shear-jashub, and meet king Ahaz (7:3). The prophet’s mission was to deliver good news to the king, and encourage him saying, “Take heed, and be quiet; Fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, For the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah” (7:4).
Isaiah Revealed to king Ahaz four truths concerning Judah’s enemies (7:4-9)
The kings of Syria and Ephraim (Israel) were contemptible, and nothing more than firewood in the sight of the LORD (7:4). Those kings had “taken evil counsel” against Judah, and were set to divide the land between them, and set a puppet king upon the throne of David (7:5-6). Nevertheless, Ahaz was told the confederacy between Syria and Israel would fail (7:7), and in 65 years’ time, Israel would be destroyed and the people taken into captivity (7:8). Isaiah then admonished king Ahaz, “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (7:9).
The Offer of a Sign of Assurance (7:10-13)
Knowing Ahaz was not a man of faith, the LORD offered to give the king a miraculous sign, and assure him all would come to pass as He had promised (7:10-11). Foolish Ahaz, however, refused to ask for a sign, and sought instead for an alliance with the king of Assyria (7:12; 2 Kings 16:7-8; 2 Chronicles 28:24).
A Prophetic Miraculous Sign (7:14)
Having rejected the LORD, and turned to his own ways and plans to overcome Israel and Syria, God warned Ahaz, “Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” (7:13)
Because he had refused to trust the LORD, Ahaz was told God would give His people a miraculous sign, saying, “14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).
Forewarning of God’s Judgment on Israel and Judah (7:15-25)
The sign of the virgin birth of a Son who would be named Immanuel would not be imminent (in fact, seven centuries would pass). The text, however, continued with the prophecy of another son, one whose name would be a testimony of a time of poverty to come. Ahaz was told the diet of the people would be “butter and honey” (the food of the impoverished, 7:15).
Who was this son whose birth would foretell the judgment of God that would fall upon Israel? Isaiah 8:1-3 reveals his name would be Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the second born son of the prophet Isaiah.
Because Ahaz had established an accord with Assyria to war against Israel and Syria, God warned that nation would not only destroy Israel, but God would use the Assyrians to punish Judah (7:17-25). Assyria would trouble Judah like the swarms of Egyptian flies, and the stinging bees of Assyria (7:17-18). The Assyrians would disgrace Judah (7:19-20), and impoverish the people (7:21-25). To illustrate the poverty that would befall Judah, Isaiah declared farmers would struggle with one milk cow and two sheep (7:21-22), and the land would become overgrown with briars and thorns (7:23-25).
Isaiah 8 – The Birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Second Son of Isaiah
Isaiah had named his firstborn son, Shear-jashub, whose name meant “a remnant shall return” (7:3). The LORD then commanded the prophet to name his second born son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning “they (Assyria) hasten to spoil” (a prophecy fulfilled when Israel was destroyed, and the people taken captive, 8:1-3).
How long before that prophecy would come to pass? No more than two to three years, for we read: “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria” (8:4).
Maher-shalal-hash-baz: Judgment is Coming (8:4-10)
Closing thoughts – Naming his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Isaiah served notice to all who heard it…an enemy was coming, and the nation would be judged. Judah had rejected the LORD (Shiloh being the historical place of worship), and God promised to bring Assyria upon His people like a flood of waters, overflowing the land (8:4-8).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith