45 - Peace and the Prince of Peace [b]
Peace and the Prince of Peace
Romans Lesson #045
December 15, 2011
The first 11 chapters of Romans focus on the doctrine of justification. The major problem that every human being faces is the lack of righteousness. In order to get into heaven, we have to have righteousness. We are also spiritually dead, we are under the condemnation of Adam’s original sin, and there is a sin penalty that has to be paid. That objective sin penalty was paid for every human being at the cross, but that does not change the status of each individual.
Every person is born spiritually dead and without righteousness. The only way to move from spiritual death to spiritual life, from unrighteousness to possessing perfect righteousness is to trust in Jesus Christ, who was the promised Messiah from the Old Testament and the second person of the Trinity, the eternal God who entered into human history, took on full humanity, and then went to the cross to die for our sins.
Four parts, Intro, 1:1–17
Doctrine of justification 1:18–11:36
1. The need for righteousness, 1:18–3:20
a. The immoral rejecter of God, 1:18–32
b. The moral, works-oriented rejecter of grace, 2:1–4
c. The Jew, relying on the Mosaic Law, 2:5–3:8
d. Therefore all are under sin, the world, 3:9–20
2. The explanation of justification
a. The explanation or fact of it, 3:21–31
b. Illustration, 4:1–25
c. The benefits of justification, 5:1–11
At the instant that we trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, God the Father imputes to us or credits to our account His perfect righteousness. Then when He sees that perfect righteousness, He declares us to be just. It does not change us, but now we possess that righteousness. It is on the basis of Christ’s righteousness that we are saved. Not by works but through the gift of righteousness.
Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This verse sets up the focal point of the next 10 verses. Verse 2 “Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” So we have peace in verse one and hope in verse two. We have a progression that develops in verses 3–5 that culminates in hope. There is a connection here between the fact that we have been justified and therefore we have peace, and peace develops hope (confident expectation) in the future.
This is an important opening in verse one because Paul is developing the consequences of our justification. “Because we have been justified” he is going to say. “Therefore” draws that conclusion from all that he has said before. We need to skip to the main verb in the main phrase “we have peace.” That is the main thought. Other things that are said are secondary and circumstantial to this main thought that we have peace with God. The verb is a present active indicative. In most English translations, we just do not catch the real emphasis that is there in the Greek.
When the Greek participles are translated into English, they have a range of meanings. You have to identify what those meanings are. If you were an original Greek speaker, you would understand it. Just as you have idioms in English and when people say certain things, you know exactly what they mean, but someone for whom English is not their native English, they scratch their head trying to figure out what that means. It is important to draw these things out and come to understand what they mean.
When you have a sentence that has a main verb and a participle, the action or time of the participle is related to the time of the verb. If you have a present tense verb and then have an aorist tense participle, which is what we have here (we do not have an aorist tense in English, but in Greek that is your general past tense), the action of the aorist tense comes before the action of the main verb.
In order to have peace, Paul is saying something happens logically prior to having peace. That is justification. He uses the same word he has been using all through the discussion since chapter three for justification which is the verb DIKAIOO, which means to declare righteous. It does not mean make righteous because we are not made perfectly righteous at salvation. We are only declared to be righteous because we have been given the righteousness of Christ. So you still have the same rotten, nasty sin nature that you always had, and that is not going to go away.
Justification is simply that declaration, judicial statement made by the Supreme Court of heaven that a person has the righteousness of Christ, and they are declared righteous. DIKAIOO means to declare righteous or to declare just before God’s Supreme Court. If you look at the basic grammatical form of the word, it is an aorist passive participle. The aorist tense means it is past action, so in relation to the main verb, the action of justification comes before peace. It is passive because we as human beings do not do anything to make the action take place. We receive the action of justification; we are declared to be just. It is a plural because he is talking about we who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It should be translated “therefore, because we have been declared righteous by means of faith or through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is through faith and faith alone that we are declared righteous. Again and again, Paul makes this statement that we are declared righteous, and justification is by faith alone. He says in Galatians 2:16 “… that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” We know that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves savable or justifiable. Isaiah 64:6 “… and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags …”
This first benefit of our justification that Paul talks about is that we have peace with God. This is a very significant statement to pay attention to. People can get confused about some doctrines and twist and reinterpret some teachings in Scriptures within their own experience rather than paying attention to the context. Especially at Christmas time, when you have all of the different Christmas specials, so that we hear about peace in the world and the quotation out of context of the angelic announcement to the shepherds—“peace on earth to men of good will.” It is misunderstood and interpreted in terms of world peace, absence of war and is not understood within the context of Scripture. It is an extremely important phrase. It is not something Paul plucks out of the air here, but it has a history that goes all the way back into the Old Testament.
To understand New Testament concepts, we do not have to go to Greek for the background because Greek is not the background language for the Old Testament – Hebrew is. The core word for peace is shalem. You know of it because you hear the word shalom, which is used in Hebrew as a greeting. It means peace, use it to say hello or goodbye, just a greeting-like blessing. It has a wide range of meanings. In fact, the word shalom is used over 250 times in the Old Testament.
Unfortunately in modern American culture, when we talk about peace, the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds has to do with the context of war – not being at war or not being in a conflict. That certainly is one of the nuances of the word shalom, as well as the word EIRENE, which is the Greek word used in the New Testament.
LXX (70) is the Roman numeral that stands for the Septuagint. The legend is that 70 rabbis in 70 days translated the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) from Hebrew into Greek somewhere around 250 BC. In their translation, they used generally one of three different Greek words to translate shalom. The word they used the most was peace, but they also used the word SOZO, salvation, and TELEIOO, to become complete or mature. That fits the core idea of shalom, which means to be complete or whole, healthy or sound, fulfilled. In many contexts, the idea of TELEIOO would certainly fit a translation of shalom. Shalom has a wide range of meanings just as the word peace can have in English.
The first meaning in the Old Testament that is probably the most common is used over 50 times to refer to the absence of war, conflict or strife. (There were many wars in the Old Testament between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, between the Southern Kingdom and the Syrians.) But it is more than just not having conflict or being in a state of war. It has a positive quality to it that it is a state of wholeness, a healthy relationship. It is not just that you are not arguing with somebody, not fighting with somebody, do not have mental attitude sins towards that person, or are not angry with them. It is that there is something positive in that relationship; there is a wholeness to it. It is emphasizing very positive beyond simply having an absence of conflict.
The second meaning is that in some cases, it refers to a state of wholeness with God that is the result of righteousness. This idea that we are seeing here in Romans 5 that peace is the result of justification is not something that Paul dreamed up. This is often an accusation that you hear from people who do not want to interpret the Bible literally, do not want to understand its message literally because they foundationally or presuppositionally rejected the message of the Scriptures, so they have to reinterpret it.
I got my heart rate of this morning, not by exercising, but I flipped over to MSNBC to hear what people who think of the world a little differently than I do are saying. Dan Senor was on. He is Jewish, fairly conservative, and has written a wonderful book called Start-Up Nation, which is all about the rise of technology in Israel and the whole economy. I highly recommend that book. They were interviewing someone who was British and had had an Episcopalian background. He was talking about a new book that was out that he had written a forward to on anti-Semitism. He was talking about all the horrible things he had learned about Christian anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages. Of course, whenever I hear someone say that they did not learn that until they were much older, I am appalled at their lack of exposure to good education.
He made this comment that there are anti-Semitic comments in the Gospels. Then somebody else said, “That is from one of the most anti-Semitic of the Gospels.” The only reason anybody thinks the Gospels are anti-Semitic is because they do not understand the Bible. They come to it from a position where they do not want to give credit to the Bible. The Bible says what it is, and they do not want to believe the Bible’s self testimony. They make it a human book and interpret its origin and development from a liberal framework. When you start from a wrong starting point, you are going to end at a wrong ending point. It was a classic example of that.
I read a little bit about this book on Amazon, downloaded it to my Kindle, and found five factual errors in his introduction. He did not write the book, and it does look like it is going to be a very good book on the history of anti-Semitism from 586 BC to the present. A lot of people do not realize that anti-Semitism did not start with Christianity or with the crucifixion of Christ, but it has its origin with the destruction of the first temple and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the time of Nebuchadnezzar.
When people just do not understand and do not take the time to read the Bible and let the Bible speak for itself and interpret things within its own context, then they always come away with the wrong message. This shows us that the message of Paul (he is often accused of inventing the theology of Christianity) is reiterating what is already in the Old Testament. He does not come up with anything new, except for the application to Jesus as the Messiah. What Paul does again and again is show what the Old Testament teaches that the Messiah will do and then points out that Jesus is that Messiah. That is the only thing new in what Paul is saying. He is not inventing new theology from the Old Testament.
As we have seen in Romans 4, when Paul goes back to show that the whole concept of imputation of righteousness is the basis of justification by faith, he went to Abraham (Genesis 15:6) and went to David. In Romans 5, he is going to talk about peace and relate it to righteousness, and this comes right out of Isaiah 32:17 “The work of righteousness will be peace …” It is the work of righteousness in the sense of the effect or the consequence of righteousness will be peace. But it is first and foremost about peace with God. “… and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” The connection of justification and righteousness to peace is an Old Testament concept.
The third meaning refers to the peace offering in Leviticus 3. The peace offering is designed to teach exactly what Paul is going to say in Romans 5, which is the new state of peace that exists between God and sinful man because of the sacrifice that has paid the penalty of sin. This breaks down that barrier between man and God, so there can be a state of peace which replaces a state of enmity.
There is a fourth meaning that I have not found in the Old Testament for shalom, but it is a meaning that we have in the New Testament for peace. That is peace as a mental attitude state which is in contrast to anxiety or worry. That is found in Philippians 4:5-6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The contrast there is between a state of anxiety or worry and a state of peace, calm and stability because you have cast your care upon the Lord and are allowing Him to take care of the problem rather than taking care of it yourself. It does not mean you do not think about it. There is a sense of worry there where we run issues and situations over and over in our mind to try to work through how we are going to handle it. It is not worry in the sense that the Scripture is using this as a state of anxiety as if we are trying to control that which we cannot control.
We have shalom in the Old Testament as a reference to peace in terms of the absence of conflict, usually military conflict, but it can also relate to other kinds of conflict. It is a peace that is in relationship to God and righteousness and then the peace offering.
One of the most significant passages where we find the use of shalom and peace is in a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9:6–7. I have some different translations for you.
Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV), “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The translation on the right is from the JPS 1917 translation of the Tanakh. JPS is the Jewish Publication Society. Tanakh (TNK) is an acronym Jews used to refer to the Old Testament made up of the initial consonants in Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim, the three divisions of the Hebrews Bible (the Law, the Prophets, the Writings). I want you to notice how the 1917 edition translates this. Christians do the same thing. We get into a theological bind, and we say “Let’s not translate it; let’s transliterate it.” The most famous example of that is transliterating baptism. The King James translators instead of translating it immersion, they just transliterated the word BAPTIZO to baptism, to further cloud the issue.
The 1917 Tanakh translates it (Isaiah 9:5), “For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder …” There is not much difference between how the Jewish translation runs at this point and the Christian translation in the NKJV. But then it says, “… and his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom.” What does that mean? You avoid the whole issue of the Messianic titles here, and you just obfuscate the whole issue. If you are Jewish and you are reading through Isaiah, you do not understand what it is talking about. These are titles related to the Messiah and that he is born and also called God.
Then we have the 1985 Tanakh edition. Isaiah 9:5 “For a child has been born to us, a son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders [as opposed to government]. He has been named “The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.” That is really different. Not only that, but if you go back in history and look at how Jewish rabbis had translated this, it is even more confusing. They cannot agree, and one of the reasons is that the Messianic implications are so obvious and the fulfillment in terms of how Christians interpret this is so obvious that they have worked quite diligently to somehow rework the text so that it does not say what the Christians say that it says.
This is specifically true in terms of the Masoretic text. As we look at this verse in the NKJV, it is clearly stated that we have these five titles: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. The one we are focusing on is the Prince of Peace. This is related to His Messianic role. In the 1917 JPS transliteration, the first word Wonderful is from pele. This is a word that is only applied to God; it is never applied to man. It has to do with beauty, wonder and amazement.
He is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God (El Gabor). The child who is born is called Mighty God. When you just transliterate that, you lose that unless someone reads it and know Hebrew. The way it is handled in the 1985 Tanakh is to translate this “The Mighty God is planning [Counselor] grace [Wonderful].” They have made these two statements about God and inserted a verb.
What is interesting about that is the Masoretic text, which is the Hebrew text that we use, was developed by a group of scribes that were called the Masoretes. It does not reach its final form until around the 8th or 9th century AD. What has happened for the previous 800 or 900 years before the Masoretic text reaches its final form? By formal form, I do not mean in terms of the words. They are inserting vowels to preserve pronunciation, but they are also inserting accents and breathing marks in order to identify how clauses and phrases should be connected together. In other words, they are inserting punctuation, and punctuation can change the interpretation and meaning of a verse, which is what the Masoretes did.
There are a number of examples, especially with Messianic prophecies, where the Masoretes manipulated the text via punctuation, so that it does not come across as being Messianic as it is used or quoted in the New Testament. This is an example of this. The Masoretic test inserts accents which divide the titles in a way that is even different from the 1985 Tanakh. According to the accents the Masoretes put it, it should be translated “The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God [two titles for God at the beginning] calls His name [they change where they put the verb here, so that His name refers back to the child that is born] Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” So you have two people here – God calling the child a name.
1985 Tanakh does not read anything like the punctuation the Masoretic text gave it. It does not read anything like the 1917 JPS version. If you were Jewish, you would scratch your head and say, “What in the world does this mean?” At least when you have various English translations done by Christians of different verses, they sound somewhat similar. Here they are all over the board because they are trying to avoid communicating a Messianic prediction here.
A lot of this goes back to a 10th century rabbi who goes by the name of Rashi, who did a tremendous amount of work to change historic Messianic interpretations of the Messianic prophecies, so they referred to historical fulfillment and not future fulfillment. If all these Messianic prophecies were fulfilled by historical figures centuries before Jesus, then you do not have any Messianic prophecy for Jesus to fulfill. You destroy the whole Christian argument and defense.
Franz Delitzsch, who was a Jewish believer and scholar in the 19th century, came up with a number of reasons dealing with the technicalities of the translation here and the Masoretic accents to demonstrate that they just did not hold water. The accents were added much later; they were not part of the original. One of his arguments was that if the first two titles were separate titles from the last two, as was handled in the Masoretic text, they would have each had a definite article which they did not have. He makes a fairly convincing case for that.
Another thing that supports the traditional translation of Isaiah 9:6 and the traditional understanding of it as a Messianic passage is that an early Midrash (Jewish rabbinical commentary on the Hebrew text) Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:20 states in reference to Isaiah 9:6 that it refers to the future Messiah. The statement is made in the Midrash of God speaking, “I have yet to raise up the Messiah of whom it is written, ‘For a child is born to us.’ ” That Midrash commentary was written about the 2nd or 3rd century AD. It shows that at the time of Christ and after, the Jewish community clearly understood Isaiah 9:6 to be a Messianic prophecy, and they translated it in way similar to the way we translate it today, not in the distorted way that the Masoretes or the modern Jewish Tanakh has translated it.
That gives us confidence that the way we have historically understood Isaiah 9:6 and the way it has been quoted in the New Testament to refer to Jesus as the Messiah is accurate.
To truly understand what is going on with Isaiah 9:6, we have to recognize that the claim that is made in this prophecy is that you have a child that is born, and then in parallelism, the child is then called a Son. That title of Son was understood to be Messianic, and then the titles that are applied to this born one, which indicates that He is human, are titles of deity. He is called El Gabor, the Mighty God. He is called the Everlasting Father. It should be translated the Father of Eternity indicating that He is truly eternal and has all the attributes of deity including eternality.
He is the Prince of Peace. Why is Jesus called the Prince of Peace? To understand that, we have to go back to Isaiah 7—the context of Isaiah 9:6 actually begins in Isaiah 7:1. The background for understanding all of this is to understand the covenant that God made with David—2 Samuel 7:12–16 and in Psalm 89, which is a meditation on the covenant that is given in 2 Samuel 7. 1 Chronicles 17:11–14, which was written later but also rehearses the contents of the covenant. You have the promise of God that a Son, physical descendant of David would sit on an eternal throne. The only way you can have a human descendant sit on an eternal throne is if that human descendant somehow has the attributes of eternality, which is what you get with a divine/human Messiah.
There are three aspects to the Davidic Covenant: an eternal house of David [eternal dynasty], a descendant who would sit on his throne forever [eternal kingdom], and his throne would be established forever [eternal throne]. This is covered in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Verse 16 “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This is the Hebrew phrase ad (toward something) ‘olam (forever)—until or to forever.
Another Messianic prophecy that fits and ties into this that comes later in Isaiah is one I mentioned as we came to the conclusion of Romans 4. In the last couple of verses in Romans 4, language is brought in that comes out of Isaiah 53:5, 12.
Speaking of the future Messiah, Isaiah writes in Isaiah 53:3 “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief [indicating that He is rejected by His peers, his family, those He came to save]. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him [picture of rejection]; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
The next couple of verses indicate the fact that this Servant who would come had a role as a substitute. Verses 4–5, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows [He would take our griefs and sorrows upon Himself]; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God [God hates you, blamed Him for His rejection], and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions [substitution], He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace [punishment for our peace] was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
Verses 6–7 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him [substitution again] the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth [Jesus did not utter a sound until the Father imputed on Him the sins of the world, and he cried out (Mark 15:34), “… My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”]; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Verse 12 “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many [idea that is quoted in Romans 4], and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah 7:14 is another well-known Messianic prophecy. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign …” Who is he talking to and is the “you” in the original a singular or a plural? That is a very important question to answer. You cannot tell from the English. “… Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son [introduction of the term Son in the context of Isaiah 7–9], and shall call His name Immanuel.” Im at the beginning is the Hebrew preposition “with.” Nu is the ending for “us.” El is God. Immanuel means God with us. This is a strict claim that the virgin will give birth to a son, but the Son is also fully divine as indicated by the name “God with us.”
To understand what is going on, because there are those who have interpreted this several different ways to avoid the Messianic implication, we have to look a little bit at the context. The context begins in Isaiah 7:1. There is conflict between the Jews of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and the Jews or Israelites in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The year is about 735 BC, which is only 12–13 years before the Northern Kingdom of Israel will be wiped out by the Assyrians. Now you have on the horizon this dark cloud that is gathering, as the Assyrian empire is growing in strength, defeating and gobbling up other nations. They are known for their cruelty and for their love of torture of their victims. They are looking to the Middle East to come down and to raid.
Rezin, who is the king of Syria, knows he is the next one to be attacked by the Assyrians. He entered into an alliance with Pekah, the son of Remaliah, who is the king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They have tried to get Ahaz, the king of Judah, to join them to fight against the Assyrians. Ahaz will not have anything to do with it, so now they are turning against Judah and have entered into a military alliance to attack Judah.
(Description of a map.) Never call it the West Bank; it is Judea and Samaria. The West Bank is just a fraudulent term like Palestinian. That is one thing Newt Gingrich got right. The first time I have heard anybody at the national level of politics have the intelligence and the facts to come out and state the truth: the Palestinians are an invented people, and it is an invented name. Until Arafat started using it around 1967, the term Palestinian always referred to the Jewish inhabitants of the historic territory of Palestine. It never referred to the Arabs until he co-opted it in the 1960s.
Once you get an alliance of Damascus and the Aramaeans or Syrians with Israel, the Northern Kingdom, they are going to attack Judah. The idea is to take Ahaz off the throne. Ahaz is a descendant of David. What did God promise? He said, “David, you are going to have an heir on the throne forever.” It is not just an assault against the Southern Kingdom because Judah will not do what they want Judah to do. They want to wipe out the house of David. It is a Messianic assault and part of the angelic conflict. They want to destroy any hope of providing a Messiah through the Davidic line.
Isaiah 7:2 “And it was told to the house of David [see how the text is bringing out this emphasis], saying [to Ahaz the king], ‘Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim [one of the 10 tribes in the North and often the Northern Kingdom was just called Ephraim or Israel].’ So his heart and the heart of the people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind [scared to death].” They are going to come down and invade into Judah, but the Lord has other plans.
Isaiah 7:3-4, “Then the Lord said to Isaiah, ‘Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son …” Why in the world is Isaiah supposed to take his boy with him; Shear-jashub is fairly young at this time. Pay attention to that. “ ‘… at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him [Ahaz]: “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted [In the Hebrew, he is using singular pronouns and singular imperatives, which means that he is talking to Ahaz—you, you, singular] for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.” ’ ” A stub of a firebrand is what is about to go out. If you have ever lit a torch and the flame goes out, you are left with a few sparks and the stub—its life is almost over with. That is the point here—they are not going to last much longer.
Isaiah 7:5, “Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying …” It is important to notice the 2nd masculine singular. He is talking to Ahaz about Ahaz in the singular. He summarizes the thinking of the Northern Kingdom and the Syrian alliance. Verse 6 “ ‘Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them …” That is their idea – let us take the Davidic king out, get rid of the house of David, and put in our own little puppet king, the son of Tabel.
Verses 7-8, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘It shall not stand, nor shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim [the Northern Kingdom] will be broken, so that it will not be a people.’ ” That is important to put those two clauses together because in twelve years they are defeated by the Assyrians, but then it is going to take time for all of the resettlement and repopulation to take place when the Israelites are completely redistributed and relocated and wiped out as a people.
Verse 9, “ ‘The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son [Pekah]. If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.’ ” Once again, it is the offer of faith – if you will just turn back to God, that will solve the problem. But they do not do it.
Verse 10, “Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, ‘Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.’ ” Depth and height are two opposites. It is a figure of speech, like night and day, up and down, high or low. Whatever it is, covering the whole range of possibilities, God says to ask whatever he wants for a sign, and He will give it to him.
But Ahaz is arrogant and has a little false humility and says, (verse 12) “ ‘I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!’ ” But the Lord just asked him to do that, so he is disobeying the Lord. Verse 13 “Then he said [Isaiah speaking by the command of God], ‘Hear now, O house of David!’ ” Who is he talking to? Ahaz? Ahaz would be one person, a singular pronoun. But he is not talking to Ahaz anymore; he is talking to the line and lineage and house of David, which is plural. “ ‘…Is it a small thing for you [plural] to weary men, but will you weary my God also?’ ” He is wearying God by not obeying the command to ask for a sign.
Verse 14 “ ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you [plural, not Ahaz but the house of David] a sign’ ” The sign is to confirm that God is going to be true to His promise to David to have an eternal dynasty and that the Northern Kingdom and Syrians are not going to wipe out the house of David. “ ‘…Behold the virgin …’ ” It uses a definite article there which indicates it is specifying a specific virgin, indicating that the Hebrew readers at that time understood that there is a connection of a virgin to the Messiah. “ ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ ” This goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15 and the seed of the woman. The term used for a virgin there was almah, which is the term used of a young, unmarried woman who has just broken through puberty and is now of marriageable and reproductive age.
Isaiah 7:15, “ ‘Curds and honey He shall eat …’ ” There a number of commentaries that will say this is the food of royalty – milk and honey. Not so. If you read verses 18-25, God describes what it is going to be like when the Assyrians come through as a scourge on the Southern Kingdom. They will destroy the Northern Kingdom, but like flood waters, they will not drown the Southern Kingdom and kill it but will just get up to the neck. As a result, it wipes out agriculture, and little is left.
We read the description in verse 18 “And it shall come to pass in that day [when the Assyrians come] that the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” Bees will come and produce honey. Verse 21 “It shall be in that day that a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep [that is not much – he has lost everything else]; so it shall be from the abundance of milk they give, that he will eat curds; for curds and honey everyone will eat who is left in the land.” The eating of curds and honey is what the people who are left do because everything has been wiped out. It is like Europe after World War II. They had been devastated, and the economy has been wiped out. The only things they can scavenge are dairy products and honey.
The sign that is given in verse 14 is of a virgin conceiving, and that sign is given in relation to the preservation of the house of David. It is not given to Ahaz because it was not to be fulfilled in that generation. Verse 15 says “curds and honey He will eat.” This is talking about the Messiah and is indicating the reason they eat curds and honey is the nation is under political oppression. That is the condition of Judea at the time of Jesus; it is under the control and domination of Rome.
Verses 14–15 deal with the Messiah, and then there is a shift in verse 16. “ ‘For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.’ ”
Who is the child here? I bet it is capitalized in your Bible. It should not be. The child is Shear-jashub. That is why God told Isaiah to bring his little boy with him. The pronoun shifts from plural back to singular. Now Isaiah is talking to Ahaz, and he says, “ ‘… the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings’ ” by the time this little boy grows up to know the difference between good and evil, and you will not need to worry about the Northern Kingdom and Syria again.
Verse 17, “ ‘The Lord will bring the king of Assyria upon you [singular] and your people [singular] and your father’s house – days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.’ ” So you have a prophecy in verses 13-15 that is built on a plural pronoun that talks about a far distant sign that is fulfilled in the Messiah. Then in verses 16–17 you have the near fulfillment referring to a different child, the child of Isaiah. Then the rest of chapter 7 and chapter 8 talk about the characteristics of Assyria’s invasion.
You get a description of events in chapter 8. Isaiah is going to have another son and call him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means swift to the booty, speedy to the prey. It is a sign that the Assyrian invasion will come with lightning speed. There is a description as to what will happen in that time of invasion.
In Isaiah 8:7, “ ‘… The king of Assyria and all his glory; he will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. [You are almost going to get drowned but not quite] Verse 8, “He will pass through Judah, he will overflow and pass over, he will reach up to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.’ ” Who is Immanuel? Immanuel is the Child, the divine human Child born of a virgin in Isaiah 7:14. He is identified now in chapter 8 as the one who truly owns the land of Israel.
Then when we get to chapter 9, He is identified as the Child who is born, the Son who is given who will be the Prince of Peace. The Peace that is talked about there is the one who will bring peace in a full sense to Israel, peace in terms of the end of war and all these deprivations to the kingdom because He is the one who will come and establish His kingdom. That sense that He is the Prince of Peace is tied to His bringing the kingdom.