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The Divine Messiah
Tonight we're going to focus a little bit on the fact we do have freedom because it is Independence Day. We're celebrating the fact we still have a large degree of freedom, although it is being attacked and assaulted. If the truth were known, most of us are not old enough to remember when there was a great deal of freedom and liberty in this country. It has so gradually eroded that it's sad to recognize how much we have actually lost. Things are going on today in the courts, and things are going on today in our nation that our grandparents would have never, ever expected, much less approved of. So we're going to spend a little bit of time this evening just celebrating the fact that this is our nation's birthday and then we'll focus on Romans, going back into our passage.
To start, we'll have prayer and then I'm going to have four people form the congregation come up and read the Declaration of Independence. Think about the words. Think about what they went through. Think about the situation. One thing we should realize is that two months prior to their signing the declaration there was no sense at all in the Continental Congress that they were going to separate from England. They were loyalists. Think about that in terms of today's situation. They were still loyal to the Crown, loyal to the King, but things were coming quickly to a head as we know from history. So here is the Declaration of Independence in full:
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government laying the foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they have become accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the same establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused to Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with the measures. He has dissolved representative Houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise, the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasions from without and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Approbations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws to establishing judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions, and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us, For protecting them by a mock trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these States. For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent. For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury. For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses. For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging the boundaries so as to render it at once an example and its instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies. For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments. For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have petitioned for Redress in the most horrible terms. Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity Which denounces our Separation and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in general Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies, are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Actually Independence Day is not today. How many of y'all knew that? The actual signing and approval of the Declaration was on July 2 and John Adams made a very famous statement about that, that this day "will live on in celebration." He said that in a letter to his wife, Abigail, the next day. It's a little ambiguous as to which day he is describing whether it is the 2nd or the 3rd. It wasn't the 4th. They were still doing minor revisions to the final form of the Declaration and on the 4th of July, the earliest draft of the Declaration was signed by only two individuals: John Hancock who was the President of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thompson, who was a secretary of the Congress.
Four days later on July 8 several members of Congress took the document, read it aloud from Independence Hall, proclaiming Liberty to the city of Philadelphia, after which the Liberty Bell was rung. The inscription on the Liberty Bell came right out of the Scripture. It came from Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof." The colonists were deeply immersed in Christian theology, and there were just a few Jews in the colonies at the time but they played a significant role during the War for Independence, some of whom raised significant amounts of money for the support of the Continental Army. Most, if not all, Americans were influenced by some form of Christianity, all were influenced by a Judeo-Christian worldview. Often today people overstate the case in trying to claim too many of the Founding Fathers as Christians. I'm not sure how many were actually born again. But it doesn't matter whether they were actually regenerate or had a clear understanding of the gospel. What matters is that they thought in terms of a Biblical worldview.
That's how the culture trained them, that's how they grew, that's how they were educated. There have been a number of statements made, some of which you've heard recently, I'm sure, that some very large percentage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were ministers of the gospel. I think that's stretching the meaning of the term. Many of the schools in America at that time were founded in order to train men for the gospel ministry. Harvard. Yale. Princeton. Dartmouth. Columbia. Many others were also founded for that very purpose although by the time of the American War for Independence they had expanded their curriculum quite a bit. Nevertheless, if anyone attended those universities they were well trained in the Scripture.
Men such as James Madison studied under John Winthrop, a Presbyterian minister who was very much a part of the signing of the Constitution and was influential in the thinking of James Madison. That doesn't mean all of these men were orthodox, Bible-believing Christians. They were not. Jefferson, notably, was not. Madison had some issues. John Adams was a border-line Unitarian. In fact, if you listen to David Barton, he will often recite a number of pastors in the 18th century who were influential in the development of the understanding of the concept of liberty. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the pastors he mentions were some of the leading thinkers in the very early formative stage of the Unitarian Church. Barton doesn't do a great job of distinguishing between different theologies. He uses the term Christian in a very broad sense.
It would do all of us much better if he would use the term Judeo-Christian as a worldview rather than trying to go so far as to make it sound like many of these Founders were orthodox, Bible-believing Christians. This is my point having studied this quite a bit since seminary, and after doing my doctoral work at Dallas Seminary in church history and having read quite a bit on both sides. There's also another movement trying to minimize the influence of Christianity. The analogy I use is that the Founding Fathers were products of a Judeo-Christian culture and they thought Biblically whether they wanted to or not, just like too many of us think too much like a post-modern relativist because that's the culture in which we grew up. We were infected by those ideas in ways we are not always willing to recognize.
Just a couple of comments about the Continental Congress. It first met on September 5, 1774 in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia. It met for quite a while, at least for the next couple of years. Eventually it appointed a committee of five to write the Declaration. At late as April of 1776, a year after the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington and Concord, there was a vast majority of the Continental Congress who were loyalists.
I think that's really important because if you are at all like I am, and like many conservatives today, you're becoming more and more conflicted, more and more concerned about the direction of our nation. As we watch what has happened in the courts and in the culture over the past fifty years, we see the beliefs that we held near and dear and were considered mainstream American values and ideals, are now being declared over and over again as being unconstitutional.
Just this last week the verdict handed down by the Supreme Court related to the Defense of Marriage Act showed that there's a lack of understanding in the courts that marriage is between a man and a woman. Whatever issues may come up, you can't go back and undo something that has been a standard since the creation. As far back as human civilization goes, no matter what your beliefs are, marriage has been between one man and one woman. No empire, no civilization, no culture has ever legitimized any form of homosexual marriage. It's never been done. There is a reason for that. This is because we understand this is the essence of marriage.
Now there may be culture issues, business issues, legal issues related to same-sex partners, things like that, but you can't call it marriage. These terms are not fluid, they're not flexible, and they're not up for grabs. That's what happens when you come out of a post-modern environment. Words don't mean anything anymore. You're free to redefine your meanings however you see fit. Once you start changing things it has a domino effect and hundreds, if not thousands of unintended consequences ensue. Words don't mean what they mean anymore. Once you start changing the meaning of words, you can't count on anything. There's no stability. It erodes the very foundation of law. What has happened that we have witnessed in our lifetime is such a degradation of vocabulary and meaning that we who are Christians, who believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as it was intended by the founders, we are being declared unconstitutional in our beliefs. So this puts us in a difficult situation.
One of the things we need to come to understand is that there really is a difference between being a patriot and being a loyal citizen. I think this is one of things we need to think about. In my thinking, a patriot is one who is a gung-ho advocate of their nation. They're willing to go into the military. They're willing to give their life for the freedom, for the policies, for the positions of their national government. I'm not willing to die for this nation anymore because of what they are espousing. I'm not sure I can encourage others to do that. If I were called upon to go fight in the military, I would. That's the difference between being a gunRomans-107.htmg-ho patriot and being a loyal citizen. I see that as a distinction. A loyal citizen is someone who follows the principles of Romans, chapter 13. We're obedient to our government but that doesn't mean I'm a full-bore advocate of this government as it is being and has been redefined over the last twenty years.
I feel like I have been declared unconstitutional by the courts over the last thirty or forty years. My opinions and my beliefs are not wanted. Basically, it's "Christians, keep off the grass." That's the mentality. Does that mean we should just fold our hands and fold up our tents and go home? No, it doesn't. We have responsibilities as citizens of this nation to be involved. That's what it means to be a Christian.
Whether you're a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, or any other religion, if you were born in this country as a citizen, you have a responsibility to be educated on the history of this nation, to be educated on the issues that face Congress, on the issues that face our state legislatures, on the issues that face our local governments. We have to be educated so that we can vote in an informed manner, to carry out our duties as citizens, and get in touch with political leaders to let them know what our views are. This is our responsibility as citizens. It's not activism. It's action. It's responsibility. When you get in engaged in illegitimate action, where you're involved in illegal action, that's when it crosses the line.
I think there's a comparison here with the Founding Fathers in that they were still loyal to England while they were at war with England and unwilling to separate. I'm not advocating war or any kind of rebellion or anything like that. I'm simply making the point that because of the actions of our government, we have been put at odds with the government. Without Christianity we would not have had the freedoms that we have so this is still our country. But as Christians we need to wake up. This isn't the country of the 1920s. It's not the nation of the 1940s or 1950s. It is a whole new world and we can't have the same attitudes and values and blind patriotism we once had because it's been redefined right out from under us. We need to be loyal, though. We need to continue to take a stand for our nation. There's a certain dichotomy there.
Liberty and freedom come only from God but it can be taken from us because of our irresponsibility and our lack of positive volition. [Congregation sings "Our Country Tis of Thee"]
There are many enemies to freedom and liberty in our country today. There are enemies of Christianity as well and if these enemies had their way they would completely remove all Christians and influence of Christianity from every aspect of our culture. This is the furthest thing from the mind of our Founding Fathers. John Adams believed that the Fourth of July should become a religious holiday, remembering that God had a hand in our deliverance and that it should be a day filled with celebration of our freedom and also religious activities whereby citizens of the United States would give thanks to God and honor him because he is the author of liberty as we just sang.
His son, John Quincy Adams, later a president of the United States, was also very much involved in the activities of the American War for Independence. In 1837, when he was 69 years old, he was asked to give a speech about the founding of our nation and the Declaration of Independence at Newburyport, Massachusetts. He began that address with a question. He said, "Why is it friends and fellow citizens that you're here assembled? Why is it that entering into the 62nd year of our national existence you've honored me with an invitation to address you?" Well the answer was obvious because he was one of the few left who was a witness to the events surrounding the birth of our nation.
He went on to say, "Why is it that next to the birthday of the Savior of the world your most joyous and venerated festival returns on this day?" So in the early decades of our nation, the Fourth of July, Independence Day, was venerated second only to when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. This shows that in the thinking of the Founding Fathers Christianity played a very large role in the recognition of freedom. Our Founding Fathers realized that freedom was built on individuals taking responsibilities for their lives and their actions. It wasn't the government's responsibility to take care of them or to give them a security blanket from cradle to grave. It was the responsibility of the government to make sure they were free and that their rights were recognized as we read in the opening of the declaration.
It states the rights were given by their Creator, which is a phrase that our President usually drops when he quotes from the opening of the Declaration of Independence. I've heard him several times when he ignores the fact that the Declaration says we were "endowed by our Creator" with these rights: the right to life, the right to liberty and the right to happiness. No, it doesn't say that, does it? It says the right to the pursuit of happiness. The government's job isn't to make you happy. It is stay out of our way so we can pursue happiness. My favorite tee shirt is one I picked up at a gun show several years ago. On the back of it, it says, "Liberals evolve from monkeys. Constitutionalists were endowed by their Creator." That says it all.
The Declaration is embedded within our Judeo-Christian worldview. The language that's used there, even though it's not the language that we read in theology books, it is a language which in their generation resonated with a belief in a creator God and a belief that our rights as human beings emanated from that God, were given by that God, because we were created in His image and likeness. This is one reason why there's such a debate over creation versus evolution. If evolution wins as a worldview, which it is doing, then it eviscerates the meaning of the opening of the Declaration of Independence because there's no creator to endow us with rights. All of these things are working together as an assault upon the nation.
According to John Quincy Adams, Christmas and the Fourth of July were intrinsically connected. The Founders understood that because they took the precepts of Jesus Christ who came into the world as a result of His incarnation and they incorporated those principles. These are principles from the Old Testament, from the Torah, like the passage I cited earlier that was written on the Liberty Bell from Leviticus 25:10. They understood that liberty was ultimately founded in a recognition of the individual's responsibility to God. If that was lost, they reasoned, then the nation would become immoral. A nation cannot preserve its liberty on the foundation of immorality.
Yet that is part of what we have seen over the last fifty years with the various court ruling that have taken any kind of influence of Christianity out of the schools with the removal of prayer. There are a lot of different things you can say about that court decision, which was that the prayer in question was actually written by the New York School Board so it wasn't really the most orthodox prayer but there was a principle behind it. The principle was that God was at least recognized by the action mandating that all school children pray and that as creatures under the authority of God we were dependent upon God for everything. Now we are independent of God and everything is falling apart.
We find ourselves today under assault by the federal government. Our e-mails and everything we are doing on line is being observed by the National Security Agency. The IRS is targeting conservative groups who seek non-profit status and they're not targeting liberal groups. It is clearly an invasion of our rights, an invasion of our privacy, and an assault on the First Amendment. We have a government that seems to no longer care about the Bill of Rights with assaults on almost every amendment going on today. So we need to really think about our role as believers in a culture that has written God out of their thinking. And that's what they want to do.
We have to stand firm. We have to function in grace. We have to be even more devoted in prayer than we have ever been for this nation and we need to also be as involved as we possibly can in every level of government to the degree that we can so that our voice is heard. This is how we function as salt and light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. Now the reason we do that is because we worship a living God. Again and again in our study of Acts on Tuesday nights we've seen this emphasis on worshiping a living God. We worship a Savior who is not only a human being but is also Eternal God.
In our study of Romans on Thursday nights in Romans 9:3-5, we've been emphasizing God's plan and purpose for the Jewish nation, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to whom we're told in Romans 9:4, "belong the adoption as sons, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the temple service of God, and the promises whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ [the Messiah] according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." So this tells us here He is the eternally blessed God.
Last time I pointed out in the Old Testament you have two strains of prophecy, one indicating the Messiah would be God, the other pointing out that the Messiah would be human. Now if you're talking with someone who is Jewish, they don't believe that the Messiah was supposed to be God. It's very easy to demonstrate this from the Old Testament and as I pointed out, we should all have three or four Old Testament verses, and three or four New Testament verses that we can go cite to demonstrate that Jesus Christ claimed to be God, that it was understood from Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would be both human and divine. We started last time looking at one of my favorite passages, Isaiah 7:14. Turn there and we'll finish up. This passage takes place in a time of tremendous turmoil in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. King Ahaz, who is not one of the better kings but neither is he one of the worst. He is under assault by an alliance of the Northern Kingdom, who is ruled by Pekah, the son of Remaliah, and Rezin the King of Syria. King Ahaz is under assault from them because he is of the house of David. The physical, on-the-ground warfare was a result of the angelic conflict. What goes on on the ground, whether we see it or not, is real.
Today we don't have a divine interpreter. We don't have a prophet to tell us what's going on in terms of the Middle East. Look at the changes. A few days ago we would never have anticipated that Morsi, the leader of Egypt, would be taken out by the military and that the Muslim Brotherhood would be under assault. The Egyptian military is sending out teams to arrest the more radical members of the Muslim Brotherhood. It's in tremendous turmoil. The whole Middle East is under tremendous turmoil.
When I go on these various trips I've gone on the last several years, sponsored by different groups, going over to Israel, we're given one lecture after another by different Middle East experts. Even from day to day on these trips the situation on the ground changes. It's extremely fluid in Syria. Nobody knows what's going on. Our government, to its eternal shame, is making available weapons to the rebels in Syria who are allied with Al Qaeda. Now remember we're the country that was attacked by Al Qaeda on 9/11, just 12 years ago and now we're giving weapons to an Al Qaeda alliance in Syria. We don't have any business getting involved at all. It's their problem. It's a Syrian problem. There are no U.S. interests there. We have a president who backed Morsi and now he should be radically embarrassed because of the opposition of the Egyptian people.
I've seen various articles and pictures related to actions in Egypt where many Egyptians blame Obama and the United States. We have to take that with a grain of salt. Whenever anything happens, they're going to blame the United States no matter what. They're going to blame Bush, Obama, doesn't matter who is in the White House. They're going to blame the United States. Part of that is because we get involved in places where we shouldn't. We're trying to manipulate events and control events in places where we have no vested interest there. We're too busy trying to pick a winner. We picked Morsi, and what a loser! Now he's gone and we're embarrassed. This is what happens when governments operate on the basis of arrogance.
At the time of Ahaz he has a problem because he is outnumbered and overwhelmed by this alliance between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Syrians. So there're going to attack but the real issue, as I pointed out last time, is that they're making an assault on the house of David. Remember the background here is that God has made a covenant with David that there will be a king that will sit forever on the throne of David. The house of David will not be taken away from Judah. So this is a direct assault.
We see this in verse 6 where Isaiah reveals the conversation between the king of Syria and the king of Israel. What they're saying is, "Let us go up against Judah, and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in the walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it." They want to replace the house of David with someone they can control, someone not loyal to God. But God says in verse 7, "It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass." This is a promise to Ahaz. He is under threat. He may lose his country, lose his throne. He would be something like Morsi but he's not going to be. God tells him he's not going to lose his throne, not going to lose the country. In fact, this is the beginning of the end for both Damascus and the Northern Kingdom. Within 65 years the Northern Kingdom will be destroyed by another country, as prophesied in verse 8.
So then we come down to the core prophecy starting in verse 10. "Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "As a sign for yourself from the Lord your God, make it deep as Sheol to high as heaven." Now Ahaz is operating on arrogance. This is a case of a person who is probably a believer but one who is ignorant of doctrine and in rebellion against God. He's filled with arrogance and pride. So when God gives him a direct order to do something, he says, "No, Lord, I'm not going to do that. I'm too humble." He says, "I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord."
God had just said to do it so now Ahaz gets a reprimand in verse 13, where Isaiah says to him, "Listen now, O house of David." This is very important to recognize what's going on here as I pointed out. It's significant because in the English you don't get this. This is one of few times when it's really necessary in an extremely important way to know Hebrew grammar. I try to not to make a point out of the fact you can't understand Scripture unless you know the original languages. The original languages usually are necessary in order to expand and refine and tighten our understanding. But in passages like this, you don't even get it in the English when it could have been handled by translators. We do have a plural second person pronoun. It is a very good word, y'all use it every day. But they don't use it in the translation of the Scripture. That's the word 'y'all', of course.
It would make it very clear because in verse 13, Isaiah begins to address the house of David, not Ahaz personally but the house of David. He says, "Is it a small thing for y'all [plural] to try the patience of men that y'all will try the patience of my God as well?" He's addressing the house of David as a plural entity. We got about that far last time and then I didn't have time to complete it.
The prophecy says, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign." Now I want you to notice something here. The Lord is going to give them a sign. Two things there. This is coming from the Lord. It's not just something that's just going to happen culturally. It's not something that's going to happen down the street. It's not something that's going to happen to your neighbors or to somebody you know in college. This is a God-given sign.
Second, it's a sign. That means it's miraculous. That's the idea behind a sign. It's not just a coincidence that this occurs. It's not just something that going to be a natural, normal course of events. It's miraculous. The reason I say this is because we have to remember that God causes it to happen on the one hand, and it's a miracle on the other hand. There's a debate over the meaning of the key word here, the word "virgin." "Therefore the Lord, Himself will give y'all a sign." It's not "you" for Ahaz but will give y'all, the house of David, a sign. The reason this is important is because we're going to switch back to the singular later on and there's something that's going to be there as sort of a guarantee of this prophecy for Ahaz, in terms of what's going to happen in his generation. But the sign is not going to happen in his generation.
It's going to happen several hundred years later when it's fulfilled in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ so it's not a dual-fulfillment. This used to really confuse me when I was in seminary because I just wasn't clued in on this issue at that time. There are some people who talk about a dual-fulfillment, that a prophecy like this is fulfilled twice. They say it has a near-fulfillment in the birth of a child to Isaiah's wife that is a sign to Ahaz. Then they say there's a far-fulfillment and that would be the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the immediate prophecy is what matters, they believe. This is where you get people who say that there's no Messianic prophecy because they would interpret this to be a near-fulfillment. It's just an application sort of, they say, to Jesus. But they haven't executed it fully.
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give y'all a sign, Behold the virgin will conceive." This is why I emphasize that it's a miracle. The virgin will conceive. There's a couple of things we have to note here. First of all, it's not a virgin, not a generic virgin with an indefinite noun here. It is the virgin. There is an assumption in Jewish thought that they were tracking a specific promise, a promise going back to Genesis 3:15 that the "seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent." So there is an understanding already that they're looking for a particular woman. Now this is indicated by the use of the definite article here in the Hebrew, "Behold the virgin will conceive."
The Hebrew word here is almah. There's a certain amount of debate over this particular word. In the Revised Standard Version which came out in the early 1950s they translated it "the young woman". Now that's a problem because the traditional way to translate this is as a virgin. The ancient Jewish rabbis who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek some two hundred years before the birth of Christ translated it with the Greek word parthenos which means a virgin so they understood that's what almah meant. Now almah is a word that refers to a young, unmarried woman but in their culture a young, unmarried woman was assumed to be a virgin. It was not the kind of promiscuous culture that we have today. So a young unmarried woman of just barely marriageable age was understood to be a virgin.
Now another word that is used is the Hebrew word betulah. Betulah can refer to a virgin of any age whether she's an older woman or a young woman barely of marriageable age. In Joel 1:8 betulah refers to a young widow, obviously not a virgin so the word has a broader meaning than almah does. A third word that is used in Hebrew of a young woman is na'ardh. It refers to a young woman who is a virgin in 1 Kings 1:2 and a young woman who is not a virgin in Ruth 2:6 so the word almah is the word that is used here and it is used in six other passages in the Old Testament. In Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8, Psalm 68:25, Song of Solomon 1:3 and 6:8 and in Proverbs 30:18-19 it is used. In these passages it is not used of a married woman. It is always used of an unmarried woman and it was understood to refer to a virgin.
When it comes to the word almah, if you think about it logically it could refer to an unmarried woman who wasn't a virgin. But then it's nothing miraculous and it's not a sign for an unmarried woman to become pregnant. Remember the whole idea here is that this is something that is a sign, a miracle. It's not a miracle for an unmarried woman who is not a virgin to become pregnant. That happens every day. But it is a sign if the young, unmarried woman does become pregnant and she has not had any sexual intercourse. That's what makes it a sign. We're talking about something that is going to come to pass to confirm to the house of David that God has not forsaken His promise that there will be a descendant of the house of David upon the throne of Judah.
So what we see here, in summary, is that this prophecy relates to the house of David, not just to Ahaz personally. If you look at verse 15 and 16, you read, "He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good [physical maturation of this child]. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you [singular] dread will be forsaken." Remember Isaiah was told to bring his son with him so in verse 16 this shift refers to Isaiah's son that he has with him. Verse 17, "The Lord will bring on you [singular] and your people such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah."
So you see you have two prophecies here. One to guarantee the security of the house of David which is indicated by the plural pronoun in verses 13 and 14. Then you have another prophecy relating to Ahaz and giving him a sign and that's indicated by the singular pronouns in verses 16 and 17. So the context indicating this will be a sign requires it to be a miracle so it can't refer to an illegitimate child so it must refer to the child of a miraculous virgin conception and virgin birth.
Then we understand from the last part of verse 14, "And she will call His name Immanuel." Immanuel is a Hebrew name. The last syllable el means what? God. Im is the Hebrew preposition "with" and anu is the suffix or prefix to indicate a first person plural ending, so it means, "God with us." This verse tells us first of all, this is going to be a human being born of a virgin, a human mother, but He's going to be God because His name will be "God with us." We see a very strong passage here indicating the deity of the Messiah.
Later on when Christianity developed through the Middle Ages by approximately 1000 A.D. you had the rise of a very well-known rabbi named Rashi who redefined it to refer only to Isaiah's son and to have an immediate historical fulfillment and to take away from it any sense of a future Messianic fulfillment. Up until that time the interpretation I've given you was pretty much understood by rabbis. Sadly one of the things that happened in the history of Christianity is that early reformers under John Calvin, Luther, and others went to Jewish rabbis to learn Hebrew and a number of them picked up some of the non-Messianic interpretations and they entered into the flow of thought within a Protestant theology.
Throughout much of Protestant theology these passages are understood to be clearly Messianic with a singular fulfillment in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, but in recent decades this course has been reversed and we find that a number of evangelical scholars don't really hold to Messianic interpretation but you've been taught better. This is a great passage for you to have under your belt so if you're ever engaged in a conversation where someone says Jesus never claimed to be God you can always say that the Old Testament expectation was that the Messiah would be God. Next time we'll look at several of these verses.