Advent Messages from Isaiah Concerning Our Savior's Birth
Text: Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
In Christ, our precious Immanuel, dear fellow redeemed:
When God speaks, He speaks with authority and in truth. Such was the case when God spoke through Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets concerning the coming of the Savior. Such was the case when God the Father spoke through that Savior—His Son, Jesus, while He walked on this earth. Such was also the case when God spoke through His evangelists and apostles whose words completed our Bible. Yes, when God speaks, He speaks with authority and in truth. Consequently, it is important that when God speaks to us, we listen carefully to Him!
This Advent Season we will turn our attention back to the time of Isaiah, over seven hundred years before Christ, to hear God speak through that prophet to the people of his day and ours as well. We will consider three ADVENT MESSAGES FROM ISAIAH. The first message will be concerning our Savior’s birth. We see that our God wants us to entrust ourselves to Him; that our God intervened in a miraculous way to send His Son to save us; and, finally, that our Savior is Immanuel—our God, who is with us always!
Yes, our God wants us to entrust ourselves to Him! When we hear the words of this prophecy of Isaiah our minds quite naturally turn to the Christmas story. We think about Gabriel appearing to Joseph in a dream and using this prophecy to explain how his fiancee, Mary, a virgin, became pregnant. We think of Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem and angels proclaiming messages of joy to shepherds. These are happy and blessed thoughts, but they do not represent the situation confronting Isaiah at the time this prophecy was first spoken.
Isaiah lived seven hundred years before Jesus was born. The king who was ruling Judah at the time of this prophecy was Ahaz, a wicked and unbelieving man. During Ahaz’ reign God permitted the kings of Israel and Syria to attack Ahaz and place his capital, Jerusalem, under siege. God wanted Ahaz to turn to Him in repentance and for help, but Ahaz rather sought out and formed an alliance with the king of Assyria. God then sent Isaiah to Ahaz to encourage Him to look to the LORD God for help and security. God assured Ahaz that He would not allow the two kings to harm Judah. In fact, God compared them to the little firebrands that arise from a campfire and simply disappear into the night air. Ahaz, however, refused to believe Isaiah. Isaiah warned Ahaz not to place his hopes in man, for if he refused to believe God, God would save His kingdom, but Ahaz would still lose his throne. Isaiah even encouraged Ahaz to ask God for a sign to prove these things were so, but Ahaz stubbornly refused. It was under these circumstances that God through Isaiah spoke these words, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.”
It is interesting and instructive to note that God here instructed Isaiah to use the plural form of "you." Ahaz was stubbornly impenitent, and so the Lord’s message and sign were not intended for him alone. The Lord knew there were believers in Judah, who were frightened and wondering what would become of them as they faced enemy attacks. The Lord wanted to reassure those believers. He wanted them to entrust themselves to Him in the midst of that most difficult situation.
In the same way God wants us to entrust ourselves to Him in the midst of our trials and troubles. He wants us to know that we can count on Him, for He is a faithful God and Savior. Our God does not want us to live in uncertainty and with fear. Rather, He would have us proceed in life with the same confidence that St. Paul possessed, who was able to say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b). Truly, our God wants us to entrust ourselves to Him!
Secondly, as we consider Isaiah’s message concerning our Savior’s birth, we see that our God intervened in a miraculous way to send His Son to save us! Isaiah says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.” As we know from the words of Gabriel, as he spoke to Joseph in a dream, Isaiah was referring to the miraculous conception of Jesus within the womb of the virgin Mary. God had promised to send a Savior. In the Garden of Eden, He had referred to that Savior rather mysteriously as the “Seed” of the “woman” (Genesis 3:15), while He here more clearly defines the means by which that Savior, His own dear Son, would become man. Jesus became man through the miracle of the virgin birth?
Why did the Savior have to be born of a virgin? The reason of course lies in the purpose for which He was sent. The Savior was sent to overcome sin, and in order to do that He could not be a sinner. As Jesus so clearly said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). If Jesus had been conceived in the natural way, He too would have been sinful. This, however, was not the case, for God sent His sinless Son to take on human flesh in order that He might become the Savior of all human beings.
But how was the birth of Jesus, even though miraculous, a sign for Ahaz and the people of that day? This miracle, after all, occurred some 700 years after these people had died. The answer to that question holds great comfort for believers of all ages. God through Isaiah was directing the hearts of His people back to His promises. They were looking forward to the coming of a Savior, who would deliver them from their worst possible enemies—sin, death, and Satan. By reminding them of that promised Savior and His work—a work much greater than any work God might have to perform to deliver them out of their current distress, God was seeking to build up their faith and confidence. Jesus would come ultimately to deliver all human beings from sin, which condemned them, from death, which afflicted them, and from Satan, who sought to destroy their bodies and souls in time and throughout eternity. In comparison delivering Judah, one small nation, from two human kings, who were even in their day fairly insignificant, would be easy.
Even so today, as we face the dilemmas of our lives, there are none that compare to the danger of our sins. Were it not for Jesus we would spend eternity in hell. Consequently, since Jesus has delivered us from our greatest enemies, will He not also deliver us from those lesser problems we face on a daily basis during our lives? St. Paul states as much when he writes, “He (God) who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Truly, our God intervened in a miraculous way to save us from our greatest enemies—sin, death, and Satan. We can entrust ourselves to Him!
Thirdly, we see from this prophecy that our Savior is Immanuel—our God, who is with us! Isaiah, referring to the promised Savior, says, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Gabriel repeated these words to Joseph in the Christmas story, after which Matthew defines that name for us by saying it means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
God sent His Son to be with us—to take on our human flesh and to be one of us. He did so, the Scriptures inform us, so that He might place Himself under the law of God—to fulfill its demands and to suffer its judgments in our place (cf. Galatians 4:4-5). In this way He redeemed us and now claims us as God’s own. In addition, the Bible informs us that God sent His Son to be with us and to be one of us, so that through His experiences He might come to understand us completely. He then became our effective advocate before our heavenly Father (cf. Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 2:1). Consequently, we can cry out of our God in the midst of any and all circumstances, for our Savior understands our pain and sufferings and seeks only our good and blessing.
In addition God sent His Son to be with us here and now, and forever in eternity. Before His ascension, Jesus promised, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Somewhat earlier in His ministry Jesus had promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). How wonderful it is to know that we are never alone. The most powerful Being in the universe, and the most loving as well, is at our side at all times.
May our Savior God indeed strengthen and comfort us this Advent Season with His messages from Isaiah! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting