The Sign of the Virgin

1.The Command to Choose a Sign. “And further Jehovah spoke to Ahaz, saying, ‘Ask for thee a sign from Jehovah thy God; deepen (thy petition), ask, whether to a lofty place or the height.'” (Isaiah 7:10-11). “And Jehovah added to speak to Ahaz” (Isaiah 7:10 andIsaiah 8:5, literally). The word of Isaiah is the word of Jehovah. For where the prophets speak, God speaks. (Cp. II Pet. 1:21). The holy man of God speaks as carried along by the Spirit of Jehovah. In doing so, Isaiah himself recedes into the background, that Jehovah may be seen to be the sole Author and speaker of the infallible Word. Isaiah, as a steward of God’s message, simply and only reports the words Jehovah had directed him to proclaim. 

“Ask it from thy God.” The words “thy God” are covenant language. Not that Ahaz was actually in the covenant, but he was under the dispensation and administration of the covenant. “Thy God” also reminds him of his covenant office and position as king and his responsibility to acknowledge God as his God. But Ahaz did not do this, for he did not believe (v. 9). However, Isaiah did so own God, as we see in his “my God” (v. 13). Ahaz was commanded by the Lord to ask a sign that he might be convinced that the promise about to be spoken would be fulfilled. Ask a sign, literally, “from with Him,” that is, from His mighty power, yet not without the very presence of himself. God not only gives it, but is himself in the. sign! A sign is a mark, or a reminder of something past, or a portent of something future. Through Isaiah the Moshiach (Messiah, Isaiah 8:18) speaks, saying, “Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given Me are forsigns and wonders in Israel from Jehovah of hosts.” That is, we are such by the names God gave us, all with spiritual and happy significance. For example,Isaiah, the salvation of Jehovah; Immanuel, God with us; Shear-jashub, A remnant shall return; and Maher-shalal-hashbaz, Hasten! booty! Hasten, plunder! God has made us types, live, video prophecies. From Heb. 2:13 we know this is Christ, the Moshiach, speaking of Himself and the Church given Him by the Father from eternity. 

Ahaz may choose any sign in any place, from the depths to the height of heaven. The prophet has the power to work miracles, to open heaven, or cause the earth to open its mouth the pit. 

2.The Refusal in Pretended Piety. “But said Ahaz, ‘I will not ask, and neither will I tempt Jehovah!'” (v. 12). Pretended piety is frequently the “put on” of those who do not believe in the existence of a personal God. Or it is a hypocritical ploy for not obeying God’s command. For Ahaz does not intend to serve Jehovah, but do things without disturbance his own way. The king at this point, humanly speaking, lost his chance to become a truly great king with the utterance of these well-sounding but self-hardening words. His insult to God is heightened by the fact that he designated positive response to God’s command as tempting Him. Ahaz in his pretence of seeking God makes sly attempts to escape Him. 

He pretends to faith in nothing more from God than His bare Word. God both hates unbelief and delights in faith. It is so great a faith as not to be found even in Israel which relies on God’s Word alone, to the exclusion of everything else. Ahaz has the gall to suggest that this is true of himself. But it is not tempting God to do, or say, what He orders. It is tempting God to attempt to do, or ask anything His Word will not allow, and thus to go beyond His Word. It is therefore presumption and hypocritical piety, for example, to regard the sacraments as superfluous, making baptism and the Lord’s Supper purely mental and spiritual, not at all consisting in physical elements, nor instituted in sacramental actions, so that all we need is “the Word . . . in the heart” (Rom. 10:8). This is mystical, rationalistic Quakerism. The same fallacious reasoning has been and is applied to the preaching of the Word. We hear it said, “We don’t need preaching. We have the Bible in our hands, our homes, and in our hearts. We don’t need it in church. The real church is in the home. We can be just as good Christians as any without going to church.” This is Ahazian pietism, a wicked, false, hypocritical, and pretended sanctimony. The Lord, because of the weakness of our flesh, commands us to ask for and use as directed in His Word, and along with His Word, the signs of water, bread, and wine. Together with the Scripture, the written Word, and the preaching of the gospel, the oral word, these divinely appointed signs are the visible Word of God. It is wicked presumption, in thought, intention, or effect, to separate the holy signs from His holy word. To refuse the means of grace is to despise the grace of God itself, and to reject the whole gospel! 

But there is an opposite extreme to avoid. For although Ahaz should have asked for a sign, and although Gideon, one of the great heroes of the faith, did ask, with God’s approval, for a sign, we, nevertheless, are not to do as so many in the Roman Catholic Church and in the trend back to Rome in the charismatic movement. For they are always asking innumerable signs from God for the most childish reasons. The Lord has given to His church two kinds of signs: (1) extraordinary, supernatural, and temporary signs, and (2) ordinary, natural, and enduring signs, “until He come,” and “even unto the end of the world.” We must be satisfied with the signs the Lord has provided and caused to remain with us. 

In this connection, C.H. Spurgeon (on II Chron. 16:9) is just too good to omit. He says, “Do not put forth your hand to iniquity. You may, in order to help yourself, do in five minutes what you cannot undo in fifty years; and you may bring upon yourself a lifelong series of trials by one single unbelieving action. Beware of . . . sending for help to Assyria, for these will distress you, but help you not. Cry, ‘Lord, increase our faith!’ That is what you greatly need in the trying hour, lest you should like [Ahaz] first of all turn from confidence in God, and then, looking to an arm of flesh, should be tempted to use illegitimate means in order to induce the creature to let you rely upon it.” 

3.The Reproof for Contempt of Prophecy. “And He said, ‘Hear ye now, House of David, (it is), a little thing from you to weary out (tire out) men, because ye weary (tire out) also my God!’ ” (v. 13). “And he said. . . .” It’s already been enough for Isaiah to shut his mouth and never say another word in the hearing of Ahaz. But he has been commissioned (chap. 6) to speak, though the ministry of his word be a savor of death unto death. Jehovah had come to His people, the Jews, and commanded them to “believe on Him” (John 6:29). They had responded, “We should believe? without seeing what it’s all about? What sign showest Thou, that we may see and believe?” When the Lord gave them many signs to see with the command, “Look unto Me!”, they shruggingly replied, “Look? who’s looking?” and never bothered to look. Now, because of Ahaz’s unbelief, it is not, “Ask thee a sign,” but “hear ye, now, O House of David . . . the Lord himself shall give you a sign!” So now the Lord, against their will gives the whole organism of Judah a sign of His choosing. 

It was a small thing for Ahaz to tire out and insult the prophet, and in general weary the entire nation, because he was in the habit of a much greater evil, exhausting the patience of God. In “thy God” we have Ahaz’s calling, to which he never responded, to own God. But in “my God” Isaiah does own Him with great pleasure. Also with “my God” Ahaz is excluded from “thy God” and any right to any claim on God. With the change from “ask thee” to “hear ye,” Ahaz is rebuked as not a true spiritual descendant of David, since he lacks the faith of David. In fact, Ahaz insults and disgraces the house of David, which with men like him, had sadly degenerated. The insult and disgrace lay in contempt for God’s revelation. He debased Judah in doing everything he could to turn the nation from God. But then that was not, as you might think, the end. God did not react by wiping them off the map. Nor did He simply turn His back on them to forget them and have nothing more to do with them. Not at all; there is rather 

4.The Conferring of the Sign. “On that account, the Lord, He himself, will give you a sign—Behold! the virgin: pregnant and bringing forth a son! and she calls His name Immanuel” (v. 14, Heb.). In this chapter is the prophecy of the Messiah about to be born; in chap. 9 He is actually born, and in chap. 11 He is reigning. 

But why, at this point, is the Messiah mentioned at all? What is the reason for injecting Him into the account? The reason is not hard to find. The scope of the passage embraces Israel’s deliverance from proximate enemies, and Israel was always looking for Moshiach to bring them ultimate Deliverance and the full realization of His covenant. It is, therefore, perfectly natural, much in order and with good reason that Moshiach is suddenly mentioned here in this connection. This is what the Bible is all about, that God would do as He already has, send the Messiah, the Deliverer, to redeem His people. In the entire Scripture, Christ is no remote subject. He is the very heart of divine revelation, which Ahaz despised. But though men despise and refuse, yet God will impose His own signs, promises, and prophecies. For there are those (His chosen) who, will ask for and receive the entire prophetic package. 

“On that account,?” that Ahaz refused revelation from God, Adonai, He himself will give you a sign—Behold! (indicating a future occurrence, a marvel at that), “the virgin: pregnant and bringing forth a Son!” What does the word virgin (almah) mean? To go into the “almah” concept we must wait until the next installment of these studies, D.V.