Journal – December 19, 2021

Published December 18, 2021

Isaiah 7:14-15

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. 15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.

ISAIAH 7:14-15

Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. The kingdom of Judah was in a condition of imminent peril. Two monarchs had leagued themselves against her, two nations had risen for her destruction. Syria and Israel had come up against the walls of Jerusalem with full intent to raze them to the ground, and utterly destroy the monarchy of Judah. Ahaz the king, in great trouble, exerted all his ingenuity to defend the city, and among the other contrivances which his wisdom taught him, he thought it fit to cut off the waters of the upper pool, so that the besiegers might be in distress for want of water. He goes out in the morning, no doubt attended by his courtiers, makes his way to the conduit of the upper pool, intending to see after the stopping of the stream of water, but lo! he meets with something which sets aside his plans, and renders them needless. Isaiah steps forward and tells him not to be afraid for the smoke of those two firebrands, for God should utterly destroy both the nations that had come against Judah. Ahaz need not fear the present invasion, for both himself and his kingdom would be saved. The king looked at Isaiah with an eye of incredulity, as much as to say, “If the Lord were to send chariots from heaven, could such a thing as this be? Should He animate the dust, and quicken every stone in Jerusalem to resist my foes, could this be done?”

The Lord, seeing the littleness of the king’s faith, tells him to ask a sign. “Ask it,” says He, “either in the depth, or in the height above. Let the sun go backward ten degrees, or let the moon stop in her midnight marches; let the stars move across the sky in grand procession; ask any sign you please in the heaven above, or if you wish, choose the earth beneath, let the depths give forth the sign, let some mighty waterspout lose its way across the pathless ocean, and travel through the air to Jerusalem’s very gates, let the heavens shower a golden rain instead of the watery fluid which usually they distill, ask that the fleece may be wet upon the dry floor, or dry in the midst of dew, whatsoever you please to request, the Lord will grant it you for the confirmation of your faith.” Instead of accepting this offer with all gratitude, as Ahaz should have done, he with a pretended humility, declares that he will not ask, neither will he tempt the Lord his God, whereupon Isaiah, waxing indignant, tells him that since he will not in obedience to God’s command ask a sign, behold, the Lord, Himself, will give him one—not simply a sign, but the sign, the sign and wonder of the world, the mark of God’s mightiest mystery and of His most consummate wisdom, for “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Some say the passage of this text is one of the most difficult in all the Word of God. One set of commentators tells us that this passage refers entirely to some person who was to be born within a few months after this prophecy, “for,” say they, “it says here, ‘Before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrent shall be forsaken of both her kings.’ Now,” say they, “this was an immediate delivery which Ahaz required, and there was a promise of a speedy rescue that before a few years had elapsed, before the child should be able to know right from wrong, Syria and Israel should both lose their kings.” We find the Evangelist Matthew quoting this very passage in reference to the birth of Christ, and saying, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Now this Immanuel, who was to be born, could not be a mere simple man, and nothing else, for if you  turn to the next chapter, at the eighth verse, you will find it said, “He shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, He shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of His wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.” It is an unheard-of thing, it is a miraculous thing, and therefore it must be a Godlike thing. She ‘shall call his name Immanuel, curds and honey shall he eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good,’ and before that child, the Prince Immanuel, shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou despise shall be forsaken of both her kings, and Judah shall smile upon their ruined palaces.”  Therefore, this text relates to our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have several things here about Him, the first thing is the birth. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.” “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass,” said the shepherds. “Let us follow the star in the sky,” said the Eastern Magi, and so say we this morning. Hard by the day when we as a nation, celebrate the birthday of Christ, let us go and stand by the manger to behold the commencement of the incarnation of Jesus. Let us recall the time when God enveloped Himself in mortal form and tabernacled amongst the sons of men. Let us not blush to go to so humble a spot, let us stand by that village inn, and let us see Jesus Christ, the Godman, become an infant of a span long. And first we see here in speaking of this birth of Christ, a miraculous conception. The text says expressly, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.” This expression is unparalleled even in Sacred Writ, of no other woman could it be said beside the Virgin Mary, and of no other man could it be written that His mother was a virgin. The Greek word and the Hebrew are both very expressive of the true and real virginity of the mother, to show us that Jesus Christ was born of woman, and not of man. We shall not enlarge upon the thought, but still it is an important one, and ought not to be passed over without mentioning.

Just as the woman, by her venturous spirit, stepped first into transgression—lest she should be despised and trampled on, God in His wisdom devised that the woman, and the woman alone, should be the author of the body of the Godman who should redeem mankind. Albeit that she herself first tasted the accursed fruit, and tempted her husband (it may be that Adam, out of love to her tasted that fruit), lest she should be degraded, lest she should not stand on an equality with him, God hath ordained that so it should be, that His Son should be sent forth “born of a woman,” and the first promise was that the seed of the woman, not the seed of the man, should bruise the serpent’s head. Moreover, there was a peculiar wisdom ordaining that Jesus Christ should be the Son of the woman, and not of the man, because had He been born of the flesh, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and merely flesh, and He would naturally, by carnal generation, have inherited all the frailties and the sins and the infirmities which man hath from his birth, He would have been conceived in sin, and shaped in iniquity, even as the rest of us. Therefore, He was not born of man, but the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary, and Christ stands as the one man, save one other, who came forth pure from his Maker’s hands, who could ever say, “I am pure.” Yes, and He could say far more than that other Adam could say concerning his purity, for He maintained His integrity, and never let it go, and from His birth down to His death He knew no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.

Oh, marvelous sight! Let us stand and look at it. A child of a virgin, what a mixture! There is the finite and the infinite, there is the mortal and the immortal, corruption and incorruption, the manhood and the Godhead, time married to eternity, God linked with a creature, the infinity of the august Maker come to tabernacle on this speck of earth, the vast unbounded One, whom earth could not hold and the heavens cannot contain, lying in His mother’s arms, He who fastened the pillars of the universe, and riveted the nails of creation, hanging on a mortal breast, depending on a creature for nourishment. Oh, marvelous birth! Oh, miraculous conception! We stand and gaze and admire. Verily, angels may wish to investigate a subject too dark for us to speak of, there we leave it, a virgin hath conceived and borne a son. In this birth, moreover, having noticed the miraculous conception, we must notice next, the humble parentage. It does not say, “A princess shall conceive, and bear a son,” but a virgin. Her virginity was her highest honor, she had no other. True, she was of royal lineage, she could reckon David among her forefathers, and Solomon amongst those who stood in the tree of her genealogy. She was a woman not to be despised, albeit that I speak of humble parentage, for she was of the blood-royal of Judah. O babe, in Thy veins there runs the blood of kings, the blood of an ancient monarchy finds its way from Thy heart, all through the courses of Thy body! Thou were born, not of mean parents, if we look at their ancient ancestry, for Thou art the son of him who ruled the mightiest monarchy in his day, even Solomon, and Thou art the descendant of one who devised in his heart to build a temple for the mighty God of Jacob.

Nor was Christ’s mother, in point of intellect, an inferior woman. I take it that she had great strength of mind, otherwise she could not have composed so sweet a piece of poetry as that which is called the Virgin’s Song, beginning, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” She is not a person to be despised. “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Though she was not a princess, yet her name, Mary, by interpretation, signifies a princess, and though she is not the queen of heaven, yet she has a right to be reckoned among the queens of earth, and though she is not the lady of our Lord, she does walk amongst the renowned and mighty women of Scripture. Yet Jesus Christ’s birth was a humble one. Strange that the Lord of glory was not born in a palace! Princes, Christ owes you nothing! Princes, Christ is not your debtor, you did not swaddle Him, He was not wrapped in purple, you had not prepared a golden cradle for Him to be rocked in! Queens, you did not dandle Him on your knees, He hung not at your breasts! And you mighty cities, which then were great and famous, your marble halls were not blessed with His little footsteps! He came out of a village, poor and despised, even Bethlehem, when there, He was not born in the governor’s house, or in the mansion of the chief man, but in a manger. Tradition tells us that His manger was cut in solid rock, there was He laid, and the oxen likely enough came to feed from the selfsame manger, the hay, and the fodder of which was His only bed. Oh! wondrous stoop of condescension, that our blessed Jesus should be girded with humility and stoop so low! Ah! if He stooped, why should He bend to such a lowly birth? And if He bowed, why should He submit not simply to become the Son of poor parents, but to be born in so miserable a place? Let us take courage here. If Jesus Christ was born in a manger in a rock, why should He not come and live in our rocky hearts? If He was born in a stable, why should not the stable of our souls be made into a habitation for Him? If He was born in poverty, may not the poor in spirit expect that He will be their Friend? If He thus endured degradation at the first, will He count it any dishonor to come to the very poorest and humblest of His creatures, and tabernacle in the souls of His children? Oh, no! we can gather a lesson of comfort from His humble parentage, we can rejoice that not a queen, or an empress, but that a humble woman became the mother of the Lord of glory.