Advent 14: Maher-shalal-hash-baz

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

Double Rainbow

We have all read the verse above and we know, for certain, that this is about Jesus. But did you know it’s also about someone else?

Wait, what?

Yeah, this is one of those situations where God makes a prophecy that has an immediate fulfillment and then a later fulfillment. This is another amazing example of God’s specific sovereignty over all of human history. The people of Israel needed something to give them hope, and God gave it to them. What they didn’t know at the time was that this was also going to give the whole world.

Signs of Deliverance

Here is what is happening in the context of Isaiah 7. The king of Israel, Ahaz, is freaking out because there are two other kings threatening war with him. So, God sends Isaiah to comfort him. That is where this prophecy comes into play. Let’s read it again but this time, let’s go just a little bit farther.

    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!” 

Isaiah 7:14-17

What is Isaiah saying to Ahaz, and why is it important? God is foretelling the birth of a little boy. When this boy is really young, the threat will be over. The whole point of this is to calm Ahaz down and let him know that he doesn’t need to be afraid. This is going to happen in his lifetime, and this is a sign for him that God is going to keep His Word.

So Is This About Jesus or Not?

Yes. This is about Jesus, but first, it’s about Maher-shalal-hash-baz. You see, the whole point of this sign is that it provides something tangible for Ahaz to see. That’s why we get the first fulfillment one page over in chapter eight. 

To understand this, we need to know a little something about the Hebrew language (because the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew). The word translated as “virgin” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “virgin.” It could just mean “young woman.” This little boy is actually born to Isaiah and his wife. God confirms this when He tells Isaiah that before his son is even old enough to say his parents’ names, the threat will be over.

But you might be thinking, how then do we know that it’s about Jesus? Great question, and there are two clear ways that we see this. First, in the original prophecy, there are hints that more is going on here. For instance, Isaiah says that they will call the baby, “Immanuel” which means “God with us,” and this part does not apply to Maher-shalal-hash-baz. It is obviously looking forward to something better.

The second clear way we know is because Matthew tells us in the New Testament. Matthew 1:23 takes this verse and applies it to Jesus.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”

Matthew 1:23

And something really cool about the Greek language (the language New Testament was originally written in) is that this word can only mean “virgin.” This makes it even more specific and even more miraculous.

Reflection

What should this make us think about Christmas? We need to worship God because He is in total and complete control. We should praise Him because the more that we learn about the way that He works, the more amazing it becomes. When Ahaz felt like all was lost, God gave him a sign that He would deliver him. This provided a temporary deliverance. However, the bigger problem wasn’t national, or political; it was spiritual. The answer to this problem doesn’t come until around 700 years later when God Himself becomes for us the fulfillment of His own prophecy. This little baby is more than a sign; He’s the answer. He actually is God with us.

Let’s talk about it:

  1. Have you ever had times when you felt that things were really bad and you wanted a word from God to comfort you? The good news is that we have that for us whenever we need it in the Bible.
  2. Look at how God has always provided in miraculous ways in the past and trust that He will continue to do the same for you.
  3. Remember that this little baby born 2,000 years ago grew up to be our Savior, and we can always trust in Him.

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