A Virgin Will Conceive - Isaiah 7 — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

A Virgin Will Conceive – Isaiah 7 — A Christian Growth Message

A series looking at some of the promises that lead up to Jesus' birth, by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth podcast.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 17 Dec 2023Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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Well, my friends, I don’t need to tell you that, Christmas is in two weeks, and we’re going to for this Sunday, think about some promises that had been made about Jesus from the prophet of the eighth century BC – Isaiah. And you’ll have heard one of those already in the service. A very familiar promise.

Here are two sentences that come from the chapter seven of the Book of Isaiah and they should be very meaningful to you. The first one is in verse four and it says this. “Keep calm. Don’t be afraid. Don’t lose heart.”

So before the World War, two posters came out. There was the eighth century prophet Isaiah saying, “Keep calm. Don’t be afraid. Don’t lose heart.”

And then verse 14, the Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son. Very famous Christmas text. And you may say at this point well, that’s all I really want to hear this morning. I’ll just hold on to those two sentences. Don’t be afraid. And the Virgin will have a son, and I’m now ready to go home. And sometimes I do come to church hoping that the preacher will say something immediately helpful.

And I do think that the promise about not being afraid – the virgin will conceive and bear a son is a very wonderful twosome to hold on to.

The Virgin Birth and Not Being Afraid

But I do hope to show you why these promises are more wonderful than you think, because they actually are anchored in reality and not just for fridge magnets. They were originally spoken to a man who is facing more fear and more danger than we’ll probably ever face in our lifetime. They were spoken to an Old Testament king, and they actually provide more comfort therefore than most of us realise, especially in the area of being afraid. Being afraid is a permanent issue, isn’t it?

This week I spoke with a man who had been so afraid of people that he had gone into a clinical depression. I spoke to another man who was so afraid of wasting his responsibilities that he would prefer to just stay home, not go to work.

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And I met with a lady in hospital who’s dying and in her last days, and she’s afraid of choking because of her illness. A very real fear and fear is a very big issue. you may notice that in the Book of Genesis, when the man and the woman turn their back on God, the first thing they experience is fear. They’re afraid. And some people have said that fear is the basic emotion in the world and even people who we know who seem to be very carefree and say I’ve got nothing to be afraid of. They will, perhaps one day. Maybe in reality, they are afraid of losing a loved one or losing their faculties or their powers or their position, or even their life itself. And this little phrase, ‘don’t be afraid’ is the most common message from God in the Bible. Don’t be afraid, and I want you to see why we don’t have to be afraid this morning for a few minutes.

Why Isaiah?

Chapter seven is so comforting. And so if you’ll stay with me, I want to think about three quick things. The first is the comfort of God’s protection, and then the comfort of God’s preservation and then the comfort of God’s affection. So we’re in Isaiah. Chapter seven, basically what I want to show you this morning, see if you can follow. This is that Isaiah puts the telescope out into the immediate, and then he puts it out into the immediate and then he puts it out into the ultimate.

In other words, there’s a close fulfilment, a middle fulfilment and a final fulfilment. First of all, let’s think about the comfort of God’s protection. So the message from God through the prophet Isaiah back in the eighth century came to a very frightened king, the king of the south of the promised land. And he had good reason to be afraid because there was a superpower nation on the move and basically wiping nations out.

And second for this king, two of his neighbours had come to attack him, basically to take him over. So put yourself in this king’s shoes and he is facing World War Three. We also know from the Old Testament that this king to King 16 was so faithless he’d actually gone to the superpower to bribe him. To leave them alone, we discovered that he had taken all the silver and all the gold out of the temple and sent it as a bribe.

So this guy, although he is a religious king, has obviously turned his back on God. Uh, this is a classic case of unbelief, isn’t it? Even within the people of God, it’s possible, isn’t it? To be in the people of God and to stop believing? And you can imagine this king saying, ‘Look let’s be practical. This trusting God stuff is a waste of time. There’s a superpower on our doorstep. We need to find some real help.’

And if that doesn’t sound familiar to you in the secular world, it’s certainly very familiar to me. And even in sometimes the religious world, people will say this – won’t they in a church? Let’s put all our pious talk away at the moment and let’s get down to what will really work. Not God. Of course. That’s just pious talk. But let’s get down to our own cleverness and our political powers.

We’re all tempted occasionally to think like this and to shift our confidence from God to someone else. Well, the Prophet Isaiah came to the king basically to say, Get back to God. He says, Be careful. Don’t be an idiot. Keep calm. You can trust God. Don’t be afraid.

He knows how to look after you, and then the prophet says this in verse four. The two neighbours who are attacking you are like burnt out sticks in a fireplace. They’re pretty well at the end of their powers. They’re about to be defeated. And that’s why he says, Verse nine – ‘Stand firm’.

Now because the king is so hopeless and not willing to listen, the Lord says to him, “Ask me for a sign. You want some proof? You want some evidence? You want something to help you – ask me for a sign? I’ll prove that I’m with you.”

And sometimes, as you know, God would give a sign to somebody like Gideon in the Old Testament to help him and encourage him. Or Jesus performed signs, as you know, to help people believe what he was saying.

Well, the king is kind of pious, and he says, “No, I’m not going to ask for a sign.” And so the Lord says, “Well, I’m gonna give you a sign, and the sign goes like this. A boy will be born, and before he’s a big boy, your neighbours will be gone.”

Our friends we should be interested in this because if you like evidence for your faith, this king actually did have a boy quite quickly. A very wonderful boy, a godly boy, a king called Hezekiah.

And before Hezekiah was three years old, one of those neighbours had been destroyed. And before the boy was 13, the other neighbour had pretty well been destroyed. So what God said about these two neighbours on the doorstep being burnt out like sticks was absolutely correct.

In other words, God spoke to a feeble king – called on this king to trust God promises that he would protect him and keep his promises. These are just historical facts. And this is the important thing. What the prophet said to the king of the eighth century BC was a girl will have a son, a godly son. God will be with him, Emmanuel. And before he’s a teenager, your pesky neighbours will be defeated.

That is, God protected his people in the immediate. The same God who created a people for himself protects his people. He protected them through the flood. He protected them from slavery. He protected them through the desert. He protected them from fire. He protected them from lions and he protects his people from defeat. This is the same God who says through the Lord Jesus, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. This is the same God who says to you today, I’ll never leave you nor forsake you. And therefore the Lord is my helper, Hebrews. 13. I will not be afraid.

I want to assure you that there are times where God’s spirit can bring God’s promise home to God’s people, and they move from fear to faith. And I watched the lady in the hospital this week as I gave her a page of promises that I typed out for her, read the promises and a great smile on her face as she realised that she was not alone and that the battle she faced would not be faced alone.

The protection of God’s comfort

Now the second thing, this is the second application of the promise is what I’ve called the comfort of God’s preservation. This is God winning over his enemies. Somebody sent me a story during the week of a student, uh, back in 1900 who was faced with a very racist professor. One day, the student sat next to the professor in the cafeteria and the professor turned to the boy and said, a dog and a bird don’t sit together. And the student said to the professor, Sir, would you like me to fly away? And the professor was very annoyed.

So in the next lecture, he publicly addressed the boy and said to him, Son, would you like to find a suitcase full of wisdom or a suitcase full of money? And the student said, I’d like to find a suitcase full of money, and the professor said, Ah, you see, I would like to find a suitcase full of wisdom, and the student said to him, Yes, sir, but we look forward to what we lack, and the professor got extremely annoyed. And when the time came for writing up the, um, exam papers, he wrote at the bottom of this boy’s exam paper, simply the word fool.

The student went to the professor and said, Sir, you don’t seem to have given me a mark. You’ve signed the paper, but you’ve not given me a mark. That is the triumph of one over another. That is the great triumph, and God you see is able to cause his people to triumph over their opposition. And this is what we see also in Isaiah, Chapter seven. Because in verse 17, we see that although the neighbours may be finished, the superpower is not finished.

The superpower is the nation of Assyria, and the nation of Assyria is going to be used by God as an instrument to discipline his people. They’ve been so faithless. God must bring some discipline to them. And he’s going to use this eighth century superpower Assyria to do that now. It would never have occurred to Assyria, of course, that, um, Syria was going to be an instrument in God’s hand. They would think of themselves as very mighty and very independent and having nothing whatsoever to do with God. But God picks up a nation to use a nation as easily as we move pieces on a chessboard.

And when Russia or China today do their threatening God is not, of course, behind the evil, but he manages to manipulate everything that takes place for good.

So what does Isaiah the prophet have to say? And the answer is, if you can get this, he says to the people of God you’re going to have to go through a certain fire through Assyria, but I will make sure that there is a remnant or there are survivors who will be there in the outcome. In other words, he says, Isaiah says a woman, and that’s the way he described. His people will have a son, and that’s the way he described his survivors or his remnant. And they will say God with us.

Therefore, you see God speaking through the prophet Isaiah is not only interested in the protection of his people, but he’s interested in the preservation of his people. He not only says to a king you’ll have a son, but he also says to the people, You’ll get through this particular trial. So the prophet is looking down his telescope and he’s saying a boy will be born and before he’s a youth, the dangers will be removed and further ahead as he looks through the telescope, he says. Despite this superpower, I will make sure that my people triumph and survive because God is a God who keeps his promises.

He keeps his promises to keep a family and God will always see his people through, he doesn’t always see his people away from trouble, but he will see his people through trouble. And that’s why we sing through many dangers, toils and snares. I have already come, and that’s why we read it is through the Valley of the Shadow of death. I fear no evil, because the dangers you see, the very great dangers of sin and guilt and judgement and death have been removed through Christ.

And that brings me to the third thing this morning. And that’s the comfort of the perfection, the comfort of God’s perfection. The telescope now moves right down to the coming of Jesus and points to the perfection because the sign from God, which is going to be the ultimate sign that he’s with his people, is Jesus.

The word in Isaiah, Chapter seven, Verse 14 is actually a young girl. We might assume virgin. The Old Testament word is broader, but when the Old Testament was being translated into the Greek in the second century BC, they chose the specific word virgin before Jesus came.

And when, of course, Matthew famously says in Chapter one that Joseph had no sex with Mary until she produced the boy Jesus. He quotes Isaiah seven, and he puts in the word for Virgin. A virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son God with us, Emmanuel, because the sign from God has reached its perfection in Jesus. Now is it important that Mary got pregnant with no help from Joseph or any other man? For that matter? It is important because her son would be God’s son from heaven to Earth, to take people from Earth to heaven.

And you might say, well, this is all very interesting. I want to remind you that the context is fear. During the week, a lady said to her husband, I know this to be true Cos I was told the story, she said to her husband, we’ve got a terrible, terrible situation on our hands. It’s completely beyond us. Will we pray together? And her husband said, What’s the point?

That’s a very, very common thought, isn’t it? It’s a sad thought. It’s a bad thought, and in a way it’s a mad thought because the one the God who is faithful, powerful, loving, wise is worth talking to. And if we fall into the ditch of thinking that we can do better than God. Well, we really are in a tragic situation, and if we fall into the other ditch of thinking that he’s not really for us and doesn’t really care about us, we’ve fallen into a heresy.

No, no, no. God is for his people, and God is more powerful than anything. I find it very comforting when I look at the Gospels to realise that Jesus took great pains to show that he had power over all the dangers that we consider to be dangers.

So he showed himself to have power over nature, power over sickness, power over death itself and power over the spiritual world. And then think about the fears that we do face. And perhaps we’ll face this week. Fears about our health, fears about our life, fears about our death, fears about people, relationships, reputation conflicts, the doubts that come, the failures that we fall into.

And because Jesus the Saviour has dealt with the greatest danger of all the danger of sin, judgement, guilt. You can be absolutely sure that he knows how to deal with the smaller things and will be with his people, and he can say to you the words of Isaiah, Chapter seven. Keep calm. Don’t be afraid. Don’t lose heart.

I want to close this morning by saying to you that you might say to me in the light of this particular sermon, I hear the words Don’t be afraid, but my fear is very real and this is not going to make me fearless. This sermon is not going to make me courageous. This sermon is not going to make me into a great great person. And I agree with you.

But I simply want to ask you. And I’m asking myself this as well. Has Guy answered many fears in the past as he looked after his people in the past? Has he given them sufficient strength protection? Has God helped you through many dangerous toils and snares already? Is there a greater sign than Jesus if you want to face your greatest fear and is the Lord Jesus, as he’s promised with you every day in every circumstance?

And I think the answers to those questions are pretty obvious. He has helped us with many fears in the past. He has given the greatest possible answer to the greatest possible fears in Jesus, and he has promised to be with his people every hour of every day in every situation because you say, Jesus is Emanuel God with us?

Let’s put our trust in him together. Let’s pray –

Heavenly Father, as we look at these promises made so long ago, we see your protection. We see your preservation and we see the ultimate perfection in Jesus. We thank you that you’ve given to us one who at the cross took away the greatest danger to bring to us the greatest security. We thank you for the promises that he’s made not to leave or forsake us and that his grace will be sufficient. And we pray that in the midst of all that we face and all that we do that you would remind us of the love which you have shown to us in Christ and the truth that you have given to us in the promises of Christ. And that we would walk with you God as you walk with us each day, we ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.