Pastor Jim's Message
Pastor Jim's Message

Jim

Pastor Jim's Message

One of the activities I have truly missed during the shelter-at-home order is reading and discussing the Immerse Bible with various groups in the church. Two of the groups were studying “The Prophets.” In that volume, we had recently read from Isaiah, I wonder if we can find a message there for our present moment.

The Immerse Bible is written with The New Living Translation (NLT) where in Isaiah 7:14, we read, “All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Many of us read those words and think Advent or Christmas. This is a verse often read several times during the month of December each year, but this is May. Why bring it up right now?

Isaiah 7:14 is written at a time when Judah was facing a military invasion. Consider the present moment.  Most would agree we live in troubling times, too. We are facing a worldwide health and economic crisis or an invasion of the coronavirus. The novel coronavirus has invaded almost every country in the world and while scientists and politicians are trying to sound positive, they really do not know what to do. One group seems to see a future that appears bleak. Another group sees hope. What do we do? How do we respond?

Times such as these are great motivation to return to the Bible and remember how God has responded in the past. My bias is that God always comes through! The celebrated verse above is a steadfast reminder of the love of God for His people everywhere in every time.

The original context in the Old Testament when this prophecy was made occurred when King Ahaz of Judah faced a terrifying situation, specifically, a military invasion. King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel set out to invade Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. The two kings were mad because they wanted King Ahaz to join forces with them to fight the Assyrians.

The Prophet Isaiah approaches King Ahaz and declares that Aram and Israel would not be successful in conquering Jerusalem (verses 7-9). The Lord offers Ahaz the opportunity to receive a sign (verse 10), but Ahaz refuses to put God to the test (verse 11). God responds by giving the sign Ahaz should look for, “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son...but before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” In this prophecy, God is essentially saying that within a few years’ time, Israel and Aram will be destroyed. At first glance, Isaiah 7:14 has no connection with a promised virgin birth of the Messiah. However, the Apostle Matthew, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, connects the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23) with the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. Therefore, Isaiah 7:14 should be understood as being a “double prophecy,” referring primarily to the situation King Ahaz was facing, but secondarily to the coming Messiah who would be the ultimate deliverer.

The Bible says when King Ahaz heard the news of the invasion, “the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.” Isaiah 7:2b (NLT) This seems to describe the response of many people today to the coronavirus.  But remember, the Prophet Isaiah counseled King Ahaz to trust God and not align himself with foreign allies. The message here is to trust God more than human leaders.

The Lord instructed Isaiah to tell King Ahaz to stop worrying because he had nothing to fear. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This invasion will never happen; it will never take place….” Isaiah 7:7 (NLT)  And then through Isaiah, the Lord gave the King a sign to confirm His word. “…Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel which means ‘God is with us.’” Then came great news! The invasion never occurred.

This Old Testament prophetic sign was given as an immediate assurance of God’s presence, protection and provision. Centuries later, it had a messianic fulfillment. In his Gospel, Matthew clearly understands Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. “All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:22-23 (NLT)

When Isaiah announces “Look!” he is telling everyone to pay attention. He is saying something wonderful is about to happen! Something extraordinary! ‘God with us’ is a declaration of the Lord’s presence with us 24/7. It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen in the world.  Today the coronavirus is taking lives. Isaiah says in good times and in bad God is here, there and everywhere to offer presence, protection and provision.

This declaration of hope and assurance is as much for us today as it was for King Ahaz and as it was for the early Christians. When we are prone to worry, let us put our confidence in God. Some leaders today say we will never get back to where we were and the future will fall apart. But in contrast, God says I will make all things new and, by that, God means better.

When we are tempted to be afraid, let us remember the promise: Jesus is Immanuel - God with us! He is our hope in the midst of adversity. He is our comforter. He is our Shalom or peace. He loves us. He forgives us. He guides us. He is our rock and our shield. Immanuel, God With Us, is the best gift ever! With His presence, we are never alone. During this time of fear and uncertainty, let us refuse to worry or be afraid but, instead, ponder the greatest gift ever given and rejoice in the joy of our salvation! 

--Jim


Virtual Worship with Communion
Sunday, May 3, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.

Remember to have bread and grape juice or wine available for each person watching with you.

 

 

Last Published: May 2, 2020 8:09 PM
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