Fourth Sunday of Advent
Isaiah is the key to understanding the theme of these readings. We Christians tend to get excited at Christmas time about verse 14, especially while listening to The Messiah. But we do the passage an injustice when we only read, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. KJV
Today’s reading is plucked from the midst of a 12-chapter story line in which King Ahaz and his people become more hardened against God. The message that Judah would become captives has been delivered, but Ahaz refuses to believe the word of God.
We read at the beginning of Chapter 7: Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. NIV Without getting into all the international intrigue, Ahaz and the people gave up before there was even an invasion.
God sent Isaiah to speak with Ahaz and gave him a speech to give to the king. At the end of the speech, God’s words were: “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” NIV
God, not willing to give up, spoke again through Isaiah. This time he said, “Ask for a sign from your God. MSG Ahaz refused God. Even as God pleaded with him, the king would not turn to God.
With God’s presence, Isaiah said: the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. KJV
The only request God made of Ahaz was to have faith and to trust God. But the king turned so far away from God that he forced the Temple priests to make daily sacrifices on a pagan altar inside the Temple.
In spite of the continued decline of Judah and their eventual exile to Babylon, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, became part of the long list of scriptures promising the coming of the Messiah. When Joseph was told by the angel to name the baby Jesus (Yeshua), thousands of baby boys had received the name and hundreds more born later carried the name as well, all hoping that their Jesus would be the promised Messiah. The name was so common that five High Priests carried it. The Jewish historian Josephus includes lives of twenty men with the name in the first century. In Col. 4:11 we meet Jesus Justus and in Acts 13:6 Bar-Jesus. Numerous tax documents have survived the centuries, and the name Jesus is common. Even Barabbas seems to have been Jesus Bar Abbas.
But there is only one Jesus, Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God, Messiah.
Be righteous and do good.