God’s Birth Announcement
Text: Isaiah 7
Proposition: God’s birth announcement has the facts but it is dressed in hope and filled with the miracle of new life in Christ.
Introduction: Everyone has seen the pictures of the haggard father who has spent a night in the Operating Room with his wife. Perhaps they went in at 2 in the morning at now at 6am the baby has been born. The haggard father leans against the wall by the pay phone in the lobby of the hospital. He calls family members to let them know the amazing news, a child has been born, the miracle of birth has happened here. Certainly it is the father’s duty to get the facts out there, boy or girl, how much they weighed, how the mom is and how long the labour went, what their name is. It’s the first hurried birth announcement and it flies from person to person, each eager to tell the others.
I wonder if that is exactly what God was doing throughout the Old Testament as time and again He gave the details of the birth that would be remembered and celebrated for all time. He gave the place of the birth in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” In the Book of Danial He gave the time when these things would take place. God even told them that Jesus the Messiah would be born out of the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2) out of the family of Jesse (Isa. 11:1) and out of the house of David (Jer. 23:5,6). In the Psalms (72:9,10) God tells them about shepherds and kings coming to witness the birth of this amazing Child. All these were like the phone call you get from your child saying, “Dad, Mom, we’re expecting!” There are two high points that people still point to as the time when God spoke so clearly about the coming birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. The first came in a most unexpected setting. Let me give you the context, the back story. After the death of King Solomon the nation of Israel had split into two states. The one in the north was called Ephraim or Israel and the one in the south where the capital city of Jerusalem lay was called Judah. The setting before us is that the king of Ephraim or Israel was creating an alliance with the king of Syria and together they were going to attack the smaller southern state of Judah. The king of Judah was Ahaz, a cowardly, superstitious king, one who had little use for God and even less of a desire to trust in His power. God uses a prophet, a man called Isaiah to tell Ahaz that things are not as they seem. Turn with me to Isaiah 7.
I. When the Roof Is Caving In, God Gives a Sign That All Is Not Lost.
When the people of Judah hear that this coalition army is just a few miles to the north they are flooded with fears of chaos and loss. It says that the kings heart and the hearts of his people were “moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.” They were overcome, pushed here and there by an invisible fear. It’s that kind of fear that whispers in your ear, ‘Things are not going to end well.’ We’ve known that fear ourselves and it cripples kings and servants alike. God sends Isaiah to speak against this fear, “Go forth now to meet Ahaz, you, and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.” The place was by the conduit that channeled water into the city, a life line if there were to be a siege. The conduit was likely falling apart from neglect and Ahaz was there to try to come up with some kind plan to keep things together. It’s into this place that Isaiah comes, not because Ahaz was seeking the Lord, he wasn’t. Not because Ahaz was a good man and deserved the help, he didn’t. God sends Isaiah here because Ahaz was of the line of David, because the people were of the tribe of Judah, they are still what God will use to bring life. So the Lord tells Isaiah to bring with him his young son, Shear-jashub. As Isaiah stands before Ahaz, likely holding the hand of his son, there is a sign that God intends for Ahaz in this small child. Shear-jashub means, “a remnant shall return”. It was a sign for any who would see it that God will prevail, that they would survive. The roof was caving in, literally, and into this place God sends a sign that all is not lost. It’s a sign that says it won’t be easy, there will be loss, there will be struggle and trial but I will bring you through it. Shear-jashub, a remnant will return.
II. God Knows Every Plan of Man, So Listen To God’s Plan For Man.
It seems that God’s plans for us are always counter intuitive. If your enemy hits you on one cheek offer him the other, if you’re asked to carry a load one mile, carry it two. Those responses are not typical of us, they go against what we would intuitively do. So look at what Isaiah says to Ahaz as an invasion force amasses on his border. Take heed or guard yourself. In this case guard yourself against your own thinking. Be on guard against your fleshly responses. Be quiet, be still and stop being restless. Do not fear and don’t see yourself as weak, incapable, don’t be faint hearted. It’s a rallying cry that a General would give to the army, settle down, don’t let panic and fear trample on you, they do not have power over you but you have power over them. Let what you feel be determined by what is true and this is what is true. It’s how God sees things, it’s His estimation of them, that is what is true. So how does God see Ephraim and Syria’s alliance? He sees them as two tiny smoldering stubs about to be extinguished. For all their roar and fiery talk, their threat level in God’s eyes is like that of a wick about to fizzle out. He knows the conversations the enemy kings have been having and He wants Ahaz to see what He sees. The invasion will fail. Ephraim, or the northern state called Israel, would soon be a captive people in Assyria. The key challenge here for Ahaz is not how to defeat the enemy, it’s how to believe in what God sees. If you won’t believe you won’t be established. God will still prevent the invasion, He will still do what He chooses to do, but you will not be found faithful, you will miss this opportunity of faith and the eternal promises in it. So God invites Ahaz to ask for a sign. He even says that the sign can be anything, from clouds in the sky to the depths of the earth. God’s plan for man is that faith is the way in which he should walk. His plan for man is that they would believe in what God sees and not in what they see, that His will is sovereign over us and over those who oppose us. The tragic response here is that Ahaz tries to fool God, he tries to appear godly while at the same time not being willing to believe. He refuses to ask for a sign, so God gives him a sign that is meant to rebuke all unbelief. It’s a sign as high as the heavens and it goes to depths of the earth.
“Behold the virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” What’s God’s response to people who won’t believe? It’s a birth announcement. It’s a phone call that says, “Look everyone, we’re going to have a baby.” It’s the impossible becoming fact, that’s why it begins with the word, ‘Behold’. God takes that which is already amazing to us and then makes it incredibly amazing. A virgin will conceive. That surely would be a sign, a sign when God takes an everyday miracle called conception and turns it into a once in an eternity sign called Incarnation. It’s a sign that says ‘Here is the place, here is the Way, here is the One.’ The young mother who will bear this Son through nine months of pregnancy and then through the multiplied pain of child birth, this young mother will name her Son, Immanuel. What this sign asks of us is to see what God sees. What God sees is that before we were ever created we would use our free will to turn against Him. What God sees is that as good as innocent man was in Adam, redeemed man in Christ is what He ultimately seeks. What God sees is the need to give of Himself in the person of His Son if the cost of sin is ever to be paid in full. What God sees is that mankind has the capability to believe and by the gift of faith that capability is awakened. What God sees is that which is counter intuitive to man, He sees that man should live by faith, not by sight. He sees a virgin as the one whom He will use to bring a sinless man and a perfect God into one person. He sees the vulnerability of an embryo as being the way the Omnipotent One should begin His experience of learning obedience in humanity. He sees what we would call weak, foolish and ineffective as being the exact, precise, perfect ones through which He speaks life into being.
It was in the midst of an attack upon a king who didn’t seek for God nor was willing to trust in God that God pulls back the curtain to reveal the birth announcement of His Son. He used a tiny child standing right in front of the king to say that a remnant would indeed one day return from seventy years of captivity. The sign of Immanuel is one that carries the message, ‘Be on guard against the way of sin within you, don’t be afraid, be quiet before Him. Don’t be fainthearted, that would be to miss the truth of Immanuel, God with us. By faith, trust in Him.” It’s written right there in the birth announcement!