DECEMBER 8, 2023

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 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 7:10–14, ESV)

Isaiah’s Prophecy

Scholars debate whether the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 was only realized in Mary and the birth of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. The language in Isaiah 7:14 implies that Isaiah was referring to a young woman in the presence of Ahaz, King of Judah. Isaiah informed Ahaz that God would give a sign to confirm that He was with Ahaz, and that sign would be that the young woman would bear a son, and she would be instructed to name him Immanuel (God with us). “Young woman,” in this case, may refer to a virgin or simply an unmarried young maiden; in Isaiah’s day, such a maiden would most likely have been a virgin. Regardless of how Ahaz understood Isaiah’s statement and whether Isaiah was referring to a miraculous event given as a sign to Ahaz, God fulfilled His promise. By the time the maiden gave birth to a son and named him Immanuel, the kingdoms bent on conquering Judah were destroyed.

Biblical history links Isaiah 7:14 to a different and uniquely miraculous event that took place in Israel in the days of Herod, seven hundred years after Isaiah’s prophecy. Matthew cites this exact verse in his Gospel (Matthew 1:22–23) when referring to the birth of Jesus. The Holy Spirit records for us through Matthew that Mary was indeed a virgin; that she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, never having known a man; and she gave birth to a son, “God with us,” who would save His people from their sins.

How would you respond if a young girl came to you today and said she was pregnant but had never been with a man? I suppose in today’s medically advanced world, we could imagine alternatives. However, in Mary’s day, such a thing was not medically possible, and Joseph would certainly have understood that. But that’s what happened with Mary and Joseph. God did the medically impossible, without any human intervention whatsoever—a miraculous event. A second miracle occurred when an angel confirmed this to Joseph in a dream. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. A virgin did conceive, and through her, God gave the world the greatest Christmas present ever—His Son!

Dr. Jim Thames
Academic Dean
Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership