God With Us
by Marvin J. Rosenthal
he was the right man for the job. He was a descendant of Abraham,
from the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David. He had
a right to rule over Israel as King, but that did not mean
that He would be a godly king.
Spiritually, he was like an accident looking for a place to
happen. He ruled over the southern kingdom of Judah for sixteen
years, and the divine commentary on this man is this: He opposed
God and God's prophet and caused the children of Israel to
sin (2 Ki. 16:1-4). What a tragic commentary!
His name was Ahaz, and he had a problem - a big one. It was
coming from the north. Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king
of Israel (the ten northern tribes), were planning to invade
the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Isa. 7:1-2).
The Prophet Isaiah was sent by God to inform King Ahaz that
this planned attack against the southern kingdom of Judah
would not succeed - that the two invading nations would themselves
be defeated by the powerful Assyrians (Isa. 8:1-4). Although
Ahaz was a faithless king, he was ruling over the Davidic
kingdom, and God was offering help for the kingdom's sake.
To confirm His word of safety and give assurance to Ahaz,
God invited the king to ask for a sign (Isa. 7:10-11):
something in the heavens above or the earth beneath,
something that would require the arm of omnipotence.
Ahaz, wicked king that he was, responded with these words:
"I will not ask, neither will I tempt [test] the LORD"
(Isa. 7:12). He was a faithless king.
As a result, God turned from the unbelieving king to address
the whole house of David. He would give them a sign.
But this sign did not deal directly with the impending invasion
- King Ahaz had, through his unbelief, forfeited that right.
Now, the sign that God would give to the whole house of David
had as its purpose the identification and authentication of
the coming righteous King (in contrast to Ahaz who was a wicked
king) when He appeared on the stage of human history. The
righteous King would not only be David's son - He would be
Immanuel, which by interpretation means "God with
us" (Mt. 1:23). Here was a truly staggering prophecy.
This righteous King would be both Son of Man and Son of God.
But how could such a thing come to pass? By what means? Through
what process? How could deity become humanity? How could God
become man? The answer to these questions is what God provides
through the promised sign. He said, "Behold, a virgin
shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel"
Signs, by the very nature of the case, are miraculous
and supernatural. They have been placed by God at the great
forks in the road of history to say to men and women of faith,
"This is the way; walk in it." Signs could not authenticate
or substantiate some great truth if they could be duplicated
- they need to be miraculous.
God told Moses that with his rod he would do signs. In the
court of Egypt, Moses threw down his rod, and it became a
serpent. The magicians of Egypt threw down their rods, and
they also became serpents, but the rod of Moses-turned-serpent
devoured the other serpents. Theirs was counterfeit - his
was the real thing - a bona fide sign that God had sent Moses
to deliver Israel from slavery (Ex. 4). A virgin birth is
miraculous and supernatural. It cannot be duplicated; although,
to be sure, heathen religions, Greek mythology, and the occult
have wearied themselves in vain, counterfeit attempts.
The Hebrew word for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 is almah.
In the singular or plural form, including this reference,
it appears a total of seven times in the Old Testament.
· In Genesis 24:16, almah is used to
describe Rebekah as a virgin and the future bride of Isaac.
· In Exodus 2:8, almah is used of Miriam,
the unmarried sister of Moses, as the "maid" (virgin).
· In Psalm 68:25, almah is used of damsels
(virgins) ministering with timbrels.
· In Song of Solomon 1:3 and 6:8, almah
is used of the virgins in the royal court.
· In Proverbs 30:19, almah is used in
speaking of "the way of a man with a maid" (virgin).
· In Isaiah 7:14, almah is translated
correctly in the King James Bible with the familiar "Behold,
the virgin shall conceive."
In every instance where the word occurs in the Old Testament,
the context strongly favors the translation of almah
In the second century before Christ, long years before there
was a controversy between Jews and Christians concerning who
Christ was - when no one had an ax to grind or a cause to
champion -Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament Hebrew
Bible into the Greek, calling it the Septuagint. They
made their translation for the large number of Jews who lived
outside of the land of Israel, whose principle language was
Greek and who, therefore, could not read the Hebrew Bible.
When these scholars came to Isaiah 7:14, they translated the
Hebrew word almah with the Greek word parthenos.
Parthenos has only one undisputed meaning - VIRGIN.
The Greek Parthenon, the ruins of which still stand
in diminished glory, was dedicated to the virgin goddess,
Athena. Clearly, the Jewish Hebrew scholars fully understood
the word almah in Isaiah 7:14 to mean "virgin."
The famous medieval rabbi, Rashi, made this comment concerning
Isaiah 7:14: "Behold the almah shall conceive,
and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." He
went on to say, "This means that our Creator shall be
with us. And this is the sign: the one who will conceive is
a girl [naarah], who never in her life had intercourse
with any man. Upon this one shall the Holy Spirit have power."
Thus, one of Israel's all-time greatest teachers and rabbis,
commenting on Isaiah 7:14, acknowledged that:
1. A virgin would conceive - "a girl, who never in her
life had intercourse."
2. She would give birth to deity - "our Creator shall
be with us."
3. Her offspring would be the God-Man - "Upon this one
shall the Holy Spirit have power" 1(see Lk.
Subsequent Jewish Scholars played down or denied the concept
of a virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, not on legitimate linguistic
grounds but in a vain attempt to refute the messianic claims
of Christ as the Son of God.
God had promised a sign - "a virgin would conceive, and
bear a son" - so that men of faith could recognize the
righteous King and eternal God when He made His entrance onto
the stage of human history.
From the time the sign was promised, the days turned into
weeks, the weeks into months, months into years, years into
decades, and decades into centuries - seven of them. And through
the seemingly endless days and nights, some ignored the promised
sign, and others simply forgot the promise of a sign.
But the God who is from everlasting to everlasting, the God
who is a covenant-keeping God, the God who has placed His
Word above His name - He did not forget.
Then, one indescribably glorious night, it happened! But permit
Luke, the beloved physician, to tell you about the sign in
his own words:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding
in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And,
lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of
the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring
you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign
unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger" (Lk. 2:8-12).
Good tidings - great joy - to all people - this day - a Savior
- Christ the Lord - a sign unto you.
Almost universally it has been understood that the sign is,
"Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manager." But such a sign would not be miraculous.
The swaddling clothes and manger were not the sign. They spoke
of poverty and were simply for identification purposes - they
helped the shepherds identify the child. What then was the
sign of which the angel spoke - the sign that would authenticate
at last that God, the righteous King, was in their midst?
May it be solemnly and sacredly suggested that when the shepherds
found the Child in the stable, they worshipped and then left.
They neither inquired as to who the proud father was nor assumed
that Joseph, husband of Mary, held that honor. They properly
understood what the angelic messenger meant when he said,
"And this shall be a sign [literally, "the sign"]
unto you." They rightly realized that here was the fulfillment
of the promise given by God more than seven hundred years
earlier. "Hear ye now, O house of David...the Lord himself
shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and
bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:13-14).
They realized that in their midst was One in whom all the
fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily (or, in bodily form)
Perhaps one final word is appropriate. Where was the virgin-born
Son of God born? In Bethlehem, to be sure - but where?
The Bible gives more than a hint that Jesus was born at a
place called Migdal Edar located on the northern fringe of
Bethlehem and about three miles south of Jerusalem. Migdal
Edar is the place to which the "first dominion"
(that is, the manifestation of the imperial presence of God)
would come, according to the Prophet Micah. In a largely neglected
prophetic text, Micah wrote: "And thou, O tower of the
flock [Heb., Migdal Edar], the stronghold of the daughter
of Zion, unto thee shall it [He] come, even the first dominion;
the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem"
Micah not only places the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (Mic.
5:2), but appears to pinpoint the location within Bethlehem
as Migdal Edar.
It would be natural for Joseph, unable to find room in the
inn and with Mary ready to give birth, to trace his steps
to the stable at Migdal Edar which he had doubtless passed
a short while earlier as he was entering Bethlehem. Rachel,
wife of Jacob, considered the mother of Israel, gave birth
to Benjamin at this same place and then died (Gen. 35:18-19).
It would serve for the birthplace of the Son of God.
Migdal Edar literally means the tower of the flock.
It may have been the place in ancient Israel where sheep were
raised by the priests for ceremonial slaughter at the nearby
Temple on Mount Moriah. What more appropriate place for Jesus
to be born than at the very spot where lambs were bred and
raised for sacrifice? The infinite, eternal, omnipotent God
- the sovereign Creator - the One who fashioned man from the
dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life
- was dwelling in the midst of His creation as one of them.
And thirty-three years later, on the fourteenth of the Hebrew
month of Nisan, the very day of Passover when the lambs were
sacrificed, Jesus, as the Lamb of God, would offer Himself
as a sacrifice for the sin of the world.
He was born at the right time (Gal. 4:4). He was born in the
right place (Mic. 4:8 and 5:2). He was born in the right way
(Isa. 7:14) - for the express purpose of dying for our sin.
How wondrously appropriate the angelic announcement - "I
bring you good tidings of great joy
to all people"
(Lk. 2:10). Immanuel God with us!
1Rashi, Mikraoth Gedoloth on Isaiah 7:14