The Virgin Shall Be With Child

The prophecy of Isaiah was one of dreadful doom for the opponents of God, but for the remnant of Israel it was a message of bright hope through the Messiah.  Isaiah addressed nearly every foreign nation that had opposed God and His people, and he announced the punishment and destruction that would come upon them.  Moreover, Isaiah announced the punishment and destruction that would come upon God’s own people for their unfaithfulness.  However, the nation of Judah was given the hope of redemption and a glorious future through the promise of God’s Holy One, His Messiah, who would save them and the world from their sins.

One of the prophecies given about the Messiah was that of His miraculous conception.  This particular prophecy was given during the reign of King Ahaz in Judah (his reign was approx. 731-715 B.C.).  At that time, the northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) allied itself with Syria (Aram) in order to wage war against Judah (Isa. 7:1).  To assure Ahaz of Judah’s security, God sent Isaiah with a message of encouragement and commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign (Isa. 7:2-9).  When Ahaz refused to ask for a sign that God would preserve His people, God chose a sign for him (Isa. 7:10-13).  The sign that God promised is stated in Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”

Let us notice a few things about Isaiah’s prophecy of this virgin conception.  (1) Obviously, this event would be a profound miracle that could only be achieved by the power of God.  (2) The word “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is preceded by the article “the” (rather than “a”) in the original Hebrew, which indicates that God had a specific virgin in mind (“the virgin will be with child”).  (3) The virgin would call her son’s name Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  This indicates the dual nature of the Messiah, for He would be both God and man.  (4) This would be a sign of God to the house of David (see Isa. 7:13), for it would be through the house of David that the prophecy would be fulfilled.  (5) This sign would happen sometime after the fall of both Israel and Syria (see Isa. 7:16). 

More than 700 years later, Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the virgin conception of the Messiah was fulfilled through a woman of the tribe of Judah and the house of David named Mary (Luke 3:23-38).  The virgin Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive a child through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38).  She was also told that this child would be named Jesus, that He would be called the Son of the Most High, and that He would reign on the throne of David forever.  Matthew recorded that when Mary was found to be with child, Joseph was intending to put Mary away secretly, but he was told in a dream by an angel of the Lord that Mary had conceived the child of the Holy Spirit who would be the Savior of His people (Matt. 1:18-21).  It was at this time that the angel declared that these events were in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the virgin conception of Immanuel (Matt. 1:22-23).  Therefore, Joseph did not put Mary away, but he took her as his wife and kept her a virgin until her son was born (Matt. 1:24-25).

God had chosen Mary, a faithful and godly woman, to be the virgin who would bear His Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  The angel Gabriel called her “favored one” and told her, “The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).  He also told her not to be afraid, for she had found favor with God (Luke 1:30).  Later, when Mary’s relative Elizabeth was greeted by Mary, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and declared, “Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).  She recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord and blessed Mary for her faithfulness (Luke 1:43-45).   Then Mary spoke these words about her situation:

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.   For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.  For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-50)

Indeed, we do count Mary as blessed, for she was the mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The miraculous conception of Mary’s Son was the fulfillment of God’s promise and the only source of hope for the world.  When at last Mary gave birth to Jesus, it was an ordinary birth for an extraordinary child (Luke 2:1-7).   Although Joseph and Mary named the child Jesus and raised Him as a man (Luke 2:39-40, 51-52), there is no doubt that Mary called Him Immanuel in her heart according to the prophecy, for she knew better than anybody on earth that He was indeed “God with us.”  Even so, Mary’s blessing was coupled with a great burden, for she was told by the prophet Simeon, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).  So it was that Mary was there as her Son died on the cross of Calvary (John 19:25).  Her Son’s great burden was a burden of her own, but only through that burden could we have the hope of salvation.  Only Mary’s Son, whose miraculous conception was given as a sign that God would preserve His people, could bear the punishment for sins so that the rest of us could live.

Stacey E. Durham


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