Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 34. Isaiah (2)
Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel
Faced by this mountain of a book, we started off yesterday by observing the revelation of God that Isaiah was given in chapter 6. It was, without doubt, a highlight passage. Now I know at the beginning of this series I suggested that I would take just one verse or maybe two from each book, but as you will already have seen that was an unknowing, unrealistic goal. The word of God is too big to be limited to one verse sometimes or even one set of verses and so now as we look into the book of Isaiah and ponder on highlights, our search will have to be enlarged yet again.
For this search, I am going to suggest that we can distinguish between Messianic Prophecies and General Principle Prophecies, and so today we’ll look at the Messianic Prophecies and tomorrow pick up on one or more general principle prophecies.
Isaiah is a gold-mine for messianic prophecies with words about the Messiah appearing in the seams of general prophecy. It is like God cannot help sharing with His prophet the plan on His heart for the redemption of the world and it comes through in Isaiah, perhaps more clearly than anywhere else in the Old Testament. There is sufficient here to map out the whole plan of salvation.
The first hint is our verse from above: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isa 7:14) which Matthew in his Gospel applies to the coming of Jesus and to this quote he simply adds an explanation, “which means, ‘God with us.’” (Mt 1:23) although at the time it is probably unlikely the listeners realised it had a double meaning. In Isaiah ‘the virgin’ simply means a young woman (possibly, without child) and in Matthew the context is clearly a virgin, a girl with no male sexual relationship, producing a unique child.
In chapter 9, a location is spoken about: “in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan– The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (9:1,2) and again although the people at the time would not realise its significance, Matthew did (see Mt 4:14-16), identifying Galilee as the area where Jesus’ light would shine brightest.
The peak of these ‘baby prophecies’ comes further on in chapter 9 with THE most incredible of prophecies: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isa 9:6,7) Look at that! A son! A ruler! An increasing rule! An everlasting rule! And he is called the wonderful counselor, mighty God (!!!!), Everlasting Father (!!!!), Prince of Peace. Who???? What???? And all this declared some 700 years BC about someone from the line of David! Awesome!
There are also little glimmers of Messianic warnings, e.g. “In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it– one from the house of David– one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.” (Isa 16:5) or “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isa 28:16 with echoes in 1Cor 3:11 and 1Pet 2:4-7) Also 32:1. Then come the so-called “Servant Songs” which mainly point towards the ministry of the Messiah, but also have echoes for the life of Israel. See the First Servant Song in Isa 42:1-17 (echoed in Mt 12:18-21), the second one in Isa 49:1-6, the third one in Isa 50:4-9 and the fourth one in Isa 52:13-53:12. Each one has sufficient in it to form the basis of a full meditation on its own!
However, as amazing as each of these is, the pinnacle of the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah must be that in 61:1-11, part of which Luke quotes when Jesus, reading from the scroll in the synagogue, announces his ministry: “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:17-21)
Apart from the general prophecies in Isaiah, these Messianic prophecies of his make this book itself stand out as a highlight, let alone the individual verses! Each of these prophecies that we have referred to in this particular meditation deserve to be read, studied and meditated upon. Do take time to do that sometime.