God uses normal means to accomplish wonderous effects, and He does so for now, for the future, and for eternity.
Judah was in desperate straits. The strength and prosperity of King Uzziah had given way to the weakness and poverty of King Ahaz. Tilgath Pileser III, the ascendant ruler of Assyria, was expanding with a mighty army and his neighbors, Syria and Israel, had attacked Judah to force it to ally with them against Assyria. Judah had suffered a severe defeat, and at that moment, Ahaz was not thinking about something that was going to happen 730 years later. Probably, Isaiah wasn’t either. Therefore the child promised in Isaiah 7:14 was not, at least in Ahaz’ mind, the future Messiah. Isaiah had promised him a sign that God would deliver him and his nation from the combined might of Israel and Syria and the child was to be the sign. The sign was not that a young woman would bear a child; this is an ordinary part of human experience. Rather it was that the birth of this child would begin the countdown to destruction for Judah’s enemies. Specifically, the kings that Ahaz feared would be destroyed before the child reached preadolescence.
That prophecy was most likely fulfilled by the birth of Isaiah’s second son, Maher-shalal-hashbaz (MSH). According to Herbert M .Wolf, “almah” most reasonably refers to a young woman of marriageable age, who in Hebrew culture was expected to be a virgin. The event in 8:1-2 is likely the marriage ceremony between Isaiah and his new wife, and the child is conceived in verse 3. Isaiah’s prophetess was a virgin when she married but obviously not a virgin when she conceived. In verse 4, Isaiah clarified his prophecy; this time saying that before his son was even old enough to talk, Israel and Syria would be no more. Thus MSH was the immediate fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.
Continue reading “The Identity of the Child in Isaiah 7:14”
How can we understand biblical prophecy?
Biblical prophecies are transparent in that they clearly demonstrate the victory of God over all those who oppose Him, human and demonic. Additionally, all mankind will obtain the just consequences for their deeds in the final judgment. They are translucent in that the specific details of how the Lord will achieve victory is often obscured, sometimes by misunderstandings of time, geography, and culture, other times by the prophet’s use of figurative language, and always compounded by the confusion characteristic of the minds of sinful humanity. We will examine the meaning, transparency, translucency, and fulfillment of Isaiah 2:1-4.
Isaiah’s imagery in Isaiah 2:1-4 refers to God’s universal reign in the end times, probably during the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, possibly during His final reign on the new earth, or possibly both. It is very similar in content and thought to the prophecy of the last days written by Isaiah’s contemporary, Micah (Micah 4:1-3). Verse one identifies the speaker and the audience, the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
Continue reading “Interpreting Biblical Prophecy – the Transparency, Translucency and Fulfillment of Isaiah 2:1-4”
Prophets seem strange to us, but they also seemed strange to their contemporaries. Who were they, and what did they do?
Some Christians believe that the Old Testament (OT) prophets are thought of as men who only predicted a distant future revealed to them by God. Either the coming of Christ or the book of Revelation and the end times (or both) are seen as the main message of the Old Testament prophet. Some critical scholars in the past have seen OT prophecy as unique or even fictitious; their messages brand new without any connection to Israel’s past and with no relevance for the future. In reality however, the primary mission of the prophets was to proclaim God’s truth to the people of their time and place, just like pastors and teachers today are called to do.
Were the prophets primarily ‘foretellers’ or ‘forthtellers’ or both?
Continue reading “The Old Testament Prophets – What Did They Do?”