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Expecting Hope

Bijgewerkt: 17 dec 2018

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This goes far beyond just remembering the birth of the main character in a religion. For us as Christians, the birth of Jesus is the fulfilment of the promise of God that He is establishing His rule and reign once again on the earth.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ, incarnate meaning ‘becoming flesh’ is such a significant moment in history, that we decided to divide time in Before Christ and After Christ. It’s why you have an Old Testament and a New Testament in your Bible. And along those lines, many Christians will also speak about their lives in terms of ‘before I knew Jesus’ and ‘since I know Jesus’.

Embedded in the Old Testament lies a prophetic anticipation of the coming of a ‘messiah’ which means ‘anointed one’. He is the One that would establish this rule and reign of God on earth. This Messiah is Jesus.

There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Many of these prophecies were already marked as ‘messianic’ before Jesus came around. Someone tried to make a calculation of what the odds would be for any random person to fulfill all these prophecies, and I think he stopped counting at 48 prophecies, because the odds already were 1 in 10 to the 157th power.

Old Testament Prophecy

In this series, we will be discussing some of the most notable fulfilled prophetic words out of the book of Isaiah. Now, what we must understand is that Old Testament prophecy doesn’t work like an oracle. The prophets didn’t blurt out sentences that might one day come to pass. Old Testament prophets had a function of speaking words on God’s behalf to situations that were occurring in time. Their prophetic words had a meaning in the historical setting they were given to, but would sometimes transcend that situation and point to an ultimate fulfilment at a later time. This is also true for most of the Messianic prophecies found in Isaiah.

What we are going to do in this series is try to understand these prophecies in the context of their historical setting first, and then see how it was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the hope, the joy and the light that we have been waiting for.

Isaiah & Ahaz

For the first prophecy we will discuss we turn to Isaiah 7. Isaiah was a prophet in a time when there was a new empire rising up and threatening the Middle-East: Assyria. And so the kings of Syria (or Aram) and Israel want to team up with Judah to face the Assyrians. But when Ahaz, the king of Judah refuses, they turn on him and team up against him! Enter prophet Isaiah, he’s got a message for Ahaz.

Isaiah 7:1-9 (NLT)

When Ahaz, son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, set out to attack Jerusalem. However, they were unable to carry out their plan. The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.

The Lord then sends Isaiah to Ahaz with this message: “This invasion will never happen;

it will never take place;

(…) Unless your faith is firm,

I cannot make you stand firm.”

Even though Judah was as ungodly as Israel was, God is eager to spare Judah from the upcoming disaster because of His promise to the righteous King David – and so He presents this opportunity to trust in Him once again.

Often God will use a moment of distress as an opportunity to show His favour and mercy to us. But to make sure He’ll get the credit for it, He sends a prophet to predict the outcome. On behalf of God, Isaiah is giving the message to the ungodly Ahaz – stop worrying, this attack that you are so afraid of will never happen!

Isaiah 7:10-12 (NLT)

Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.” But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the Lord like that.”

Oh how spiritual we can sound when we refuse to do what the Lord says…

Ahaz had made alternative plans. You can read about this in 2 Kings 16. Ahaz went to the king of Assyria – the ultimate enemy – to ask him for help to defeat Israel and Syria.

Isaiah 7:13-17 (NLT)

Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). By the time this child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, he will be eating yogurt and honey. For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted. “Then the Lord will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything since Israel broke away from Judah. He will bring the king of Assyria upon you!”

The promise that the attack that would never come is turned into a threat. It was true, the attack by Israel and Syria would never happen. But when the Assyrians were done with Syria and then Israel – which they completely destroyed, next was Judah. They didn’t see the request from Ahaz as a friend in need, but as an invitation to continue their conquest of destruction.

When Ahaz sent messengers to the king of Assyria, he paid him with the silver and gold from the Temple and the palace. The king thought, wait a minute, if they send this as a payment – there must be a lot more treasures there ready for the taking! \

The alternative to God’s solution to a problem will always come at an incredibly high price.

It was Ahaz’ fear that led him to this alternative solution. And it was because of his fear and unbelief that he rejected God’s message of hope.

The sign of Immanuel

Isaiah prophecies the attack by Assyria, which would happen years later as a result of this alternative action. And the sign that Isaiah gives is that of a child being born. It is a prophetic sign which we now know has a double fulfilment. A fulfilment in its time and one in Jesus.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

The reason why we know this was a prophecy of the Messiah is because of the word ‘virgin’ which in Hebrew is ‘almah’. Jesus of course was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary.

But the word ‘almah’ also means ‘young woman’. Depending on context you determine the exact meaning. Translators choose ‘virgin’ over ‘young woman’ because of its Messianic implications, but really we need to understand it as both.

The direct meaning in the context of this story is that a young woman in the household of Ahaz would become pregnant and before the child would be mature, the enemies would be destroyed. But in the Messianic meaning, fulfilled in Jesus, this word needs to be translated as ‘virgin’ because in Luke we read:

Luke 1:31-35 (NLT)

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Matthew confirms that the prophetic sign of Isaiah would find its ultimate fulfilment in Jesus: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:22-23)

As the sign of Isaiah to Ahaz would also be a sign of hope in a time of fear – so the coming of Jesus would be the ultimate sign of hope. And it is here where the name Immanuel – God with us – finds its true meaning, because in Jesus we find God making his dwelling among men.

It is unheard of, inexplainable, and unthinkable but true – the Creator of Heaven and Earth became a human being – not coming as a hero with superpowers, but as a tiny little baby, born in the most humble circumstances.

Hope instead of fear

Jesus is the fulfilment of all expectation of hope and deliverance – and so He is the source of all our hope and deliverance! Because you and I also live in a time where fear is prevalent. Fear is one of the most crippling things in life. Fear is the ultimate goal of terrorist attacks, and they’ve been successful. From fear of failure to fear of death – it is tormenting and crippling emotion that hijacks our reason to believe that the worst thing that could ever happen will actually happen! Our enemy – satan – loves to use fear to keep us from living in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us.

And if you feel crippled because of fear, I believe you can receive a new freedom in Jesus name over your life. Today is the day God is going to deliver you from this fear and give you a living hope instead.

Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT)

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

You have been set free from living in fear in Jesus name!

Wherever Jesus enters, fear will disappear and hope arises, because He is Immanuel – God is with us.

How to conquer fear

The prophecy of Isaiah that the Assyrians would come for Judah became reality in the time of the next king – Hezekiah. There is a theory that this Hezekiah is the fulfilment in time of the sign predicted by Isaiah. It is not confirmed by many commentators, but to me it makes sense, because he is a foreshadowing of the Messiah.

The enemy – the Assyrians – weren’t just standing at the gate at some point – but on top the gate, threatening the people saying: “Who do you think you are to come against the king of Assyria? Your God won’t save you. None of the others gods was strong enough to come against us!” And a crippling fear came over the people of Judah.

1) Turn to the Lord

Hezekiah hears what is happening, is overcome with fear and in his fear decides to turn to the Lord. He was different from his father. Instead of running away from God’s promise and choosing his own path, Hezekiah turns to the Lord in his distress and sends word for Isaiah.

2 Kings 19:3-4 (NLT)

They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. But perhaps the Lord your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff, sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!”

God’s arms are ever open wide. It is never to late to still turn to Him. God’s door is always open for you.

2) Trust in the Lord

It's one thing to turn to the Lord in your fear, but it is another thing to also trust Him. Isaiah sends word back that the attack won’t happen because God would intervene. And Hezekiah trusts this word. He turn to the Temple of the Lord and prays:

2 Kings 19:17-19 (NLT)

“It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”

That night, God sent and angel to the Assyrian camp that killed half the army, and the Assyrians fled back to Nineveh. Jerusalem was safe.

I want to round it off here and give you an opportunity to respond to what God has been saying to you. If you have been crippled by fear, in whatever area of your life, I believe God wants to give you hope instead.

3) Jesus knows

Jesus came to give us hope instead of fear. His birth confirmed – God is with us. This is one of the most beautiful descriptions in the New Testament about what it means that Jesus is Immanuel – God with us.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

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