The Virgin Birth Promise

Bible Book: Isaiah  7 : 14
Subject: Virgin Birth; Promises of God

We’re looking today at one of the grandest, most profound promises in all the Bible—a promise with enormous significance and implications. It is the great Virgin Birth promise found in Isaiah 7:14. But first, let’s look first at...

I. The GIVING of the Promise

The Assyrian Empire, headed by Tiglath-Pileser III, had been expanding for years by conquering and enslaving surrounding nations. This vast empire now stretched from the Caucasus Mountains to Arabia and from the Caspian Sea to Cyprus, and was seeking to advance even further.

Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin, the king of Syria [Aram], joined forces in an effort to resist Assyria’s advance toward them. They asked Jotham, the king of Judah, and his co-regent son Ahaz, to join their alliance. When Jotham and Ahaz refused, Israel and Syria determined to invade Judah and punish that nation for its king’s unwillingness to cooperate—and part of their plan was to remove Ahaz from the throne and install another king who would cooperate with them.

Upon learning of this threat, Ahaz—ruling now instead of his father, Jotham—was filled with dread, as were his people. Isaiah 7:2 (ESV) says, “When the house of David was told, ‘Syria is in league with Ephraim,’ the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”

Ahaz and his people were “trembling in their boots!” However, God sent Isaiah the prophet to reassure Ahaz that he, the Lord, was not going to allow those two nations to succeed in that effort.

Isaiah 7:7-9 (KJV): “7 Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. 9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.”

God said to Ahaz, through Isaiah, “Not only am I going to stop these two kings from carrying out their plan to conquer Judah, but I’m going to bring severe judgment upon both of their nations. Both of them will cease to exist. The downhill path toward for Israel began with the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C. and ended 65 years later when the inhabitants of the Northern kingdom became so intermingled with foreigners imported into the land that they no longer retained their distinct identity as Israelites.

For God thus to protect Ahaz and Judah from invasion was an amazing display of divine mercy, considering the fact that Ahaz was an extremely wicked king who had led his people into great sin. We’re told elsewhere that he even offered his own child as a sacrifice on a heathen altar!

When I read of God showing such mercy to an undeserving leader and his people, I am reminded of Psalm 86:15 (KJV): “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” That further reminds me of the mercy he shows toward people today. Someone has defined “grace” as “God giving us what we do not deserve,” and “mercy” as God not giving us what we do deserve.”

The grandest and most glorious expression of God’s great mercy was in his providing salvation to all who repent of sin and commit themselves in faith to Jesus, who shed his blood on the cross to take the punishment that you and I and all others deserve. The hymn writer was right on target when he wrote: “Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary.”

But, sadly, Ahaz didn’t have any confidence in Isaiah’s pronouncement that God was going to stop Pekah and Rezin from carrying out their plan—and at that point God gave him a solemn warning: notice again the last part of verse 9: “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” God said, in effect, “I’ll keep my promise to stop this particular invasion, but if you refuse to believe my promise you personally will be set aside and lose your position.”

Again, then, at that point the Lord showed marvelous grace and mercy to this ungodly king. Look at verses 10-11: “10 Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”

Amazingly, God took a remarkable initiative to give Ahaz a further opportunity to believe. He said, “Ahaz, in order to prove to you that my commitment to stop this proposed invasion is real, I’m willing to give you a sign, and you can choose the sign. Choose anything you wish.” What patience on the part of our Lord! Romans 2:4 (ESV)says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

We see God’s wonderful patience demonstrated over and over in the ministry of our Lord. Jesus, God in human flesh, was so patient with his disciples, and he is so patient with you and me, as we are often so slow to learn and to get in step with his will. He is our example, which means that you and I need to be patient with one another.

Look at Ahaz’s unbelievably mind-boggling response:

Vs 12 “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.”

It is obvious, from Ahaz’s life, that this was feigned humility and religiosity. His refusal to name and ask for a sign was strictly due to his hardheartedness, and his dependency on fleshly and material strength, rather than on spiritual resources.

 Vs 13 “And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?”

I can almost hear our God sighing—how man’s unbelief must grieve him—and that includes those times when you and I don’t take him at his word and fail to move forward in faith and obedience.

Vs 14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

So, there is the giving of the promise. God promised to give a sign in spite of Ahaz’s obstinacy and unbelief—and now, let’s look at...

II. The CONTENT of the Promise

Let’s read it again, verse 14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

This was a dual promise, a dual prophecy. While the ultimate and most glorious fulfillment of this promise was the virgin birth of Jesus Christ many centuries later, there was also another more immediate fulfillment, for the prophecy was given as a sign to King Ahaz, assuring him that his country, Judah, would not be overrun by Syria and Israel.

God was not saying that a virgin would miraculously give birth during Ahaz’ lifetime. There has never been but one miraculous virgin birth in all of history, and that was the virgin birth of Jesus centuries after this prophecy was given. Rather, God was telling Ahaz that some young woman—not named here—who was a virgin at the time of the prophecy would eventually become the mother of a child—undoubtedly by normal means, and likely as a result of a legitimate marriage—and her child would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Not that the child would literally be God, but rather he would be a sign of God’s presence with Ahaz and Judah.

Vs 15: “Butter and honey [ESV, “curds and honey”] shall he eat, That he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” Apparently this child would discipline himself by eating this meager fare, and this would help him to make right moral decisions.

Vs 16 “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” God was saying that before this unnamed child reached the time of moral accountability (usually considered to be around 12 or 13 years old) both Israel and Syria (Aram) would be plundered.

Vs 17 “The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.”

Instead of trusting God to deliver him and Judah from invasion by Israel and Syria, Ahaz had turned to the nation of Assyria for help—and Assyria did help temporarily, but ironically that heathen nation then turned on Ahaz and invaded Judah, bringing about great destruction and vast suffering.

Whenever anyone turns to sources other than God for ultimate help, they will not only be disappointed, but adverse consequences will follow.

So, Ahaz would be given a sign in spite of his wickedness and blatant unbelief—and that sign was given as God had predicted. Although you and I are told the identity of the woman or the child, undoubtedly God must have made it clear to Ahaz.

But, as already emphasized, the ultimate, most important and powerful fulfillment of that prophecy was the miraculous birth of Jesus, recorded in the New Testament. Here is the account given in Matthew 1:18-25:

In Matthew 1:18-25 we read:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Matthew made it unquestionably clear that the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus had no human father. God’s Holy Spirit supernaturally overshadowed the virgin Mary, so that she miraculously conceived and give birth to the infant Jesus. Thus, the virgin Mary was the divinely ordained instrument, through whom the Son of God entered human history. This is the clear record, as taught in the Bible--and to add to it or subtract from it is to depart from the Scriptures.

Now let’s consider...

 III. The SIGNIFICANCE of the Promise

There are some who say, “What difference does it make whether or not one believes in the virgin birth of Jesus?”--and the answer is, it makes a profound difference.

1. To deny the virgin birth is a reflection on the character of Jesus Christ. It is clear that Jesus believed in the virgin birth. For instance, he said, in Matthew 5:17-18, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Notice that Jesus sanctioned all that is written in the prophets--and that includes, of course, the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, referred to earlier, which predicts the Savior’s virgin birth.

In a conversation recorded in John 3:16 Jesus referred to himself as God’s “only begotten Son,” thereby sanctioning the words of Luke 1:35, which we read earlier: “...that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

On many other occasions Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God--not a son of God, but the Son of God. He was God’s Son in a unique, special way--he was God’s only begotten Son. In John 9:35-37 Jesus spoke of himself as “the Son of God.” Thus, to deny the virgin birth is to cast reflection upon the very character of Jesus Christ.

2. It follows, then, that if the virgin birth had not really occurred, Jesus would not be able to save anyone—and here is why:

The Bible teaches that because of his pure, flawless life, Jesus was the one acceptable sacrifice for our sins, so that by repentance and faith we might be saved. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

But if the virgin birth had not really happened, then Jesus would have been a fraud, because he believed--and taught--that the virgin birth was true; and if Jesus had been a fraud, then his death on our behalf would not have been effectual.

Someone says, “But what if Jesus was not intentionally deceiving anyone; what if he was only mistaken about the virgin birth?” The answer is that that still would not change the situation. The salvation of those of us who have placed our faith in him depends on Christ being divine--in other words, our salvation depends on Jesus being God, and God cannot make mistakes because he is perfect. If Christ could have made a mistake, then he could not have been God; and if he were not God, then his death on our behalf would have been in vain.

So, the “bottom line” is this: the virgin birth of Jesus is in the same category as the cross, and the resurrection--our salvation depends on it being true.

Some doubters say, “But the virgin birth is contrary to the laws of nature.” But who created and set in motion the laws of nature? God did, of course--and it would make no sense at all to think that God would allow himself to be a prisoner of the very laws which he, himself, activated. Because he is God, and because he is the Sovereign of all that he has created, he has both the prerogative and the power to suspend natural law any time he chooses. That, in fact, is what a miracle is: it is the direct and personal intervention of Almighty God in human history, so as to produce a result that is different from what usually occurs. In this case, God miraculously caused a virgin to have a baby--the only time in all history that such a thing has occurred, and the only time that it ever will occur.

Generally, people who don’t believe in the virgin birth or in other Biblical teachings have a predisposition not to believe. If a person believes in God, he should have no problem believing in the Biblical reports of the virgin birth. As the angel said to Mary in Luke 1:27, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” A God who can speak a universe into existence from nothingness, can certainly do anything within that universe that suits his purposes.

One of the strongest evidences for the virgin birth is the undeniable uprightness and purity of the life of Jesus. The sinless nature of Jesus’ life is indisputable by any rational, fair-minded person. Without any trace whatsoever of human pride, Jesus said, in John 10:25, “...the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.“ Even the cowardly, crowd-pleasing Pilate was honest enough to exclaim, in Luke 23:4, “...I find no fault in this man.” And not only was he perfect and pure, he performed miracles that only God could perform.

The late Dr. Roland Q. Leavell was president of New Orleans Seminary when Connie and I were students there in the mid 1950s. Dr. Leavell told of being present at a social function one day when he was approached by a cynical young doctor. The young doctor said, “Preacher, what would you say if I told you that a young girl gave birth to a baby boy at our Municipal Hospital last night, but she swears that the baby did not have a human father, but that God was its father?”

God gave Dr. Leavell the grace and wisdom to reply: “Well, doctor, if that little boy grew up to manhood and lived a perfect and sinless life;if he went about doing good; if he performed miracles, turning water into wine, healing the sick and afflicted, making cripples to walk, making the blind to see, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk; if he fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes; if he raised the dead; if he then were condemned, nailed to a cross and tortured until he died; if his lifeless body were placed in a grave and on the morning of the third day he came up out of that grave, then one day bodily ascended into heaven--then, doctor, I would say the little girl had told the truth.”

But here is the “bottom line: there is still another avenue by which one may find assurance regarding the virgin birth--and that is the avenue of personal experience. As already emphasized, Jesus himself believed and taught that he was virgin born. Now, only a sinless Savior who is everything he claims to be could take away the burden of sin and transform a human life--and Jesus Christ does exactly that. For all who turn to him in repentance and faith--the kind of faith which involves a total surrender to his Lordship--he works the miracle of the new birth. Any person who sincerely yields himself to Jesus will find true in his own experience the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

You don’t have to take my word, or anyone else’s word, for it--you can prove in the laboratory of personal experience that Jesus Christ is in truth the virgin-born Son of God, the Savior of the world.

Thus, I challenge you to face the question that no one can escape--Pilate raised it in Matthew 27:22: “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?“ There is no neutral ground. A person can’t straddle a spiritual fence. Jesus declared, in Matthew 12:30: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” I encourage you to say “yes” to him whom to know aright is life eternal.