The prophet Isaiah speaks to a situation of impending destruction of Judah in a time when the Northern Kingdom has been annexed by Assyria. King Ahaz of Judah struggles with alliances and apostasy, forgetting God’s covenant with David. Judah is much beloved, and God keeps God’s covenants.
The Gospel writers and Christians today confuse Isaiah’s prophetic words to Ahaz with prediction. Isaiah’s words are not a prediction about Jesus. Isaiah offers a vision of God’s steadfast love and redeeming work that will soon be born as a child among them, a child already in the womb.
Isaiah knows well the messianic hope that a king from the house and lineage of David will sit upon the throne of Judah and bring peace and justice to the people. Isaiah shares that hope for a righteous king who will soon be born.
Prediction has an either/or outcome. When clouds gather, either it will rain or it won’t. Isaiah does not look into a glass ball six centuries into the future to predict the birth of Christ. Isaiah offers a vision of the world where the potential for righteousness, justice, and peace will be born to set the world right for God.
Yet prophecy, unlike simple prediction, is more than either/or. Prophecy is the both/and of God’s covenant love for all time: for Judah and for all people. The voice of the prophet continues to speak: A child will be born, one who will restore a broken kingdom. That voice speaks to us today as we await the birth of Christ into our own lives. As Christ is born, righteousness, justice, mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace bring hope that a weary world may once again be restored. We wait. We listen. We hope. Come, Lord Jesus!
O God, we hear the prophet’s word. Fulfill your promise in our time. Amen.
Isaiah is sent to the king of Judah to declare a prophecy of a future birth through a virgin. The boy will be called Immanuel, “God is with us.” The psalmist cries out to God asking for an end to the suffering of the people. He believes that this will occur through a “son of man,” an expression that Jesus later uses to describe himself. Paul’s opening to Romans roots the gospel in the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus comes from the line of David and fulfills the things foretold. To understand Jesus, we must understand the Hebrew scriptures. Matthew recounts the visitation of an angel to Joseph to tell him of the coming birth of a son. Matthew interprets this birth as a fulfillment of this week’s reading from Isaiah 7.
Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How does Isaiah’s prophecy continue to speak to you today? How do you hope for Christ’s coming?
Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. Recall a time when you have relied on hope for God’s restoration.
Read Romans 1:1-7. What would it mean to add “servanthood” to your list of life goals?
Read Matthew 1:18-25. How is your life different for having listened to God’s call?
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