The summary of the controversy is whether the word for 'virgin' in Isaiah 7 is more accurately translated 'young maiden' and does that word choice negate it as a sign, or 700 year old Biblical prophecy. This of course could challenge the text in Matthew (but not really) for those who want to be skeptical at the start.
“Every time you hear the Word of God preached, you come away from that exposure to the truth either a little closer to God or a little further away from Him, either more softened toward God or more hardened toward God…. What you need is more grace. Nothing else can save you from your deadness. Therefore, fear your own hardness of heart more than anything else. Beware of rigidity, ingratitude, a demanding spirit. Beware of an unmelted heart that is never satisfied.” Ray Ortlund, Jr.
Christmas can be a clue to our heart. Are we scrooge or are we childlike?
May we allow grace to melt away our cynical hearts. Laugh and sing, love and give, hope and help this Christmas season. Speak positive words of life!
Do I really want to dive into this? This is blog writing... so... oh well...
I absolutely love the passage in Isaiah 7 where the target text takes place.
Here we have political intrigue, the son's names (here 'remnant' and later 'swift booty fast prey') and the setting of the conduit of the Upper Pool where a 2nd dramatic showdown takes place. (Ironically, the spring that feeds that pool is called "the fountain of the 'virgin' spring of Gihon - Gihon being one of the 4 rivers of Eden and the legend of the fountain of the virgin is that Mary washed the swaddling clothes there- God does have a sense of wry humor IMO).
The 'controversy' centers around the translation of the word 'virgin' in Isaiah 7:14.
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary as recorded in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38. The emphasis of this verse and in Matthew is "IMMANUEL" not the woman. The virgin birth of Jesus stands on the account in the gospels where Matthew and Luke testify to this. And then Matthew gives a plausible rendering of 'virgin' to the Isaiah reference. There are other uses of the work Almah that could easily refer to a virgin in context.
Now why is this even important? We have to be careful to understand that there is often in Biblical prophecy DUAL fulfillment of the text. In other words, there will be a literal fulfillment in a soon time, but also a larger more expansive fulfillment in the future.
An example of this is prophecy regarding Babylon- the literal fulfillment of its destruction, but also the larger prediction of the world's system which will be destroyed in the second coming of Christ.
This passage in Isaiah is an excellent example of this. It was literally fulfilled in Isaiah 8:1-10 but it also points to Christ 700 years later. The Old Testament contains types and shadows of the King. Again, we use Scripture to establish these ideas... that is why I included Matthew 1 where he points back to this verse.
Now it points out an interesting part of 'Immanuel', which is this: God's presence - His being with us- is not loved or wanted by everyone. The reference in Isaiah is again judgment for God's enemies and comfort for God's people.
It is never easy... Christ is always a battle ground. That is why you see even today, conflict over nativity scenes and over the name of Jesus Christ.
But do not lose heart. Embrace Immanuel. He is with you. Yes that frightens me too. He is so with me that He knows how I think. He knows how poorly I obey. He knows how weak and sinful I am. And He still loves me- WOW!
AND He is FOR me. He is WITH me. When others run, He stands and supports. When Satan accuses, He defends.
This Christmas.... meditate on this truth. God is with us. He is not distant. God is with us, He has not tucked tail and run. God is with us. Allow Him to draw even closer still.