Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV
Immanuel, God with us.
“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45 ESV) was Elizabeth’s joyful acclamation of her cousin Mary’s faith. We can only imagine how Mary must have felt, chosen for this unique and overwhelming position. God’s coming to earth in human form required His being born of a human mother, necessarily a virgin, so that there could be no doubt about His purpose, or His divinity.
Over the years Mary has been honoured in many ways, but a decade ago a hauntingly stunning song - Mary did You Know? – was released, which uses questions to explore the beautiful irony of the mother-child relationship, musing on what she experienced in the context of Jesus’ divinity. The line that stopped me in my tracks was, “this child that you delivered will soon deliver you … that sleeping child you're holding is the great, I Am.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPsgIhlYQmM
Deliverance is what Isaiah’s prophecy is about. This prediction, made at a time when Judah needed God to save them from their enemies, was mind-blowing, and was fulfilled seven hundred years later when the virgin, Mary, gave birth to Jesus, heralding a new beginning spiritually for the people of Judah in the form of the Messiah. He would bring deliverance to them and, through them, to the Gentile world.
The prophecy came about because God had given King Ahaz of Judah several opportunities to, “ask the Lord (his) God to give (him) a sign … from deep in the world of the dead or from high up in heaven” (Isaiah 7:11) that He would deliver him from his enemies; but Ahaz insincerely refused “to put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7:12) because his trust was already in false gods. God eventually left Ahaz to his own evil devices and gave a sign, Himself. His miraculous plan was to come to earth as Immanuel, born of a virgin, to deliver the world.
Later in history, God chose Mary to bear Immanuel. In sharp contrast to King Ahaz, Mary responded to God’s messenger with simple faith and trust in God, willing to surrender to His plan. Mary’s faith has brought her recognition ever since, keeping her witness intact despite the doubts of those who have questioned the virgin birth and her integrity.
Sometimes we baulk at asking God for help, like Ahaz, because we’ve already chosen our own way; or from accepting God’s will for our lives, as Mary did, because we’re afraid of what leaving our comfort zone would mean. But like them, whatever our choice, we will live with the consequences and history will record the outcome.
As we examine our hearts this Advent, may faith lead us.
Prayer: “Teach me, Lord, the meaning of your laws ... Give me the desire to obey your laws rather than to get rich. Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless; Save me from the insults I fear; how wonderful are your judgments! I want to obey your commands; give me new life, for you are righteous.” Amen. (Psalm 119:33a,36-37a,39-40)