No. 12. >> While I'm not well acquainted with Isaiah or any of the other Old Testament prophets for that matter, I am familiar with Verse 14 of Chapter 7. Who is the Immanuel of 7:14? And why do some translations of the Bible use the phrase young woman instead of virgin? Does it really matter? I admit that occasionally I wonder if the need it to defend theology drives the translation process. Will you comment on this for us? >>DR. R. REED LESSING: We certainly find ourselves now in the midst of one of the most famous of the messianic prophesies in the book of Isaiah. And that would be in Chapter 7, especially Verse 14, where alma, whatever that is, we'll look at that, that's the Hebrew word, the alma will conceive and bear a son. And his name is Emmanouel, God with us. Within any study of the biblical text, understand the context is of paramount importance. So we don't want to look at Isaiah 7:14 and take it out of its context. And thereby somehow do injustice to its meaning and interpretation. We are in the so-called Denkschrift of Isaiah. Remember his diary writings. He got his call in Chapter 6 nailed down in our minds. And 7 and 8 also talk about Isaiah, his children, some of his interactions with people, as well. And the most famous interaction is the interaction Isaiah has with Ahaz. Now, we had Uzziah die. Jotham reigned several years after Uzziah. But then the next major king in Judah in the southern kingdom is Ahaz. We find ourselves in the middle now of the Syro-Ephraimitic Crisis of 735 BC. We talked about this briefly as one of the major historical events in the book of Isaiah itself. I want to direct your attention to this slide that is before you. And this will help us understand the context of this great Immanuel Prophecy. Here you have probably the most prominent feature on this slide is this man at the bottom right hand part of it. That man, it looks like he's wearing a Rolex watch. But trust me. That's not what it is. It's some kind of ceremonial wrist band. That man is to depict for us TP III. Remember him? Tiglath-pileser III. And it was with the rise of this Assyrian monarch that Assyria began to march west in their military and political strategy. West toward the Mediterranean Sea. West down the land of Canaan and the Promised Land. And certainly all of the Mesopotamian monarchs wanted to finally get to Egypt. Because Egypt was where all of the money and riches and gold was stored. So Tiglath-pileser III is campaigning westward. There you see on the slide his capital city of Nineveh. And people are scared to death of Tiglath-pileser III. The Assyrians were brutal in their war practices. They would skin people alive, behead others, burn others, impale others. They would take pregnant women, rip them open and then take the little children and dash them upon rocks. These were not people who understood civility and taking care of humanity. But rather, they enacted crimes against humanity. So when the Assyrians came, everyone shuddered. We can just only imagine the horror that they would bring to other nations and their capital cities. So here comes TP III knocking on the door. And Rezin, who is the king in Syria, as you can see on our slide, and Pekah, who is the king in Israel, they say: We're going to take the sword, as you can see on our slide, and go against Tiglath-pileser III. Well, this sounded like a fool hearty political decision. If they were going to make it, they would have to get more people on their team. Enter Ahaz, the king of Judah. Rezin of Syria, Pekah of Israel come to Ahaz of Judah. And they say: You link arms with us. You join with us. And we will take on Tiglath-pileser III. We will defeat him. And it's within that setting that we have Isaiah come to Ahaz and begin a discussion. Now, it's important that we see where this discussion takes place. In Chapter 7 Verse 3, we can see that it takes place at the Upper Pool by the road of Washerman's Field. These places mean little and nothing to us. But within the book of Isaiah, this location presents a very important narrative link. Because later on when we get to Chapter 36 of Isaiah, Isaiah will be discussing a similar condition with Hezekiah in 701 when the Assyrian king Sennacherib is coming to destroy Jerusalem. So as I've already said, Ahaz and Hezekiah in Isaiah 1 to 39 are the two major Judean kings. And they are portrayed to have similar experiences. Both at the same site as they are looking over the water resources of their cities. And both are confronted with Assyrian kings coming to destroy them. Ahaz, to simply get it out on the table, he fails. He trusts in a foreign alliance. Hezekiah, on the other hand, in Chapters 36 and 37, radically trusts the Lord. But when he's confronted in 701 with Sennacherib's invasion. So very important we see these two narrative sections of Isaiah Chapter 7 and 36 linked together for one message. When the enemy comes knocking on your door, radically trust in the Lord alone. Don't make any deals with foreign powers at all. All right. So let's go on with our slide. At the bottom left of our slide these people, that is Rezin and Pekah, tell Ahaz: If you don't link up with us against Assyria, then we will put this, quote, son of Tabeel on the throne. We will kill you. We will assassinate you. And we will put this son of Tabeel on the throne in Judah. And he will do just as we ask. What would you do? Would you radically trust in the Lord? Or would you try and make a political deal so you wouldn't get the sword in your stomach? What is Ahaz going to do? Well, he doesn't go with Pekah and Rezin. No. He aligns himself with Tiglath-pileser III. Now, in the narrative of II Kings, we actually have this Syro-Ephraimitic Crisis displayed for us in a fuller story. And by the way, the book of Isaiah can't be understood apart from the events recorded in I and II Kings and in II Chronicles. So these books are very helpful to providing these historical back drops so we know what's going on. But faced with this crisis, this is what II Kings 16:7 says: Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria saying: Your servant and your son I am. That's huge. Your servant, your son I am. We need to do a little background on this. In Psalm 2 we have the liturgical order of service for the coronation of a Judean king. Especially in Verse 7 we have these words that are to be spoken to the king: I am your Father. You are my Son. Today I have begotten you. What does that mean? It means that when a king took his office in Judah as a Davidic king, he said to himself -- and it was declared to him -- that he is the Lord's son. And the Lord is his Father. Now, certainly in the life of Jesus this comes up at Jesus' baptism and at the transfiguration. This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him. Well, the my son part indicates to us that the Judean king is to have this special intimate relationship with God. He is God's Son. And so Ahaz was told when he became the Judean king through Psalm 2 Verse 7: You are my Son. Well, what does Ahaz do with that special relationship when the Assyrians come? Well, he tells the Assyrian king, again, II Kings 16:7: I am your Son. Ahaz sold out. Ahaz didn't believe in the Immanuel Prophecy. Ahaz denied his identity as the son of God, as the Judean Davidic monarch. And aligned himself with the Assyrians. Isaiah had even given him a sign that God would strengthen him so he wouldn't have to, as we look at our slide again, make a treaty with Rezin or Pekah or even Tiglath-pileser III. Let's look now specifically at Verse 14 in Isaiah 7. The idea of Immanuel functions as God's promise to Ahaz in the midst of this crisis. God is with you. He will protect you and strengthen you. But the real issue comes about with this Hebrew word alma. Quite often referred to as virgin or maiden or young woman. It can clearly mean a virgin. But it's not a technical term. So that's why we have different understandings in the translations. Hebrew actually doesn't have a word that always and completely means virgin. However, in the context of this Immanuel Prophecy, we also want to add that this God with us, this child to be born, is the same person in Chapter 9 Verse 6, Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And this fulfills God's promise in II Samuel 7 that God would always take care of the Davidic king. Well, the house of David then, that is to say in Isaiah 7, didn't accept the sign. Again, he says in II Kings 16:7 to Tiglath-pileser III: I'm your son. So Ahaz failed the test. We need another Davidic heir who would believe in the sign of Immanuel. Well, that Davidic descendent would be Joseph. In saint Matthew's Gospel Chapter 1: Who accepts the sign that in Jesus God is with his people. In fact, God with us actually is one of the major framing promises of Matthew's Gospel. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says: I am there with you where two or three are gathered. And in the last verse of Matthew, 28:20: Jesus says: Lo, I am there with you always to the very end of the age. Let's unpack this further. Within Isaiah's lifetime, indeed, within the lifetime of Ahaz, there would be a woman, see, who would have a child and give birth and that child existed in the Eighth Century. His name is Immanuel. But this is the bronze, if you remember that scheme or way of looking at Old Testament prophecy. If there was a child born, signifying God's presence in Isaiah's day, how much more in the life of Joseph and Mary would there be a child born, who would be Immanuel, in the flesh God with us, as the very person of God, the second person of the Trinity. Now whereas, alma in the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 can simply mean virgin or maiden or young woman, when Matthew quotes from the Greek Old Testament that he's using called the Septuagint in Matthew 1 Verse 23, Matthew uses the Septuagintal translation of this word alma. And the Greek there is parthenos, which does mean virgin. What does that mean? It means that Mary was a virgin. She was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she gave birth to Jesus, who is God in the flesh. So let's wrap this up by way of review. The context is the Syro-Ephraimitic Crisis of 735 BC. Ahaz fails the test. Hezekiah in 701 will pass the test. But as Ahaz fails to believe that God is with him in this tragedy, in this stress of the political circumstances, another Davidic descendant, Joseph, will come along. And he will trust the promise that in Mary the virgin there is the God with us in Jesus.