The greatest prophetic foretelling of the coming of Christof is hidden in the book of Isaiah. During Isaiah’s prophetic ministry to Israel, Isaiah delivers the word to King Ahaz.
In the years leading up to this prophetic moment, King Uzziah died, and his son Jotham took the throne of Judah. The Scriptures tell us that Jotham “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done” (2 Kings 15:34 ESV). But Jotham’s son, Ahaz, turned against the Lord. His horrible failures are recorded for all to remember. It says, “he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree” (2 Kings 16:3–4). This is hardly the person one would think would receive a tremendous prophetic promise.
In fact, during the reign of Ahaz, the Lord brought judgment to Judah. 2 Chronicles records the judgment which God brought against Ahaz: “the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed 120,000 from Judah in one day, all of them men of valor, because they had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 28:5–6).
Later, these foes came against Judah again. Isaiah records the story saying, “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” (Isaiah 7:2).
It is into this dire situation that God sends the prophet Isaiah to deliver the greatest sign of all time to the wicked King Ahaz of Judah. The Lord commissions Isaiah to comfort Ahaz and tell him, “Do not let your heart be faint,” (Isaiah 7:4) for the plans laid against Judah by their enemies would not come to pass. The Lord invites Ahaz to ask him for a sign to prove his promise true. And, not just any sign, but a great sign. Isaiah says, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7:11).
If Ahaz had said, “split the sun so that it becomes two,” God would have split the sun. If he had said, “turn the Assyrian army to dust,” God would have turned them to dust. But Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign, afraid to put the Lord to the test (Isaiah 7:12)—perhaps the only reverence he ever extended to the Lord.
It is then that Isaiah speaks the greatest sign of all time. The Lord himself would offer a sign to Ahaz, despite the king’s refusal to ask. A sign greater than splitting the sun in two or turning the Syrian army to dust. Isaiah offers this amazing word from the Lord: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Not only did the Lord deliver Ahaz and Judah from the hand of their enemies, but God also gave him the sign which would mark the coming of the promised Redeemer—the one foretold since the days of Adam, who would redeem his children from their rebellion and crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
Seven hundred years later, the angel Gabriel announced the fulfillment of this sign to Mary.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”Luke 1:30–35
The king of glory stepped off his throne and took on human flesh and the nature of a servant, and so Immanuel—God with us—filled the womb of a virgin in fulfillment of the greatest sign of all time.
The wickedness of the sins of man are no match for the mercy of God. God did not bring his deliverance to Judah because they deserved it. He brought his deliverance to maintain the line of the king and keep his promise to preserve the line of David forever. It was in this line that Jesus was born in a stable in the town of Bethlehem on the first Christmas.
Isaiah caps off his prophecy of the coming king with these words:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.Isaiah 9:6–7
We are the recipients of the fulfillment of the greatest sign of all time. As the holidays approach, Let us not lose sight of what we celebrate at Christmas this year—the fulfillment of the greatest sign of all time—the coming of our Savior.
The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional
This four-week Advent family devotional by best-selling author Marty Machowski combines devotions on the theme of light and darkness with the story of eleven-year-old Mia and her grandmother as they prepare for Christmas.