I was sitting in a church service a few weeks ago. As I was sitting and enjoying the sermon from the very illustrative pastor, I heard him say something that really interested me. He was reading an Old Testament prophetic passage, and upon finishing it he said that this was a passage EXPLICITLY about Jesus – showing that even hundreds of years before his birth there were prophets talking about his coming.
As the pastor trailed down the idea of future-casting, my thoughts started to trail down the idea of what he said. Though I agree that there are passages that talk explicitly about Christ’s coming, most prophetic passages are actually touching on situations that were going on at the time of their writings – which would be fulfilled even fuller at the coming of Christ. This is called sensus plenior.
One of the great things about God is that He can be touching on situations of our hearts now that we don’t even know will effect generations to come. He can speak something to us in the present that we aren’t even aware will point to His glory in the future. This is one of the reasons I love reading the Old Testament. I can read passages in their context, and see in writings several hundred years later how God will use what he spoke to one prophet. He will speak in one specific time period, not only to minister to that specific time, but to point to a future hope – that hope which we are celebrating this holiday season.
Ahaz was king of Judah in the seventh century BC. Ahaz was receiving threats to the kingdom of Judah from the kings Israel and Aram. This is when Isaiah received a vision from the Lord. The Lord wanted Ahaz to stand strong and not be afraid – that the Lord would deliver Judah from the hands of his enemies. The Lord offered to give Ahaz a sign, anything with which to ease his fears. When Ahaz refused the Lord said:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” -Isaiah 7:14 (see the rest of Isaiah 7-8 for context)
Some theologians interpret this passage as such: “Ahaz, look at some of these young ladies in your kingdom (whom we would call “virgins“). By the time these women become old enough to bear a son, your kingdom will be oppressed no more. This will show that God is with you.” Some theologians also think that Isaiah could have been talking about the future king Hezekiah – Ahaz’s son who witnessed the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians. Regardless of what theologians think of this passage, it is clear that first and foremost this passage was meant to minister to the people of Judah (particularly Ahaz) during the time of Isaiah.
But the great thing is that several hundred years, this passage is seen to have a fuller fulfillment. The virgin Mary went to Bethleham and gave birth to a son. He was truly King and a true sign that God was with His people. Mary gave him the name Jesus. To this Matthew writes: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”
Don’t forget this holiday season that God isn’t just interested in future-casting, but He is interested in what you are going through right now. He might even use what you are going through right now to help you personally minister to someone else someday. Crazily enough, He might even use your testimony to minister to people hundreds of years from now. It’s very humbling to consider how temporary all of our lives are when they are put in the realm of eternity.
Be blessed today and may you all have a Merry Christmas!