Isaiah 7:10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah--the king of Assyria."
Ahaz was King of Judah in the mid-8th century BC. He found himself in the precarious position of being forced by the neighbouring Israel to join a coalition against Assyria, - something he desperately wanted to avoid. The prophet Isaiah brings a word that he does not need the coalition to be secure, because God will destroy his enemies. He is then given a sign to ‘prove’ this prophesy: a young woman would give birth to a child, who will be called “God with us” (Immanuel). The threat from the enemy kings would be ended before this child grew up.
The Gospel of Matthew takes this passage and applies it to Jesus (Matthew 1:23). It takes the Hebrew word almah – which means young woman – and turns it into the Greek word parthenos, a word which means "virgin". The author of Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is not an ordinary human being, and so uses a commonly understood spiritual construct: a deity is born by miraculous conception. Greek and Egyptian mythology tell of virgin births for their gods, and Hindu stories of miraculous conception are associated with Lord Krishna, and with the Pandavas. So Matthew tells us that Jesus is born of a virgin – a sure sign of his divinity.
Truth be told: Jesus-followers do not need a miraculous birth to convince us that Jesus is more than human. We need only to look at the transformation his life and his teaching have on weak, sinful, lost people like us ...and we know that our only response is to worship him.
Second Sunday in Advent
4. God is with us
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 32.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.