The Birth of the Mystery Man

Signs are God's expression of concern that people be prepared for what He has in store. The first use of the word 'signs' occurs in Genesis 1:14: "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.'"

The constellations of the heavens were set in place to be signs and seasons, days and years, and on the 'face' of the sky we can discern the creative intent of God for the benefit and planning of humanity.

God called into being a nation to fulfil His purposes concerning Redemption, and that nation is called Israel. To this nation God has given specific signs and expressed His wonders so that there would be no doubt as to who was Sovereign and who was to be worshipped.

As we consider the Mystery Man revealed in Isaiah the prophet, it should not surprise us that the first intimation of God's purposes is overshadowed with a sign. This is recorded in Isaiah 7:13-14. "Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

As we read this Scripture it becomes clear that Isaiah is frustrated by the arrogant unbelief and indifference of King Ahaz of the kingdom of Judah. For the prophet was offering the king an opportunity to return to Yahweh from the paganism into which he had fallen; however, Ahaz was unprepared to accept the offer, or face the challenge of Isaiah in asking for a sign.

This King Ahaz was an idolater. His god was Moloch as we read in 2 Chronicles 28:1-4, and this hideous form of paganism asked among other things for the firstborn to be committed to its flames. And Ahaz had done this! Is it any wonder he was indifferent, even insulting to God's servant Isaiah?

What a tragedy for the king! What a tragedy ultimately for his people! Here was God's opportunity for him to rise above the horrors of their religious rites and political circumstances, and he refused it.

We can imagine Isaiah crestfallen concerning the king's attitude. However the prophet is there on a mission and it will not be denied. He now looks, not at Ahaz, but through him to the "house of David" . This is an important issue, not to a disobedient paganized descendant of David, but to those God would use to fulfil His covenant promises.

What is said casts a shadow in the 'now', but its substance is in the distant future, for as with many prophecies, there is a short term implication with a long term fulfilment. And what will take place will be Yahweh's doing, and people will reflect upon it, its awesomeness will grab their hearts and minds, and will renew their faith in the God who said, "For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst" (Isaiah 12:6).

As Isaiah speaks it is as though he is actually seeing what he is saying: "Behold!" Here is an invitation not simply for the prophet, but for those with a heart for God, to see with him what God is doing. It is a call to pierce the mist of human limitations and doubt, and trust in the One who does the impossible. We who have the written Word, the Scriptures, are privileged to 'behold' and appreciate what is shown to us in the Law and the Prophets.

"The virgin shall conceive . . . " The term refers to a maiden, one unmarried and who has never slept with a man. And the use of the definite article indicates someone specific. The idea inherent in these words sends us back to Genesis 3:15 where we are given another picture of a woman ordained with a mission involving a birth.

Again the definite article is used by God when He declares war on the beguiling serpent, Satan, who led Eve then Adam into rebellion. The text reads: "And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

In both these accounts it is striking to realize that there is no indication of a man being involved, and we might assume that such a fact was implied. However we should never presume upon or assume things about God and His ways. If God be God then He must be able to do what might be considered by human beings as impossible, of course in accordance with His holiness.

The One who created this world out of nothing, the One who took Eve from the person of Adam, is able to bring life into the womb of a virgin, and for her to remain in that chase state.

" . . . and bear a Son." There is no vagueness applied here. The child is not simply a babe but a Son. This man child by the very nature of His birth is marked out for something special, as also indicated by His name "Immanuel" (God with us). This is more than just a term for a family member, it is a revelation of His mission, His character, His special calling.

To appreciate the significance of names in the Scriptures, and especially in the ministry of Isaiah, we remember what names the prophet was told to give his own sons, and why: Shear-Jashub, meaning A Remnant Shall Return, and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning Speed the spoil, Hasten the Booty. So Immanuel means God-With-Us.

In a special way this Son born of the virgin reveals to the house of David and to all beyond that household that the Eternal God will fulfil His covenant with David, with Moses, with Isaac, Jacob and Abraham. This Mystery Man is God's appointed and anointed Servant who will be recognized in His coming by the way in which He measures up to Isaiah's pictures of Him.

NEXT: The Child Born as Ruler