Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive,
have a son, and name him Immanuel. —Isaiah 7:14
Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Such a simple phrase, but it’s one that holds much meaning. The world around us is filled with “signs” (whether we’re aware of their significance or not), which tells us that God was intentional when he used the phrase “a sign” when he spoke through the Prophet.
Because of our incredulous nature, humans are always looking for signs—or proof, if you want to think of it that way. The Israelites demanded signs at every turn, but due to their unbelief and the hardness of their hearts, they either couldn’t see them, failed to recognize them, or sometimes simply ignored them. But the sign we’re talking about is not just any sign. Isaiah 7:14 tells them directly: the author of this sign is God Himself! They had to pay attention.
In the context of the verse, the word "sign" in Hebrew has a few possible meanings, but I was struck by this one: a promise made through a prophet, relative to a particular event. God, through the prophet Isaiah, was describing exactly how His people could identify the long-awaited Messiah.
From its very beginning in the garden of Eden, sin destroyed man's credulity—his “readiness or willingness to believe”1—to the point that throughout Israel’s history, it’s common to see the people demanding signs from the prophets and from God—signs that they claimed would help them "believe" God. The sign God gave Isaiah and the people was one of love for the descendants of David. This most special sign pointed to the virgin birth of the Messiah, the offspring foretold in Genesis 3, who would crush the head of the enemy and destroy death itself.
Immanuel, God with Us
Looking back at Isaiah 7:14, it’s striking how much of God's character is encapsulated in this short verse. Immanuel, God with us, is a name that reveals attributes of our Savior, described in detail in Isaiah 9: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In addition, this passage clearly shows at least three other attributes of God:
- His power: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son." God’s power goes beyond what logic dictates, breaks paradigms, and makes the impossible possible, thus exalting His name.
- His sovereignty: “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign.” God does what He wants, when He wants. He comes neither before nor after, but in the fullness of time—His time.Long before the arrival of the Messiah, God promised His unbelieving people a sign, and it came right at the perfect time. Though He didn’t have to give them signs or explanations, He did, for His name's sake and for our sake.
- His love: "And he shall call his name Immanuel," which means God with us. In His infinite love, God knew that we could do nothing to obtain forgiveness and reestablish the relationship with Him that was lost in the garden of Eden. In His love, He decided to come to dwell with us, to live in our world and experience our pain. But even more remarkable, He came to reconcile us with the Father through His sacrifice on the cross.
When we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we remember that prophecy, that sign, that promise, which is the hope of the next sign that every believer longs to see:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16–17)
- Are you continually looking for new "signs" to believe what God has already revealed to us in His Word?
- In your darkest moments, when you think God is far away and your unbelief becomes manifest, do you look to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of your faith?
- Are you ready for an encounter with the Lord?
1 “Credulity Definition & Meaning,” (Merriam-Webster), accessed December 3, 2021, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credulity.