Fulfilled: Manner of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: MANNER OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 3Introduction:  Every Christmas time the major news magazines carry some article or cover story about Christianity. It’s all about selling copies. This year, the December edition of the National Geographic has on its cover page “The Real Jesus: What Archaeology Reveals About His Life.” Listen to what it asks, “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is invention?” This is nothing new. People have forever tried to deny the existence or the deity of Christ. Our series titled “Fulfilled” will hopefully strengthen our faith in Christ that he did come and he is the one who fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God.

Matthew 1    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Question: People have asked me “Does a person have to believe in the virgin birth in order to be saved?” I answer them, “No. The thief on the cross didn’t know a thing about the virgin birth when he got saved.” But, let’s suppose that thief on the cross were given a second chance, taken off that cross, and then someone told him about the virgin birth. What should he do? He better believe. Do you believe? I’m not just asking just about the virgin birth. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s only hope for you?

Context: In the passage we just read Matthew gives us the very unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. He tells us that Mary became pregnant without having any physical interaction with Joseph. He attributes Jesus’ birth to the Holy Spirit. Of course, Joseph does not believe her and wants to divorce her but the angel of the Lord warns him in a dream that the child is indeed of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary is pregnant but she’s still a virgin. By the way, we need to clarify something here – “Virgin birth” is actually a misnomer. It implies that Mary was still a virgin when she had Jesus. Although this could be true and, I believe, is true, the real implication here is that Jesus was conceived without Joseph and Mary coming together. In the early church, some actually believed that Mary had a painless birth in which her hymen was not ruptured. So, the actual title should be “virginal conception.” While I’m on the subject, let me also clarify that the “Virginal Conception” is not the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

Let’s return to verse where Matthew writes 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” In verse 23 Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This is one of the most debated Messianic prophecies in the Bible. One scholar remarked, “Probably no single passage of the Old Testament has been so variously interpreted or has given rise to so much controversy as the prophecy contained in these verses.” (Walter Kaiser) Why is there so much debate?

  1. Historical context of the prophecy is complicated: This prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. They were facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. Keep in mind it was already determined and prophesied that Jesus would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, he sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We also look here and there instead of the Lord. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acts condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: This prophecy is not going to be limited to just the immediate context but has far important significance. First, what is the immediate significance? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Meaning: Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Second, what is the far important significance? One day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. There’s a difference between the first woman and the second. The first was virgin until conception and the second was a virgin even in conception. And what would be his name? Immanuel. In Isaiah 8:10 it gives us the meaning, “For God is with us.”

Either way, whether to Ahaz (the faithless king) or to sinful us, God’s promise is that God is with us. He is here to save us. Jesus has come to save us.

  1. Liberal scholarship has claimed that the virginal conception is nothing more than a pagan myth and the word for “virgin” could be variously interpreted. First one about the pagan myth, it is claimed that it is only another example of a “hieros gamos” like Zeus and Semele or Isis and Osiris. In all these instances, there are gods and goddesses mating with each other or somehow impregnating human beings. There is no such thing when it comes to the “Virginal Conception” of Mary.

Second, some claim that the word for virgin in the Hebrew text at Isaiah is “almah” which doesn’t have to mean a virgin and that the true word for virgin is “betullah.” Again, this is not true. To start with, there are 5 different words in this debate: 3 Hebrew and 2 Greek. The first Hebrew word is “issha.” It simply means woman or wife. Then the word, “almah.” When you examine every use of the word “almah” in the Old Testament, it actually means “virgin.” Then there is the word “betullah” which does mean “virgin.” But when you compare their uses, “almah” is found in those passages where there is “something other than a normal child birth” (R.T. France) is involved. In fact, when the LXX translators came to this verse, they could have easily translated this “neanis” if it was just a young woman. But, they knew that there was more involved and hence they made it “Parthenos,” which is explicitly virgin. Words change meanings over time. For example: Bachelor – young knight, then lowest rank in university, and unmarried men. Bachelors are not “College educated Knights.” Or Hussy – housewife, then mistress of a household, then disreputable woman today. Don’t call your wife that!

I wish I could say “this is how people outside the spectrum of Christianity believe” but unfortunately, there are people in the ranks who don’t believe in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. They practice what is known as “double-speak” where they use the common terminology but when pressed, they reveal a very different understanding.

Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah.

Are you saved? Only through Christ you can be.

Why didn’t God make it clear, why all these other stories other meanings and fulfillments? Why did God allow such discrepancies and tough issues? Why do we do Easter Egg Hunts? God gets joy out of seeing us discover. All of life is like a drama just like what Shakespeare said. What part of the story are you in?

GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING

GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

GOD'S WAY AND GOD'S TIMINGThis morning I’m preaching a message titled, “GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING” in our ongoing series on the life of Christ from all four gospels. Trials are part of life. That’s a given. How you handle trials depends on how you see God in your trials. Many people don’t wait upon God or his timing. They do whatever they want to do. Instead of waiting for supernatural solution, they find natural solutions to fix their problems. The prophecy of the Virgin birth or virginal conception was given to remind us that God’s way and God’s timing are always perfect.

Isaiah 7 10 Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” 13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. 17 The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.”

Overall Background: The Book of Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth gospel. The Latin father Jerome (A.D. 342-420) said that Isaiah “should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet because he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the Church so clearly that you would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying about what is to come.” That is true. Isaiah gave the prophecy that a virgin will give birth to a child and he would be called Emmanuel. It was given at a time when God’s people were facing invasion from every direction – from the South, Edom was attacking; from the West, Philistia was attacking; and from the north and northeast, Ephraim and Syria were building a coalition against Judah. God was aware of all this and He sent Isaiah to King Ahaz to remind him that everything will be okay. God will take care of His people. Instead of trusting God’s way and God’s timing, Ahaz decided to do it his way. He decided to call upon the king of Assyria to come to his rescue. It was as one commentator said – “taking a tiger by the tail.” Assyria came and captured Syria, destroyed Ephraim/Samaria, sent the Northern tribe into exile, never to return, and almost wiped out the Southern kingdom of Judah. Only by the grace of God, they survived but for a short while longer.

Does all this sound familiar? Isn’t this how we do it? We face a crisis. God tells us to choose His way and to wait on His timing but we refuse to trust him and do it our way and the consequences are devastating. We make a total mess for ourselves and for those who are dependent on us. But God in his grace and goodness still works is greater plan for our lives. The prophecy of the virgin birth was given as a promise that even though everything will be destroyed that one day God will redeem his people.

This morning some of you are facing a crisis or facing the consequences of not trusting God in your crisis. Look to God. Wait upon him. Trust his way and his timing. Even if you’ve messed up, don’t lose hope. God has a plan. You may have to face some consequences of your decisions but God can still work his greater plan for your life.

So let’s walk through Isaiah 7 and understand God’s way and God’s timing.

1. A BIG PROBLEM – WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it.

Background: The historical account we just read took place around 734 BC. The people of Israel were divided into the northern kingdomSyro-Ephraimite Invasion and the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom were the 10 tribes in the northern part of Israel, led by the tribe of Ephraim and the southern kingdom were the two tribes in the southern part of Israel (Judah and Benjamin) led by the tribe of Judah. It all began after Solomon died and the tribes to the north chose their own king against the tribe of Judah in the South. The Northern Kingdom became known as Israel and the southern kingdom became known as Judah.

Let’s read again verse 1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it.

What a sad sight! Pekah, King of Israel, had made an alliance with Rezin, king of Syria, to fight against Ahaz, king of Judah. Both Pekah and Ahaz were sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but Pekah had turned to their enemies in the north to fight against their brothers in the South.

It is shameful, disgraceful, and sinful when God’s people fight against their own brothers and sisters. Church conflicts break the heart of God. Church conflicts stifle the work of God. Church conflicts give the enemy a stronghold among the people of God.

The first invasion was not successful and in verse 2 And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.

What a powerful imagery! Have you ever seen trees blowing in the wind during a storm? They bend and sway and even break. They are unpredictable. The people of Judah along with their King were in a great crisis.

Jeremiah 17 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Application: How do you respond to crisis in your life? Is your hope in the Lord? Are you planted in him?

2. A WISE PLEA – DON’T WORRY. GOD HAS THIS.

3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son…” Why did God say take your son? Shear-jashub means “a remnant will return.” Children are a sign of hope. They are a reminder that life will go on. We have a lot of children at Clearview. It’s not accidental. It is intentional. They are not in the way. They are the way. When we start caring for our children in our church and in our nation, then we have hope for the future.

“…at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field,

Why is the King hanging out at the aqueduct? He is concerned about the water supply in Jerusalem. He wants to make sure that if there is a siege that his people have water to survive. He is taking every precaution possible to be ready for the coming invasion. Nothing wrong with that.

4 and say to him: “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.

What a wonderful word of comfort from God! What a powerful imagery! In other words – they are blowing smoke. Don’t worry about them. Instead, be careful and stay calm.

Some of you need to hear that – be careful and stay calm. Don’t start scheming. Don’t start screaming. Just stand back and watch the salvation of the Lord. Just like God told their forefathers when they left Egypt and came to the Red SeaExodus 14 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Just like Jesus with his disciples during the storm – Mark 4 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39   Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

Then it goes on in verse 5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel” (There’s a play on words here. Tabiel means “my God is good” but Tabeel means “good for nothing.”) 7 thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass… (In 65 years Ephraim ceased to exist.) 9 “…If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.” ’ ”

Application: Are you in need of encouragement today? God’s word to you is – be careful and stay calm. You’ll be okay. Are you willing to see the salvation of the Lord?

3. A FOOLISH PRESUMPTION – NAH, I GOT THIS.

10   Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!”

Background: Now God does not like people who test Him but here the situation was different. God was asking Ahaz to ask Him for a sign. But Ahaz was trying to sound spiritual but he really wasn’t. More than likely, he had already sent off his envoy/ambassadors to King Pul.

These are the type of people when you tell them that you’ll be praying for them. They say – “Uh huh nothing wrong with praying.” They want to do it their way. They write off God’s way as being naive.

Application: Are you a superficial Christian? Are you one of those who already have their minds made up? Are you the type who looks at Christians as being naïve and stupid?

4. A MUCH GREATER PROMISE – NO YOU DON’T HAVE THIS; BUT I WILL DO WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO HELP YOU.

Is. 7:13   Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Background: The Bible does not give much information to us on who the virgin was that Isaiah was referring to. She could have been a young woman, probably in Ahaz’s palace/harem, who was pregnant at the time.

Tiglath-pileser III15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. 17 The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.” 18 And it shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will whistle for the fly That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Meaning: When the prophecy of the virgin birth was first given, it was a promise of judgment. But in God’s divine plan, there is mercy in judgment. There was an underlying promise that another virgin will conceive of the Holy Spirit and give birth. His name shall be called Jesus because Matthew 1 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

God always has a plan, a much greater plan. Even when we disobey and go our own way, He still brings the message of salvation to us. He brings Jesus to us. Do you know Him?

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