“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be
with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
In Isaiah’s day, two enemies were conspiring against Judah: Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel (the northern kingdom). Isaiah comforted the terrified people of Judah by going to the king with his aptly named son, Shear-jashub (“a remnant shall return”). God will bring a remnant back to the Land. The terrorists of that day, who were mere men, would be shattered.
Ahaz was challenged to believe this prophecy. In fact, he was to ask God for a confirming sign, something really spectacular—as “…deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7:11). When Ahab refused, God gave him a sign, even though he had exasperated the Lord. What is that sign? It is a son named Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God’s people needed His very presence when surrounded by the enemy. It was true in Isaiah’s time, and it is true today.
The son will be born to a “virgin,” says the prophet. Regardless of how one interprets the Hebrew word almâh, there would be nothing spectacular about her if she were impregnated normally. Something supernatural attended this birth.
What child in Isaiah’s day “fulfills” this prophecy? We do not know. Some say the “young maiden” was Isaiah’s wife, but she already had a child, Shear-jashub, and her second child was not named Immanuel but Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:3). Others say she was a virgin when the prophecy was given, but she then married and had a child whose early life is described by Isaiah to show that the Syria-Israel confederacy would be defeated very soon. Neither view is too remarkable, deep, or high.
It is clear that the supernatural, spectacular component of this birth finds its fulfillment in the Person of the Messiah, born of a virgin, through the work of the Holy Spirit, before Mary and Joseph “came together” (Matthew 1:18-25). Whatever the meaning to Ahaz, which is obscure at best, the meaning to all believers around the world is that the baby who was named Immanuel was supernaturally conceived.
We have been given a sign. We have been given a Son. We know Him as Immanuel. God is always with us in the Messiah Yeshua who indwells every believer and who said “…And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).