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PURPOSES AND PANICS
Isaiah 7:1-2. And it came to pass, in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, &c.
In this brief record of events  that occurred so long ago, we may find suggestions of truths which it will be well for us to lay to heart to-day.
 For a statement of these events, see following paper: THE VIRGIN’S SON.
I. Men often confidently form purposes which they find it impossible to fulfil (Isaiah 7:1). Rezin and Pekah no doubt were sure their project would be successful; they left no means untried to make it a success; they had many things to encourage them (2 Chronicles 28:5-7); success seemed certain, yet they failed! In Isaiah 7:6 we have another statement of their purpose, and in Isaiah 7:7 we are told the real reason why it failed: GOD determined that it should not stand. This is an illustration of much that takes place in our own day, in our own life. Purposes daringly conceived, and wisely and energetically prosecuted, come to nothing; and in such cases GOD is often the real hindrance. He hinders, not because He has any capricious delight in frustrating our plans, but because in them we intend only our own self-aggrandisement. It is with our purposes as with our prayers (James 4:3). If He hinders, no alliance formed with men can profit us; even Rezin will help in vain.
1. In forming our plans, let us remember and acknowledge our dependence on the permission and help of God (James 4:13-15; Psalms 127:1). If plans should be formed for our hurt or overthrow, let us comfort ourselves by remembering that all men are under God’s control. The confederacy may be very powerful: most elaborate preparations may be made for the accomplishment of its purpose; but there can be no success unless the Lord will (Daniel 3:16-18).
II. Men often give way to unreasonable panics (Isaiah 7:2). Panics are very common, very painful, very dangerous and hurtful. Their cause: lack of faith in God. Without faith in the controlling providence of God, men are naturally as liable to alarm as is a wealthy man who on a foggy night has to make his way through a dangerous quarter of a strange city; he knows not whether the footsteps he hears behind him are those of a policeman or of a garotter! Firmness is the reward of faith—of intelligent confidence exercised by righteous men in a righteous God (Psalms 3:6; Psalms 56:11; Psalms 91:5; Psalms 112:7-8, &c.). Deliverance from fear is one of the respects in which “godliness has the promise of the life that now is.” This blessing may be yours, if you will; yours in times of domestic, of commercial, of national alarm. You may be delivered, if you will, from the supreme fear—fear of death. Christ came into the world for the purpose of delivering you from it (Hebrews 2:14-15). Yield yourself to be really His, and your end shall be peace (Psalms 23:4; Psalms 73:26).
FEARS AND COMFORTS
Isaiah 7:1-9. And it came to pass, in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, &c.
The historical statements  in these verses afford illustrations of spiritual truths.
 For a statement of these circumstances see following paper: THE VIRGIN’S SON.
I. The powers of evil are confederate against the Lord’s people (Isaiah 7:1-2; Isaiah 7:6). By the combined forces of evil, God’s chosen ones have always been assailed. The conflict began in Eden, and has continued ever since. These combined forces attacked our Lord, and appeared for a time, outwardly at least, to conquer. We must expect similar assaults (John 16:33). The ultimate object of these foes is to destroy our spiritual life.
II. The Lord’s people are often terrified by the action of their foes. Two things may contribute to this.
1. A sense of personal guilt. Conscience often slumbers in prosperity, but awakens and alarms us when danger threatens. No doubt Ahaz remembered his sin, when he saw his foes were coming.
2. Distrust of the Lord. It does not appear that Ahaz told the Lord about his trouble, or sought His help. His idolatry had led him into unbelief—a frequent cause of the Christian’s terrors. He looks at his troubles, and sinks, because he does not lay hold on Christ (Matthew 14:30).
III. God seeks to allay the fears of His people in the hour of their trouble. This is done in three ways.
1. By exhorting them to keep their minds calm. “Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be faint-hearted.” Picture Ahaz restless, excited, his breast fainting, hope and courage failing. How timely was the prophet’s exhortation! how helpful it might have been to Ahaz! Who of us does not know the blessedness of such an appeal? We have been excited, trembling, fainting, because of temporal dangers or spiritual foes, and in our agitation have been likely to do something foolish. But a voice has said, “Fear not; be calm!” Who says, “Fear not”? The loving, omnipotent Saviour, who is able to deliver us.
2. By showing His people the weakness of their foes. They are only the “two tails of smoking fire-brands.” You think them powerful, but they are really weak (1 John 4:4).
3. By predicting the failure of the plans of their foes (Isaiah 7:7-9)—a prediction which was fulfilled sixty-five years afterwards, when Esarhaddon desolated the country, and filled it with foreigners. So God shows to us the weakness of our foes, and predicts their failure.
IV. God shows His people that faith is necessary for the establishment of their peace (Isaiah 7:9. See also 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 26:3).—H. F. Walker.
FAITH’S IMPREGNABLE CITADEL
Isaiah 7:1-9. And it came to pass, in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, &c.
I. There are many things calculated to fill us with fear—sufferings, losses, temptations, death, &c. Especially alarming are combinations of evil: when they threaten, we are apt to feel as did Ahaz and his people (Isaiah 7:2). Afflictions seldom come singly: sickness brings poverty in its train, &c.; and the heart is apt to fail before such accumulations of misfortune.
II. But God guarantees the safety of those who trust in Him.
1. He controls all events (Isaiah 7:7). The Prince of Orange, when he took the field against France and the Emperor, said he had made an alliance with Heaven, and feared not for the result. Much more may the believer be confident in the warfare of life (H. E. I. 200–203, 2372, 2373, 4049, 4055–4058).
2. It is only while we trust in Him that we are thus in alliance with Him. Only by trusting in Him are we kept from trusting in that which cannot deliver us—ourselves or our fellow-men, to the exclusion of God and the rejection of His proffered help. Only by trusting in Him are our hearts kept in peace (chap. Isaiah 26:3. H. E. I. 1893, 1894, 1911–1919, 1923–1926). Only by trusting in Him do we give Him the glory which is His due, and which He will not give to another (H. E. I. 4054).
III. The guarantee of safety which God offers to all who trust Him extends to the soul as well as the body. Because of our sins, and the enemies they bring against us, we might well fear; but in the Gospel help is offered, or perfect safety is guaranteed to them that believe.
IV. The inevitable result of refusal to accept the help which God mercifully offers us is ruin. Ahaz, refusing the sign offered him, and trusting in Assyria, was overthrown by his ally. There is deadly peril in any other alliance than that which God offers to form with us. Said our Lord to all who are tempted to apostacy, “Remember Lot’s wife,” and in like manner we may say to all who are tempted to disregard and reject God’s offers of help, Remember Ahaz!—John Johnston.
ISAIAH’S INTERVIEW WITH AHAZ
Isaiah 7:3-25. Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, &c.
In this interview of Isaiah with Ahaz we have an instance—
I. Of God’s efforts to turn men from ruinous courses. God is the great Lawgiver, and the Judge before whose bar all impenitent transgressors of His law will have to stand. Absolute inflexibility is necessarily His characteristic in both these capacities. But these are not the only capacities He seeks to sustain to us. It is His ambition to be the Saviour of men from sin and ruin. Consequently, He does not merely lay down His law and stand coldly by, to see whether men will keep it or not. He plies them with inducements to keep it. When He sees them bent on transgression, He endeavours to arrest them in their foolish and fatal purpose. Short of that destruction of the freedom of their will, which would be the destruction also of their responsibility and of their possibilities of virtue, He leaves nothing undone to turn them from the broad road that leads to death  By adverse providences, by the strivings of His Holy Spirit, by awakening conscience to an active exercise of its functions, He works upon and in them to will and to do His good pleasure. No sinner has ever gone down to perdition unheeded, unpitied, without attempts to rescue him. Your own experience attests the truth of these statements: you know you had to fight your way through to those transgressions of which you are now ashamed. God’s “preventing grace” is a great fact of which we should take reverent heed, and for which we should give fervent thanks 
 Augustine, in his Confessions, makes thankful note of the manner in which, in the years of his ungodliness, God had raised up obstacles in his path of sin. When sinful desires raged within him, he says, the means for gratifying them were absent; or when the desires and the means of gratifying them came together, some witness was present to deter him; and when the means were present, and no witnesses stood by to hinder him, the desire to transgress was wanting. He rightly judged that these were no mere accidents or coincidences.
 The preventing methods of grace may deservedly pass for some of the prime instances of the divine mercy to men in this world. For though it ought to be owned for an eminent act of grace to restore one actually fallen, yet there are not wanting arguments to persuade, that it is a greater to keep one from falling. Not to break a limb is more desirable than to have it set and healed, though never so skilfully and well. Preservation in this, as in many other cases, being better a great deal than restoration; since after all is done, it is odds but the scar will remain when the wound is cured and the danger over.—South.
II. Of the manner in which sinners, by insincere pretences, resist God’s saving purposes. The stubbornness and insincerity of Ahaz are obvious  But in neither of these is he singular. Sinners who are bent on their sins not seldom go on to them under pretexts of righteousness, with which they endeavour to deceive themselves and others. The greatest crime ever committed was done under a pretext of righteousness (Matthew 26:65). So has it been with countless crimes since. Let us be on our guard against our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 14:12). Let us not act upon any reason which we do not really believe will bear the scrutiny of God.
 Ahaz listened in sullen and incredulous silence; and the prophet resumes—“Ask thee a sign of Jehovah thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.” But Ahaz, who looked on Jehovah not as his God, but only (like any of his heathen neighbours) as the god of Judæa, and as such inferior to the god of Assyria; and who had determined to apply to the king of Assyria, or perhaps had already applied to him, as a more trustworthy helper than Jehovah, in the present strait; declines to ask a sign, excusing himself by a contrary use of the words of Moses, “Thou shalt not tempt Jehovah.” He refused the sign, because he knew it would confirm the still struggling voice of his conscience; and that voice he had resolved not to obey, since it bid him give up the Assyrian, and trust in Jehovah henceforth.—Strachey.
III. Of the twofold result which always follows such resistance to the divine purposes.
1. The sinner is, ere long, compelled to confess that the counsels he set aside were counsels of truth and wisdom. In less than three years, Ahaz had cause to acknowledge the soundness of the advice to which on this memorable day he refused to listen  A typical case.
2. The obstinate sinner is left to the ruin from which he would not permit God to deliver him. There is no salvation by force. God acts upon our will, but He will not save us against our will. Neither shall those who refused to be saved from sin be saved from its consequences. If we choose evil, no act of omnipotence will render the choice harmless (chap. Isaiah 3:11). Ahaz chose the help of Assyria rather than the help of Jehovah, and with the help of that great and unscrupulous power he had to take its domination and destructiveness (2 Chronicles 28:16; 2 Chronicles 28:20). Again a typical case. The retributive justice of God is a fact of which it behoves us to be heedful.
 Within the space of time figuratively indicated by the time necessary for the child of the prophet to become capable of discerning between good and evil,—i.e., in about three years,—Rezin and Pekah were slain, and the fact that they were but “two tails of smoking firebrands” demonstrated. (See 2 Kings 15:27-30; 2 Kings 16:1-9.)
A THREEFOLD COUNSEL
Isaiah 7:4. Take heed, and be quiet; fear not.
I. “Take heed.” This is just what Ahaz fancied he was doing. He was taking heed to the alliance which had been formed for his overthrow, and he was at that very moment doing his best to frustrate it—by strengthening the fortifications of Jerusalem, and by summoning the king of Assyria to his help. This seemed to him and his court supremely wise: it was eminently foolish. He was taking heed exclusively to the danger, and had no attention left for the divinely-provided defence against it. That defence lay in God’s promise made to David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). From one point of view, it may be said that in allying themselves for the destruction of the royal house of David, Rezin, Pekah, and the son of Tabeal embarked on an enterprise foredoomed to failure; they might as well have conspired to prevent the sun from rising any more in the east. That the descendants of David should reign in Jerusalem and that the sun should rise in the east, were both guaranteed by the same thing—the will and appointment of God. Resistance was as vain in the one case as in the other—that is, while the conditions attached to the promise made to David were observed. For there were conditions attached to it (1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:2). It was to this great promise and to its essential conditions that God would have Ahaz “take heed.”
“Take heed” is good counsel to give to every man standing in covenant relations with God. Many of us stand in such relations to Him, both as the result of the relations in which our parents stood to Him (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 7:9, &c.), and as the result of our personal acts; “the seed of the righteous,” we have ourselves voluntarily taken the Lord to be our God, and have solemnly sworn to walk before Him in righteousness all the days of our life. Let us then evermore “take heed” to this covenant which God has condescended to make with us. It lays upon us great responsibilities, but it secures to us glorious privileges. Conspicuous among them is this, that we need not fear the might of any of our adversaries, whether they be those of the body or of the soul (Isaiah 54:17).
II. “Be quiet.” Or better, “And be quiet.” Quietness would follow naturally from right heed-taking. What was Ahaz doing? He was straining every nerve to do for himself what God had promised to do for him. God had promised to defend Zion and her king, and if Ahaz had had faith in God’s promise, the appeal to Assyria for succour would never have been made. Alas! how often have better men than Ahaz failed in this very respect. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the founders of the Hebrew nation, all fell into grievous sin through that want of faith in God’s promises which led them to try to do for themselves what God had promised to do for them (cf. Genesis 15:1; Genesis 20:11-13; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 26:7; Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:24). To what a shameful state of degradation was David brought by the same cause (cf. 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 21:12-13). How many imitators they have had! God has promised that His people shall be safe and prosperous; but not taking heed to His promises, to how many tricks and devices have they had recourse to secure for themselves the blessing God would surely have sent to them if they had been obedient and believing, and into what shame, misery, and ruin have they plunged themselves  Let their sins be to us as beacons; let us “take heed” to God’s covenant on both its sides, and be quiet (Psalms 37:3-9).
 See Homiletic Encyclopœdia of Illustrations, Nos. 173–175, 2017.
III. “Fear not.” Yet there seemed good reason for fear. It was really a powerful confederacy that threatened Ahaz with destruction. Looked at on its human side, it was no groundless panic that had smitten him and his people. Yet the pain of mind and heart which they endured (Isaiah 7:2), they endured needlessly. They were really in no danger from their enemies. Their danger lay only in the unbelief and stubbornness of their own hearts. They had but to return to the Lord and they would find Him a refuge and strong tower, as their fathers had done aforetime. “Fear not” is the counsel which I give to God’s people to-day. Some of you are fearing greatly; some concerning temporal things, some lest the spiritual conflict you are waging should issue in defeat and eternal ruin. “Take heed” to the promises God has made to you in both these respects; “be quiet,” and fret not yourselves in any wise to do evil; with calm and courageous hope wait for the fulfilment of those promises; instead of yielding to distressing, utterly unnecessary, and God-dishonouring fears, say with David (Psalms 27:1; Psalms 34:22).
Isaiah 7:4. Take heed.
The Hebrew word signifies, to prevent or keep off any evil with which we are threatened. The direction ought to extend to all that we do; for not one duty can be rightly performed without diligent attention, and it is no less incumbent upon us than upon the king and people of Judah (H. E. I. 4880–4890). It is a necessary and useful caution, which ought to be reduced to practice at all times, especially in seasons of perplexity and distress, such as that wherein Ahaz and his subjects received this admonition.
1. Take heed to your senses, particularly what you see and hear; for these are the avenues by which sin and vanity, or wisdom and instruction, enter into the heart (H. E. I. 4895).
2. Take heed to your actions, what you do, and how you act, and for what purpose you are employed, that you may happily avoid the many sins and dangers to which you are exposed, and attain the great ends which you ought uniformly to pursue.
3. Take heed to your tongue, that you sin not with your mouth; consider wisely what you say, to whom you speak, and to what purpose, especially when your minds are fretted, and when you feel yourselves under the influence of timidity and disappointment (P. D. 3558, 3559).
4. Take heed to your hearts, and keep them with all diligence, for out of them are the issues of life; attend to the secret operations of your minds, and the objects on which your affections terminate, that you may perceive whether they are properly moderated and directed (H. E. I. 2695–2705, 4887; P. D. 1735).—Robert Macculloch: Lectures on Isaiah vol. i. p. 395.
FAITH, THE CONDITION OF FIRMNESS
Isaiah 7:9. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
“Established” is what every man wishes to be—fixed in fact and in feeling; established like a great oak which, because its roots take fast hold of the soil, is able to grow broader and higher and more luxuriant year by year. Such growth is impossible to a tree that is frequently transplanted. Notwithstanding—nay, in perfect harmony with the desire for progress that is in us all, we all desire to be “established.”
But no man can be “established” unless he believes. It is a universal law: No faith, no firmness. There are two tilings essential to “establishment,” to blessedness and peace in life: First, that we should find a good foundation, and then that we should rest upon it calmly and immovably. These are the conditions of social, commercial, political, and scientific blessedness and prosperity. In every realm of human activity, if we would be strong in fact and in feeling, it is essential that we should find something trustworthy, and then that we should trust (H. E. I. 1882–1888).
We are only stating this general truth in its highest form, when we say that if men do not believe in God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, they cannot be “established.”
1. God has revealed Himself in His Word as the righteous Ruler of nations, who will exalt the nations that seek after righteousness, and bring swift vengeance upon those who follow courses of evil. What will happen if a statesman, like Ahaz, does not really believe this? He will become a mere politician; he will do what seems to him “expedient.” This will often be iniquitous, and this at no distant period will inevitably lead to disaster and ruin (P. D. 2544).
2. God has revealed Himself as the supporter and rewarder of individual men who are resolved always and simply to do what is right. Confidence in God as thus revealed to them was the secret of the courage and endurance of the martyrs (Daniel 3:16-18), and of countless sacrifices for truth and righteousness known only to God, but which He will never forget. But if a man does not really believe this truth, how easily is he swept away by temptation, whether it presents itself threateningly or seductively!
3. God has revealed Himself as, for Christ’s sake, pardoning absolutely all who repent and believe. Into the hearts of those who accept this revelation there come peace and joy, but into their hearts only. Want of faith in this revelation is the secret of all painful efforts to merit the Divine mercy.
4. God reveals Himself as the Saviour of His people from sin, as their Sanctifier from all the stains of iniquity. Want of faith in this revelation is the secret of the trouble that fills and oppresses many devout souls. They will never travel towards Zion with steadfast feet and rejoicing hearts until they do indeed believe it (Jude 1:24-25).
5. God reveals Himself in Christ as the Good Shepherd who is with His people always. How troubled, because of the possibilities of life and the mystery of death, are those who do not with any vital faith accept this revelation which He has been pleased to give us! But the twenty-third Psalm is the song of those who do believe it (P. D. 1156–1160).
The practical application of all this is very simple, but supremely important. First, let us inquire whether God is worthy of our trust; and then, if the inquiry should lead us to an affirmative conclusion, let us trust Him. This trust will transform our whole life. No terrors shall have power to dismay us. The misery of Ahaz and his people (Isaiah 7:2) we shall never know (H. E. I. 1911–1919); but ours shall be the rejoicing confidence of the spiritual hero of whom Ahaz was such an unworthy descendant (Psalms 27:1-6; P. D. 1177).
STABILITY THROUGH FAITH
Isaiah 7:9. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
Thus closes the address of Isaiah to Ahaz and his people on a very memorable and trying occasion.… Its meaning is, Take God at His word; place entire reliance upon Him, and not upon an arm of flesh. If ye will not do this as a country, the state cannot be safe; and if you will not do this as individuals, your minds cannot be composed and established. Now, let us pass from the house of David naturally to the house of David spiritually, and pursue the train of thought set in motion. Let us consider the stability of faith, and the peace it induces. In the Christian’s life there are three kinds of stability.
I. There is a stability of judgment. This regards the truths of religion. It is of great importance to have a judgment clear and fixed, as it respects the great concerns of the soul and eternity, and the great doctrines of the Gospel of Christ; for as we think we feel, as we feel we desire, as we desire we act, and as we act our characters are formed and our conditions determined. Instability concerning these great truths is both perilous and painful; but whence is stability to come? Not through human authority; for what one patronises, another denies. Not through human reason (H. E. I. 537, 1087, 2022–2024; P. D. 2926, 2929, 2931, 2934). There must be a revelation received by faith; divine declarations, believed because God has made them. This leads to an experience which tends still further to establish the Christian in the faith (H. E. I. 1087, 1142–1148).
II. There is a stability of practice. This regards the duties of religion (1 Peter 1:5). In order to see the strength and beauty of the sentiment contained in the text, let us place the believer in three positions.
1. In a place of secrecy. To many this is a place of temptation. Not so to the believer. Faith brings God and places him before us (Genesis 16:13; Genesis 39:9).
2. In prosperity and indulgence (Proverbs 1:32). But faith brings to the Christian the earnests of a better country, the firstfruits and foretastes of it, and thus gives him a victory which others can never achieve (1 John 5:4).
3. In a condition of suffering and danger (Hebrews 11:24-27; Daniel 6:10; H. E. I. 1911–1919).
III. There is a stability of hope. This regards the comforts of religion (Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 1:8; Psalms 23:1; Psalms 23:4; Psalms 23:6).
1. Beware of unbelief. It is a grievous offence against God; it is hurtful and perilous to man. Every sin renders our salvation impossible by the law, but only one sin renders it impossible by the Gospel, and that is unbelief; not by any decree or threatening of God, but by its natural tendency and result. For there is only one remedy that can restore a perishing sinner, and if this be rejected, destruction is inevitable (H. E. I. 443).
2. Labour and pray for an increase of faith (Mark 9:23 : 2 Chronicles 20:20).—William Jay: Sunday Morning Sermons, pp. 101–109).
MAN’S IMAGINED INDEPENDENCE OF GOD
Isaiah 7:12. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.
We are commanded to ask for all we need and desire (Matthew 7:7; Philippians 4:6). But many say, “I will not ask.”
I. Men are apt to act thus when possessed of earthly resources. How hard is it for a man of wealth to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread!” He has much goods laid up for many years. How natural for a man in health and prosperity thus to forget his dependence on God (H. E. I. 4000, 4001). Even in trouble a man is apt to look elsewhere for aid: e.g., in sickness to the physician; even when convinced of sin, to his own efforts, or to a human priest.
II. Men often act thus on the pretence of not tempting God. On the ground that their affairs are beneath His notice (H. E. I. 4015–4025, 2245–2248, 2325, 3226, 3403). On the ground that God has already established the laws by which all things are regulated (H. E. I. 3179–3182, 3751, 3752, 3757).
III. But the real reasons why men act thus are because they trust in themselves, and have no real faith in God. The real reason why Ahaz did not ask was because he was bent on forming an alliance with Assyria. Let it be ours gratefully to accept the privilege so graciously offered, seeing that God has given us far more than was given to Ahaz: we have all the great and precious promises contained in the Scriptures, the knowledge of the unspeakable gift of God’s dear Son, the accumulated experience of all generations of His faithfulness as the hearer of prayer. We may have our own experience of it; if we will but ask, we shall receive. How much greater our sin than that of Ahaz, if in these circumstances we say, “I will not ask!”—John Johnston.
Isaiah 7:12. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, &c.
In studying what the commentators have to say about this chapter, I met with a sentence that set me thinking. It was this: “In that very hour, in which Isaiah was standing before Ahaz, the fate of Jerusalem was decided for more than two thousand years” (Delitzsch).
I. How true is this declaration! Ahaz was called upon to choose between the alliance with Assyria and alliance with God. His choice was announced in these four words, “I will not ask;” then he decided against God, and all the disasters which have come upon Jerusalem since that day have been in a very real sense the result of that fatal decision.
II. How typical is this incident! How often men, like Ahaz, arrive at decisions which are irrevocable and unspeakably momentous!
1. To have to make decisions that may be solemn in both these senses is one of the things that make the position of a ruler or statesman so serious. Not to be coveted are the positions in which a man’s resolves and utterances become fateful for whole peoples. But Pharaoh was in such a position, and like Ahaz he made a fatal mistake (Exodus 10:28).
2. Few are called to fill positions of such responsibility, but every man is at some juncture called to make a decision the results of which to him individually will be of unspeakable importance. The Young Ruler arrived at such a juncture, and made such a decision. Every one of you will at some moment be called upon to decide for or against Christ, and the decision will be final and irreversible. The fact that it is so will probably not be suspected by you; you will decide against Christ, in the expectation of reversing the decision on some other occasion, which will never come to you. This decision you may make now; it is the undeniable possibility which makes the preaching and hearing of the Gospel so solemn a thing. This supreme decision may be made by you in another manner. The test may come to you in another form—in the shape of a temptation appealing to some passion of the mind or lust of the flesh, and your eternal destiny may be determined by the manner in which you deal with that one temptation (H. E. I. 4737, 4738, 4636).
3. Like a railway train, we are continually arriving at “points,” and the manner in which we “take” them affects our whole after career. This is true in regard to many things, unspeakably inferior in importance to the questions of surrender or non-surrender to Christ, or of loyalty or disloyalty to Him, but yet of marvellous influence in determining whether our after life is to be happy or miserable: business, social and domestic relations.
In view of these facts—that so much may depend upon any decision we make, and that it is absolutely concealed from us which decisions are final and irrevocable—what is it that, as wise men, it becomes us to do?
1. Let us settle each question that is put before us in the spirit of righteousness. Always let us ask only, What is right?
(1.) This is the only path of safety.
(2.) By this path heroism is reached, and world-wide influence may be reached. We think of Moses (Hebrews 11:24-27), of the Apostles (Acts 4:19-20), and of Luther before the Diet of Worms, as heroes; but they had no such thought—their only thought was that of fidelity to duty; and it is thus only that true heroism can be reached (P. D. 1189).
2. Let us day by day commit ourselves to the guidance of God, praying Him to strengthen our understanding, to quicken our conscience, to sanctify our desires, and so to “work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
Isaiah 7:12. “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.”
Ahaz here poses as a better man than the prophet. He refuses to follow the direction which Isaiah has given him, and refuses, because, he alleges, to do so would be wrong. His disregard of what he knows to be a Divine direction, he covers by an appeal to a general principle which God has been pleased to give for our guidance (Deuteronomy 6:16). Thus he sought to silence the reproaches of conscience within, and of good men without. We may take him as the representative of that large class of persons who for their actions assign reasons that really are not their governing motives, and cover wrong actions by what appear to be cloaks of righteousness, but really are cloaks of hypocrisy.
How numerous these people are! We find them in all ranks of life; there is this skilful use of pretexts in all realms of human activity.
1. Social life,—e.g., A man rejects a suitor for his daughter’s hand, the suitor being forty-five years of age and the daughter twenty-two, professedly for the excellent reason that too great a disparity in age between man and wife is not desirable, but really because the suitor is not sufficiently wealthy.
2. Business,—e.g., A man refuses to become security for another, because, he says, he has entered into an undertaking with his partners not to incur any such responsibility, and because it is important that deeds of partnership should be honourably observed; really because he has no wish to oblige the man who asks his aid.
3. Politics.—Why, this is a form of activity which has to a large extent ceased to be care for the welfare of the city or of the community, and has to the same extent become a game of pretexts, in which broad and great principles are used to cover petty and personal ends.
4. Religion.—Alas! into this realm also men carry the same spirit and practices. Let us look at some of the prevalent forms of irreligious piety.
(1.) There is the man who will not make any confession of Christ, because “religion is a thing between a man’s own soul and God.”
(2.) There is the man who will not join the church, because the members of the church are so inconsistent, and inconsistent Christians are among the greatest of all hindrances to the progress of Christianity.
(3.) There is the man who never attends a week-evening service, because “there is no real religion in neglecting one’s daily duties, and we are expressly told that we are to be diligent in business.” The same man, however, finds it neither impossible nor inconsistent with his duties to attend political meetings and popular concerts.
(4.) There is the man who never subscribes to any foreign missionary society, because “religion, like charity, should begin at home, and even in this so-called Christian land there are millions of practical heathen who need to have the Gospel preached to them.” How much does this man contribute towards home missions?
(5.) There is the man who will not contribute to any church-building fund, because he does not “believe in bricks and mortar,” and because “true religion before God and the Father is—not to build costly sanctuaries—but to help the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (cf. John 12:4-6).
(6.) There is the man who has no hesitation in joining in a Sunday excursion, because “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” and because—the two pleas almost always go together—“it is possible to worship God as truly in the great temple of nature as in any temple built by man.” Picture the man as he actually “worships God in the great temple of nature;” and inquire how he feels on Monday after what he calls “a little relaxation on the Sunday.”
(7.) There is the man who indulges freely in what many people consider worldly amusements, because “it is not well to be too strait-laced; Solomon, indeed, warns us against being righteous overmuch; and there is nothing so likely as Pharisaism to disgust young people with religion” (H. E. I. 5038–5043).
So we might go on with this miserable catalogue. Satan, we are told, appears sometimes in the guise of an angel of light, and in this respect his children are wonderfully like him; they are marvellously ingenious in using holy principles to cover unholy purposes. But what does all this ingenuity amount to? Whom do they succeed in deceiving? Not men for any length of time. The wolf never succeeds in long completely covering itself with the sheep’s clothing. The mask of the hypocrite will slip aside. And when it does so, men despise him for wearing it. Did he show himself as he is, men might, would, condemn him; but they would not despise him so much. And God—He is never deceived. He loathes the false pretenders to righteousness; and ere long He will strip them bare, and expose them to the execration of the universe (H. E. I., 3017–3032; P. D., 1923, 1924, 1930).
What is the practical lesson to be learned from the whole? To pray that God will help us in all things to be sincere; to live “as seeing Him who is invisible,” remembering that He sees what is invisible—the motives underlying the actions that are seen of men. Nothing else can win for us from Christ the priceless commendation, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”
TRIALS OF THE DIVINE PATIENCE
Isaiah 7:13. Will ye weary my God also?
In this chapter we are told under what circumstances this question came to be asked. An astonishing assumption underlies it, viz., that anything can be a weariness to God, that anything can be a trial of the Divine patience. Let us think of this.
I. It is a wonderful and glorious thing that there is a Divine patience to be tried. This is a distinctively Biblical idea. Uninstructed by the Scriptures, men naturally think of God as doing as He pleases and when He pleases,—His pleasure being always a selfish one; a Divinity of Power who permits nothing to arrest or delay His purposes, crushing every obstacle as an express train dashes through or over a flock of sheep that has strayed on to its track. Or if men seem with impunity for a time to disregard or defy Him, this is only because He is indifferent to them, caring nothing what they do, because He knows that whensoever He pleases He can destroy them. But in this Book we are taught to think of Him as profoundly interested in what men do, as grieved and provoked by what they do, and as not merely resisting the impulse to destroy them, but as feeling no such impulse; as longing over them with yearning desire that they would, by repentance and reformation, render it possible for Him righteously to abstain from dealing with them according to their deserts. The forbearance of God is a conception which we find only in this book, and that should excite our wonder, our thankfulness, our love. This forbearance of God—this marvellous Divine patience with sinful men—what is its secret and explanation? It is the love which God has for us. Love is slow to strike 
 H. E. I. 2295.
II. It is a sad and terrible thing that the Divine patience should be tried. There are some offences that are horrible, because they outrage even our imperfect sense of what is fitting, e.g., to falsely direct a blind man, so that he shall fall over a precipice; to kill a hunted creature that has fled to us for protection. But of all these outrages, the vilest are sins against love. This is the supremely loathsome thing in seduction, that it is a sin against uninstructed but trustful love. Our whole soul rises in disgust against the brutal wretch who smites to the earth the mother who bore and nursed him. But when we think of what God is, as He is presented to us in Scripture, we see that that heedlessness to His appeals, and warnings, and entreaties, of which we are apt to think so little, is really a horrible offence, because it is a sin against a love the depth and tenderness of which is but faintly imaged forth to us by the purest and most fervent human affection. Persistence in wrongdoing—we see its hatefulness even when it is maintained in spite of human love: the prodigal hardening himself against his mother’s entreaties to reform. But what must we say of it as maintained against the entreaties of a love that is more sensitive than any mother’s, and that it is rendered so wonderful by the fact that it is associated with a power that could instantly destroy? It is so startling and so horrible that it ought to be impossible. But—
III. The Divine patience is often tried. Sins against it are common. In this respect Ahaz does not stand alone. Men commit such sins without compunction. Have we not done so? With what contempt and indifference we have treated God’s expostulations with us! We have deferred the duty of repentance. Why? Very much because we know that God is patient, and will not be swift to take vengeance upon us. We have practised on His forbearance, and thus have been guilty of the basest crime that is possible; we have deliberately sinned against love. Yet we are not troubled; so possible is it to drug conscience; so delusive is peace of conscience in the impenitent. But let us look at our conduct as God must regard it, as any reasonable and holy intelligence must regard it, and let us humble ourselves before Him against whom we have sinned so basely 
 H. E. I. 2350.
Where men are bent upon wrong, there is always a strong tendency to elect a character of God that is not very just, but that is very kind—so kind that behind it they may gain some security in their wrong course. And when God’s long-suffering and patience are opened up to men they often say, “Well, if God is a being that is tender and loving, I need not be in a hurry to leave off my evil ways. He will bear with me a little longer, and I do not believe that He will account with me for my petty transgressions.” Men deliberately employ God’s mercy and goodness to violate His feelings.… That is infernal; it is inhuman, because kindness seems to lay almost every man under a debt of gratitude. A dog, even, feels itself laid under a debt of gratitude by kindness. It is only men who are corrupted that would ever think of making goodness, and kindness, and generosity towards them the ground on which to base a violation of these qualities. And yet hundreds say, “God is good, and we will go on a little while longer in sin.” Yes, He is infinitely good. He has been patient with you; He has longed for you; He has sent ten thousand invisible mercies to you, besides those visible mercies he has showered upon you; He has been long-suffering and forgiving; He has sunk in the depths of the sea thrice ten thousands of transgressions; He did it yesterday, He is doing it to-day, and He will do it to-morrow; and shall you argue with yourself that because God is so good you will go on and insult Him, and wound Him, and injure Him? Or shall the goodness of God lead you to repentance and newness of life? I beseech of you, for the sake of honour and manhood, do not tread upon God’s goodness, and generosity, and magnanimity to offend Him more.—Beecher.
IV. Those who tire out the Divine patience shall find themselves righteously confronted by the Divine justice  God will not be permanently mocked. He would be unworthy of His position if He permitted sin to go unpunished  What the punishment of sin is we do not know, because we are now living in an economy in which justice is tempered by mercy. Yet in the calamities and unspeakable woes that here and now befall obdurate transgressors, we have some faint intimation of what will be their doom when, having rejected mercy, they find themselves given over to the unmitigated rigours of justice. Of these things God has spoken, because He would save us from them. All the threatenings of Scripture are merciful warnings  Let us give heed to them, and return to Him who has declared with equal clearness and emphasis that He will by no means clear the guilty, and that He has no delight in the death of the sinner 
 H. E. I. 2296–2301, 2349.
 H. E. I. 2316, 2317.
 H. E. I. 604, 605.
 H. E. I. 2283, 2284.
THE VIRGIN’S SON
Isaiah 7:13-16. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David, &c.
On this supremely difficult passage Dr. Kennicott preached a remarkable sermon before the University of Oxford, on the 19th of May 1765. As this sermon is not readily accessible, I here give some extracts from it.
Concerning these words there have been the four following opinions:—
I. That the whole passage relates only to a son of Isaiah.
II. That the whole passage relates only to CHRIST.
III. That the whole passage relates both to Isaiah’s son and to CHRIST; to the former in a primary and literal sense, and in a secondary sense to the latter.
IV. That there are here two prophecies, each literal, and each to be understood in one sense only: the first relating to CHRIST, the second to Isaiah’s son.
The first of these opinions is strenuously contended for by Jews and Deists, who, by confining this passage wholly to Isaiah’s son, have attempted to derogate from the authority of St. Matthew, who applies it as a prophecy to CHRIST. But the word here translated virgin signifies, in every other part of the Old Testament, a woman who hath not known man. And the consequence from hence is, that the words “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,” cannot be applied properly to Isaiah’s wife. As it is here affirmed that the original word signifies a virgin in every other text, it should be just observed that the text in the book of Proverbs (Isaiah 30:18-19), which has been often brought to prove the contrary, is not here forgotten; and that even that text might (if the nature of this discourse would permit) be explained fairly and to satisfaction, in a manner perfectly consistent with the preceding assertion.
If it should be objected, that the original words are not future, and therefore not likely to point out an event so very distant as the birth of CHRIST, it may be answered that the words are, strictly translated, “Behold! a virgin is conceiving and bearing a son,” &c. This mode of speech is the animated but customary style of prophetic Scripture, which, in order to express the greatest certainty, describes future events as past, or paints future scenes as present to the eye. Thus the same prophet, in his most magnificent predictions of the Messiah’s birth, exultingly cries, “Unto us a child is BORN, unto us a son IS GIVEN:” and afterwards, in his pathetic description of the Messiah’s sufferings, “He is despised and rejected of men.… Surely He HATH BORNE our griefs,” &c. But though no argument can be drawn against the Christian sense of these prophetic words from their expressing the then present time, yet an argument of great weight may, and must be, formed upon this very circumstance, in proof of what is here contended for. And certainly, if the words mean “a virgin is conceiving,” a woman conceiving and yet a virgin! this wonderful circumstance was true as to the Virgin Mary, but it was true as to no other woman.
To these remarks upon the original language must be added one arising from the circumstances of the text, for we learn from thence likewise that Isaiah’s wife and the birth of a child in the common way cannot have been here intended. And an appeal may safely be made to persons of sense, though wholly unacquainted with the Hebrew language, whether it is at all probable that the prophet should address himself to the house of David so solemnly, on so interesting an occasion; should awaken their attention; should raise their wonder; should promise them in the name of GOD a sign or miracle; should mention the future son, not of a man (as usual) but of a woman, and call that woman a virgin; and should foretell the Birth of IMMANUEL, i.e., GOD WITH US—and yet that no more was meant by all this than that a son should be born of a young married woman, which is evidently no wonder, no miracle, at all.
If then, from the constant signification of the noun for virgin, from the expression of the words in the present tense, and from the nature of the context, a son of Isaiah by his wife cannot have been here meant; and if the first opinion be consequently proved indefensible, we may now proceed to consider the second, which is that the whole passage of the text relates only to CHRIST.
But these words cannot be wholly applied to an event distant by more than seven hundred years, because the concluding clause speaks of a child either then born, or to be born soon; and before the child so spoken of should be old enough to distinguish natural good from evil, the two kings then advancing against Jerusalem were to be themselves destroyed.
The third is the opinion of those who contend for a double completion of some prophecies, and insist that this whole passage relates both to Isaiah’s son and to CHRIST; to the former in a primary and literal sense, and in a secondary sense to the latter. But—not to enter into that extensive question, whether though some prophecies relate solely to the Messiah, others may, or may not, be doubly fulfilled—I shall only observe, that no such double completion can possibly take place here.
Wherever a secondary sense is insisted on, there we must have a primary sense also which is at least true. But the present case renders that impossible. Because, if the principal noun does everywhere else signify a virgin; and if it be here meant of the Virgin Mary, and was afterwards properly applied to her, it cannot with any truth be applied to the wife of Isaiah. And further, if it were possible for every other prophecy to admit of a double completion, yet will not this—because a child’s being conceived and born of a virgin happened in the world only once; and therefore, as this prophecy derives its force from specifying a case singular and without example, it can be fulfilled in one sense only.
There remains then the fourth opinion, which is, that the text contains two distinct prophecies, each literal, and each to be understood in one sense only; the first relating to CHRIST, the second to Isaiah’s son. This, which is the opinion of some eminent defenders of Christianity, will (I presume) appear true and satisfactory, when the end of the first prophecy, and the beginning of the second, shall have been properly considered; and when some proofs which seem absolutely necessary, but perhaps were never yet produced, shall have been added to former observations.
The genuine sense of this passage depending greatly on the circumstances of those to whom it was delivered, it is here necessary to state the history.
Ahaz became king of Judah when the people were greatly corrupted, and he himself was strongly inclined to idolatry. To correct, therefore, both king and people, God permitted a powerful confederacy to take place between Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel; who, growing jealous of their formidable neighbour, invaded Judæa in the first year of Ahaz; and so successfully, that above 100,000 of the men of Ahaz were slain in one battle, and above 200,000 of his people were carried captives into the land of Israel.
Flushed with these successes, the two kings thought that Jerusalem itself would soon become an easy prey to their power; and in the second year of Ahaz marched towards it, with a resolution totally to abolish the royal succession, which had been for twelve generations in the house of David, and to establish, in the holy city, a heathen king, a Syrian, “the son of Tabeal.”
At the approach of these confederates, “the heart of Ahaz was moved, and the hearts of all his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.” The consternation was universal, and no wonder. For the young king and the corrupt part of his people would easily be led, from the sufferings they had felt, to fear greater. And the religious part of the nation would entertain fears still more alarming, fears of the extinction of the house of David; for were that house to fail, then farewell to all their glorious hopes of a Messiah, a son of David, who was to reign for ever. These men, therefore, no doubt, “cried unto the Lord in their distresses,” and expostulated with Him concerning “the sure mercies of David:” “Lord, where are Thy old lovingkindnesses, which Thou swarest unto David in Thy truth?”
Amidst these distresses, we find Ahaz “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,” probably surveying that chief source of their water, and contriving how to secure that water to the city, and defend it against the enemy. At this place, constantly frequented by the people, and then visited by the king, attended probably by the chiefs of his family, Isaiah is commanded to meet him, taking with him Shear-jashub, and to declare in the name of Jehovah, that the evil counsel against Jerusalem should not come to pass.
The counsel of these kings was evil, because, in opposition to God’s appointment of the royal house of David, and His promises thereto (particularly of Messiah, the Prince, to spring from thence), their compact was, probably, like Eastern conquerors, to destroy the house of David; certainly, to remove the house of David from the throne, and to fix in the holy city a heathen king.
The prophet, having declared to Ahaz that the scheme of the confederates should be frustrated, bids him, at the command of God, ask some sign or miracle, either in heaven or on earth. “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt Jehovah.”
The king’s disobedience, however coloured over with a specious piety in his allusion to a text of Scripture, appears from the next words of the prophet to have been highly censurable. And it probably proceeded from his distrust either of the power or the favour of Jehovah, after Judæa had suffered so much from these same enemies who worshipped other gods.
Thus repulsed by the king, the prophet addresses himself at large to “the house of David;” and probably there were then present other persons of the royal family. “Hear ye now, O house of David,” &c.
The word “Therefore” (Isaiah 7:14) may, upon good authority, be translated “nevertheless,” a sense very applicable to this place. A sign or miracle hath been now offered at the command of God, but is refused; and can you think it of little moment to treat with such contempt both the prophet and his God? “Nevertheless, the Lord Himself will give to you the sign following: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and call His name IMMANUEL. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.”
Here, I presume, ends this first prophecy, and the meaning may be stated thus: “Fear not, O house of David, the fate threatened you. God is mindful of His promise to your father, and will fulfil it in a very wonderful manner. Behold, a virgin (rather, THE virgin, the only one thus circumstanced) shall conceive, and bear a son; which son shall therefore be what no other has been or shall be, the seed of the woman, here styled THE VIRGIN; and this son ‘shall be called’ (i.e., in Scripture language, He shall be) IMMANUEL, God with us. But this great Person, this GOD visible amongst men, introduced into the world thus, in a manner that is without example, shall yet be truly Man: He shall be born an infant, and as an infant shall He be brought up; for ‘butter and honey’ (rather, milk and honey) shall He eat,—He shall be fed with the common food of infants, which in the East was milk mixed with honey, till He shall know (not that He may know, as if such food were to be the cause of such knowledge, but till He shall grow up to know) how to refuse the evil and choose the good.”
Here, then, we find a comprehensive description of the Messiah, of the “Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us.” His Divinity is marked by His being GOD; His residence upon earth, by His being GOD WITH US; and His Humanity, by His being born of a woman, and fed with the usual food of infants during His infant state. How perfect is the harmony between the parts of this description and the marks of the true Messiah in other sacred passages; and also between the first prophecy in the very beginning of the Old Testament and the completion of it, first mentioned in the very beginning of the New!
For the first promise of a Messiah was, that He should be (not the seed of Adam, as He would have been called, if to descend from a human father, but) “the seed of the woman,” because He was to be born of a virgin. Therefore, the Apostle says, “When the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” And that it was GOD, not man, who was to “prepare a body” for the Messiah, appears from the fortieth Psalm, according to the Apostle’s very remarkable quotation of it, where the Messiah is prophetically represented as saying unto God: “A body didst Thou prepare for Me; then said I, Lo, I come; as in the volume of the Book it is written concerning Me.”
Having thus endeavoured to illustrate the first prophecy contained in the text, and to defend the application of it to the Virgin Mary’s conception and birth of Jesus Christ, I shall now briefly state the second prophecy, which is thus expressed in our present translation, “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”
Now, that this verse contains a distinct prophecy may be proved thus—
1. The words preceding have been proved to be confined to the Messiah, whose birth was then distant above seven hundred years; whereas, the words here are confined to some child who was not to arrive at years of discretion before the two kings, then advancing against Jerusalem, should be themselves cut off.
2. Some end was undoubtedly to be answered by the presence of Isaiah’s son, whom God commanded to take with him on this visit to Ahaz: and yet no use at all appears to have been made of this son, unless he be referred to here.
3. These prophecies are manifestly distinguished by their being addressed to different persons: the first being plural, and addressed to the house of David; but the second is singular, and therefore is addressed to Ahaz.
We see, then, that the prophet addressed himself at large to the “house of David,” when he foretold the birth of the Messiah; which, though the event might be very distant, would give present consolation, as it assured them of the preservation of the house of David; but that he addressed himself in particular to the king, when he foretold the speedy destruction of the two kings, his enemies. Note also, that King Ahaz is the person addressed in the very words which immediately follow, “The Lord shall bring upon thee and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days.” &c.
This transition will be the more evident if we render the first word But, as the same word is rendered just before in this same passage: “Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” It is so rendered in this very place in our old English Bibles, printed in 1535, 1537, 1539, 1549, 1550.
The word also now rendered “the child,” should be here rendered “THIS child;” and the sense of the verse may be then clearly ascertained.
The necessity for this last rendering has been observed by more than one expositor, but perhaps no one has quoted any parallel instance, or produced proper authority for this necessary change of our translation. But, that we may not be charged with offering violence to an expression, in order to defend the Evangelists or to confute their adversaries, some authority should be produced in a point on which so much depends, and I shall mention several passages similar to the case now before us.
When Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, he laid his hands upon their heads, and used the very same word in the plural number which Isaiah here uses in the singular; and as that word is rendered “these children” by the authors of the Greek and other very ancient versions, we have their joint authorities for rendering the word here “this child.”
The authors of our own translation have not indeed rendered the word in the text “this child,” but they have shown that it may be so rendered, because they have themselves, in several other places, expressed the emphatic article by this and that in the singular number, and by these in the plural. Thus in Jeremiah 23:21, “I have not sent these prophets;” in Numbers 11:6, “There is nothing before our eyes, but this manna;” in 1 Samuel 29:4, “Make this fellow to return;” and, to omit other instances, we read in Jeremiah 28:16 (what it is impossible to translate otherwise), “This year thou shalt die.”
But besides these instances, in which similar words may and must be so rendered, agreeably to our present translation, in this same verse of Isaiah there is the authority of our old English translation for both the alterations here proposed; for the very first printed edition, and at least two others, render these words, “But or ever that child,” &c. And, to obviate any prejudice against the other alteration before proposed, it should be observed that, so far from their being now first thought of to favour any new opinions, almost all of them are the very readings in our former English Bibles, from which our present has varied in this and other instances very improperly.
The translation of the principal word here by this child being thus vindicated, it may perhaps be asked who this child was, and the answer is, A son of Isaiah, called Shear-jashub, whom God had commanded the prophet to take with him upon this occasion, but of whom no use was made, unless in the application of these words;—whom Isaiah might now hold in his arm, and to whom therefore he might point with his hand when he addressed himself to Ahaz, and said, “But before this child shall grow up to discern good from evil, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” There is an absolute necessity of attending to this action in several other sacred passages, as in John 2:18-19. “What sign showest Thou?… Destroy this temple;” our Lord there pointing to His own body.
The child’s name is evidently prophetical, for it signifies a remnant, or the remainder, shall return. And probably he was so called because born the year before, when such multitudes were carried captives into the land of Israel; and this by way of prediction to the Jews that, though they had lost 100,000 men by the sword in one day, and double that number by captivity, yet those who remained alive—the remnant—certainly should return to their own country.
This prophecy was soon after fulfilled. And therefore this son, whose name had been so consolatory the year before, was with the utmost propriety brought forth now, and made the subject of a second prophecy—namely, that before that child, then in the second year of his age, should be able to distinguish natural good from evil—before he should be about four or five years old—the lands of Syria and Israel, spoken of here as one kingdom, on account of their present union and confederacy, should be “forsaken of both her kings:” which, though at the time highly improbable, came to pass about two years afterwards, when those two kings, who had in vain attempted to conquer Jerusalem, were themselves destroyed, each in his own country.
“If the miraculous birth of Christ were true, yet how could an event so very distant be properly a sign, at the time when the prophecy was delivered?”
To this natural and important question, Dr. Kennicott answers:—
The original word for a sign means also a miracle. And as God had offered Ahaz a miracle to be then performed, which had been refused, God Himself promises to the house of David a miracle which should be performed, not then, but afterwards. But the word signifies, not only something done at present, to induce a belief of something future, but also something to be done afterwards, declared beforehand in confirmation of something foretold.
Thus, when God commanded Moses to go from the wilderness into Egypt, to demand the dismission of his brethren, God assures him of success, and tells him: “This shall be a sign unto thee; when thou hast brought forth the people, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”
And thus, when the Assyrians were marching against Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, Isaiah is again commanded to declare that the city shall not be taken; and after saying, “This shall be a sign unto you,” he specifies several particulars which were all future 
 Compare also our Lord’s treatment of the demand for a sign, Matthew 12:38-40. In this case also, to unbelievers, was given a “sign” which they could not possibly have understood when it was given.
If then a thing, at all future, may be declared as a sign, it makes no difference whether the thing be future by three years or three hundred, provided that one circumstance he observed—which is, that the man, or body of men, to whom the fact is declared to be a sign shall exist to see the thing accomplished. This was manifestly the case here. For not only Ahaz, to whom the second prophecy was delivered, saw that fulfilled as to the two kings his enemies, but also the house of David, to whom the first prophecy was addressed, saw that fulfilled in JESUS CHRIST.
Isaiah 7:14. And shall call His name Immanuel.
His being “called so,” according to the usual dialect of the Hebrew, does not signify so much that this should be His usual name, as that this should be His real character.
I. Explain the meaning of this great and extraordinary title, IMMANUEL (cf. Isaiah 8:8 and Matthew 1:23). This title may be considered under a double reference, either,
1. To the constitution of His person; or,
2. To His office and actings as mediator.
1. It is one of the great mysteries of the Christian revelation that “God was manifest in the flesh.” The eternal Son of God became man, and was both God and man in His own person. In a matter of pure revelation, and of so sublime a nature, it is certainly the wisest and safest course to keep close to the revelation, and make it the standard and measure of all our conceptions about it.
2. As mediator, He is Immanuel in this sense, that in Him the presence and favour of God with His people are most eminent and conspicuous. This has always been true, is true now, and always will be true.
(1.) As a distant friend is said to be “with us” whose heart and thoughts are with us (1 Corinthians 5:3), so Christ was Immanuel from all eternity as to His purpose and design of mercy, and as His heart was towards us with thoughts of pleasure (Proverbs 29:17).
(2.) All the appearances of God to His people under the Old Dispensation were appearances of Christ (John 1:18; John 5:37; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
3. As He took our nature and became man. This is the essential and highest meaning of our text. He took upon Him our nature, with all its parts and powers, all its natural affections and infirmities, sin only excepted.
4. As He conversed with men, and revealed the will of God to them.
5. As He offered Himself a sacrifice for sin, and reconciled God and man together. This is mentioned by the Evangelist in the same context (Matthew 1:21). This was the great end of His taking our nature, and coming into the world (Hebrews 5:9).
6. As He gives His Spirit to every true believer, and is powerfully present with them to the end of the world. He is present in them, on the principle of Divine life in their souls (John 14:16; Ephesians 3:17). He is present with them whensoever they assemble to hear His Word or observe His ordinances (Matthew 18:20; John 20:19). He is always present with His Church to preserve and succour it.
7. As He will be the visible Judge of the world at last; He will be Judge in our nature who was Saviour of our nature (John 5:22; Acts 17:13).
8. He will be the glorious and triumphant Head of the redeemed world for ever. Their happiness will lie very much in being with Him and beholding His glory; and their employment in adoring love and triumphant praise.
II. Consider why this declaration fills the hearts of God’s people with joy.
1. God is here presented to us as we need Him. God absolutely considered is an awful name; the Divine majesty is bright and glorious, apt to strike an awe upon our minds, to awaken a sense of guilt, and keep us at a distance from Him (Genesis 3:10; Deuteronomy 28:58; Job 13:21). But now He is God with us, God in our nature, conversing with sinful men, and concerned for their good; this abates the natural dread of our minds, and is a ground of holy freedom towards Him (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12).
2. The union in Christ of all Divine and human perfections—
(1) Is the reason of our worship and adoration of Him;
(2) Is the proper ground of confidence and trust in Him. We may safely depend upon Him for the accomplishment of His promises and the salvation of our souls, for He is an all-sufficient Saviour.
3. By this great doctrine the solemnity of our future life is relieved. The consideration of Immanuel, or God, in our nature, has been found by pious and devout persons a great relief to their thoughts of the final blessedness; we can conceive with greater ease, and with a more sensible pleasure, of being with Christ than of being with the absolute Deity.
III. Consider some of the duties which arise out of this wonderful and glorious fact.
1. Let us adore the amazing condescension of our blessed Redeemer, who stooped from heaven to earth, consented to become a man, and submitted to die a sacrifice (Philippians 2:7-8).
2. Let us maintain constantly and boldly before all men the doctrine of His Deity. If He were only a man, or only a creature, of how a rank soever and however dignified, He could not be God with us; He could not restore the fallen world, or obtain by His sacrifice the pardon of sin, or give eternal life.
3. Be always ready to approach Him. Wait upon Him in all the ways of acceptable worship, for the manifestation of His favour and communication of His grace, for further discoveries of His will, and fresh supplies of His Spirit. Particularly attend upon Him at His table; here He is with us in a more familiar and sensible manner in the brightest displays of His mercy and the largest communications of His grace.
4. Regard His presence with you in all your use of the means of grace. ’Tis reckoned a rude affront among men, and a token of great disrespect, to take no notice of a great personage or overlook a superior. Regard His presence with you as a mark of condescending favour, and as the life and soul of all the ordinances you attend upon. This will hallow your thoughts in the use of them, and make them to you “means of grace” indeed.—W. Harris: Practical Discourses on the Principal Representations of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament, pp. 275–304.
THE GREAT OBJECT OF CHILD-TRAINING
(A Sunday-School Anniversary Sermon.)
Isaiah 7:15. The child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
These words, taken above, form a complete sentence; yet they occur in the clause of a sentence which is intended to denote a space of time. Before the child which Isaiah held in his arms  should know the difference between right and wrong certain events would take place: in other words, before a space of four or five years at the most would elapse, certain things would occur. But it is not our intention to discuss the prophecy itself; we shall find it more in harmony with the present occasion, and perhaps more profitable, to consider what may be suggested to us by these words thus taken apart from their context.
 See the paper entitled THE VIRGIN’S SON.
“The child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” There is nothing else so important for any child to know as this (H. E. I. 1751). Seldom made the object of education; consequently the majority of lives are failures. No child knows this without training: the child’s natural tendencies are precisely the reverse of this. But, if this training is urgently needed, how immense and difficult is the task of those who undertake to give it! How difficult it often is to discern between what is good and what is evil—in all the realms of thought and activity; especially in the moral realm. The difficulty of the task is not to cause us to decline it. We have wonderful helps in it.
1. GOD’S WORD. What a wonderful help that is! What a proof that in the Bible we have God’s word is this, that for helpfulness in this task no other book can be compared with it (H. E. I., 506, 508, 509). Our text reminds us of what should be our object in the Scriptural teaching we give our children. What value is there in any so-called Scriptural instruction that does not tend to cultivate spiritual discernment—hate of what is evil, and love of what is good?
2. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST, “the law drawn out in living characters.” Let us not overlook or neglect to use this marvellous instrumentality and help.
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT. Always ready to co-operate with us. Christian parents, let the remembrance of these helps encourage you to resume this supremely important task with fresh vigour. Keep it ever in view, aim at the whole of it. The training which consists merely in fighting against evil is foredoomed to fail. The child must be taught, not merely to refuse the evil, but to choose the good. Do not be content in the field of your child’s heart merely to plough up the weeds; sow there the corn which, when it is full grown, shall overshadow and kill the weeds which, in spite of all your efforts, will struggle for a place there. In those who undertake to give this training, there is imperative need of seriousness, humility, hopefulness, and a wise comprehensiveness. Consider what will be the results of success in child-training such as this.
1. Our children will be spared from indescribable misery.
2. They will grow continually in all that is noble and love-worthy.
3. Learning to choose what is good, they will necessarily choose God as He has been thus revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
4. Beholding them thus allied in heart and will to the supreme source of all goodness, and daily becoming more like Him, we shall feel that all our labours and sacrifices for them are overpaid.
A SENTENCE OF DOOM
Isaiah 7:17-25. The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, &c.
I. God is sovereign in the whole earth. He is the great controller of all nations. All governments are but instruments which He uses when and as He pleases (Isaiah 7:17-21). A thought full of comfort for the righteous, of terror for the unrighteous.
II. The consequent insecurity of all prosperity that is not based upon, and promotive of, righteousness (Isaiah 7:23). True of nations: Britain will be “Great Britain” only so long as God pleases. True of individuals: (H. E. I. 3991, 4403–4406).
III. Whatever chastisements God may have inflicted, He has always a more terrible one behind (Isaiah 7:17).
IV. Seeing that all these things were threatened against and inflicted upon God’s chosen people, learn that no mercy that God has shown us will furnish any immunity for us, if, notwithstanding that mercy, we sin against Him. There is a tendency in our evil hearts to think, that because God has been specially good to us, we may sin with less risk than others; but the teaching of the Bible is, that those who “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness” shall be visited with a sorer doom than others (H. E. I. 4564, 4568, 4570).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter