Skip Heitzig - A Birth Foretold
We're launching into a short little series leading up to Christmas. It's called "Hope Foretold." And today, we want to talk about "His Birth Foretold," and then next time, "His Life Foretold," and then "His Death Foretold." So would you turn in your Bibles to the book of Isaiah 7. Isaiah 7 has a verse, verse 14 which predicts His unusual birth.
I think it's safe to say the world has seen its share of unusual births. I'll give you a few examples. A couple years ago, a gal who was pregnant at 39 weeks decided to run the Chicago marathon. Don't know how she got away with that, she got permission from her doctor to run. And the plan was that she would run the first half of that 26.2 mile race and then walk the second half. Well, she's 39 weeks pregnant. She manages to run half the race and about halfway, she starts feeling labor pains. And yet, she and her husband walked the rest of that race only to go immediately to the hospital and birth the child. A child was born right after she finished the race. That's an unusual birth.
Another one is that of a British teenager who was in the labor. Her name is Amy Buck. She was in labor for 20 days, almost three full weeks. Evidently, at 19 weeks of her pregnancy she went into premature labor, and they gave her medication to delay the labor. And, boy, it did. For about three weeks she was in labor. I discovered the oldest woman on record to give birth was a lady from India, 70 years old. She had never before had a child. Her name is Rajo Devi Lohan from India. She had been married 50 years. Her and her husband wanted children, and she got one at 70 years of age.
And then finally, for unusual births, is the largest child born. Let me rephrase that, the largest child born to survive. No. Again, I have to rephrase that, the largest child born who survived and whose mother survived, that's probably a better way to see it. And that record comes from September of 1955. Carmelina Fedele of Aversa, Italy gave birth to a baby boy weighing, get ready, 22 pounds, eight ounces. 22 and 1/2 pounds. Now, you see why I had to revise that as we were going. She survived that.
But certainly, Jesus Christ still holds the record for the most unusual birth. You'll see why in just a moment as we read this wild prediction from Isaiah. When Jesus was born, His birth didn't simply provide the world with another birth. It provided the world with hope because of who He would become, and what He would do. It's been said that a person could live for 40 days without food, can survive for three days without water, eight minutes without air but not a single second without hope.
When Jesus was born, hope came into the world. Let me explain that. Paul the Apostle in Galatians 4 "when the fullness of time had come." Listen to that phrase, "when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law." That's Galatians 4:4. It was just the right time. What does that mean?
Well, first of all, it was the right time spiritually. There was a hunger that had been developing that was, some historians say, at fever pitch just before Jesus was born. The Jews had always anticipated, longed for, prayed for a deliverer, a Messiah, but now that Rome had occupied their territory that grew to such a longing, a depth of longing, like never before. Not only the Jews, but we are told that people of other religions, like even the Roman religions, were burnt out on their religious systems. And they looked toward Judaism with their hope in the coming deliverer, their monotheistic viewpoint. And so it was the right time spiritually.
Second, it was just the right time culturally. For the first time since the Tower of Babel, the world was now unified with a single language, the Greek language. You could go from India to Britain 2000 years ago and share the same ideas in the same, common, precise language.
Also, it was the right time politically. 2000 years ago, Rome had taken over the world. And because Rome had taken over the world, as oppressive as that might feel to the Jews in Judea, it still brought a unification of the world. You see, Caesar Augustus imposed what he called the Pax Romana, the Roman peace, which means that for nearly 200 years there was economic growth and cultural growth with military stability. Do you know that during that time there was almost no military conflicts whatsoever because of the Pax Romana?
Not only that but Rome built a road system around the world, 250,000 miles of roads, 50,000 of which were paved. Many can still be seen today. So people could now travel freely with their ideas and have military guards ensuring their safety along the way.
So now the gospel is in the most precise language ever, under the most ideal circumstances ever, with people who are hungrier than ever, going to places more freely than ever. It was the fullness of time.
Isaiah the prophet, I've had you turn to Isaiah 7 in your Bibles. The prince of all the prophets, I call him that because he is quoted more than any other Old Testament prophet in the New Testament. 21 different times New Testament authors quote Isaiah. He gives us a prediction 700 years before the birth of Christ of the birth of Christ. And here's what I want you to see from this single verse as a meditation before we take the Lord's Supper.
When Jesus Christ was born, God was giving us three things. He was giving us a sign. He was giving us a Son. He was giving us a Savior. Let's look at 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."
First of all, the text tells us that God gave us a sign. The Lord himself will give you a sign. The word "sign" means, in Hebrew, a signal, a mark, a token. Or you could even translate it, a miracle. The Lord himself will show you something, a miraculous token, a sign.
I see the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus like road signs. And by the way, there are hundreds of them. It's like road signs on the road telling you that something is coming down the road, whether it's a sign that tells you the name of a city that you'll be going through if you keep driving, or you see a picture of a restaurant and food that is promised to be served. You see on the road sign something that is coming.
And Matthew, when he writes of the birth of Jesus Christ, refers to this road sign of Isaiah. Matthew writes in chapter 1, "so all of this was ", that's the birth of Jesus. "All of this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet", that's Isaiah. "Saying, behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they will call His name Immanuel," which is translated "God with us."
Now, allow me to just unravel the context a little bit. I always like to make sure you understand the text in the context around it. And I'm doing this because if you were to just read this chapter, you might scratch your head and say, I get the fact that a virgin is going to be with child which is miraculous, certainly. But I really don't see reading the chapter how this has much to do with Jesus who will be born in Bethlehem later on. So let me just paint the picture for you.
This chapter, chapter 7 of Isaiah, is about Isaiah the prophet approaching the king of Jerusalem, of Judea, at the time. His name is Ahaz. Ahaz is worried the day Isaiah comes to visit him. Why is he worried? Because there are three nations above him that are bearing down on him politically, militarily. The first is the kingdom just to the north of Jerusalem, that's the kingdom of Israel under the leadership of a King by the name of Pekah. His name is mentioned here, but we're not going to read the whole chapter.
So the kingdom of Israel and above Israel, the kingdom of Syria with the headquarters in Damascus, it's a problem now, it was a problem then. So you have Israel and Syria, both joining forces to fight an even bigger bully north of them called Assyria. And so these two northern kingdoms have formed a coalition to fight against the Assyrians, and they ask Judea to help them in the coalition. Ahaz said, no way. I don't want to fight the Assyrians. So these two guys say, fine. Then we're just going to attack you. So what King Ahaz does, he's panicked. He sends a bribe of money up to Assyria to have them attack those two intermediate bullies. Follow, so far? You take care of them, and then I'll be fine.
Well, just then, God sends Isaiah the prophet in. And Isaiah says, don't worry about Israel and Syria. They won't be a bother to you. In a couple years time, they won't even be on the map. They'll be taken captive by the Assyrians. Don't even worry about them. And then, while Isaiah is in the presence of the King, he says this, hey, King, ask the Lord for a sign. Go ahead. Ask Him for a sign. Any sign at all, in heaven above or down on the earth. Just ask Him for a sign.
And the King acts real pious. He goes, I'm not going to ask the Lord for a sign. I'm not going to test the Lord. Now, what he really meant by, I'm not going to test the Lord, because that sounds really pious. I know people like that. They say stuff like that, I'm not going to test the Lord. What he really meant, translation is, I'm not going to trust the Lord. Because he's already proved that he doesn't trust the Lord by sending money to the Assyrians saying, I trust you to take care of my problems more than God to take care of my problems.
So Isaiah comes back at him. He goes, OK. You don't have to ask for a sign. God will give you a sign anyway. But not just a sign to you that your problems are going to be taken care of, and they will, but a sign for the entire house of David, for all of you down here in Judea and Jerusalem. A miraculous sign, a virgin will conceive and bear a Son and they will call His name Immanuel. And then he walks out.
700 years later, Matthew, in looking at the birth of this boy in Bethlehem, says, that's the road sign that has happened in our recent days. This is that which was spoken of by the prophet. These are signs. God gave us a sign. I don't know if you've ever considered the signs that the prophecies of the Old Testament are to people in general. But evidently, God wanted to make sure that there'd be none of this nonsense of people saying, well, you know, people have different beliefs. They believe in this person or that religion, and everybody has their own belief system. God wanted to make sure that people knew exactly who the one He was sending to the world would be, precisely, by giving them signs in advance. So Isaiah predicts His birth 700 years before His birth takes place.
The prophet Micah predicts that He will be born in Bethlehem 720 years before He's born in Bethlehem. Josiah the prophet says, at some point He will arise out of Egypt, which He did. He moved down to Egypt with His parents and then came out. And then not one but several prophets said that the Messiah will come forth to the nation out of Galilee, which He did. He was raised in Nazareth of Galilee. So you've got sign, after sign, after sign that Jesus fulfilled. There are, as I said, hundreds of them.
Why is this important? It's important because if you were to look at the 26 or so other books in the world that claim to be scripture by different religious systems, that's their holy book. There's something absent from them all, fulfilled prophecy. It's not there. You don't have detailed predictions made that actually happened, so you have a track record of accuracy. You don't have them. So whether it's the Upanishads, or the Vedas, or The Sutras, or the Quran, or the Confucian text, or the Book of Mormon, they do not have fulfilled prophecy. The Bible has tons of it, tons of it.
Few years ago, the National Enquirer, you know, that wonderfully accurate magazine that you see when you stand in line at the grocery store. They had an article called "Modern Day Prophets." And they took movie stars, and rock stars, and sports stars, and they asked these "luminaries" to make predictions of what would happen. Anything they wanted to, but make a prediction of what will happen in the next six months. So 61 different predictions were made in this article of what would happen in the next six months by these stars. You know how many of them happened? Zero. Not a single one, nada, nicht, zilch. The Bible has hundreds of them. They're called signs. God gave us a sign.
Not only did He give us a sign, He gave us a Son. That's what the text tells us. "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son." Now, this is quite a sign, right, for a virgin to conceive? When the ultrasound of a virgin girl reveals there's a pregnancy, that's some kind of sign. That's a miraculously sign.
A few years ago when Larry King was still working for CNN, he said, if I could interview a single person out of history, I'd want to interview Christ. And I'd ask Him a single question. Are you really virgin born? He said, I'd ask Him that because His answer would absolutely define history for me. What did he mean by that? Well, Larry King is Jewish, and he must know that the sign of a virgin birth was a sign given to the Jewish people. But if that really happened, if this really came to pass, it changes everything.
Because this is a miraculous sign. No human has ever been or ever will be born without a father. Human birth requires a human source for a sperm to inseminate the egg of a woman. But there's only one person who's ever been born without any contribution of a male, and that is Jesus Christ, a virgin shall conceive.
You see, this is why Joseph was having a tough time. That's why he was going, I, I don't get this. I know I didn't do it, but she's pregnant. And there's only one way that can happen. And he's just, right? I mean, he's beside himself. That's why he had to get a special visit by an angel who said, Joseph, don't be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. The angel said, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. This is unique. This is singular. This has never happened before nor will it ever happen again. This is a virgin birth.
Now, some of you may be predisposed with a scientific background to hear this and go, not so fast. You know in science we have this phenomena called parthenogenesis. Some of you may have heard the term parthenogenesis where creatures are conceived asexually, that is, without fertilization. It happens in certain insects, and plants, lower life forms, lower invertebrates. Honeybees, for example, their unfertilized eggs will develop naturally into the drone bee. A silkworm, since the 1800s, there's been an artificial parthenogenesis that has caused them to be produced.
Even in recent years, frogs and rabbits have been reproduced by parthenogenesis. So people go, aw, see? This whole idea of the virgin birth is not so singular. OK. Good for you, but that does not explain human virgin birth. Why do I say that? Because parthenogenesis can only reproduce genetically identical species. Frogs, for example, might be stimulated to reproduce, but they will always be female frogs. In other words, the offspring will always be genetically identical to the mother that laid the eggs.
Studies have shown, it's been done years ago by a group of scientists under the leadership of Gregory Pincus, he proved that if Mary had conceived parthenogenetically, she would have had a daughter, not a son. But the sign will be, "the Virgin will conceive, and bear a Son." The sign will be the Son. Two chapters later, Isaiah will expand it. "Unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given." And so the prediction is a virgin will bear a Son.
The first hint of this, by the way, some of you will remember, is Genesis 3. Do you remember the promise that God gave the woman, and that God pronounced on Satan and said, the seed, He said to Satan, the seed of the woman will crush your head. You read that and go, seed of the woman? The seed doesn't come from a woman, it comes from a man. You're right. But this is a virgin birth. That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. So this is not parthenogenesis. This is a one-time, miraculous deal where God entered the womb of a virgin woman as a single cell zygote to develop into an embryo, to develop into a fetus, to be born as a child. God gave us a sign. God gave us a Son.
And finally, God gave us a Savior. Before we take the Lord's Supper, notice in verse 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." Now, remember, Matthew interprets what that means which is being translated, "God with us." This baby is God with us. That's why He was never called, as a name, Immanuel. Somebody asked me last night, well, why was He never called Immanuel? Because it's a title. It's not a formal name. It's designating what His position would be. This is God who is with us, that's what the prophet is saying.
And then, I'll just remind you again of Isaiah 9. I just quoted it. "Unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace". In other words, there's going to be a child born miraculously of a virgin who will be the Mighty God who will dwell among us. So this is the virgin birth. He is human because He came through the womb of Mary. He is divine, He is God, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Some of you might be wondering something like, why are you doing this before we take communion? Why would you spend an entire weekend to talk about the virgin birth? Why is this so important? Here's why. Hear me well. If there is no virgin birth, there is no hope. If you say, well, you know, virgin birth, you don't really have to believe in that. Oh, yes. You do. Because without the virgin birth, there is no hope. Why do I say that? Because without the virgin birth, that means that Jesus was born like everybody else. And if Jesus was born just like everybody else, then He's not God.
And if He's not God, then His claims are lies because He said He was God, and those people who wrote about what He said and what He did also said that He knew He was God. And if His claims are lies then salvation is a hoax because the scripture says, the virgin born Son of God will come and die for sin and resurrect from the grave. And we believe that to be true. It is a cardinal truth that we hold to. So this is the virgin birth. This is the God-man.
As man, He's the perfect representative of us. As God, He's the perfect sacrifice for us. So think of it this way, on the cross, Jesus' arm stretched out, think of it is as Jesus with one hand taking the hand of God the Father, and with the other hand, the hand of humanity and bringing them together reconciling them over His dead body. Now, the two that were distant can be one. Now, there can be relationship. Now, there can be fellowship.
So, yeah, there's been some unusual and amazing births but none like this unique birth, virgin birth. This is not somebody parthenogenetically produced. This is not some quasi-natural experiment in reproduction. This is the God-man conceived by the Holy Spirit. He came upon Mary. He enabled her virgin womb to produce that single cell zygote to develop into an embryo encased in embryonic fluid, become a fetus, become a child, grow up, die, rise. This is the holy Son of God.
A generation ago, a woman who had tuberculosis went to her doctor. The tuberculosis was growing worse, and as some of you may know tuberculosis was a pretty serious disease in those days to be treated, a long term treatment. So the cavity in the lung was, the tuberculosis cavity was growing, and growing, and growing. And her condition was worsening, but she was clinging to life. And she came in one day and the doctors noticed something unusual because she said, you know, I've been feeling nauseated lately. Is that normal? And they said, no. It's not normal.
And so they were examining her, and they noticed the tuberculosis had stopped growing. The cavity had stopped growing. And so doctor said, run some tests on her. See if she's pregnant. She turned up pregnant. And the doctor wrote this, the chest x-ray reveals that the growth of the tuberculosis cavity has stopped. And the reason is that her diaphragm is pushing up against her diseased lung to make room for the child she bore. And the doctor concluded with these words, it was the child that saved her. It's the child that saved us. It's the virgin born, Son of Mary, Son of God. They came into this world to save us. We celebrate that today.
I'm going to pray and the communion leaders are going to come up. The band's going to come. We're going to pass these elements out. I'm going to ask you to wait till we all have them together. This is for believers who really believe that Jesus did this for them, and they enter into this as a pact of worship.
Father, thank you for the work of Jesus in coming to this world. And when He was born, He brought hope because He came in the fullness of the time, at just the right time to redeem those who are under the curse. And Father, these elements speak of what He came to do. He came to die. He was born to die. And He himself, when He was grown, took the elements of the bread and the wine, passed them out to His disciples and said, when you do this, and do it often, do it in remembrance of me. My body broken, my blood shed, in Jesus' name, Amen.
God gave us a sign. God gave us a Son. God gave us a Savior. If I were to boil all of what we've just heard from the scriptures this morning into one little statement, it would be, Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. Over and over again, the Bible tells you of the great love of God for you. And Peter said, even though we don't see Him, yet we love Him, and we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. So we take this bread symbolizing we believe His broken body was broken for us. Let's take.
The cup symbolizes His blood. The Bible tells us the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses a man, a woman from all sin. So we take this to ourselves. Our symbol is that we agree with that. We believe that. We're all in. We're part of it. That covenant has been made, and we believe He is that one who came and took our place on the tree. Let's take together.
Lord, we're in awe because no one has loved us this much. No one has treated us with such undeserved favor. So the least we can do, the very least, is to say thank you and to tell you through our song, as well as our life, that we love you in Jesus' name, Amen.