How much did the Pharisees know about where the Messiah would minister? We find some behind the scenes insight into the private conversations of the chief priests and Pharisees in John 7:44-52. John has just relayed to us that some individuals had questioned whether the Messiah would come out of Galilee, instead pointing to Bethlehem, John 7:40-43. This is what caused a division among the people. Some thought He was Messiah, others had a problem with the fact that He was from Galilee.
The challenge in John 7:52 by the Pharisees is quite adamant. They tell Nicodemus to "search and look", the implication here is to search and look in the scriptures. Then the emphatic statement "for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." The Pharisees thought they knew the scriptures like the back of their hands. They thought they had indisputable evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was NOT the Messiah. But is that the case? Let’s go back and look for ourselves.
Let’s head back to Isaiah 7:14 with the prophecy to Ahaz that the Lord would give him a sign, namely that a virgin would conceive and bring forth a son. The simple reading in Isaiah with no New Testament knowledge would lead us to believe that this prophecy was fulfilled when Maher-shalal-hash-baz was born, Isaiah 8:1. However, there is language here that strongly suggests that this prophecy was not completely fulfilled. First off, his name was not called Immanuel. Thirdly, the thread of prophecy has not yet been broken when we get to Isaiah 9:6-7 which clearly must be the Messiah. The second point (appearing slightly earlier in the text) I will save for a bit.
On the side of the prophecy being fulfilled, note the immediate circumstances that will be addressed during his infancy, Isaiah 7:16-17. The two kings spoken of are obviously Israel (the northern kingdom known in some places as Ephraim) and Syria. They were Ahaz’s chief concern in 7:2 and it was the occasion for Isaiah’s visit to Ahaz, 7:3-9. After Maher-shalal-hash-baz is born the Lord specifically mentions that Damascus (the capitol of Syria) and Samaria (the capitol of Israel) will be dealt with by the king of Assyria; read the fulfillment in II Kings 16:9. So it would seem that the prophecy which was given as a sign to Ahaz had been fulfilled at the birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz.
But now for my second point. The thread of prophecy does not end after describing the destruction which the overflowing scourge (the king of Assyria) would bring upon the land. There is a wake up call to Judah since Assyria would not just deal with Syria and Israel (Samaria), but would also come into Judah, Isaiah 8:9. *** 8:10 tells the people that the counsel taken between the two northern nations would not stand because God is with us, or because of Immanuel. 8:11-12 is a command for the people not to be afraid of the confederacy between the two nations.
Now with 8:13 the prophecy moves to a deeper level that I hope we can all follow. Sanctify the LORD of Hosts and let Him be your dread.
8:14 ~ He shall be for a sanctuary, but for a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to both houses of Israel and more specifically for a trap and snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The voice speaking moves to the heart of this Immanuel figure that is yet to come. So for reasons one and three noted above, we have a prophecy of the Messiah, known here as Immanuel, to be considered a sanctuary, at which both Samaria and Judah will stumble over, especially the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
8:15 ~ Many among them (among those in Judah and Samaria) will stumble, fall, be broken, snared, and captured.
8:16 ~ But in the midst of Judah and Samaria stumbling and being offended at her Messiah, the voice speaking (Immanuel) says, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." Can it be that we have a prophecy which states that the Messiah will come, will be offensive to Judah and Samaria, but a remnant will be His disciples? The word translated disciples here occurs in Isaiah 50:4 and 54:13. My studies conclude that the use of the word shows that Isaiah saw the disciples of the Messiah in this passage. While being a stumbling block to both houses of Israel, His disciples are having the law and testimony sealed up within them.
8:17 ~ Immanuel continues saying that at the stumbling of both houses of Israel, He will wait upon the LORD who begins hiding His face from the house of Jacob. Yet we must remember the remnant, termed His disciples, who will have the law and testimony sealed up within them. Are we reading about the formation of the church in this prophecy? There is indisputable evidence contained in the next verse that we are.
8:18 ~ Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion." Behold I [Immanuel] and the children whom the LORD hath given me [the disciples that we read about in 8:16] will be for signs and wonders in Israel at this time. So here we have the continuation of the prophecy telling us that the Messiah will be born of a virgin, both houses of Israel will stumble at Him, a remnant will have the seal of the law fixed on them, the LORD will hide His face from the nation, but this Messiah and His disciples will perform signs and wonders in Israel, centered in Jerusalem. If there is any doubt that we are truly reading about the formation of the church in this Old Testament passage, simply turn to Hebrews 2:13. The writer to the Hebrews is describing the concomitance of the One who sanctifies and the ones who are sanctified. He applies Isaiah 8:18 showing that he believed the passage spoke of Christ and the church. The writer to the Hebrews saw the prophecy in just this way.
8:19-20 ~ Should not people seek unto their God? To the law and to the testimony (which is sealed up among His disciples, His children performing signs and wonders during the rejection of Messiah) if they do not agree with these it is because there is no light in them. Old Testament and New Testament revelation are both contained in the application here.
8:21-22 ~ In those in whom no light is, they will pass through this time in hunger, darkness, anguish, and gloom all the while cursing their God.
9:1-2 ~ Now we come to the passage which the Pharisees completely missed. But, during the time of this gloom, there will be no gloom for the one who had previously been in anguish. Here we must give a little background of happenings in Isaiah’s day in order to understand the significance. Have you ever wondered how the land of Israel came to be divided into three sections in the days of Jesus? Judea and Samaria seem self explanatory due to the split into the northern and southern kingdoms, but how about Galilee? How did this third section north of Samaria come to be a separate territory? The answer is found in an event that happened just a few years before Isaiah gave this very prophecy. In the days when Pekah the son of Remaliah ruled over the kingdom of Israel, and when Ahaz was ruling the kingdom of Judah, an event happened that changed the face of Israel. In II Kings 15:29 we read that Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria came and took the far northern region of Israel captive to Assyria. This included the land of Zebulun, Naphtali, and Galilee. So at the time Isaiah gave his prophecy, the land of Galilee was captive and had experienced great gloom. It even had the nickname "the land of the shadow of death". Galilee was taken captive to be brought back from captivity at a later point in time. Samaria (the remaining portion of the northern kingdom of Israel) would be destroyed, intermingle their seed, and set up a false religious system, II Kings 17. But Galilee and Judah would keep their lineage pure. Hence the three sections of Israel during the days of Jesus the Messiah.
So here is Isaiah’s prophecy. The land of Galilee will not experience this great gloom again. Oh no! Upon them the light will shine. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. In the context of what Isaiah has been prophesying about, the Messiah will born of a virgin, be rejected by Samaria, Judah, and Jerusalem. But a remnant will be His disciples, both they and the Messiah doing great signs and wonders in the land of Israel. This light will shine the brightest in the land of Galilee that has experienced such gloom and darkness. They will be the witnesses to the signs and wonders of the Messiah.
The prophetic thread continues with judgement looming for Samaria and Syria, while still providing glimpses of Immanuel. Simply read Isaiah 9:6-7 and 11:1-10 which are undeniably speaking of the Messiah.
So as Matthew is writing his gospel, at the very outset when describing how Jesus withdrew to Galilee, he wasted no time in pointing out the scriptures that were being fulfilled as Messiah ministered in this way. In Matthew 4:12-16, the tax collector cites this passage as undeniable proof that Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah had to minister in Galilee. It had been prophesied that He would. Yet the Pharisees completely missed it thinking they had proof He wasn’t the Messiah because He ministered in Galilee.
So as the Pharisees were saying, "Search the scriptures, for no prophet arises out of Galilee," Matthew was saying, "Search the scriptures and find that the Messiah must perform signs and wonders in Galilee."
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
***The reason for the LORD bringing the king of Assyria into the land of Judah is due to the rebellious nature of the people in Judah. Isaiah 8:6 has the LORD telling a little parable concerning what type of leader the people longed for. They refused the soft flowing waters of Shiloah and wanted a strong forceful river like the strong (but ungodly) leaders Rezin, and Pekah the son of Remaliah. It’s like the LORD was saying, "You want a mighty, rushing river for your king? Look out! Here comes the king of Assyria flowing right through the midst of your land!"