For Unto Us a Child is Born
“The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NASB).
by Ray Charlton
The passage of Isaiah 9:6,7 is often included in Christmas greetings. How
many people stop and think of the significance of the first part of this prophecy, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us” (NASB)?
Creating a Child?
When Jehovah created Adam, it is recorded “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7 NASB). If Jesus had been created in the same manner, he
would have been a perfect man and a possible ransom for Adam. However, this approach would have created several problems. First, it would have limited Jesus’ human experiences and his being touched with a feeling of man’s infirmities, many of which occur during childhood (Matthew 8:17). Second, Jesus would not have been born under the Law and thus, been able to redeem those under the Law from the curse of the Law. Therefore, the holy Spirit was used to give life to Mary’s egg and start the process of forming a child.
Why a Child?
Jehovah told Satan after he deceived Eve and Adam, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” Pastor Russell noted in Reprint 1610, that Christ was “the seed of the woman … and not a son of Adam.” Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law”
(Galatians 4:4 NASB). This meant Jesus had to fulfill all the Law, right from childhood. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between Jehovah and Abraham. With it, the following warning was given: “But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:14 NASB). Not only was Jesus circumcised in the flesh, but he also demonstrated throughout his life the more critical circumcision of the heart, which is essential for gaining life (Romans 2:29).
Why a Son?
There is a special relationship between a father and his first-born son. For Jehovah to send His only begotten son showed the great sacrifice He was willing to provide to restore mankind. Solomon, writing about this relationship between the Logos and Jehovah, states, “Jehovah acquired me as the beginning of his way, The first of his works of old. (30) Then I was by him, as a master workman; And I was daily his delight. Rejoicing always before him” (Proverbs 8:22, 30 RVIC). This love is also recorded in Matthew, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Why a Virgin?
Our opening verse, Isaiah 7:14, prophesied that “a virgin will be with child and bear a son.” The word translated “virgin” comes from the
Hebrew word almah, Strong’s H5959, which means “a lass (as veiled or private).” This does not provide much insight into the meaning.
The New Testament shows conclusively that Mary was a virgin when she responded to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?”
(Luke 1:34 NASB).
There are two aspects that may be overlooked regarding “why a virgin” and “why a first-born son.”
(1) The first-born was consecrated to God. Luke records that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as their first-born. “As it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT
OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD” (Luke 2:23 NASB, Exodus 13:2).
(2) The first-born son obtained the birthright. The “firstborn” son had special privileges within the family. He received the special family blessing, both spiritual and social leadership, and a double portion of the father’s possessions — or twice what all the other sons received. In the case of Jesus, He was the “only begotten” of the Father, thus entitled to the full inheritance of the first-born and next-in-line to support the family. Jesus stated, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Paul explained, “God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name
of Jesus, EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10 NASB). Jesus, by his faithfulness unto death, also inherited the throne of David (Psalm 132:11, Isaiah 9:7,
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2 NASB).
Micah foretold of Jesus’ birthplace, yet Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth in Galilee. It would have been logical for Jesus to be born in Nazareth. But God foreknew that Caesar Augustus would decree a census, requiring each to go to his own city (Luke 2:4-6).
This birth of the future King of Kings would surely take place in a palace and his arrival announced to the world, in accordance with his lofty position. But this was not to be, as Luke records. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7 NASB). The announcement was made not even to Mary or the leaders in Israel, but to a few lowly shepherds in the fields by a multitude of angels praising
God (Luke 2:14 NASB). Why? Because Jesus was not to be like any earthly king, nor could he become a heavenly king until he poured out his soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus’ glory and kingship would be in heaven, and his rulership will eventually extend to earth.
Why the Shepherd and the Lowly Status of Jesus’ Birth?
Shepherds were not highly regarded in Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. This added to the humility of his birth. How fitting, considering the purpose of his birth and Jesus’ willingness to humble himself even unto the death of a cross (Philippians 2:8). Isaiah foretells his birth, then looks forward to Christ’s second advent. As described in Isaiah 53, his lowly birth meant he would be despised and forsaken of men — not as a king, but as a lowly carpenter’s son (Mark 6:3). He came not to reign as king, but to die as a ransom. How fitting that these lowly shepherds came to greet the Lamb of God, sent to the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus would feel compassion for Israel for they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 NASB).
We have little information about the Magi other than they came from the east to worship the King of the Jews following “the star, which they had seen in the east.” In Jerusalem, the Magi enquired, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-7,9). This greatly troubled King Herod and he summoned the chief priest and scribes to inquire about the location of Messiah’s birth. Being told he would be born in Bethlehem; Herod secretly called the Magi to inquire about the exact time of the appearance of the star.
It is interesting that it was Gentile Magi who came to pay homage to the King of the Jews. Jewish and Roman rulers seemed oblivious to the birth. The Magi likely believed a person born to be king would reside in the palace. That may be why they went to Jerusalem and to Herod. When they finally came to the house where Jesus was, they showed their sincerity.
“They saw the Child with Mary his mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Luke 2:11). These gifts were spiritually symbolic of his future work. Gold represented his kingship, frankincense his priestly role, and myrrh his sacrifice.
The Magi did not return to Herod. Being warned in a dream, they left by another way. This enraged Herod who “sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under,
according to the time which he had determined from the magi” (Matthew 2:16 NASB). Matthew explained how earthly rulers and Satan would try to thwart God’s plan of salvation by quoting the words of the prophets: “Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH [“High Place,” Bethlehem is high in the Judean Hills], WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE” (Matthew 2:17-18 NASB).
The Flight to Egypt
The flight to Egypt was directed of Jehovah through a dream delivered to Joseph by an angel. “Get up! Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). The urgency of this flight is shown by the fact that they left that night, a dangerous time to travel. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought by the Magi funded the trip. This journey to Egypt fulfilled Hosea 11:1, “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” Pastor Russell noted, “We should be on the lookout for divine deliverance and the opening of a way of escape from things too difficult for us to endure” (The New Creation, pages 508). “God’s course did not interfere with the existing order of things … He did not strike Herod dead, nor overturn nor interfere with his authority and power. The time for such radical measures had not yet come” (Reprint 1681:6). They remained in Egypt for a few months before the angel of the Lord appeared
again telling them Herod was dead and to return to Israel (Matthew 2:20-21 NASB).
Once they returned from Egypt, Joseph was warned in another dream and the family “left for the regions of Galilee and came and lived in a city called Nazareth (“Branch City,” e.g. Zechariah 3:8). This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:22-23 NASB). Reviewing the prophecies in Isaiah, we find that Jesus would lead a humble life and be despised and rejected of his countrymen. This certainly agrees with the general attitude of that time toward Nazarenes (John 1:46, 7:52).
Jesus as a Child in the Temple
This significant event in Jesus’ life is only recorded in Luke 2:41-52. Pastor Russell comments: “It was a Jewish custom that a Jewish boy should be considered ‘a son of the Law’ when he attained his twelfth year. He thus became responsible under the Law and thenceforth was required to keep its festivals” (Reprints 4957:3, 3711:2, 2559:4).
At twelve, Jesus traveled with his family to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. On the return journey, his parents discovered that Jesus was not in their group. Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem and searched for three days, finally finding him in the temple. Why did they not go straight to the Temple, his father’s house?
Maybe at that age they did not expect he would be seated among the teachers, listening, and asking questions. His hearers “were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:41-47 NASB).
Luke provides the last recorded statement describing Jesus’ childhood. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52 ESV). Jesus, as the Logos, was obedient to his father. As a human being, he learned obedience under very different circumstances,
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8 NASB). The lessons in the Temple and his obedience to his earthly parents would assist him in his future ministry. Jesus said, “that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44 NASB).