Prophecy is a very interesting reality in the Scriptures. We need to remember that any prophecy is given at a specific time in history and has, therefore, an historical relevance to that time. Prophetic utterances may also have relevance to any given time.
The present situation is that the Assyrian armies have laid siege to Jerusalem and things do not look good for the Jews. Despite this impending disaster, Isaiah stands as a ray of light with a glimmer of hope for the people of Israel. (A maiden is with child and she will bear a son and will call him Immanuel) Isaiah is basically promising deliverance for Israel from the armies that are besieging Jerusalem within a period of nine months. The name given to the son, Immanuel, literally means ‘with us is God.’ That is, when Jerusalem is delivered from its assailants, the people will realise again that God has not abandoned them.
The Fathers of the Church saw this text as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus – who was born of the young maiden or virgin (the two words are the same in Hebrew). Thus the prophecy has relevance to both the people of Isaiah’s time and to the birth of Jesus. I think some Scripture scholars may argue that the prophecy is not strictly messianic in regards to the Jewish understanding of messianic prophecies however, this does not have to concern us, as we are not Jews! The Church has consistently interpreted the text as a prophecy of Jesus’ birth and this fact will not change.
As we read the Scriptures it is important that we are aware of the many different levels at which we can read and understand any particular text. I have talked about only two ways of reading a prophetic utterance. There are many other considerations that we also need to consider if we want to try to discover the full meaning of a given text. We will however, leave these tools to another day and another reflection. We also need to remember that the Scriptures can speak to us simply through the words that we read with little other understanding. However, we should be aware that there is more to the Scriptures than just their literal sense.
How committed am I to studying the Scriptures and not just reading them? It is not that difficult to buy or borrow a simple commentary that can help us to get more out of our Scripture meditation.
Holy Spirit, lead and guide me as I read the Word of God. Help me to understand all that I need to know from them and help me to put the lessons I learn from the Scriptures into practice in my life.