I. Prophecy is the word of Jehovah (2Pet. 1:21) and, as Jehovah is He Who was, and is, and is to come, prophecy must partake of, and relate to, the past, present, and future also; and must have this threefold interpretation or application. The prophecy first quoted by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament will show us how He uses the prophecy which He had Himself inspired; and therefore will furnish us with the principles on which we are to interpret other prophecies.
It will be seen that a prophecy may have (1) a reference to the time and occasion on which it was first spoken; (2) a reference to a later event or circumstances (when it is quoted as having been "spoken" or "written"); and (3) a reference to yet a later or future or final event, which exhausts it (when it is quoted as being "fulfilled"; i.e. filled full).
Hence, instead of speaking "praeterists" and "futurists", we must sometimes
take a larger view and be prepared to see both a past,
and future interpretation.
But it is equally true that that did not exhaust it, for only a part of the whole prophecy was then fulfilled.
The prophecy begins at Isa. 7:10 and runs on to Isa. 9:7. It is clearly wrong, therefore, to take a part and put it for the whole; for it reaches on to future Millennial times, and is connected with the glorious coming of Messiah.
The whole prophecy, therefore, is Messianic; and although the
first part had a partial and preliminary fulfillment at the time it was
spoken, it cannot be separated from the last part, which takes in the fact
that the "children" are used as symbolical "signs". For it ends by
declaring that they "are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord
of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion" (Isa. 8:18). The two parts
are connected and linked together by the use of the word "Immanuel" (7:14
and 8:8, 10 R.V. marg.)
As to the past; it is clear from the prophecy that Ahaz, greatly moved at the confederacy of Ephraim (put by Metonymy, Ap. 6, for Israel) with Syria, was tempted to make a counter-confederacy with the king of Assyria. A sign was given to him that he need not yield to the temptation, for the danger would pass away. That "sign" must have had a signification for Ahaz that would convince him of the truth of the prophets' words. The sign was that a man child would be born to some certain and well known maiden (for it is Ha-'Almah - "the maiden"), which man-child would be called Immanuel; and, before that child would know how to distinguish between good and evil, the kings of Ephraim and Syria would both be removed. No record of this birth is given; but it must have taken place; as Jehovah gave the sign for that very purpose.
In chap. 8 another "sign" was given to Ahaz. Another child would
be born, this time to the prophetess. He too, would have a fore-determined
name -- Maher-shalal-hash-baz; and, before he should be able to
say "father" or "mother", both Syria and Ephraim should be spoiled by the
king of Assyria.
In chap. 9:6 there is a third sign, and again it is a child. It is a sign connected with the future; or rather one that connects the first sign with this and with the future.
"Unto us a child is born,
Unto us a son is given."
This child is also forenamed, and the name is "Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace". And the prophecy closes by declaring that His kingdom shall have no end; and shall be associated with the throne of David.
There were, altogether, four "children" who were set "for signs and for wonders in Israel by the LORD of hosts" (8:18). Two were only "signs", but two were "wonders", and they are given, and placed, in alternate correspondence.
A | SHEAR-JASHUB, 7:3 (The son of the Prophet), a "sign".
B. | IMMANUEL, 7:14, a "wonder".
A. | MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ, 8:1-3 (The son of the Prophet), a "sign".
B. | "WONDERFUL", &c. 9:6, 7, a "wonder".
Does not this point to the fact that the child of chap. 7:14 is to be associated with the child of chap. 9:6? and, though it was a "sign" of events then transpiring, those events did not and could not exhaust it or the "wonders" to which it pointed.
The names also of these "children" are signs. The meaning of the name Isaiah was itself a sign of that salvation of Jehovah of which he prophesied.
i. SHEAR-JASHUR (7:3) meant the remnant shall return, i.e. repent, and stay upon Jehovah, and wait for Him.
ii. IMMANUEL (7:14) told of the fact that salvation would come to Israel only when God with us should be true as a blessed and glorious reality.
iii. MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ (8:1-3) tells of the Assyrian hasting to make a prey and spoil of the nation, and reveals the need of the salvation of Jehovah. That too, was only partially fulfilled. For there is another who is called "the Assyrian", and in Dan. 9:26 is called "the prince that shall come" (cp. Isa. 14:25). He will hasten to make a prey of the nation; but there is yet another -- Emmanuel, the Prince of the Covenant-- Who will destroy him and bring in, for Israel, final and eternal salvation. His name is called,
iv. "WONDERFUL" - "THE PRINCE OF PEACE".
But what is happening now -- as a present application of this great prophecy? What else is signified by these "signs"? Jehovah has been hiding His face from the house of Jacob (8:17). What is this "stone of stumbling"? What is this "rock of offence to both the houses of Israel" which causeth the Lord to hide His face? Is it not the rejection of Messiah as the Immanuel of Isa. 7:14? And is He not the "Child born" of chap. 9:6, 7?
Thus, (1) in this first use of His own prophecy (Isa. 7:14) in Matt. 1:22, 23 the Holy Spirit takes the words out of their original combinations to which their first utterance refers.
(2) The prophecy is then resolved into its elements, and by the same Spirit Who gave it, the elements are re-combined in accordance with the Divine purpose.
(3) He takes up the threads of the whole prophecy (Isa. 7:10; 9:7), and shows that the original circumstances did not allow of the complete fulfillment at the time the words were spoken and written; and finally,
(4) He connects the names and meanings with prophetic truth, and shows that even these looked forward to times and scenes far beyond their original use; so that even the IMMANUEL of 7:14 which was fulfilled in Matt. 1:22, 23 did not exhaust the IMMANUEL of Isa. 8:10, which is yet future according to Luke 1:31, 33.