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Unbelievable or inconceivable?
Praying *in the GAP*
Wrestling with God in prayer
Outside -- but Inside

Unbelievable or inconceivable?
by marc weinstein

In the verse alongside, notice first that the prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus was addressed to the entire "house of David" -- not just to a particular individual person.  

Hear now, O house of David! ...The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isa 7.13a and 7.14

Secondly, notice that God's validating *sign* of the Messiah's identity was that He (the Messiah) would be born of a VIRGIN!  

Hear now, O house of David! ...The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isa 7.13a and 7.14

Have you ever wondered why God would specify "virgin birth" as the validating sign of the Messiah's birth?

After all, Mary’s pregnancy brought great shame upon her in those days. Why? Because she was engaged (but NOT yet married) to Joseph. And Joseph was shamed, also, because he could be suspected of having fathered Mary's child before marriage.

One of the cardinal tenets of the Christian faith is belief in the virgin birth. And yet, in some corners of Christendom, it's a hotly debated topic as to whether God really intended Isaiah 7.14 to point to an actual VIRGIN birth.

The debate about the virgin birth is partly related to the Hebrew word <almah> that is translated "virgin" in Isaiah 7.14, as shown alongside.  

Hear now, O house of David! ...The Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin <Hebrew: almah> shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isa 7.13a and 7.14

It is a fact that the Hebrew word <almah> has several possible meanings, as shown by the dictionary entries alongside.

This same sort of situation can arise in any language with respect to words that have multiple meanings. For instance, the English word "log" can refer to either a piece of wood or to a record-keeping book.

When you read a word with multiple meanings, how can you tell which meaning is intended? You can tell by...

  • The context in which the word is used, and
  • The author's further explanation of what he meant by that word.
 

Definitions of almah

Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon - H5959
1) virgin, young woman
1a) of marriageable age
1b) maid or newly married

Strong's Lexicon - #05959
a lass (as veiled or private):--damsel, maid, virgin

Context
In the verse alongside, <almah> was used in the context of being a SIGN from God. That is, God would cause a Son to be born in such a manner that it could ONLY be a sign from God Himself.

ASK YOURSELF: Since <almah> can mean either "young woman" or "virgin," which of the following would be a sign that could ONLY come from God...

  • A *young woman* has a baby? OR
  • A *virgin* has a baby?
 

Hear now, O house of David! ...The Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin <almah> shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isa 7.13a and 7.14

The Author's further explanation
Matthew 1.23 directly quotes Isaiah 7.14, and applies it to Mary's giving birth to Jesus.

  • The Old Testament (including Isaiah) was originally written in Hebrew. The New Testament (including Matthew) was originally written in Greek.
  • In translating Isaiah 7.14 to Greek, Matthew 1.23 uses <parthenos> -- a Greek word which uniquely means "virgin."
  • God's Bible includes Luke 1.31-34 and Matthew 1.25 so as to make it abundantly clear that Mary did not "know" (have sex with) Joseph or any other man prior to the birth of Jesus.
  • Thus, Jesus was born of a VIRGIN as God's unmistakable sign that Jesus was and is Immanuel -- GOD with us!
  Behold, the virgin <Greek: parthenos> shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, "God with us." Mt 1.23

(The angel told Mary:) "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS." ...Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" Luke 1.31, 1.34

Joseph did not know her (Mary) till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. Mt 1.25

Faith is the Victory!
However, no amount of word analysis (or any other form of *proof*) can firmly and unequivocally convince everyone of the truth of God's miracles, including the virgin birth of Jesus.

  • In the final analysis, FAITH is required of those folks who seek to come to God.
  • God’s plan is to confront your heart to have faith to believe His Word.
  Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11.6
As shown by the verse alongside, God offers you the GIFT of faith, which cannot be mustered up by the power of your mind to believe something.

Faith is a gift of God to bring you unto Himself to be born-again of the Spirit of God.
  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God Eph 2.8
You do not experience the new birth out of the will of your flesh, but of God. The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Belief in the virgin birth? how foolish can you get! Does that seem foolish to you? Not if you have received the gift of God… which is faith.
  As many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1.12-13

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor 2.14
"Christmas" is when we give gifts to one another so as to celebrate the virgin birth of Lord Jesus. But God stands ready to give YOU a Christmas gift at any time of any year when you choose to receive it.

Have you received God's *Christmas gift* of faith to believe the virgin birth and *take hold* of Jesus?
  This is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5.11-12

Praying *in the GAP*

#1 of 8 frames
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him,
That if we ask anything according to His will,
He hears us.

1 John 5.14

#2 of 8 frames

An important emphasis of the Bible's teachings about prayer is not on changing God's will to fit yours, but on changing YOUR will to fit God's.

In fact, there are two prominent cases where God's will was NOT changed by prayer: (1) the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, and (2) Apostle Paul's thrice-prayed request to have his "thorn in the flesh" removed...

#3 of 8 frames

1) Jesus went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Mt 26.39

2) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12.7-9a

#4 of 8 frames

Nevertheless, the Bible makes it clear that God often waits upon human prayer before He will carry out some aspects of His plans. In other words, there are times when God will not act unless YOU pray and ask Him to act. This is difficult to explain, so let me use one of several possible examples.

Numbers 14.1-4 gives the record of Israel's rebellion against God in the Wilderness of Paran.

  • Because of God's holiness, it was His will to punish Israel for their great sin.
  • However, Moses interceded for Israel and begged God's forgiveness.
  • God DID forgive Israel.
  • Did God change? No -- God NEVER changes (Mal 3.6a).
  • What DID change was the situation. Namely, the intercessory prayer of Moses changed the situation.

Moses *stood in the gap* between Israel's sin and God's holiness, and thereby provided a basis by which God could JUSTLY forgive Israel...

#5 of 8 frames
(Moses prayed...)
"Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray,
According to the greatness of Your mercy,
Just as You have forgiven this people,
From Egypt even until now."

Then the LORD said:
"I have pardoned, according to your word."
Num 14.19-20

#6 of 8 frames

Because of sin and disbelief, does your nation stand in dire danger of God's holy wrath?

Do you have an unbelieving friend or loved one whose sins sorely need God's forgiveness and mercy?

If so, meditate carefully upon the following words of God...

#7 of 8 frames
(God said...)
The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy;
and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall,
and
stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land,
that I should not destroy it...
Ezek 22.29-30a

#8 of 8 frames

Have you been wondering how to pray *according to God's will*? If so...

STAND IN THE GAP!

Wrestling with God in prayer

#1 of 7 frames
Then Jacob was left alone;
and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.

Now when the Man saw that He did not prevail against Jacob,
He touched the socket of Jacob's hip;
and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint
as He wrestled with the him.

And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks."
But Jacob said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"
Gen 32.24-26

#2 of 7 frames

The "Man" who wrestled with Jacob was none other than God Himself. This is proven by the following verses...

#3 of 7 frames
Yes, Jacob struggled with the Angel and prevailed.
Jacob wept, and sought favor from Him.
Jacob found Him in Bethel,
And there He spoke to us ----
That is,
the LORD God of hosts.
The LORD is His memorable name.
Hosea 12.4-5

#4 of 7 frames

2 Timothy 3.17 says that God gave you His Bible in order to teach you. Therefore, God didn't put the above quoted verses in His Bible just so you could learn about Him and Jacob. No, God put those verses there so you could learn something about Him and you.

  • In the above quoted Bible passages, it was God's will to bless Jacob.
  • However, Jacob had to struggle mightily with God in order to receive God's blessing.

Is it possible that YOU also might some day have to wrestle with God in order to receive His blessing? In my OPINION -- Yes!

In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if -- on some dark night in your walk with God -- you already have prayed something like the following...

#5 of 7 frames
Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do You hide in times of trouble?

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?

Psalm 10.1; Psalm 13.1-2a

#6 of 7 frames

Why would God require you to struggle for a blessing that He wants to give you?

Perhaps the answer to the preceeding question centers on the fact that God is NOT your *heavenly room service*. God is your Father. You are His child.

  • As your Father, God is not satisfied merely to bless you. He also wants you to grow strong in the faith.
  • Faith muscles get strong in much the same way that physical muscles get strong -- by hard exercise.

Therefore, God requires you to WORK HARD when praying so as to learn...

  • Never quit. Wrestle!
  • Never give in to spiritual fatigue or discouragement.
  • Always PRESS ONWARD IN FAITH!

#7 of 7 frames
Forgetting those things which are behind,
And reaching forth unto those things which are ahead,
I press toward the mark
For the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Then Jesus spoke a parable to them,
That men always ought to pray
and not lose heart

Philippians 3.13b-14; Luke 18.1

Outside -- but Inside
It's a tough job, but God says, "Do it!"

#1 of 4 frames

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?
And what communion has light with darkness?
And what accord has Christ with Belial?
Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?

For you are the temple of the living God.
As God has said:
"I will dwell in them And walk among them.
I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate,"
says the Lord.
2 Cor 6.14-17a

#2 of 4 frames

God has commanded you NOT to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

What is "unequally yoked?" IMHO, it is any activity or relationship that tempts you to sin, or could potentially dishonor the name of Christ.

On the other hand, being separate does NOT mean that you are to isolate yourself from the world. God left you in the world to be His witness. Consider carefully the following verses...

#3 of 4 frames
(Concerning believers, Jesus said to the Father...)

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world,
But that You should keep them from the evil one.

You are the light of the world.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket,
But on a lampstand,
And it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men,
That they may see your good works
And glorify your Father in heaven.

John 17.15; Mt 5.14-16

#4 of 4 frames

It is God's will that, while you remain IN the world, even so you are not to be OF the world.

  • A diver in a rubber suit is in the water but separated from its wetness.
  • By the same token, it is your God-given *job* to be in the world but separated from its evil.

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