There is a principle in interpreting prophecy that should always be considered. Prophecy should be studied with a view to three points of reference. To ignore any one of these points of reference is to run the risk of overlooking important lessons from the Lord. These points of reference are: 1. What did the prophecy mean at the time the prophet spoke? What immediate applications should be made? We discover this by knowing the historical situation being addressed. God had an immediate word for the people of that day. 2. What does the prophecy mean for all time? What is its universal application? We learn this by discerning principles within the text that are always true in every historical setting. God has a word for each passing age in human history within the words of Spirit inspired prophecy. 3. What does this prophecy say for this particular time? What word does God have for us today that is uniquely relavent to our current situation.
The historical context was a time of division between the northern kingdom, Israel with its capital city of Samaria, and the southern kingdom, Judah with its capital city of Jerusalem. The division was so deep that an alliance between Syria and Israel was threatening Judah. The prophet was urging the King of Judah to hear a promise from God and trust God. In that context he used the illustration of a virgin conceiving a child and the child coming of an age of discernment as an analogy of how quickly this threat would end.
The universal application is that God knows how history will conclude. We can move in confidence and make decisions based on faith. Some things never change. The verse which says, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” is universal in its application. (7:9)
The current application underscores the ongoing onslaught of the evil one against the person of Christ. Isaiah uttered that Jesus would be born of a virgin and that He would be called Immanuel. The name “Immanuel” means God with us. This points to the fact that Jesus is God. For several chapters Isaiah develops this theme through astounding prophecies. The historical occasion prompted Isaiah to bring a word of prophecy that helped in the crisis of that day while also dramatically pointing to God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.