Immanuel (By Chris Barnes)
In the book of Isaiah, we read about kings making war against Judah and against the house of David. During this time, Isaiah went up to the King of Judah (Ahaz) to prophesy that these kings would not succeed in their attempt to defeat Judah. Isaiah followed with a message of confirmation for King Ahaz:
All right then, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel. By the time this child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, he will be eating yogurt and honey. For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted. (Isaiah 7: 14-16)
Isaiah was clearly talking about a child who would be born during Ahaz’s lifetime, a child who would be alive when the kings of the enemies were defeated. Yet when Matthew wrote his Gospel, he cited this verse as a prophecy that Jesus fulfilled:
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit …… All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”(Matthew 1: 18, 22-23)
This is one of several places in Matthew’s Gospel in which he cites an Old Testament passage that is clearly about something or someone else, and says that Christ fulfilled it. Matthew wanted his readers to know that ultimately all the Scriptures are about Christ and find their ultimate fulfillment in him.
Indeed Isaiah’s prophecy had a prior partial fulfillment in a child born as a sign to Ahaz. But the true, final, and ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is in Christ alone. This is what we remember and celebrate at Christmas, that God came to live amongst us that night in Bethlehem.
Prayer – Immanuel, all my joy comes from knowing you are with me. Help me to focus on you during this wonderful season. Fill me with your presence so I may experience the greatest joy of all and so I may then share this joy with the world.
Song: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.