Summary: An examination of the title "Immanuel," geared to help the audience fully understand the wonder that God is with us and to make decisions about their living that will reflect their belief that this is true every day.
Where was God?
Where was God when terrorists struck on September 11?
Where was God in the theater in Aurora?
Where was God when Hurricane Sandy struck?
A lot of people are living there. Someone left. Someone has died. Life has changed. Things that once were certain are now shaky. Where is God? When my child died, when my spouse left me, when I lost my job, when I was diagnosed with cancer, where was God?
It’s an honest question from someone who is having a hard time reconciling the presence of an all-powerful and loving God with life in a broken world.
Let’s step back to 735 BC. Ahaz is king #11 in Judah. Kings Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria have formed an alliance against Ahaz. If he doesn’t comply with their plans, he’ll be replaced. So, they advance as far as Jerusalem. Ahaz is in no position to resist. Even though he’s a descendant of David, he’s not a godly man. He isn’t depending on God or the courage of his people for help. He’s more inclined to turn to the king of Assyria for help. Later on, he actually did, and it cost the nation dearly. It’s a crisis moment for Judah and King Ahaz, and it’s into this crisis that God injects His prophet Isaiah.
Strange, isn’t it, as we talk about the names of Jesus around His birth time, that we’re back in the book of Isaiah and in the middle of a situation that seems completely unrelated to Jesus?
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test." Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Let me begin by saying that Jesus was never called “Immanuel” by name. It’s a title, or a moniker.
Mike Ditka is called [Coach].
Wayne Gretsky is called [the Great One].
We understand how memorable names get applied to people. Jesus just happens to have over 400 names applied to Him throughout the Bible.
It wasn’t until Jesus was born that Matthew got ahold of this title and helps us see the way it’s so much more than a 730 year old prophecy for King Ahaz. In fact, within the first 2 chapters of Matthew, he shows us 16 different references back into the OT to help us see how Jesus fulfilled these.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."
For every hurting person, every skeptic, every straying believer, who has ever questioned God’s location, I want to give an answer that’s simple and complicated at the same time. It goes as far back as the OT, and as far ahead as forever. It’s tied up in this name of Jesus
Maybe you don’t understand God’s plans, or God’s actions or what to think of God’s promises. I hope we can change that with one word, right now. Immanuel. What does it mean, for us?
1. God’s plans aren’t always easy, but they’re always wonderful
Maybe you think that Christmas is a difficult time of year. I concur. But the story of Christmas is hardly a story about doing things the easy way. Talk about complications during pregnancy! Joseph and Mary were both faced with some really big ones. Joseph was faced with disgrace and a broken heart all at once. His only way out was to take his broken trust with Mary and quietly back out of the marriage that had never begun. That was Joseph’s plan. But God others. Did you see the text? “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said…” “All this”? An engagement. An unexplainable pregnancy before marriage. Heartbreak. Changes of plans for a lifetime. This all happened to fulfill a verse back in the book of Isaiah 730 years earlier!