Summary: The name Immanuel means “God is with us.” It is one of the most precious and familiar names of the Savior. It brings comfort and hope and reminds us that God has not forsaken you. This sermon examines the historical setting behind this name.
The name Immanuel means “God is with us.” It is one of the most precious and familiar names of the Savior. It is a name that brings comfort and hope. It reminds us that God has not forsaken you.
We might be surprised that this name for the Savior was an obscure reminder from Israel’s history until the angel revealed to Joseph that his soon-to-be wife was carrying a child that was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Today we will examine the meaning of the name “Immanuel.”
God gave this name as a promise at a time of great fear. Judah was facing the threat of annihilation from enemies on every side. The account is told to us through the words of Isaiah in chapter 7:1-14.
The year was 734 BC. This is the time of the divided kingdom, at a time when Israel was at war with her fellow Jews in Judah. The nation of Israel is also called Ephriam, a reference to the tribe that was given the northern territory. The capital of this nation is Samaria, and PEKAH was the king. As all other kings of Israel, Pekah was a wicked king. But Judah’s king Ahaz was just as wicked, leading Israel into pagan practices of idol worship, even practicing human sacrifice as a form of idol worship. The northern ten tribes of Israel were threatened by Assyria and wanted Judah to join together and fight Assyria. Here is where the conflict arises. Isaiah 7:1 sets the scene by describing that King Pekah and his soldiers from Israel, along with King Rezin and his soldiers from Aram (Syria) were coming to make war against Judah and replace King Ahaz with a puppet king, the son of Tabeel (Isaiah 7:6).
This was such devastating news that when the messenger arrived with the advance warning, “the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shake, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (Isaiah 7:2).
The army of Judah was no match against the strength of Israel and Aram. This war meant the end of the reign of Ahaz, and the end of the Davidic dynasty. It meant the destruction of Jerusalem and the demise of the Temple and the priesthood.
The war against Judah that followed was completely devastating. 2 Chronicles 28 informs us that 120,000 soldiers from Judah were killed, and 200,000 were taken captive. No war in American history compares to this level of personal and political devastation. Isaiah 7 provides the background of this story, and the plea from Isaiah to Ahaz to turn to the Lord for deliverance. Ahaz refused and instead turned to Assyria, which eventually conquered the entire land and placed Ahaz and Judah as his vassals. The cost of Ahaz’s lack of faith was that he raided the treasuries of the Temple, but as we read in 2 Chronicles 28:21 "Ahaz took some of the things from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace and from the princes and presented them to the king of Assyria, but that did not help him."
At the time of Judah’s great despair, God gave a promise: A Virgin will bear a son. The promise is further explained in ISA 8:1-15, where the virgin/son prophesy is reiterated. Scholars differ on the identity of the virgin in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:1-2. Some believe that it was a wife of Ahaz. Others, believe that it was a wife of Isaiah. Perhaps the wife who bore Shear Jasshub died, and Isaiah took a second wife. The name of the son born to the virgin was Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means, “”quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.”