Devotion 22. Immanuel
After he related the story of Gabriel giving Mary God’s message concerning her baby, Matthew inspired by the Holy Spirit, explained that “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23d“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:21-22)
Matthew referred to Isaiah’s prophesy in Isaiah 7:14. The context of that passage was the reign of King Ahaz recorded in 2 Kings. Ahaz was a king of Judah and not a good one. Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel) and Syria had joined forces to conquer Judah. God sent Isaiah a message through Isaiah, the prophet, to say that they would not succeed. In fact, a young woman would conceive and bear a child and before the child got old enough to eat on his own, Judah would defeat these enemies.
The passage goes on to describe a time of peace and favor of the Lord that would occur thereafter. Matthew said that prophecy had its ultimate fulfillment in the birth of Christ. Matthew, writing in Greek, used the word for “virgin”, whereas Isaiah, writing in Hebrew, used the word for young woman of marriage age. As a side note, this caused some to reject the Revised Standard Version and others which interpreted the Isaiah passage as young woman rather than virgin. I think this unnecessary, as we would not have known the ultimate fulfillment of the verse until the Holy Spirit explained it to us in Matthew’s gospel. At any rate, Matthew says the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy comes in the birth of Christ.
The heart of this word is that Christ is referred to as Emanuel. Matthew explains it means God with us. To the people of the time of Ahaz, it would have told them that the God whose presence filled the temple would be among them and protect them. But with the birth of Christ a greater meaning came to the name just as a greater fulfillment came to the prophecy.
Christ truly became God with us. First, he took on human flesh and dwelt with the disciples. John explained that in John 1:14. He said “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. But then, he departed and the Holy Spirit came and dwelt in believers, permanently being among us.
It has always been God’s purpose and design to create a people for himself and to dwell among them. He made Adam and Eve and prepared a place for them to live in his presence (Genesis 2:8). He even walked in the garden (Genesis 3:8).
After redeeming Israel from slavery in creating them as a people for himself, God prepared a place for them and dwelt in their midst. First he dwelt in the Tabernacle. Next we dwelt in the Temple.
Christ then came and dwelt with his people, the disciples. Then the Holy Spirit dwelt among the believers. No buildings were necessary. But in the new creation, God will dwell in our midst forever. John put it this way: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3).
Christmas celebrates God with us. We think of the Incarnation. But we look forward to his 2nd Coming to dwell with us forever.