Unto Us… Immanuel

Image by Vickie McCarty from Pixabay

Water crawled through the small stream, giggling and swishing as the king sat on a log, thinking of the hard decisions ahead. The kingdom looked good on the outside, but the dangers that lie ahead could destroy what everyone knew and loved about Israel. Ahaz knew there were only a couple of ways to save the nation. But nowhere in his heart did he want to hear the prophet yelling at him from the other side of the brook. There Isaiah stood trying to speak hope into the defeated king. Israel found out about the northern alliance bent on taking their land, and the people’s courage took a vacation.

But Isaiah stood with his son, whose name signified both the greatest fear of the people and the greatest message of hope from God. The boy’s name is translated “A remnant will return,” signifying their defeat and capture, but also the Lord’s plans for restoration. As the prophet pleaded with the king to place trust in God instead of Egypt for help, the king refused to hear of God’s message. He would not even ask God for a sign. But through Isaiah, God gave one anyway. A virgin, or young maiden, would bear a son called Immanuel, meaning, “God with us.” That was the hope, but the king did not listen, and the nation was overrun.

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Cold darkness surrounded the shepherds as they laid in the opening of the cavern to keep the sheep from danger. Long and hard were the days for men of this caliber. Most of them were treated rudely by everyone, having the lowest of low jobs, the job no one else wants. But they were strong and courageous like Joshua, mighty warriors like David, and gentle enough to care for the sheep that didn’t know better. Suddenly, the warm light of the celestial beings filled the sky and warmed their hearts as these humble men heard the proclamation of a son born to them, a shepherd and a king. The hope of a nation. The hope of the world!

During Christmas, it’s easy to meditate on the incarnation of Jesus. Despite the secularization of Christmas I think more about how and why Jesus came to us. Isaiah 7 and 9 are special chapters in God’s revelation plan for all of us.

The New Testament passages we read every Christmas (Luke 2:10-12; Matthew 1:23) directly reference Isaiah 7:10-17 and Isaiah 9:1-7. And Matthew describes Mary, the virgin, the young maiden, God used to bring his son to us. The angel announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds in the fields. This angel used words like “unto us” and “joy and peace” along with David’s city. The whole event shows the complete fulfillment of predictive prophecies about the Messiah.

Many scholars balk against predictive prophecy and stages of fulfillment. Let me show you another example of a predictive prophecy with an immediate and progressive fulfillment. Daniel prophesied about the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:24-27). It was time-specific. He mentioned 70 weeks as a sign, or confirmation of the prophecy.

In times shortly before Jesus, a Gentile roller named Antiochus Epiphanes IV sacked the city of Jerusalem, walked into the temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar, a grave abomination to Mosaic Law. This was a partial fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy about the abomination of desolation.

Jesus taught on the end times and referred to this abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15-28; Mark 13:14-23). He said that a ruler, the antichrist, will come and desolate the temple by an impure or improper sacrifice or violation of God’s temple laws and ordinances. This is one of the signs of the antichrist.

Paul also referenced this abomination (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). This is the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. We don’t know what the prophet saw in his vision written down for us. It could have been any or all of these images. The point is that through predictive prophecy God called his shots into the future.

Isaiah also spoke predictive prophetic words that would be completely fulfilled in Jesus. In his time God gave a sign within 65 years the northern alliance would be destroyed. They threatened Israel in his present but God will take care of them. The sign given was of an alma (Hebrew for a virgin, young maiden, betrothed woman). This was most likely a woman that Ahaz somehow personally knew. The first sign was for him.

When this woman he knew bore a son, they would see it as Immanuel, God with us. The child’s name would say that God was working the prophecy into action. It was the partial fulfillment of the sign. Later God would be with us in a completely different way, literally fulfilling the sign with a virgin and Immanuel, “God with us.” This is the sign we celebrate at Christmas.

Mary was both betrothed and a virgin. Matthew, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, quotes from this prophecy about her and Jesus. It is the most literal and complete fulfillment of the sign and prophecy. The God-Man Jesus, whose name means “The Lord Saves” is literally God and came among us. God called his shots 700 years earlier through the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus further fulfills all four names Isaiah mentioned in his other prophecy (Isaiah 9:1-7). From his birth to his resurrection and his second coming, he fulfills every one of them. His resurrection proves that he is the Everlasting Father, the Beginning and the End.

The government on his shoulder is the Kingdom of God. But I believe this part of his prophecy is yet to be completely fulfilled. It may refer to his millennial reign as well. That’s when we see a king who rules with peace and the character written into the names Isaiah gives. Christmas doesn’t only remind us of the time passed when Jesus came unto us as God’s son but also when he will return as the King of all Kings and the Lord of all Lords.

In Luke 2:10-12, the angels hinted at Isaiah 9:1-7. Even the light that lit up the sky’s for the shepherds visually represented the prophecy. Matthew quotes later at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry about people in darkness seeing a great light (Matthew 4:16).

Jesus confirms these names in his Person and character. He is God in the flesh, the Mighty God. He is the Wonderful Counselor offering the most sage counsel in all of history. And he will reign forever and ever both on the earth through the Millennial Reign and throughout eternity.

These prophecies get me more excited as I celebrate Jesus’ incarnation. He came to us as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and he is coming to us as a conquering King soon! He saved us from our sins then and he will save us into heaven and eternity soon.

This holiday is about much more than shopping, decorations, overplayed Christmas music, and even eggnog and snow. Let us hope for the prophecy, what was, what is, and what will be in Jesus. May your Christmas season be filled with thoughts of the King past, present, and future.

Let that sacred night fill your heart with meditations of Jesus as we look to another coming, this soon return of our Lord! What do you think about Isaiah’s prophecies? Leave a comment and tell me what you meditate upon during the Christmas and Advent seasons.

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