Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:18-25: December 23—Jesus our Immanuel
Dec 16, 2012
By WILEY RICHARDS

Wiley Richards is a retired professor of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The Hebrew word Immanuel is usually translated as “God with us.” We often hear a similar phrase, as when someone narrowly escapes an automobile accident and says, “God was with me or I would not be here right now.” However, the biblical concept of the Messiah as God with us has a radically different meaning, pointing to the Son of God who became flesh, born of a woman. Skeptics chide us by saying, “Well if God became flesh, who was left in charge in heaven?” In a Unitarian theology, the complaint is correct, but we are Trinitarians. Each Person of the Trinity is God, but each is not all of God, to quote a popular explanation. How God the Son assumed a body is the thrust of our present study.

The prophet Isaiah presents the Messiah’s divine nature (Isa. 9:6-7). As a part of the marvelous Messianic passage beginning in Isaiah 9:1, the Bible interrupts the sometimes gruesome language in verses 2-5 to interject a stunning outcome to the reference to Galilee. The historical events in verses 2-4 come to the climax with the announcement that the birth of a child (v. 6) will be fulfilled in the child, Jesus. The language begins somewhat modestly as the child is said to assume the role of the governor of the nation. The full responsibility will rest on his “shoulder.” 

The prophet then enlarges his description of the Messiah. The five names as recorded in the Authorized Version begin with the word Wonderful. In Judges 13:18 the angel of the Lord who appeared to Manoah, father of Samson, calls himself “wonderful,” associating the word with the supernatural. The word Counselor alludes to His directions for living, much as a father guides a child. If one joins the two words, as Wonderful Counselor, the Messiah brings words of supreme wisdom with the message of eternal life. The next three names, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace allude to His Deity. Verse 7 ties the ministry of the Messiah to human history. He will be invested literally with the throne of David. Some interpreters see these experiences as applying to the church age. Others believe they portend a future reign on earth.

We now turn attention to the Messiah’s human lineage (Matt. 1:18). Matthew provides the basic outline of a genealogy which would appeal to his Jewish readers. In calling Jesus “the son of David, the son of Abraham,” he touched the patriotic nerves of those who idolized King David as the one who established the political and moral foundations of their nation. Abraham is the one whom God called from a heathen environment in Ur of the Chaldeans to the nation. We turn to Luke 3:23-38 for Luke’s account of the genealogy, apparently through Mary. He traced the lineage all the way back to Adam, the son of God (v. 30).

The coming birth of our Immanuel was announced to Joseph in a special dream (vv. 19-23). After he was made aware of Mary’s condition (v. 18), he made plans to have the betrothal set aside, probably in a private hearing with a priest with two witnesses present. 

Before he could act, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, who informed him about Mary having conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. The child to be born was to be named Jesus, meaning “The Lord shall save” because His purpose in coming was to “saved his people for their sins.” That Jesus had an earthly mother but not a human father is indicated by the angelic quotation of Isaiah 7:14. This passage was written to Ahaz, but the angel attributed a different interpretation, hence the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. In reality the miracle had occurred nine months earlier at the miraculous conception.

We close with a glimpse of our Lord’s human family (vv. 24-25). Joseph took Mary as his wife but apparently they abstained from sexual relations at that time. The two later had other children (Mark 6:13). One son, James, became a believer (1 Cor. 15:7, Gal. 1:19), a leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13), and author of the epistle James. Jude another brother, wrote the book by that name.

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