THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE PROMISE OF IMMANUEL

In Isaiah 7:14 we read ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth of a son, and will call him Immanuel.’ Immanuel – God with us.

The concept of God being ‘with us’ is first reported in Genesis. In Genesis 2 we are told of God bringing the animals to Adam, and then bringing Eve to him. In Genesis 3 we read of God walking in the garden, and talking with Adam and Eve. But also in Genesis 3 we read of Adam and Eve being banished from the garden, and God placing cherubim with flaming swords, barring access to ‘the tree of life’.  Sinful man is thus banned from God’s presence.

When God gave Moses instructions to set up the Tabernacle the Most Holy Place, within the Tabernacle, was symbolic of the presence of God. Yet here again access was prohibited. Here again cherubim, this time embroidered on the massive curtain that sectioned off the Most Holy Place, banned human entry even into this symbolic presence of God.

But now Isaiah predicts the birth of a child who will be called ‘God with us’. It is this prophecy that Matthew refers to when reporting the events leading up the birth of Jesus:

‘All this took place to fulfil 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.” ‘ [Matthew 1:22,23].

John reports it this way:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ [John 1:1-4,14].

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us’ [1John 1:1,2].

Paul adds his description:

‘ … Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross’ [Philippians 2:5-8].

‘Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body …’ [1Timothy 3:16].

And in Hebrews:

‘… in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word …’ [Hebrews 1:2,3].

‘… since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil …’ [Hebrews 2:14].

‘Immanuel’ speaks of the incarnation: God became man. Not in such a way that he ceased being God, but that, at the same time, he who is God was also man. Fully God and fully man, true God and true man, without reduction or alteration of either.

Throughout the centuries since this incredible event men have debated and rejected it. To some the very idea that God would become man is blasphemous [read John 5:16-18; 10:30-33]. To those who saw matter as evil and spirit or mind as good, it was offensive and impossible. To those who deny all miraculous and supernatural events the virgin birth is nonsense and even the idea of ‘god’ is nonsense. Indeed, false teaching, false cults and world religions in one way or another interfere with the incarnation, denying or reducing either the true deity or the true humanity of Jesus Christ.

But it is through this divine Son who is born of the virgin, born of a woman [Galatians 4:4] that the way back to God is established [John 14:6], the prohibitive barrier banning the sinner’s access to God is ripped away by his sin-bearing death [Matthew 27:50.51], and those who believe in him enjoy permanent access into the presence of God [Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22].

This is just a brief glimpse of the truth imbedded in that name ‘Immanuel’ – God with us. Go here for a study on the concept of incarnation.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014