************ Sermon on Matthew 1:22-23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 12, 2010
Sunday School Christmas Program
Thank you, boys and girls, for telling us about another name for Jesus. An old name. A name that was first used by Isaiah some 700 years before Jesus was born.
I Immanuel in Isaiah
A Our text says the conception through the Holy Spirit and the virgin birth fulfills "what the Lord had said through the prophet" about "Immanuel" (Mt 1:22). In mind is the prophet Isaiah. So, before we look at Matthew we have to spend a few minutes looking at Isaiah.
In the days of Isaiah, Ahaz was king in Judah. His father was a godly king. His grandfather was a godly king. But Ahaz was a wicked king. He made images for the Baals, offered incense to idol gods, and even burned his sons as an offering (2 Chron 28:2-4).
While this was happening, Assyria was expanding its empire so Israel and Syria formed an alliance against Assyria and pressured Judah to join them. When King Ahaz of Judah hesitated to join them, Syria and Israel joined forces to fight against Jerusalem and replace Ahaz as king. In one disastrous battle, Judah lost 120,000 soldiers and 200,000 wives, sons, and daughters were taken captive. If this happened to Presidents Bush or Obama we would march on Washington and demand their head. However, King Ahaz was still on the throne (2 Chron 28:5-8).
Scripture tells us that it was God punishing Ahaz by handing him over to the combined alliance of Syria and Israel (2 Chron 28:5).
The king's army had just lost a big battle. It looked like Judah was going down in defeat and that Ahaz was going to lose his throne. Do you know what Ahaz did? He asked the king of mighty Assyria for help (2 Chron 28:16).
Isaiah was sent to Ahaz with a message: "It will not take place, it will not happen." He will not lose his throne. Judah will not go down in defeat. "Stand firm in your faith" (Is 7:7, 9). God was still the Sovereign Lord, while Judah's enemies were mere men. So, Ahaz was told to trust in God and His promises.
What was the king's response? Scripture tells us this sad news:
(Is 7:2) ... the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. Ahaz's response was not one of faith and belief in the promises of God.
B Ahaz should have known better. As a child on his mother's lap he was taught to trust in the Lord. He knew the songs of the faith as well as anyone.
(Ps 23:4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Ahaz knew these songs, but they were not the songs of his heart. Ahaz saw an enemy coming, and he was scared stiff.
(Ps 46:1-2) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (2) Therefore we will not fear ...
Ahaz should have known better. Hasn't God always been with His people? Hasn't God always delivered His people? He was with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the midst of a strange land (Gen 26:3; 28:15). He was with Joseph while a slave and prisoner in Egypt (Gen 39:2,3,21,23).
Remember an 80 year old Moses before the burning bush? At that time God gave Moses a great commission: to lead the Israelite slaves out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan. Moses felt inadequate for such a task and said so: "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Ex 3:11). And God said in reply, "I will be with you" (Ex 3:12). And He was. While traveling in the wilderness, the children of Israel only had to lift their eyes forward and upward to see that the Lord indeed was with them, even as He promised:
(Ex 13:21-22) By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (22) Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.God was with them every step of the way.
God was with Joshua in the battle of Jericho (Josh 6:27). When David suffered from the jealousy of Saul, God was with him, protecting and preserving His life (1 Sam 18:14).
Yes, Ahaz should have known better than to fear. After all, the Lord is with His children. That's the promise of God.
C In His great mercy, God sent Isaiah to a scared and trembling Ahaz with another message:
(Is 7:14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Do you hear the sign given to a scared and trembling Ahaz? God will give a child whose name is "Immanuel." We aren't quite sure who the child is – maybe a child Isaiah had with his second wife, maybe a child given to King Ahaz. But whoever the child, he is a sign from God.
In the Hebrew, "Immanuel" is two separate words: "immanu" which means "with us" and "el" which means "God." So a literal translation is "with us God." Or, as our Bible reading puts it, "God with us."
"Immanuel" is a sign to Ahaz and all the scared and trembling people of Judah. Ahaz, there is no reason to fear. Ahaz, there is no reason to be scared. Why? Because "with us God." Because of "Immanuel."
II Immanuel in Matthew
A I said a couple of weeks ago that the Christmas story took place in a dark time for Israel. There had been no voice of prophecy for four hundred years. Wicked and tyrannical King Herod was on the throne. The spiritual leaders of Israel were corrupt and shackled down by tradition and legalism. Rome was calling the shots. As in the days of Isaiah, people were scared and trembling and afraid. They needed comfort and assurance.
Once again God comes with a sign for all the scared and trembling people of Judah – and the world. Once again God comes with the sign of "Immanuel." Once again God comes with the sign of "with us God."
This time we know exactly Whom the Immanuel is. He is a baby conceived by the Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He is the Savior from sin. He is the eternal Son of God with us in the flesh.
Yes, the voice of prophecy has been stilled for four hundred years. Yes, wicked King Herod is on the throne. Yes, the spiritual leaders of Judah are corrupt. Yes, it is a dark time in Israel's history. But do not fear. Do not be afraid. Why not? Because I am with you. Why not? Because I have given you the "Immanuel."
B Why should this make a difference? For the same reason it made a difference for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in a strange land. For the same reason it made a difference for Moses as he led the children of Israel out of Egypt and to the promised land. For the same reason it made a difference for Joshua as he conquered Canaan. For the same reason it made a difference for David as he defeated enemies.
Do you remember what Paul wrote? "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31).
Don't forget Who God is. He is the almighty Father Who out of nothing made heaven and earth. He is the Judge Who sent the Flood and punished Sodom and Gomorrah. He is the God Who rescued His people from Pharaoh. He is the God Who separated the waters of the Red Sea and made the walls of Jericho fall down. He is the God Who made us and saves us.
If this mighty and awesome and loving God is with us and for us, who really can be against us? When we have Immanuel we are forever safe and forever secure.
Notice, then, there were two babies named "Immanuel" – there was one in the day of King Ahaz and there was one in the day of King Herod. The first was the shadow; the second, the reality. The first symbolized deliverance from foreign enemies; the second deliverance from sin and Satan. The first symbolized God's presence for but a few years; the second Immanuel is the Son Who lives with us forever.
III Immanuel Today
A As in the days of Ahaz and Herod, people today are scared and afraid. They are afraid for their jobs, their bank accounts, the enormous debt we are leaving our children. They are afraid of bankruptcy and home foreclosures. They are afraid of more changes from Washington. They are afraid of cancer and heart attack and stroke. Christians are not immune to all of this.
Furthermore, the church is under attack just like Judah was under attack. We are under attack by Satan – the serpent – who uses the persecution of the beast and the heresies of the false prophet to destroy us and lead us astray. We are under attack by Babylon, the city of the world.
Today's trembling, scared, and afraid people need to know Immanuel. They need to hear God is with us. And, unlike Ahaz, they need to trust this mighty God.
B But, you know, the Immanuel did not just come to take away our fears. Christ Jesus first of all came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). The eternal Son of God took on our flesh to redeem us (1 Tim 3:16). The Immanuel is here to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).
Immanuel. He came to be with us so we could be with God.
Immanuel. He came as one of us to take our place on the cross. To suffer our punishment. To experience our curse.
Immanuel. In Him we are saved. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Again, thank you, boys and girls for telling us about this old, old name for Jesus. For reminding us that He is Immanu El, Immanuel, with us God.
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