************ Sermon on Isaiah 7:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 2001
Christmas Day - 2001
Jesus is "Emmanuel" – which means "God with us." We celebrate that fact today. We celebrate today that God, in Christ, became one with us.
Topic: ChristOn this Christmas Day, as we think of what our Lord has done for us, we can echo that fire tender's sentiments. Oh, what a step our Lord took – from heaven to earth, from the worship of angels to the mocking of cruel men, from glory to humiliation just to be one of us and one with us, just to give us Himself.
Subtopic: Incarnation of
The land of Persia was once ruled by a wise and beloved Shah who cared greatly for his people and desired only what was best for them. One day he disguised himself as a poor man and went to visit the public baths. The water for the baths was heated by a furnace in the cellar, so the Shah made his way to the dark place to sit with the man who tended the fire. The two men shared the coarse food, and the Shah befriended him in his loneliness. Day after day the ruler went to visit the man. The worker became attached to this stranger because he "came where he was." One day the Shah revealed his true identity, and he expected the man to ask him for a gift. Instead, he looked long into his leader's face and with love and wonder in his voice said, "You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me. On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself!"
I The Crisis and The Promise
A Isaiah spoke the prophecy in front of this morning when Ahaz was king of Judah. The chapter starts with Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah, king of Israel, joining forces to fight against Jerusalem.
Isaiah was sent to Ahaz with a message: "Stand firm in your faith." Ahaz was told to believe in God and His promises. Didn't God promise that a son of David would always sit on the throne (1 K 8:25)? What was the king's response? Scripture tells us,
(Is 7:2) Now the house of David was told, "Aram has allied itself with Ephraim"; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. Ahaz was shaken, Ahaz was scared, Ahaz feared for his life. 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, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea ...
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, and Joseph prospered (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. As we read in Exodus:
(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 Joshua in the battle of Jericho, and Joshua's fame spread throughout the land (Josh 6:27). When David suffered from the jealousy of Saul, God was with him, protecting and preserving His life (1 Sam 18:14). In fact, David experienced God's presence all his life (2 Sam 7:9) and God promised to be with Solomon in the same way (1 Kings 1:37). Had Jeroboam acted like David, God would have been with him too (1 Kings 11:38).
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 a message:
(Is 7:11) "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." Ahaz was told to ask for a sign, any sign, by which the Lord could prove His faithfulness. Filled with a false sense of piety, Ahaz declined to "put the LORD to the test" (vs 12).
After this, Isaiah was sent with another message from the Lord:
(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 Emmanuel. If Ahaz won't ask the Lord for a sign, then the Lord will give a sign of His own choosing. This is a sign to all the scared and trembling people of the world that there is no reason for fear because the Lord is with them. The "Emmanuel" will come.
II Jesus: the Emmanuel
A You need to realize that in speaking of Emmanuel, Isaiah was talking about the Messiah. Now, in the Old Testament there are three dramatically different pictures of the Messiah. Sometimes He is presented as a Warrior King, sometimes as a Suffering Servant, and sometimes as God Himself or the Son of God. Over time, however, the people forgot or ignored the pictures of the Messiah as a Suffering Servant or as God Himself. The image of the Messiah they loved the most was that of Warrior King. So, by the time of Jesus, most of the Jews were looking for a Messiah Who would defeat and destroy the Roman army of occupation in Palestine.
B Unknown to Isaiah and to Ahaz, the sign does not become a full reality until some 730 years later. The virgin and child do not appear for 7 centuries. It is the Gospel writer Matthew who gets to announce the good news for scared and trembling people:
(Mt 1:22-23) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (23) "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's message: the baby born on Christmas Day, the baby lying in the manger, is the "Emmanuel"; He is "God with us." However, most people back then did not recognize Him for Whom He was and is. That makes sense, though, when you consider that the Jewish people were looking for the Messiah as a general, not for the Messiah as "God with us."
C Today is Christmas Day. Today we celebrate the fulfillment of God's promise to be with His people. Today we celebrate the birth of the "Emmanuel"; today we celebrate the birth of "God with us."
On this Christmas Day, congregation, I want you to take one thought home: that God is with us, that the Emmanuel has been born. The meaning of Christmas is that God is now with us in the person of Jesus Christ.
III The Meaning of "God With Us
A What does it mean for you and me that the Emmanuel has been born?
First, it means salvation. Ahaz and Judah were full of fear and trembling because of the attack of an enemy. The Emmanuel is a sign of God's saving presence. The Emmanuel is a sign that God will deliver His people. Remember what the angel said to Joseph, the husband of Mary? He said, "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). The Savior is the Emmanuel and the Emmanuel is the Savior.
The birth of the Emmanuel means salvation from sin for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16), for everyone who opens their heart to Jesus.
B Second, the birth of the Emmanuel means that God will not leave, forsake, or fail His people. The name "Emmanuel" is a watchword among God's people; it is a word of hope. No matter how desperate conditions become we know that God is with us.
Take any situation that we might suffer through: unemployment, death, divorce, bankruptcy, poverty, illness, surgery, pain, hurt, cancer. "Emmanuel" means that God is with us even in such situations. Emmanuel means that even in such situations God surrounds us with His love, His presence, and His Spirit. Emmanuel means that even in such situations we are not left on our own to brood in our pain, hate, anger, fear, or hurt.
Countless Christians around the world have derived great comfort from how the Apostle Paul puts this in Romans 8:
(Rom 8:38-39) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Why not? Because the Emmanuel is born; because God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ.
C Third, the birth of the Emmanuel means we have no reason for fear. "If God is for us and with us, who can be against us?" asks Paul (Rom 8:31)? Just before Israel fought the inhabitants of Canaan to take possession of the land, the Lord gave the people a comforting word of assurance: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them ..." Why not? "For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deut 31:6).
Because of God's presence in their lives God's people can and should always be strong and of good courage. We rest secure in the thought that God is with us, that the Emmanuel has been born. We know that no evil is so great that the presence of God in our lives is not able to overcome it.
Topic: ChristmasWell, in Jesus Christ, in the Emmanuel, God sent us "someone with skin on"; someone Who takes us in His arms; someone Who comforts, encourages, and strengthens us.
Title: God With Skin On
One night a small little voice was heard from the bedroom across the hall. "Daddy, I'm scared!" The response came quick: "Honey, don't be afraid, daddy's right across the hall." After a very brief pause the little voice is heard again, "I'm still scared!" Again a response: "You don't need to be afraid. God is watching over you." This time the pause is longer ... but the voice returns, "Daddy, I want someone with skin on!"
D "Emmanuel." "God with us." This means that God has not forgotten His people, that He has remembered His covenant and His covenant promises. In and through the Emmanuel God intimately binds Himself to and with His people. In fact, in and through the Emmanuel God forges an unbreakable link between Himself and His people so that nothing can ever separate us from His love.
"Emmanuel." "God with us." That is God's promise to the church of all ages. And on Christmas Day that promise was fulfilled.
The promise to be with us is repeated a number of times by Christ. "I will ask the Father," said Jesus, "and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16,17a). Jesus' parting promise to the church, just before His ascension, was "surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Mt 28:20). And, He is: in His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is not absent from us for even a moment (Catechism, Q & A 47).
"Emmanuel." "God with us." This promise of God was fulfilled on Christmas Day. And, there will come a day when it will be fulfilled even more fully than it was at Christmas. On that day, the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, will come down out of heaven from God. On that day,
(Rev 21:3) ... the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
"Emmanuel." "God with us." That's the message of Christmas. That's also our hope for the future life.
"Emmanuel." "God with us." This is the closing wish of Scripture: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen" (Rev 22:21).
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