Immanuel- Isaiah 7:1-17

In the birth story of Jesus in Matthew 1, Jesus is referred to as Immanuel, “God with us”. This is in reference to an episode in Isaiah 7, which provides the context of what is meant by Immanuel, God with us. In this incident, Israel has been separated into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The dominant power at the time is Assyria, and Israel has formed a coalition with Syria against Assyria and are trying to pressure Judah into joining them. Ahaz is the king of Judah at this time, and he has decided to obey his father’s wishes by not joining with Syria and Israel. The kings of Israel and Syria are now trying to depose Ahaz and replace him with the son of Jabael. Ahaz is about to succumb to the pressure and join them, and God sends the prophet Isaiah to speak to Ahaz. We pick up the story in verse 3, in which Isaiah goes to meet Ahaz, who is not in the palace where the king belongs, but in hiding outside the city. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz is essentially that he is not to fear the kings of Assyria and Israel, for God is aware of their plans, but Ahaz has nothing to fear for God will protect him. Ahaz is of the line of David, and the son of Jabael is not, and God had promised that one from the line of David would always be on the throne. God is sovereign and even the plans of the wicked cannot thwart His ultimate plan or invalidate His promises. We find again here a tension between God’s sovereign will and plan and the free choices of human beings, and Ahaz is given the choice of trusting God to protect him from Assyria, or trusting Syria and Israel. Isaiah’s plea does not convince Ahaz, however, so God has Isaiah speak to Ahaz again. Isaiah then tells Ahaz to ask God for a sign, thinking that maybe Ahaz doesn’t believe because this is coming from Isaiah, and would believe if he got a sign directly from God. Ahaz then tells Isaiah he does not want a sign and will not ask for one, that he will not “put the Lord to the test”. Isn’t it funny how often God’s people use His own word to disobey Him? How they can sound pious and religious while living in blatant disobedience? At this response, God now becomes upset, and tells Ahaz He will give him a sign anyway. The sign will be that the “virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (verse 14). The term Immanuel is commonly translated as “God with us” and more literally can be understood as “God on our side”, God not just present among us but actively involved in our lives and fighting for us to bring us the victory. He is said to be one who “eats curds and honey”. This reference may be somewhat strange to us but was very familiar to someone in that time and place, for curds and honey was considered the food of the gods to cultures in that area at that time. God would come among His people, would be born of a virgin, and would fight on their side to bring them victory and deliver them from evil. Just to finish out the story, Ahaz chooses to trust Assyria and not God. Assyria defeats Syria and Israel (which happens about 12 years later), and later also turns on Judah and takes its people captive as well. So what message do we take from this story, and what lesson do we ultimately learn? The ultimate meaning of the message would not come to light for about another 750 years, when humanity would receive a sign that God is with us, God is on our side, and the sign would be that of a virgin giving birth to a son, a son who would always “eat curds and honey”, who would be God incarnate, not just present among us, but fighting and winning the battle with sin which we could not win. All humanity would receive the sign, and each one would be faced with the choice of who to trust, whether they would trust in the resources of human effort or trust in the sign God gave them, Immanuel, God on our side. That is the message we take from the story, and the lesson we learn is that those who choose to trust in anything or anyone but God will ultimately be destroyed by whatever else they choose to trust in. It is our prayer that all of humanity would somehow place their faith in the sign God has given that He is with us, and that all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ would continue to trust in Him (and in no other “resource) for every choice they make in life.

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