Jesus – Our Immanuel

 

Week of December 23, 2012

 

Bible Verses:  Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:18-25.

 

Lesson Focus:  This lesson can help you recognize Jesus as the Savior and celebrate Jesus, God with us.

 

Jesus Our Immanuel was Promised to Us:  Isaiah 9:6-7.

 

[6]  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [7]  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

[6]  A third and climactic sentence is introduced in verse 6 by for. In contrast to the mighty foes of Israel, a Child brings deliverance to the people of God. Isaiah speaks of the birth as though it had already occurred, even though from his standpoint it was yet to take place in the future. The deliverance which brings rejoicing to the people of God is not something vague but something to be brought about by a birth in history upon this earth at a definite time and at a definite place. The birth of this Child is a gift of God. He is a Child, but He is also a Son, and a particular Son in that He is a Son of David, a legitimate heir to David’s throne. Upon this Child the government with all its responsibilities lies. Like a burden it rests upon His shoulders. The Child is to be a King, a Ruler, a Sovereign. This government is the kingdom of grace, but also in widest extent the kingdom of nature and power. All the world is subject to the rule of the Child. But, who is this Child? In chapter 7 the mother named Him Immanuel. Here, the subject is impersonal and the verb may be rendered in English by the passive: his name shall be called. Isaiah does not intend that we should understand that in actual life the Child would bear or be addressed by these names, anymore than in actual life He should bear the name Immanuel. The thought is that the Child is worthy to bear these names, and that they are accurate descriptions and designations of His being and character. In the Bible the name indicates the character, essence or nature of a person or object. When, therefore, it is stated that He shall be called, we are to understand that the following names are descriptive of the Child and deserve to be borne by Him. The four names form a remarkable symmetry. Each name consists of two members, and each half of the verse of two names. Wonderful Counselor is the first of those wondrous and precious names of the Messiah. The root word for Wonderful is used to describe the miracles which God performed in Egypt. All these mighty miracles are characterized as wonders. The word refers to what God has done and not to the work of man. The Old Testament usage of this word compels us to the conclusion that it here designates the Messiah not merely as someone extraordinary, but as One who in His very person and being is a Wonder; He is that which surpasses human thought and power; He is God Himself. To designate the Child with the word Wonderful is to make the clearest attestation of His deity. The position of this word as the first in the series is striking. His name shall be called Wonder. We are brought head on with God Himself as we hear the names of the Child. It is our first encounter with Him. All the following designations are influenced by or stand under the shadow of this first majestic name. This Child who is born for us is Wonder. The second word of the first pair may be rendered, Counselor. To sit upon the throne of David as the Messianic King requires wisdom such as no mere man possesses. The Counselor Himself must for that reason be a Wonder in order that He may establish and administer His kingdom. In this King there will be hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, for He must be properly equipped to redeem His people. Upon Him the Spirit of wisdom is to rest. Wisdom and the ability to give counsel are necessary for a king, and hence the words counselor and king are used as synonyms in Micah 4:9. Such counseling is characteristic of God. In the manner in which He renders decisions the Messiah will remind of God, and the reason why He will so remind is that He Himself is of the same nature as the Lord: He is God. Mighty God. Isaiah here brings out an important contrast. By means of the words child and is born, he has called attention to the Messiah’s humanity, but by the phrase Mighty God, we are brought face to face with Messiah’s deity. Isaiah is now given a glimpse of the fact that in the fullness of the Godhead there is a plurality of Persons. Hence, in obedience to the revelation of God, he wrote of the Messiah that He was Mighty God. With this revealed truth may our hearts delight, for He who is born the mighty God is therefore able to save all those who put their trust in Him. Everlasting Father. The word Father designates a quality of the Messiah with respect to His people. He acts toward them like a father. The quality of fatherhood is defined by the word everlasting. The Messiah is an eternal Father, He is One who eternally is a Father to His people. Now and forever He guards His people and supplies their needs. What tenderness, love, and comfort are here! Prince of Peace. Restoring peace to the world, He reigns in peace. War and oppression were the factors which in the first instance directed the prophet’s eyes to the Messiah. How climactic and emphatic then, is this name. This One is a Prince, and He seeks the greatness of His kingdom and of Himself not in war, as do ordinary rulers, but in peace. He establishes peace; He seeks it and pursues it. Inasmuch as the peace to be established is eternal, it is clear that this peace includes more than a temporary cessation of hostilities among nations. The cessation of warfare in itself does not bring about a desired condition of existence. There must also be removed the cause of war, namely, human sin. When this cause of war is removed, then there can be true peace. For human sin to be removed, however, there must be a state of peace between God and man. Not only must man be at peace with God, but, what is more important, God must be at peace with man. The enmity which had existed between God and man must be removed. It was human sin which had kept God at enmity with man. When that sin has been removed, then there can be peace. The Prince of Peace is One who is the very embodiment of peace. He is the Prince who has procured that peace. He procured it by removing the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and nailing it to His cross. He has satisfied the claims of absolute justice so that God in perfect justice can declare that the sinner stands in a right relationship with Himself. Being at peace with the sinner, God could pardon that sinner, and give to him the peace which is a divine gift. From the peace of God which passes all understanding there flow the blessings which find their origin in such a peace. When the peace of God is in the human heart, then there will be manifest in the world peace among men. True peace comes to us because a Child is born. That Child, and He alone, is the Prince of Peace.

 

[7]  Being established upon the double foundation of justice and righteousness, the Messiah’s reign will be perpetual and progressive. And corresponding to an enlargement of the government there will also be an increase in peace. This peace existed in opposition to war and involved well-being, welfare and prosperity in general as opposed to want and need. God only can give such a peace, and in giving it shows that He is well disposed to man. These blessings of the increase of the government and of peace are connected with the One who sits upon the throne of David, and apart from that throne they will not be found. He who sits upon this throne, therefore, is a legitimate descendant of David. Peace and the government are mentioned together. This is striking, for most governments find their increase through war. Unlike other kingdoms, this one will grow through the means of peace, through the gracious working of the Spirit of God in the hearts of man and through the preaching of the gospel. Its prosperity and increase are neither temporal nor local, for the kingdom is itself eternal. Upon the throne of David the government will increase and will thus be made sure by means of judgment and righteousness. Tyrants and dictators of the world make their kingdoms sure by oppression and tyranny; this King will establish His kingdom through righteousness in government and the people will joyfully obey such a righteous rule. The righteousness which the Child accomplishes for the subjects of the kingdom is the basis and the foundation of the kingdom. This righteous judgment is not merely external and outward. There is justice because the King is Himself just. To this justice man will be willingly subject, for he will have received the righteousness which the King alone is able to bestow and so will stand in right relation to the King, and will endeavor to respond to the just government of that King and to obey His precepts and commands. The blessings follow because of the Child who is to sit upon the throne and only because of Him. When the Son appears in life with the attributes here assigned to Him, then the kingdom will be founded and established. The kingdom of the Son continually progresses. Justice and righteousness are its foundation; oppression and injustice have no part in its progress and growth. Unlike the temporal kingdoms of this earth, it is eternal. Who will bring it about that the divine kingdom shall be founded? Nothing other than the zeal which the Lord of hosts has for His own honor will bring about this result. In itself this zeal or energy designates the deep love which God has for His people and also His jealousy on their behalf, His profound desire to protect and guard them and their welfare. But even more the word signifies a determined jealously to protect the divine honor and to vindicate the divine purposes.

 

Jesus Our Immanuel Saves Us:  Matthew 1:18-21.

 

[18]  Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19]  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20]  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21]  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."  [ESV]

 

[18-21]  Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of Joseph rather than that of Mary, as Luke does. Luke accordingly has such stories as the appearance of the angel to Mary, but Matthew simply says that Mary became pregnant due to an activity of the Holy Spirit and goes on to tell his readers what Joseph did. It would have been expected that he would have divorced Mary, but an angelic visitor told him not to do so. Matthew tells us how Joseph obeyed the angel. Matthew’s account is clearly quite independent of that of Luke, but it emphasizes equally the virgin birth. We should notice in the passage (a) the emphasis on the place of Joseph, (b) the important place of divine guidance given in dreams, and (c) the repeated references to the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew does not tell the reader who Joseph and Mary were; evidently he can presume that they will know this. Similarly, he does not speak explicitly of the virginal conception; that, too, he evidently presumes is known. The word translated betrothed indicates a firm commitment, normally undertaken a year before marriage. During that year the girl remained with her own family, but the tie established was a strong one and was really the first part of marriage. A betrothed woman could be punished as an adulteress [Deut. 22:23-24]. The second part took place when the man took the woman to his home. That Mary became pregnant before they came together was thus very serious, as Joseph’s attitude makes clear. The whole story is written from Joseph’s point of view. But before speaking of Joseph’s attitude Matthew explains that the pregnancy was due to an activity of the Holy Spirit, but says no more. Joseph is called just, which probably means that he was careful in his observance of the law. Joseph saw that he was unable to consummate the marriage, but he did not want to be harsh. Probably he preferred to act in a way that would avoid an open scandal. He could have made a public display of his indignation by taking Mary before the law court and making an example of her. But his concern for the law did not lead him to the conclusion that he must humiliate the young lady who, he thought, had offended. Thus he preferred to divorce her quietly. Divorce was no great problem for an Israelite man: he simply had to give the woman a bill of divorce before two witnesses and send her away. But Joseph did not go through with the divorce. As he considered these things … an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Matthew specifies that this angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, an expression used six times by Matthew and by no one else in the New Testament. Nothing is said about the appearance of the angel or anything he did; attention is concentrated on the message. He addresses Joseph as Son of David, an expression of dignity. Matthew perhaps records it as emphasizing the royal line of Jesus. The angel instructs Joseph: do not fear to take Mary as your wife. Then the angel provides Joseph with a reason: Mary’s child is from the Holy Spirit. Then the angel further instructs Joseph that the child will be a son and that you shall call his name Jesus. By having Joseph name Jesus it indicated that Joseph officially accepted the child which gave the child the status of a descendant of David. On this occasion the name is not to be left to the discretion of the parent, for this child is special and has a destiny that is to be expressed in the meaning of the name. So the angel goes on to say he will save his people form their sins. The word save may mean deliver from troubles and afflictions of various kinds, but the context here shows that what is in mind is the salvation that reckons with the plight in which people involve themselves by their evil deeds.

 

Jesus Our Immanuel Is “God with Us”:  Matthew 1:22-25.

 

[22]  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: [23]  "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). [24]  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, [25]  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.  [ESV]

 

[22-25]  It is characteristic of Matthew to appeal to prophecy and to see in it a fulfillment of what God had said long ago. All this, he says, happened so that prophecy would be fulfilled. Matthew is very interested in the way the ancient prophecies found their fulfillment in Jesus. Notice that Matthew speaks of the words in question not as spoken by the prophet, but as spoken by the Lord through the prophet. Matthew takes inspired prophecy very seriously. The prophecy comes from Isaiah 7:14. The definite article, the, points to a particular virgin. Matthew explains that Immanuel means God with us. Matthew surely intends his readers to understand that Immanuel was His name in the sense that all that was involved in that name found its fulfillment in Him. The quotation and the name underline the fact that in Jesus none less than God came right where we are. And at the end of this Gospel there is the promise that Jesus will be with His people to the end of the age [28:20] – God with us indeed. In due course Joseph woke up and did what the angel told him to do. He took his wife, that is, publicly accepted Mary as his wife. But though he married Mary, they had no sexual relations (knew her not) before the birth of the son. The story is told throughout from Joseph’s point of view; thus it is natural that it concludes with him naming the child Jesus. His naming of the child means that he adopted him legally.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         What do the four names in 9:6 tell us about the character and work of this promised child? How do you see each of these names being fulfilled in Jesus?

 

2.         How did Jesus establish His kingdom with justice and with righteousness? How does He now uphold that kingdom? What role does the zeal of the Lord play in all of this?

 

3.         Matthew tells the story of Mary’s pregnancy from the viewpoint of Joseph. Imagine what Joseph was thinking and feeling when he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant. What do we learn about Joseph’s character in 1:18-25?

 

4.         How did Jesus fulfill the meaning of the name Immanuel, God with us? What does it mean to you personally that God is with us? Think about all this great truth means for the way you should live your life.

 

References:

Isaiah, Volume 1, John Mackay, EP Publishing.

The Book of Isaiah, Edward Young, Eerdmans.

The Gospel of Matthew, R.T. France, NICNT, Eerdmans.

The Gospel according to Matthew, Leon Morris, Pillar, Eerdmans.