We read in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” We all know who this prophecy is about, namely Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ.
The name Immanuel, means, literally translated, “God is with us.” But we must study the context of this verse to discover the true meaning of this wonderful name. The prophet Isaiah addresses the words of this prophecy to the king of Judea, Ahaz. But the immediate occasion is not positive at all. It is a dark time for Judea. Two powerful nations are making plans to invade Judea and replace Ahaz. The LORD had just promised through the mouth of His servant Isaiah that He would deliver Judea from her enemies. And the LORD offered Ahaz to give a sign. But the king of Judea had shown great unbelief in the LORD and refused a sign. To make matters worse, we read in 2 Kings 16 that Ahaz is an evil man. However, the LORD gives a sign, the sign of the birth of Immanuel. In other words, the sign of the birth of the Messiah is given to an unbelieving and wicked king! But further study teaches us that the entire people of Israel and Judea are sinful and wicked. The book of Isaiah begins with a lament of the sinfulness of God’s chosen people. But further study of the Bible makes it clear that the entire human race, without exception, is corrupt, sinful, and wicked. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom 3, Psalm 14 and 53) But the consequence of this is that the LORD, as a just and holy God, must punish us. In other words, because of our sins and trespasses, He is against us! To such people comes the precious promise of “God with us.” To such people, as we all are, come the promises of the gift of the Messiah, in whom the LORD is with us. We know so much more. We know that around 2000 years ago, this prophecy of the Messiah was fulfilled. God gave His only begotten Son to redeem sinful people. The Messiah was born as Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, the virgin. What an amazing birth this is. Mary was a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. This Messiah, Jesus, is fully man, but without sin. He is fully God, but he emptied himself. In Him, God, who “is against us” because of our sins, “is with us.” He is the one and only Mediator who stands on both sides to do the work of reconciliation. He was laid in a manger. Is there a humbler birth and a lower place? We do not have to make our way to heaven in self-righteousness to seek God's forgiveness. We may bow and fall before Jesus on earth. In this Christmas season, let us go to Jesus, confess our sins, beg for forgiveness, and trust in Him. He is our only and complete comfort in life and in death. What a precious and sweet name this is, "Immanuel." Have a blessed Christmas.