Saturday, December 01, 2018

Preparing for the Invasion - #8 - Jesus Is "Immanuel"

Ancient village of Korazin, in Israel
(In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis describes the birth of Christ as "the Great Invasion.")

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: 
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel.

- Isaiah 7:14

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, 
and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
- Matthew 1:22

Robert Wilken writes:

"Among the ancient Jewish prophets Isaiah was the most beloved, the most esteemed, and the most quoted by early Christians. His book contained all the mysteries of the Lord, his birth from a virgin, his miracles, his suffering, death, and resurrection, as well as prophecies from the Church's mission to the nations. Augustine said that Isaiah contains more prophecies of Christ and of the Church than all the other prophets. Over time Isaiah's soaring language and unforgettable imagery were woven into the tapestry of Christian worship, life, and thinking." (Wilken, Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian Medieval Commentators, xx) 

Isaiah has been referred to as the "Fifth Gospel" because the Messianic prophecies point so clearly to the description of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. See, e.g., The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology (eds. Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser). If this interests you then see the entire article from this book by the great Messianic Jewish scholar Michael Brown - "Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah 53."

In Isaiah 7:14 the birth of the promised Messiah is prophesied, whose name shall be "Immanuel." J. Alec Motyer says that "the title Immanuel is peculiar to Isaiah but the thought is part of the Davidic-Messianic fabric." (Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 85) 

I like how Motyer then explains this amazing verse. He writes:

"It is impossible to separate this Immanuel from the Davidic king whose birth delivers his people (Isaiah 9:4-7) and whose complex name indicates the designation Mighty God (Isa. 9:6). Following these pointers, we have a sign that lives up to its promise. Heaven and earth will be truly moved. Isaiah foresaw the birth of the divine son of David and also laid the foundation for the understanding of the unique nature of his birth." (Ib.)

"Immanuel," as we see in Matthew 1:22, means "God with us." Michael Brown says that the term "Immanuel" is unique to Isaiah - it is "a name found nowhere else in the Bible or the Ancient Near East." (Michal Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, 25) 

Brown continues: "We ask again, who was this Immanuel? He was a king promised to the line of David - with an important, symbolic name - whose birth would serve as a divine sign." (Ib., 26)

Today think about God who loved us so much that he came to us, tabernacled among us ("pitched his tent with ours," "dwelt with us"), and is with you.


For an explanation of the meaning of the Hebrew word alma ("virgin") in Isa. 7:14, see J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 84-85. Motyer writes: "Isaiah thus used the word which, among those available to him, came nearest to expressing 'virgin birth' and which, without linguistic impropriety, opens the door to such a meaning." (85)

For a lengthy, detailed study of alma, see Michael Brown's Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections. Section 4:3.

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