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22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:
23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
And they will call him, Emmanuel [Isaiah 7:14].
(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)
Isaiah 7:1-14 told of two neighboring kings plotting against Ahaz, the king of Judah. The prophet Isaiah told the worried king to ask for a sign that God was with him. The king defiantly refused. Isaiah said the sign was that a young woman would have a son. Scholar John Goldingay wrote, “We don’t know who the girl is—indeed, Isaiah doesn’t need to have a particular girl in mind. The point is that by the time a few months have passed and the girl has had her baby, the crisis that preoccupies Ahaz will be over.”* In a few years the hostile kingdoms would lose their power (and they did).
Matthew quoted Isaiah 7 to link Jesus with the name “Emmanuel” (“God with us” in both Hebrew and Greek). Pastor Hamilton wrote, “Matthew was not confused nor was he misinterpreting Isaiah…. I think he was saying, ‘Jesus, like that first Immanuel, was a sign sent by God that you might know God is with you, that you might know he will never leave you’…. Jesus, in a way that the first Immanuel could not, incarnated the presence and love of the God who rules over the entire universe.”*
Today’s Insights was chapter 12, “They Will Call Him Emmanuel,” from The Journey: A Season of Reflections, by Adam Hamilton. Copyright © 2011 by Abingdon Press, and available on our website for 24 hours by permission of Abingdon Press. If you’d like to buy the entire book of reflections, you can click here for a direct link to the Cokesbury sale page, as well as other Journey resources.
O Lord, on that first Christmas you came into our midst—human, but also more. Give me insight and humility as I take in the divine mystery that you were Emmanuel, “God with us.” Amen.
* John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p. 35.
** Adam Hamilton, The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011, p. 48. (Pages 46-50 of the book explain Isaiah’s prophecy and how Matthew applied it more fully.)
*** William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 1, Chapters 1-10 in The Daily Study Bible Series. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 21.