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Immanuel: God With Us

Date: Dec. 10, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 1:18-25

Key Verse: Matthew 1:23

“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

I would like to begin this message by saying “Good-Bye.”  No, I am not going anywhere, but does anyone know the origin of the phrase “Good Bye?”  It is actually a contraction of the phrase “God be with you,” or “God be with ye.”  So now you know, so the next time you say “good bye,” you can also say in your heart, “God be with you.”  As a bonus, do you know how to say good bye in French?  “Au revoir,” probably the most common, means “see you again,” but another way to say good bye is “Adieu.”  “A” means “to”, and “Dieu” means “God.”  The same thing is in Spanish.  How do you say goodbye in Spanish?  “Hasta la vista, baby.”  Which also means “see you later.”  Or another way is “Adios,” as in, “Adios amigo!”  Adios also means “To God,” “Dios” meaning God in Spanish.  Those I think are generally used when you don’t expect to see someone for a while, and originally may be a short way to say, “I entrust you to God.”  We often wish people well when parting ways.  Some people say “Farewell.”  Some say “Take care.”  Others say “See you later.”  But perhaps the best blessing is “God be with you,” because it is a benediction full of blessings, and I pray today we may really see why God with us is so important, so wonderful, and so great.

  Last week we kicked off our Advent series on the subject of joy.  We can have joy in any circumstance because our joy is based in the foundation of Jesus Christ.  He is the reason for the season.  The meaning of Christmas is this good news of great joy that a Savior has been born to you.  Today, we take it a step deeper in the concept of joy.  The joy that we have is not something that can come and go.  The joy that we have is not something outside of us, but something in us.  We can have a heartfelt joy because of Christ in us. Jesus is Christ in us; in other words he is God with us, as we will learn today, and is the second topic of our Advent series.  Look at v.18a, “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.”  Understanding Jesus’ very birth, his coming, his arrival, his advent is the key to understanding why Jesus must have the first place in our hearts and our lives.  It is the key to understanding why Jesus must be worshipped and adored by us.

We are now going to learn from Matthew how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.  Look at v.18b, “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”  Joseph was engaged to Mary, but they had not yet consummated their marriage.  This shows that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived.  This is important because it leaves no question as to who the father of Jesus was.  Joseph was not the father, because he had in mind to divorce Mary quietly.  Joseph was a man faithful to the law, in the old NIV translation it says he was a righteous man.  He would not have planned to divorce her if he was the father of that child.  But he knew, and so we know that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus Christ.

Now look at what else God accomplished through the engagement of Joseph and Mary: Jesus was not an illegitimate child; Jesus was not born out of wedlock.  God would have his Son born into a solid marriage.  What else did God accomplish through this engagement?  Why did God choose this couple to raise his Son?  If you glance at verses 1-17 in Ch. 1, you will see that Joseph is descended from the royal line of King David, through King Solomon.  Mary was also descended from King David, but not through the royal line.  She was descended from Nathan, Solomon’s brother.  So what does this all mean?  It means that Jesus was directly descended from David, through Mary, but he also had the right to inherit the royal throne through Joseph.  We learned through our study of 1 & 2 Kings that many of the kings of Judah, the sons of David gave themselves over to idolatry, but here God redeemed the royal line.  Joseph would become the adoptive father of Jesus, which put him in the line of succession to be king.  Therefore God fulfilled his promise to David, saying that one of his sons, one of his direct descendants, would be an eternal king.  God made this promise to David almost a thousand years ago, and fulfilled it through both Mary and Joseph.

But at this time Joseph did not fully understand all that was going on.  All he knew was that this was not his baby.  I can only imagine the confusion, pain, fear and possibly heartache Joseph may have experienced.  He was engaged to this beautiful woman, but suddenly she was pregnant.  He loved her, he must have, but now he has to go through the process of a divorce.  You see even in those times breaking an engagement required a divorce.  But look at v.20, “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”  I don’t know how long Joseph thought this through, whether it was one day or many days, and I don’t know if he even got the process started – but just in his considerations, an angel of the Lord was sent to him in his sleep.  God knows the thoughts of our hearts.  He knows what is in our minds, he knows when we are anxious.  You may not even need to speak a word, but God knows.  Now in this circumstance, the legal father of our Lord Jesus Christ was about to walk away, so God intervened.  He intervened without Joseph asking.  But let’s be encouraged, because if God can read the thoughts in your heart, how much more will God hear you when you take your cares to him in prayer.

Did you catch in v.20 the angel called Joseph “son of David?”  God is fully aware of his promise to King David.  Moving on, the angel also revealed to Joseph that the child conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was not conceived in the normal way by a man and a woman.  He was formed in Mary’s womb by the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He was born of a virgin.  This is foundational to our faith.  This means that he is the Son of God.  No other human was born in this way.  It was a divine birth.  There are myths of other gods in other cultures being virgin born, but if you read them, the sources and facts cannot be verified, and there are inconsistencies in the stories.  In addition many are just myths.  But here in Matthew is historical, documented evidence of Jesus’ virgin birth, and supported by other gospels, supported by historical evidence and the reality of the Jewish law and culture, and supported by prophecies proven to be written in certain periods in history.   When we read Matthew we are reading literally what happened.  Even the apostles’ creed mentions specifically these points: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…”

At the end of the vision the angel reveals the identity of this special child, in v.21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  His name is Jesus!  The angel says his name is Jesus, BECAUSE he will save his people from their sins.  This is what the name of Jesus actually means.  In Greek, it is pronounced Jesus, but in Hebrew it is Joshua.  Jesus and Joshua is actually the same name, like Michael and Miguel, it’s only different by how different languages pronounce it.  Joshua is actually “Yeshua,” the “J” sound might be from English.  The “Ye,” refers to God, and “shua” means saves, so the name Yeshua, or Joshua, or Jesus literally means God saves.

The angel says “he will save his people from their sins.”  Notice their sins.  It doesn’t say he will save his people from sins, or from other’s sins, but their sins.  We are a self destructive people, that we need to be saved from our own sins.  Our sins are oppressive, we constantly feel guilty for things we have done, said or thought.  Sometimes we can’t even control what we say out of our mouths.  Our sins make us foolish, often making us do stupid things that usually result in hurting or destroying ourselves, others, or other’s property.  Our sins make us blind, as we can no longer see or discern what is right or wrong.  Our sins also make us fearful, fearful sometimes from the wrath or retaliation of others, fearful of painful consequences of our actions, but most of all fearful of God’s punishment on us.  Jesus came to save us from ALL of that.  Jesus came to save us from ALL of our sins.  This was all a part of God’s plan, and all a part of God’s promise.

Can we all please read v.22-23: “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’).”  “All this” refers to what we have just read – Joseph and Mary’s engagement, and the dream, to prove that Mary was a virgin and would give birth to a son.  The prophecy comes from Isaiah 7:14, it was given by Isaiah during the reign of King Ahaz.  You can find Ahaz in verse 9 of the genealogy.  Ahaz ruled around 730 BC, so this prophecy was given over 700 years before Christ was born.  It was at a time when the kingdom of Judah was going to be attacked by a joint force between Aram and the kingdom of Israel.  King Ahaz, a descendant of King David, was scared, so much so that his heart was shaken.  Isaiah came to prophecy that even though these kingdoms have plotted against Judah, Judah will not fall; Judah will be saved, and instead Aram & Israel will fall.

God wanted to prove this to Ahaz, so he said, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign,” any sign.  God was saying, I will show you that I will save you, and to prove it, ask me to show you anything you want, anything.  God was stretching out his hand to show Ahaz he will deliver on his word.  Some people wish they could ask God for a sign.  They say things like, “If God shows his face in the sky I’ll believe him.”  But here God is giving Ahaz a blank check to show him something amazing.  What does Ahaz do?  He says, “I will not ask for a sign, I will not test the Lord.”  Doesn’t this sound like a good thing?  Ahaz did not want to test the Lord.  While we should not test the Lord, this was not in Ahaz’ heart.  The Lord told Ahaz to ask for a sign.  This is not testing, this is a gracious offer.  But Ahaz refused; he refused because he did not want to become obligated to God.  He rejected God’s word spoken through Isaiah, and so he rejected God.  He loved his idols, and misused temple treasures to form an alliance with Assyria.  He did not want to be under the influence of God, so he rejected the offer of the sign.  Ahaz, under the false pretense of piety, slaps the hand of God, and does not want God to show him anything.  So God becomes angry, and gives him a sign anyway, and this was the prophecy in Isa 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” 

Ahaz refused the sign, but God gave the sign, not for his benefit, but for ours.  God could have departed from Judah, and left them to ruin, but he still promised to deliver them.  God was faithful, despite Ahaz’s unfaithfulness, God was faithful to the promise he made to David.  God was faithful to his promise to save Israel, so he gave this sign to the future generations.  This is a sign, as in something we can look at and trust that God will do what he says.  This sign is the sign of God’s salvation.  It is the sign of God’s deliverance and rescue.  Just as God would rescue Judah from Aram & Israel, which he did, he would rescue us from sin and Satan.  And how would he do it?  He would do it by a virgin who will conceive and give birth to Immanuel.  This prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 was a prophecy of the Messiah.  The virgin was the virgin Mary, we see here, and the child was Jesus.  This was a prophecy of Jesus Christ.  God had a plan to save us from our sins, more than 700 years ago (2700 years ago from today), and he kept that promise, being faithful to David, despite Ahaz’ unfaithfulness, through the coming of Jesus.

Jesus is Immanuel.  Jesus is God with us.  He is God in human flesh.  He is the Son of God, and the Son of Man.  He is fully God and fully man.  He was not created at the time he was born of the virgin Mary, but he existed from all eternity.  The eternal Son of God, infinite in power and wisdom, equal to God the Father, came to earth, and fused himself to human flesh, knitted together by the Holy Spirit.  He is like a four star general who took up arms to come and defend us, and fight for us, in the midst of the battle, to the death.  He was not a mere man, but God himself, in human flesh.  He was with us in our sorrows and pain.  He felt our grief and our weakness.  He cried with us, he cried for us.  He suffered with us, and he suffered for us.  No one suffered for us more than Jesus did.  At last, he died for us on that old rugged cross.  His blood was shed, so that all of our sins may be forgiven.  He paid our debt, in full.  Only the eternal Son of God can satisfy the eternal wrath of an infinitely Holy God – so he came to put himself under wrath so that you may be set free.  And who the Son sets free, is free indeed.

Why would God do all this?  Why does he want to be with us?  It’s because he loves us, he loves us with an eternal love.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  He freed us from the control and oppression of sin and a guilty conscience, by cleansing it with his blood.  He is our wisdom, showing us the way to live righteously.  He opens our eyes to know right from wrong.  He frees us from all fear, especially that fear from the wrath of God.  He has made peace between God and man, and even peace between man and man, as he commanded: “As I have loved you, love one another.”  True love has been restored.  These are possible because he comes to live and dwell inside those who believe in him.  Jesus is with us in life, in death, and in his resurrection.  We have all of these heavenly gifts, how can we not rejoice in our hearts for all of this?  The greatest gift of all God gives us is God himself, in his Son, Jesus Christ, truly, Immanuel, God with us.  What an expression of love.  Such love!  Such wondrous love!

Look at the impact this all had on Joseph, in v.24 & 25 – “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son.  And he gave him the name Jesus.”  He obeyed God.  This was a natural obedience, in light of the fact that the Savior of the world was coming.  Instead of considering a divorce, he considered the Savior.  See, how all fear is gone; he was no longer afraid of taking Mary as his wife.  His wisdom grew; he knew what the right thing to do was.  And though it does not say, but I bet there was even joy born in his heart.

So this Advent time, would you consider what Immanuel means to you?  Would you consider the love of God in Christ?  Meditate on this fact: God with us.  And God is surely with us, because Jesus came. Advent not only refers to his first coming, but also his second, may you consider and look forward to that time as well, because we know God keeps his promises.  To close, I wanted to share again the lyrics of that beautiful hymn we sang before the message, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel/That mourns in lowly exile here/Until the Son of God appear; O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer/Our spirits by Thine advent here/Disperse the gloomy clouds of night/And death’s dark shadows put to flight; O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, And order all things far and nigh/To us the path of knowledge show, And cause us in her ways to go; O come, Desire of nations; bind/All peoples in one heart and mind.  Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;/Fill the world with heaven’s peace; Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel! 

And now comes the time in this message to say Good-bye, Adieu and Adios - God be with you!

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