They Shall Call His Name Immanuel

Today’s Message – Sorry No Audio

Since the first Sunday of December we’ve been looking at the different titles or names that were given to Jesus as fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6 and ask what they mean for us today. Jesus was and is called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And one more – Immanuel!

We celebrate and sing the name “Immanuel” at Christmas, and rightly so. “Immanuel” means “God with us,” and in one sense this is the story of the entire Bible. It is certainly the story of Advent.

But a Bible search for the word “Immanuel” doesn’t return many results. Aside from its appearance in Matthew 1:23, we only find this name twice in the early chapters of Isaiah 7:14; 8:10.

We need a little bit of background first before we arrive at Jesus being called Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:10-17 is one of the best-known passages in all the Prophets. God told King Ahaz to ask for a sign that God would protect Judah from their enemies. Ahaz refused, so God promised His own sign—the sign of Immanuel.

One of the striking features of Isaiah 8:1-8 is the strangeness of Isaiah’s son’s name: Maher-shalal-hash-baz (v. 4). This name means “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens.” Through this name God was communicating His plan to break the Israel-Syria alliance by the coming of Assyria.

It’s impossible to miss the parallels between Isaiah 7:16 and Isaiah 8:4. The birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz is tied to the victory of Assyria over Israel and Syria. As Immanuel comes, Judah will be free from the immediate threat of these nearby nations.
But how should we understand the meaning of “Immanuel” in Isaiah 8:8?
Even when defeat looks near, and the Assyrian army is filling the land, it is still Immanuel’s land. God will not abandon his people, even in their darkest hour. Assyria will come in like a flood, sweeping Syria and Israel away. But Assyria will eventually fade from history. Judah will remain in the land of Immanuel. God will be with them.

There is one final mention of Immanuel in Isaiah 8:10. Though not a title, Isaiah specifically refers to “God with us” in that verse. Check it out.

So how is this background linked to the name “Immanuel” and especially to our key verse from Matthew 1:23?

“Immanuel” in Isaiah is a sign for God’s people that they will see victory over their enemies. Despite the doom and devastation, God will be with them, and they will be victorious. Isaiah’s son was a first, imperfect version of Immanuel, pointing to God’s victory over military enemies through His presence.

Notice how the announcement to Joseph fulfills this prophecy (see Matthew 1:18-25). Jesus will “save His people from their sins.” For God’s people then and for us now, our sins are an enemy. They are worse than any menacing country. We are no match for them on our own, and we dare not make peace or an alliance with these scoundrels.

Sometimes our sins seem overwhelming and damnable. These rise to our necks and threaten to drown us—But Jesus is Immanuel, God with us! He will save us from our sins!

For those who trust in Him, He has taken away the punishment our sins deserve. And He will strip our sins of their power over us, taking away their allure, appeal, and longevity.

The more we see the strength and rebellion of our sin, the more we see the glory and love involved in the work of Jesus for us. He is God with us, and this is Good News worth celebrating, not just at Christmas but all year long!