Immanuel a Prophecy for the Past, Present, and Future
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear A Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, " God with us." (Matthew 1:22-23)
I would like to talk with you today about the Immanuel prophecy that Matthew is referring to in our text. Matthew is saying in verse 22, that the birth of Jesus and the way that it took place was to fulfill divine prophecy. We know from Matthew 1:18-21 that Mary (Jesus mother) was a virgin, being betrothed to Joseph she had not yet been intimate with him, but was with the child Jesus. An angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream that the child conceived in Mary is of the Holy Spirit.1
Let’s shift gears for a minute and look at the prophecy itself, and the meaning that it had at the time. This is good to do, because as is often the case divine prophecy has multiple meanings. I like to compare biblical prophecy to skipping stones on a smooth body of water. When I was a child my parents liked to take us camping in the state parks. The center of the park usually had a body of water alongside which we would put up our tent. I would walk along the banks, find a flat stone and toss it across the water watching how many times it skipped.
Biblical prophecy is a lot like skipping rocks on water. The prophet cast the stone and it touches the water (the first meaning of the prophecy); the rock then lifts up off the water and touches the surface of the water again (the second meaning of the prophecy); eventually the rock reaches its culmination and plunges into the deep (the final meaning of the prophetic word).
Turn to Isaiah chapter 7, beginning in verse 10 and read through verse 16 the Immanuel prophecy as written by the prophet.
Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!" Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. (Isaiah 7:10-16)
A little historical background so that we are able to put the text into context. Ahaz was king in Judah during the ministry of the prophet Isaiah for 16 years, and was in many ways just like the kings of Israel in his idolatry.2 A situation arose in which Rezin (king of Damascus) and Pekah (king of Israel) had formed an alliance to attack Jerusalem and set up a puppet king (son of Tabel) as king in Jerusalem. The Lord speaking through Isaiah told Ahaz that they would not be successful, and in 65 years they would both be destroyed.3 God speaking through Isaiah told king Ahaz to ask for a sign so that Ahaz would know that it was the Lord speaking through Isaiah, and therefore, trust in the Word of the Lord. King Ahaz refused, but the Lord gave him a sign anyway.
In Isaiah chapter 8 we find this prophecy being fulfilled in the birth of Isaiah’s son. Isaiah approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the Lord told Isaiah to name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; and that before the boy was of the age to speak Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.4 The Lord would then allow Assyria to attack Judah, but only up to the neck; Assyria would not take Jerusalem. Why? Because it was not the will of the Lord that Assyria should destroy Jerusalem, “For God is with us.”5 Immanuel translated means, “God with us.”6 Therefore the Immanuel prophecy was fulfilled.
This demonstrates the power of divine prophecy. A prophecy can have a present meaning to the people that it was spoken too as well as a future meaning that could only be understood once revelation occurs. Matthew saw that meaning in the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Did Isaiah understand that the Immanuel prophecy would ultimately culminate in the birth of the Son of God? I do not know, but if Isaiah knew he likely did not fully understand. Isaiah being a prophet of God was given much of the mind of God, but with that being said he (Isaiah) is not God; therefore, his knowledge and understanding of prophecy is limited. There is indication that he might have had an inkling since he prophesied in Isaiah 9:6-7;
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Difficult times lay ahead for Israel and Judah, but there is hope of peace in the future. This prophecy when it was written was looking ahead to the first and second advent of Jesus Christ. The first advent; “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us”7 has been fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. We are now looking ahead to His second advent when the government will rest on His shoulders.8 What I hope that you take from this brief sermon is that divine prophecy has more than one meaning and application. It has a meaning for those who it was originally spoken to, it also has another meaning in the future; ultimately all prophecy is fulfilled in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.