For Unto Us A Child Is Born!
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel…
You can catch it pretty often around this time of year.
Whether it’s driving down the main drag of your town, hearing it during the Christmas pageant, singing it in a Christmas carol, or it’s just the Spanish guy that lives next door; the word “Immanuel” becomes part of the traditional vocab we use during the Christmas season. However, it seems over time the word has become nothing more than another catch phrase to usher in nicely wrapped gifts and overly active shopping centers. Although I poke a little fun at the misdirected focus often held during Christmas, the truth of the matter is at one point in history the whole concept of “Immanuel” or “God with us” was way more than just an annual holiday…it was the fulfillment of a promise a long time in the making. It carried hope and healing to those that longingly waited in the midst of some seriously dark and difficult times.
One of those dark and difficult times began in 745 B.C., Tiglath-Pileser III was extending Assyrian rule further west and in doing so began to knock on Israel’s door. Only ten years earlier Isaiah had begun his ministry in Israel, speaking warning and wisdom to the nation wasn’t exactly on the top ten jobs list. The nation that once worshipped and obeyed Jehovah had grown rebellious and in their hard heartedness turned away from the One who had established them in the first place.
The nation grew tenser as the pressure from the Assyrian empire began to weigh on the northern kingdom. Women would whisper in the market about the rumored violence, and husbands grew nervous when hearing of the way Assyrian warriors would kill children in cold blood while stripping the prisoners naked and leading them away by hooks through the nose. This was the atmosphere that Isaiah was dealing with, and in such an atmosphere is where the promise of Immanuel was voiced.
“Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who isdistressed, as when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles.”
Isaiah began voicing the promise of a radical change to come in the midst of some pretty terrible and tough times. The Assyrians hit the Northern tribes from every side with three campaigns in 733 B.C. By the way of the sea, from beyond the river Jordan, and through Galilee of the Gentiles they came and executed such a merciless takeover it would make Hitler’s Holocaust look almost humane.
While death and darkness began to fall down and fearful force was being applied Isaiah brought the illuminating promise of a “mashiyach” or “Messiah” the One who would bring deliverance from the violence with exacting Power, bringing Peace to the frightened hearts of the people and war weathered borders of the land. He would bring a new Wonder and Counsel that would re-establish a nation with Everlasting authority.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, and garments rolled in blood, will be used for burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
Isaiah 9:2-7 (NKJV)
The promise was fulfilled many years later but not exactly in the way that many expected. The Messiah came in the body of a child by the Spirit of God, and lived up to every name that was prophesied over Him.
Much like the “Assyrians” sin had come and executed death and darkness unto a rebellious and hard hearted people; difficult days and uncertain times seemed to come from every direction and carried not just a nation, but all of mankind into captivity.
Then Immanuel arrived.
Christmas is the time where we acknowledge and celebrate outworking of Peace, Might, Wisdom, and Wonder that Jesus Christ brought to the world. Jesus went on to win for us liberty and righteousness through the finished work of the cross.
Perhaps this Christmas you feel a bit like Israel of old…
Are the soldiers of sin holding you captive?
Maybe it’s not sin, Perhaps you already have salvation through faith in Jesus but something else is oppressing you.
The footmen of fear are attacking from the sea, the warriors of worry are coming from beyond the Jordan to overcome you, maybe it’s a death, divorce, or a financial struggle that is hitting you hard this season.
Whatever the case, don’t take for granted the message of Immanuel…God with us. It’s true and it’s for you in your personal battle today.
He’s Wonderful when the wonder seems to be lost
He Counsels when you don’t know what to do
He’ll stand Mighty on your behalf when you’re helpless
He’s Everlasting when it seems like life is passing you by
He is Peace that will not fail
He is Jesus