God with Us: The Best Gift

Posted: December 24, 2017 in Isaiah, Uncategorized
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Isaiah 7:14, “God with Us: The Best Gift”

Ask any kid, and the best part of Christmas are the presents. They’re checking the tree every day to see what’s new, and what name tag is on the packages. They’re examining the size & weight of the boxes. They’re staying up as late as possible on Christmas Eve, and coming down as early as possible on Christmas morning. For most kids, the food may be nice, and it’s always great to have time off from school, but in the end, it’s all about the gifts.

It’s often said that the best gifts are the ones we make. After all, when we put time into a present, we give a little bit of ourselves. Maybe you write a letter – record a song – paint a picture – or give an experience of some sort in which you can spend time with your loved one. Those things are what bring the best memories – those are the gifts that will be treasured & long-remembered.

But all of this leads to an obvious question: Why do we give gifts at Christmas, anyway? When looking at the Christmas story, we might think of the wise men (magi), who brought presents to the Baby Jesus. As far as we know, they were the first to present gifts to the Christ Child and the Holy Family, bringing with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh (symbols of Jesus’ royalty, priesthood, and death). Even so, the Magi weren’t present at His birth…they likely didn’t see Jesus until He was 2-3 years old, arriving when He was a “young child” (Mt 2:11). Actually, if we’re looking for the very first Christmas gift, the first gift wasn’t given by men at all. The original Christmas gift was Christ. God gave His Son to the world, and thus gave Himself. The only begotten Son of God was not “made,” but He certainly “made” Himself into a Man, and came to live among us.

This had been prophesied long ago, and was quoted by an angel to Joseph when Joseph was struggling in his heart what to do about his betrothed (engaged) wife-to-be, Mary, who was found to be suddenly pregnant before she and Joseph got married. In a dream one night, an angel of God appeared to Joseph, telling him not to fear, but to walk in faith.

Matthew 1:20–23, “(20) But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. (21) And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (22) So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: (23) “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.””

Of course, we know the history: Joseph did take Mary as his wife, and she did bear a Son, whose name was Jesus. (“Jesus” = Yahweh saves)

But what about that original prophecy? The apostle Matthew notes that this had been done to fulfill God’s promise through the prophet – but what was that original prophecy? The angel quoted it directly from the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Of course, no Scripture comes out of nowhere, so we need to know the original context. Isaiah’s prophetic ministry began the same year one of the very best kings of Judah died. His son and grandson who followed in his footsteps were not nearly so good, and the current king (Ahaz) had no trust in God, and did not fear/worship God at all. 2 Kings 16 tells us that Ahaz was so evil, that he even engaged in child sacrifice and other pagan ways of the people who lived in the land before the Hebrews. Even so, he was the king of Judah, and the heir of King David. So when the kings of Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) made war against Judah, God offered to help King Ahaz, as evil as he was. God would honor His promise to David, even if David’s descendant was unworthy.

Of course, Ahaz wasn’t looking to God – he was looking to his own ability to make a deal through political alliances, and sent to the kingdom of Assyria for help. (This would end up being his downfall.) But God did offer to help Ahaz, and as a guarantee, God told Ahaz to ask for a sign that would confirm God’s work on his behalf. Ahaz refused, pretending that it was sinful to ask God for a sign…but really, he just lacked the faith. Ahaz didn’t want to trust God, so he didn’t want any reason to trust God. That’s when God said He would give Ahaz a reason, even if he didn’t want one! God Himself would give a sign: the Child Immanuel…the promise of Isaiah 7:14. Because God would do this, Ahaz (and all of the kingdom of Judah) could know that God would deliver Judah from Syria. Judah would survive, because the Messiah (Immanuel) would need to be born. God would be good to all of His promises.

Of course, in the gift of Immanuel, God looked to something far bigger than the temporary deliverance of Israel from Syria: He looked to the deliverance of mankind from sin & death. Political enemies are temporary; death lasts forever. Sin carries eternal consequences, and it is from those things we need saving. God provides His salvation through Immanuel. (Which was affirmed again from the angel to Joseph.) What is included in this promise of the original Christmas present? Four basic things: (1) God gives the gift, (2) God gives proof, (3) God gives a miracle, (4) God gives Himself.

First, God gives the gift. His personal involvement is emphasized. When the prophecy says that “the Lord Himself will give a sign,” the Hebrew is emphatic on the “Himself.” God doesn’t outsource the work – He doesn’t delegate His salvation. When it comes to the most important work in the history of the world, God is personally involved. To put it another way, when a Christian says “God saved me,” that’s exactly what happened: God saved you. The Almighty Creator God – the One who knows every star by name and has the number of hair follicles on your head counted – that God personally did what was necessary to bring about your salvation. He knew what needed to be done, and did it.

Second, God gives a sign, meaning that He gives proof. When it came to the earthly ministry of Jesus, He performed all kinds of signs, providing abundant proof that He is exactly who He said He is. The only way a Man can turn water into wine, calm a stormy sea, create bread and fish from thin air, raise the dead, etc., is if He is a Man who is also God. All those signs are proofs. Likewise here with the sign of Immanuel. Just as Ahaz didn’t have to guess at the fact that God would deliver Judah, the Hebrew people as a whole didn’t have to guess at the fact that God would bring forth the Messiah. In the same way, we don’t have to guess at the sufficiency of His work for us. How do we know that God conquers death & sin? Because He provided proof – He provided a sign.

Third, God gives a miracle. What was the sign? A virgin would give birth to a Son. Many women have given birth through history – a birth by itself is not unusual in the slightest. Yet all of those births require basic biology: there needs to be a mother and a father. For this particular birth, in order for it to be a sign, there would be only a mother. She would be a virgin, having no physical relationship with a man. The only Father would be the Heavenly Father: God Himself.

  • This actually goes back to an earlier promise…all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden after their temptation by the serpent (Satan), God not only pronounced the death that was the earned wage of sin, but He also pronounced a curse upon the Devil. Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” The “seed” of the woman is a subtle reference to a virgin birth. Normally, offspring is listed as that of the father (and “seed” carries with it biological implications). For the focus of the prophecy to be upon the woman’s seed, it leads directly to the later prophecy of the virgin birth. 

Fourth, God gives Himself. The promised Son was the gift. He is “God with us.” Although we call Jesus “Immanuel,” as a direct transliteration from the Greek (Ἐμμανουήλ), the Hebrew is literally two words that make up the phrase “God with us,” (עִמָּ֥נוּ אֵֽל). He is the Creator God of all the Universe, but He did not stay remote from us in the universe. He is not the “Divine Watchmaker” who set everything in motion and then set it all aside, nor is He a cruel taskmaster who plays with His creation like a bunch of toys. He is God-with-us, come to be among us, that we might forever be with Him.

  • God with us: as Man. The Incarnation never ceases to amaze me. Almighty Infinite God became flesh. The Perfect God in the midst of His glory put all of it aside to come be with us in all the discomforts of this world. The God who never gets hungry needed to be fed. The God who never slumbers needed to sleep. God the Son humbled Himself to the point that He put up with even the gross stuff of humanity. Prior to Bethlehem, when did the Son ever need to go to the bathroom? He came to be with us…He came to be one of us…amazing!
  • God with us: as Savior. As the angel announced to Joseph, the Son of God was to be named “Jesus” because He would save people from sin. We need saving, and Jesus does it! There was no way we could be saved, unless Jesus came, so He came. How so? The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, so that means our sin has earned each & every one of us death sentences, because we have committed treason against our Creator God. It’s impossible for us to pay the price and live – animal sacrifices merely postpone the inevitable, pushing it off until later – another person cannot die in our place because he/she has sin of their own to deal with. Only the perfect Son of God can do it! Jesus came to be with us as a Man in order that He might go to the cross as an exact substitute, standing in the place of every man, woman, and child in history. The only Man who had no sin became sin in our place, that we could receive the gift of life. He came to save!
  • God with us: as Lord. Jesus humbled Himself in order to be born – He continued His humility to the point of torturous death on the cross…but three days beyond that, He rose to life in glory! Jesus lives today, and He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus sits today at the right hand of God the Father, preparing for the day in which He will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. A day is coming in which He will first call His church home to be with Him personally, and then the world will experience the wrath of God in a way it has never known. It will conclude with Jesus’ physical return as He sets up an earthly kingdom that will last for 1000 years, transitioning into a new heaven and new earth that will last for all eternity. King Jesus will rule over it all, with us forever at His side. He will always be human, and He will always be God-with-us, and we will always be with Him.

Conclusion:

How amazing that God would come dwell with us! We need to be with God, but can’t. So instead, He came to us. He came as one of us, to save us, in order that we might forever be with Him in His kingdom. There’s a word for that: grace. Grace is a gift, and at Christmas, we celebrate the best gift given to all mankind: the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is a gift (THE gift), and He is a gift with a purpose: life.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Though our sin earns the wage of death, God doesn’t want us to die. He doesn’t desire that anyone perish. God’s desire is that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth of Jesus. Anyone can be forgiven of his/her sin – anyone can be saved and have God’s own personal guarantee of going to heaven in eternal life. All we need to do is believe upon Jesus, the Son of God. 

Repent: turn away from your sins, admitting them for what they are, but leaving them in the past. And as you turn away from sin, turn to Jesus in faith. Believe Him to be the Son of God who died for your sins at the cross and rose from the grave in victory. And then tell Him…receive Him into your life as your own Savior & Lord. Just like any present needs to be opened to be received, we need to respond to the gift of Jesus, by telling Him of our faith and asking Him to save us.

Have you received the original Christmas gift? Have you received Jesus? Don’t let another Christmas pass you by without knowing the true reason for celebration. In the end, it’s not about Santa Claus, brightly wrapped gifts, Christmas trees, or even Christmas dinner; it’s about Jesus. The Gift has been given…you just need to receive it.

Receive “God with us,” Immanuel!

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