The Wonder of His NameImmanuel
Leslie Basham: Jesus is with you right now—whatever you’re doing. Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains why this matters so much.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If God is with you, if Jesus is your Immanuel, then what you are doing—in the workplace, in your home, in the church, in your relationship—that is an opportunity for God’s glory to be displayed in every situation.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, March 12.
Throughout the Lenten season, Nancy’s leading us through a rich study called “The Wonder of His Name.” Today’s installment in that series was recorded in Houston on the Revive Tour. To see Nancy teaching part of today’s session on video, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, we come today to a name in this series on “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-changing Names of Jesus”—a name today that you often hear talked about at Christmas. I think it’s one we ought to talk about all year round. It’s the name “Immanuel.” Now that name for Jesus, Immanuel, comes from two Hebrew words—“God” and “with us.” Jesus is the “with us God.” He is God with us.
Interestingly, as I started to study this title for Jesus, I realized there’s not much about it in Scripture. The name only appears once in the New Testament and in two Old Testament passages that we’re going to look at today. But it’s a theme that runs all the way through the Scripture. I hope that this name is going to take on new meaning for all of us as we contemplate what it means to know Jesus as Immanuel.
Now I want to start with the New Testament reference to this name, and it’s found in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1. You remember that Mary and Joseph were betrothed to be married, and then Mary was found to be with child. And the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife and that the child she was carrying had been conceived by the Holy Spirit.
And then we come to Matthew 1:21. The angel says,
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
That’s the name that we looked at last week, the name of Jesus. And then continuing in verse 22,
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (vv. 21–23).
Now, as far as we know, Jesus never called Himself “Immanuel,” nor did anyone else call Him that. This is not His name in the sense that “Jesus” is His name. This is more a title or a description of who He is. But all that this name means was fulfilled in Jesus.
This prophecy that angel refers to in Matthew chapter 1 was actually made 700 years earlier. You find it in the book of Isaiah chapter 7. So if you have a Bible with you, let me encourage you to turn to the Book of Isaiah, and we’re going to spend much of the rest of our time in Isaiah 7 and then Isaiah 8 as well.
Let me give you some context. I found as I got into this passage, I had to do quite a bit of research to find out what is going on here. What is this talking about? And let me just give it to you in a nutshell. The king of northern kingdom of Israel and king of Syria had formed a coalition to oppose the superpower of Assyria that was taking the world over at that point.
So the kings of Israel and Syria who had come together, went to Ahaz, who was the king of southern nation of Judah, and asked him to join their coalition—to join them in going against Assyria. And they said if Ahaz refused that they would attack Judah and replace Ahaz as king.
Now, Ahaz, the king of this southern nation of Judah was not a godly man though he had a godly grandfather. But he knew that he had no grounds to claim God’s deliverance or God’s protection against Assyria or against this coalition of kings. He was terrified. Isaiah 7 verse 2 says, “The heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”
So God sends a prophet, Isaiah, to meet Ahaz and encourages him, “Don’t be afraid.” And he tells Ahaz that the Lord plans to defeat Syria and Israel and that Ahaz should trust in the Lord to deliver him. The prophet encourages Ahaz to ask for a sign that God was going to confirm His promise. But Ahaz says, “No, I don’t want a sign.”
He was not willing to put his trust or his confidence in the Lord. Actually, we know in another passage—a parallel passage in 2 Kings—that in his heart Ahaz had already planned to ally himself with Assyria. (see 2 Kings 16:5–9) He was going to reach out to Assyria and say, “Instead of conquering us, we’ll join forces with you.” So you have all this political stuff going on—all these nations.
Then Isaiah says to Ahaz in verse 13, “Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:13-14).
Isaiah says to this wicked king Ahaz who will not trust in the Lord, he says, “You don’t want a sign, but God’s going to give you a sign anyway. And He’s going to do it not just for your sake, but for the sake of His covenant people, and for the sake of the whole house of David.”
He told Ahaz that a young woman, a virgin, was going to conceive and give birth to a son. Then you see in verses 15 and 16 that while this child was still young, the two countries that Ahaz was deathly afraid of, Israel and Syria, were going to be removed as a threat. In fact, within a few years of this prophecy, Assyria swept in and defeated Syria—the one nation Ahaz was afraid of—and within a dozen years of this prophecy, Israel fell to Assyria. So the prophecy absolutely came true in Ahaz’s day.
Now there are a whole lot of different opinions and interpretations among commentators about who this woman was who was to give birth to this son named Immanuel. And here’s what I’ve concluded. We don’t know. We can’t know for sure. There are a lot of different ideas about who it may have been. But we do know that this child was to be a sign that God was with His people and that it was the presence of God that would bring relief and deliverance.
This was a promise that the nation of Judah—even though they had a wicked king and most of the people in that nation had wicked hearts—but that the nation of Judah and the royal line of David would not be snuffed out—no matter how many threatening kings and nations there were around them. But that they would, in fact, have a glorious future, even though things looked very dismal at this moment.
But here’s the key thing for us to know. This was a sign not just for Ahaz and for those who lived in Isaiah’s day, but the Immanuel to be born in that day was intended to be a type, a sign for us. It was a type that would be fulfilled 700 years later when another child would be born named Immanuel—born to a virgin in Bethlehem. And so Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, that prophecy about Immanuel was, in fact, a messianic prophecy.
You say, “How do we know that?” Well we know it because in Matthew chapter 1 which we read at the beginning of this session, the angel says that this child to be born to Mary is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. So the New Testament tells us what Isaiah 7 was talking about—that the child that Mary would have in Bethlehem was the child prophesied back in Isaiah 7:14—Immanuel, God with us.
Now,there are a number of implications of this title that was given to the baby named “Immanuel.” First we know that this baby born in Bethlehem was God. Jesus is God—God with us. This is God coming to earth in human flesh, and that’s what we celebrate at the incarnation of Jesus. He came to earth. God came to earth in the form of this baby named Jesus.
John 1 says it this way: “In the beginning was the Word . . .” We talked about that name for Jesus last week. “. . . . and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh [thank God!] and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). And so we have a God who is not some far away, distant deity, but a God who is with us where we are—a God who came to share the experiences of our lives and our humanity.
This promise, “I am with you” that God gives to us, “I will be with you” is a promise found all the way throughout God’s Word. In fact, in recent months as I’ve been reading through the Bible again, I’ve been making a note and keeping list of wherever this promise appears, “I am with you. I will be with you.” What’s neat to see is that whatever the need of the moment was, this was God’s answer—“I am with you. I will be with you.”
Let me give you some examples. In Genesis chapter 26 we read about how Isaac was moving from pillar to post, trying to support his family in the midst of a famine and arguments over water rights. And we see then in verse 24 of Genesis 26, “The Lord appeared to him . . . and said, 'I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you'" (Gen. 26:24).
And then we see Isaac’s son Jacob who manipulated and cheated to get the birthright from his brother and to get the blessing from his father. In Genesis 28 we see that Jacob is running from his estranged brother. He’s in fear for his life. God appears to Jacob in a dream, and He says, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land” (Gen. 28:15).
Exodus chapter 3: “Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?'" God says, “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:11–12). That’s the promise again and again.
Moses says to the Israelites as they’re getting ready to go into Promised Land: “[The Lord] will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8). Whatever is going on, whatever your fears, whatever your circumstances, don’t be afraid. God is with you. God will be with you. God is going with you.
God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:
Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. . . . Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh. 1:5, 9).
Judges chapter 6, you remember Gideon who felt totally unqualified and inadequate to go against the Midianite forces.
The Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judg. 6:16).
[And then God says to Jeremiah.] They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord (Jer 15:20).
“God with us.” That is our greatest need. In every circumstance, every situation in life to know that God is with us. And here’s the good news of the gospel that Jesus is Immanuel—“God with us.” As God was with His people in the Old Testament—Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Joshua and Gideon and Jeremiah—so God is with those who know and trust Jesus.
So what difference does that make in your life and mine here today—in your life circumstances—in mine? Well, if we know Jesus as Immanuel, that makes all the difference in the world. If you have Jesus, Immanuel, God is with you. That means that if you live in a cramped apartment the presence of Immanuel transforms that tiny space into a palace because Jesus is with you—God is with you.
Immanuel, God with us transforms ordinary moments and mundane tasks into opportunities for God’s glory to be displayed. Some of you are thinking, I wish I could have the kind of ministry she does. I wish I could really be used for God. Listen, are you taking care of three kids at home? If God is with you, if Jesus is your Immanuel, then what you are doing in the work place, in the home, in the church, in your relationships, then that is an opportunity for God’s glory to be displayed.
In every situation, in every season of life, in every circumstance, in every conversation that you have, in every gathering of believers, God is with us. And that affects everything! In that profane work environment where you’re the only believer, God is with you. When you’re checking Facebook, when you’re browsing the Internet, God is with you, in Immanuel. When your bills are greater than your income, God is with you. When you’re up in the middle of the night nursing a newborn or caring for a sick child, Immanuel, God is with you.
When you stand at the graveside of that loved one, if you know Immanuel, God is with you. When you feel totally inadequate to do what He has called you to do, if you know Jesus as Immanuel, God is with you. If you’re a single woman or a widow, and you feel lonely, you are not alone—God is with you.
When you are fearful of what might happen to you, God is with you. We’re going to talk later in this series about how Jesus is the “Mighty God” who is with you. When your heart is breaking and sad, God is with you. His presence can give you joy in the midst of that valley—that difficult journey.
I listened not long ago to Pastor David Platt speaking at Moody Founders’ week. I was listening on the Internet, and I love this line. He said, “Followers of Jesus don’t always know where they’re going, but they always know who they’re with.” Amen.
If you have Jesus in you, then you have God in you and with you. (applause) Yes, you can applaud for that. If you know Immanuel, if you know Jesus and God is with you, then you can be free from fear. You can have courage to step out in faith, to obey God, to fulfill His calling and His mission for your life. It’s Immanuel, God with us, that enables us to do whatever He has called us to do, because God is with us.
He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). And that means if you have Immanuel, if you know Jesus as your Immanuel now, that means for all of eternity God will be with you, and you will be with Him.
Now, we’ve taken a look at the name “Immanuel” in Matthew chapter 1 and Isaiah chapter 7, but there’s one other place that name appears, and it’s in Isaiah chapter 8. So let me ask you to just flip the page there to the very next chapter. This is a passage that is not so familiar, but it really is beautiful in light of what we’ve just seen.
Isaiah 8 beginning in verse 6 speaks to two categories of people. I want to close our time by reflecting on that. Verses 6 through 8 God speaks to His people, and then in verses 9 and 10, Isaiah speaks to the Assyrians. Both of these groups need to know something about Immanuel.
First in verses 6–8, God speaks to Isaiah about His people in Judah, which is seen here as the land of Immanuel—the land of God with us. So Isaiah 8, verse 6, God says: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently . . .” Now let me just stop there for a moment.
“Waters of Shiloah.” Shiloah was a stream that supplied water to city of Jerusalem—the capital of Judah. And that stream, the “waters of Shiloah,” that was a symbol of the people’s dependence upon God. He was the One who supplied their needs, who filled their thirst, who was their provider.
But rather than relying on God to help him and to help his people in trouble, Ahaz, the king of Judah, called on the godless nation of Assyria to come to their rescue. Ahaz and the people of God refused the gentle waters of Shiloah. That means they refused to let Immanuel help them. God said, “I’m your Immanuel. You’re the land of Immanuel. I’m with you. Call out to Me. Cry out to Me.”
But they said, “No, You’re not enough. We don’t think You can help us.” They refused the gentle waters, the provision of Shiloah, the provision of Immanuel.
And so God says, “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, therefore, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River.” Now, in my Bible that “River” is capital “R.” “[God] is bringing up against them the waters of the River mighty and many . . .” And then God tells us who this River is: “. . . the king of Assyria and all his glory” (v. 7).
God was saying the nation of Assyria to which Ahaz had turned for help, that Assyria would be like the great River Euphrates, a mighty roaring, rushing river that would overflow its banks and would swallow up the nation of Judah. “And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel” (vv. 7–8).
This is the land of Immanuel, the land of God with us. But they refused the gentle flowing waters of Shiloah. They refused the help of Immanuel and instead they said, “We will turn to Assyria for help.”
And God said, “You want help from Assyria? I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. Assyria will be like that great sweeping water of the River Euphrates that will come overflow you and flood you and destroy you.”
Here’s the point for God’s people. If we refuse to look to Immanuel, the gentle waters of Shiloah, to be our strength, our helper, our defender, our provider, then we will ultimately be swallowed up by godless forces in which we have trusted.
If you look to the world for help, the world will ultimately swallow you up. If you look to Immanuel for help, you’ll get those gentle waters of Shiloah, all that you need, even when that Assyrian army is breathing down your neck. Which leads me to ask, who are you trusting? Is Jesus your Immanuel, and are you looking to Him to meet your needs?
Well, verses 9 and 10 there’s another word. The prophet Isaiah gives a warning to Assyria and it’s a warning to all those who oppose the people of Immanuel. He says in verse 9: “Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered. Take counsel together, [Assyria and all you allied nations] but it will come to nothing; speak a word . . . .” The implication is here these nations of Assyria and all these other nations, they are speaking against the people of God. They’re taking counsel against the people of God. “ . . . . but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand [why?] for God is with us.” That’s the word in the Hebrew, “Immanuel.”
Whatever all your threats are they will come to nothing for Immanuel, God is with us. Assyria was the fiercest world power of its day, but it would ultimately “come to nothing” and all their threats against God’s people would not stand because God was with and for His people.
Listen, there are a lot of enemies threatening God’s people today. You may be facing circumstances or people that strike fear into your heart. The counsel of God’s Word today is “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed. Be of good courage. Remember that God is with you. Immanuel—fix your eyes Him—Jesus. He is your protector. He is your provider. And remember all who resist Him, all who resist His people will come to nothing. And those who put their hope in Him will never be disappointed.” Amen? Amen.
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The name “Immanuel” is more than just a nice word to utter at Christmas. It means a whole lot for our everyday life.
This whole series has been making names of Jesus come alive. I’ve been hearing some of these names all my life. But this series is helping me understand these names in a far deeper way. And it's helping me understand what these names mean practically.
During this series, “The Wonder of His Name,” I hope you’ll get a copy of Nancy’s new book of the same title. When you listen to the programs and read these devotionals from Nancy, these meaningful names will come alive to you even more.
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