In the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew, we are introduced to genealogy of Jesus Christ and the circumstances leading up to His birth. Towards the end of the chapter, Joseph is told that he must name the child Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. After all this, the Bible tells us that these events were fulfilling what the prophet Isaiah had spoken about in Isaiah 7. There, God pronounces that there is one coming who will save His people and His name is Immanuel. In Matthew 1 we are told that Immanuel means “God with us.”
When we consider the use of this word, one might tend to think that this is the first time God will be with man. But truly nothing could be further from the truth. If we were to go back to the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1-3, we can clearly see a picture of God dwelling with man in the garden of Eden. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God is described as dwelling among His people Israel first in the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) and then later in the temple that Solomon built. The major theme of the Bible is God’s fellowship with man and so in some sense we could accurately say the term Immanuel was always existent.
However, by the time we get to the book of Isaiah and the periods of the prophets, the people have clearly forsaken God for their selfish and evil desires. They have committed sin and they have gone into full depravity separating themselves from their creator and sustainer. Thus, the purpose of the term Immanuel ceased to exist for a period of time. It wasn’t because of anything God did since His desire was always to dwell among His people in spiritual intimacy and complete unity. But, the bible teaches that where sin is God cannot be. As a result, God was no longer among His people, His chosen people. Therefore, He spoke of one that was coming that would be able to take care of the problem of sin thereby making the term Immanuel existent once again.
Now, this is where Matthew 1 comes perfectly into play. Remember that the angel who appeared to Joseph told him that he was going to name the child Jesus because He will save His people from their sin. This prophecy coming to fruition would not only allow for the forgiveness of sins, but it would also reconcile man with God. You see, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross made it so that all men who were and are separated from God could have the opportunity to have fellowship with Him as God always intended.
This is not to suggest that Jesus did not come in the flesh. There is a twofold fulfillment of the term Immanuel in that Jesus literally was God in the flesh and He lived among men for a period of time but He also was the bridge through which man can see God once more (cf. Jn. 1:18). It is amazing to see the lengths to which God would go to save the very people that forsook Him and put His only begotten Son on the cross.
The next time we come across this word Immanuel in our bible reading or perhaps in a sermon, may we meditate on the events surrounding the coining of this term but also the actions and the plan that God orchestrated so it could come to pass. May we meditate on the fact that when we sin, we separate ourselves from God and He is no longer with us if we choose to forsake Him. If there is sin in our lives today, then may we seek to fix it not by ourselves but with the help of God.
It may be that you are reading this, and you find yourself in need of His saving grace and His forgiveness. Why wait any longer and why not take advantage of the opportunities God gives you to be saved from sin? May we all seek Jesus and I pray that He indeed is with us.