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Immanuel


Isaiah 7:14b-15

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

The Story: When the armies of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Aram (modern-day Syria) marched against Judah in about 735 B.C., Isaiah met King Ahaz of Judah and promised him victory. To seal the deal, the Lord said to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7:10), but Ahaz refused to ask for any sign, thereby trying God’s patience and giving God the opportunity to specify the sign: a virgin bearing a son called “God-is-with-us.” The kings of Israel and Aram were, He said, “smoldering stumps of firebrands” (7:4) and nothing to get excited about. In the short term, this prophecy pointed to a child born soon after Isaiah’s prophecy who by the time he reached the age of discernment (12 or 13) would be eating curds and honey, because farming was impossible during times of war. In the long term, we celebrate Christmas.

The Structure: God was with Jerusalem and Judah, not Israel and Aram. And, as St. Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The promise of Immanuel, spoken 735 years before its final fulfillment in the birth of Jesus, declared it to be true. God planned to come among His people with His saving power. He is for us. It is, however, a fearsome thing to believe that God is for us. Our desires may or may not coincide with His will. When Abraham Lincoln was asked if God was on the side of the Union, he replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” We ought to think the same way, and that begins by understanding the Scriptures, theology, and worldview. These renew our minds so that we can “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Are there areas in your life in which you presume God is on your side? That His will coincides with your desires? Spend some time in prayer reexamining those areas seeking to discern “what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

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