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).
(Matthew 1:22-23 ESV)
As we learned in our introduction, Matthew wrote his account of Jesus’ life in an effort to demonstrate how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament promises of a savior and is therefore that savior. Matthew does this by frequently referring back to Old Testament passages to show that what took place fulfills the prophetic words spoken by [a] prophet. In this case, the prophet is Isaiah.
Isaiah’s ministry took place approximately 700 years before Jesus was born. Some 230 years before that (930 BC) the nation of Israel had split into two separate nations as the result of a civil war. The northern kingdom was called Israel. The southern kingdom was called Judah. Over time both nations became very distant from God due to their sinful behavior. Sin always leads people and nations away from God.
God sent various prophets to warn Israel and Judah to turn from their sin but they didn’t listen. So in 725 BC God allowed the northern kingdom of Israel to be conquered by Assyria. Its people were lead away into captivity, never to be heard from again. Although Assyria also threatened Judah at this time, God spared them for the time being.
Isaiah began his role as prophet to Judah a couple of decades later. His message was similar to the message of previous prophets: turn from sin (i.e. repent) and accept God’s mercy. But Isaiah also brought a message of hope through a future savior who would deliver people from their sins. One of the verses that refers to this savior is Isaiah 7:14, which Matthew quotes today.
Through Isaiah God had promised that someday a virgin would give birth to a son. Isaiah also makes the astounding claim that this child would actually be God. The name Immanuel means “God with us”.
In Hebrew the word “el” means God. It is frequently used as a prefix or suffix to create a name such as “Eliezer” or “Daniel”. Critics of the Bible mistakenly assert that the Bible does not claim that Jesus was God and that Jesus was not considered to be deity until the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This is completely false as Isaiah’s prophecy proves.
Jesus stated unequivocally that He was God on several occasions [John 5:18, 8:58, 10:33 et. al]. But hundreds of years before that, in the Old Testament writings of the prophets and Psalms, God told us numerous times that He Himself would be our savior [Psalm 3:8; Isaiah 43:11; Hosea 13:4 et. al]. Only God was capable of saving the human race from itself. Jesus was no mere mortal. He was God living in a human body.
This fully explains the virgin birth. God implanted Himself in Mary’s womb, gestated for nine months, was born, and lived like a human being, albeit without sin, for about 33 years. He then allowed Himself to be killed as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.
God literally walked on this earth. God was with us.
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