Saturday, September 10, 2016

Immanuel: Isaiah and Matthew

1.    We would certainly like that God had a name. But if, indeed, he has a name, it should come from him. It must be a revealed name.
2.    In chapter 6 of Isaiah the author/prophet claims to have seen the Lord. The Lord God sits on a throne, like a king, and there are angels—seraphim—with him. YHWH is the name, it is given by God to Moses in Exodus 3. YHWH is saint, holy. YHWH can be YHWN Sabbaoth, Lord of Armies. Isaiah-I uses a lot this name.
And Immanuel?
3.    Notice that as Isaiah speaks to King Ahaz he does not say the name YHWH nor YHWH Sabbaot. The context may require that name to be used because the Syrians and the Northern Kingdom threaten Ahaz. There is a kind of “holy war” going on. But an assurance is given: the coalition threatening Ahaz will not hold (see Is 7/7). God gives a sign, Immanuel. This means “God-is-with-us”. The sign seems to say that God is near us, with us, together with us. God is not, this time, a God of armies and power and might. (see 2 Samuel 7/7).
God’s holiness
4.    Be afraid of YHWH Sabbaoth, says Isaiah in another chapter (see Is 8,/3). But this is not said here. Here the holiness of God is his power. No it is not force that makes him powerful, it is his holiness. He is God with us, near us, together with us. Now he is God-with-us, Immanuel. He is the “Holy One of Israel” (Is 12/6).
What about Matthew?
5.    Isaiah 7/14 is cited in Matthew. The angel visits Joseph and announces that Mary “will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’which means ‘God is with us.’ (Mt. 1/20-21).
6.    Matthew puts in passages from Isaiah. Is this Immanuel Jesus? Of course it is…from the point of view of Matthew.
But wait. Joseph is to give the child a name, “Jesus”. Why does Matthew add “Immanuel”?
7.    Let us look at the community of Matthew. It is a community largely of Jews (and a few Gentiles) who suffer the pain of separating from Judaism. Matthew comforts them showing that Jesus inherits the promise of God. Joseph is from the David line. He gives the name Jesus. Then, thanks to Isaiah, the birth of this Jesus is from a virgin, accomplishing thus the Scriptures.
8.    Now, the name Jesus is “savior of the people” or “God saves”. It can mean that the promise of God is limiting his salvation to the David line and those associated with David. The Immanuel, this time, indicates, for Matthew, that the salvation given by Jesus has a universal dimension. In Jesus God is with us. “Us” means everyone, Jew, Greek, everyone.
9.    The angel tells Joseph to name the child Jesus. But Immanuel is to be given by “them”…”they shall call his name Immanuel” (verse 23).
In Matthew there is a problem: Jesus will not be recognized by the Jews but will be recognized by Gentiles. Matthew starts this off with the story of the Magi. At the end of Matthew we read that Jesus sends his disciples to all nation (see 28/19).
If Joseph is to call the child Jesus, believers will call him Immanuel. They will later recognize the salvation given by Jesus and they will recognize the presence of God in Jesus. This can explain why verse 23 is about the future: “they will call his name….”
10. At the end of Matthew Jesus declares that he will be with his disciples always (see 28/20). In other words, Jesus is “with us” always, he is Immanuel.

11. Matthew makes it clear that the birth of Jesus is in conformity with God’s plan for all nations. So the circle is closed with the end of the account by saying Jesus is with us for always. 

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