Emmanuel: God With Us…TODAY!

In the mornings, I have been reading through the Gospel according to Matthew. Without doubt, I have found the evangelist’s testimony very comforting during this time as my wife and I seek his face and ask for his wisdom concerning the next few months with a baby on the way and doctoral work just around the corner (Lord willing for both). This is so because at both ends of his testimony concerning Jesus, the son of Abraham, the Son of David, there lies an outstanding emphasis concerning the nature of the incarnation and his current reign, the nature of this Messiah’s coming to his people then and this same Messiah’s presence with his people now.

At the beginning of his Gospel, Matthew helps us to see that Jesus is the expected Messiah from Abraham’s progeny and David’s royal line (Matt 1:1-17). In a sense, we might say that Matthew picked up the pen the Chronicler laid down in order to continue the Gospel-narrative set forth by the Old Testament (1 Chr 5:2 [cf. Gen 49:10]; 14:2 [cf. Num 24:7]; 2 Chr 6:6; 9:8; 21:7; 36:22-23). What is unique about this seed of Abraham, this son of David, is that he will not be begot (or “fathered”) by a man, as those in verses 1:2-16a, but by the Lord himself. The virgin Mary will conceive, and the child would be “of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:20). What is more, this baby shall be called “‘Emmanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us'”, in fulfillment of what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah (1:22-23 [Isa 7:14]). 

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, following his identification of Jesus with Isaiah‘s Suffering Servant (Matt 8:17 [Isa 53:4]), especially in his passion narrative (Matt 26:63 [Isa 53:7]; 26:67 [Isa 50:6; cf. 53:5]), God triumphantly raises Jesus from the dead and gives him all authority in heaven and on earth, a declaration Jesus shares with his disciples on the designated mountain (Matt 28:18). Because Jesus reigns, all the nations will be discipled, baptized, and taught (28:19-20a). What is more, Jesus states “Behold, I am [present tense!] with you all the days until the end of the age” (28:20b), a reverberation of Matthew 1:23, a rather fitting conclusion to Matthew’s testimony, and a message we must grasp today.

I find this book-end emphasis in Matthew’s Gospel quite intriguing, but even more so amazing, especially in its connection with Isaiah’s message. Throughout Isaiah, we find a unique theme concerning mount Zion. Zion lay in shambles as Isaiah preached to the rebellious Judah and Jerusalem (Isa 1:8; 3:16); however, such a desperate state did not hinder the Lord from declaring Gospel-promise, a coming day of redemption (2:2-3; 9:7; 52:8; 59:20; 60:14; 66:8). For Isaiah, Zion is the place where God dwells in majesty with his purified people, the throne of his appointed redeemer-king, and the place of refuge for all his children, even all the nations (2:3; 8:18; 14:32; 18:7; 24:23; 28:16; 35:10; 40:9; 46:13; 51:3, 16; 59:20). In this sense, Isaiah’s overall “Zion” message is nothing less than Gospel for his listeners. God will bring about a day of redemption through his appointed king who dwells with his people on Zion’s hill.

When we read Matthew’s Gospel in light of Isaiah’s glorious Zion motif we find something spectacular. Isaiah’s expected son, Emmanuel, is Jesus Christ, the son of David. He is God, and is indeed with us. He dwelt among us when he came humbly as a man–even more, a suffering servant. Having bore our iniquities on the cross, having been raised from the dead to ever reign as king, Zion’s King(!), he promises to be present with us, to dwell with us, until our faith becomes sight. God came to be among us in Christ; he still is among us in Christ, and for that reason we shall endure this age and press on in the faith, gathering the nations and telling them all to behold the King whom the Lord has seated on Zion’s hill.

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2 Responses to “Emmanuel: God With Us…TODAY!”

  1. Chuck Thomas Says:

    Bret: Great observations. While I could articulate Jesus’ promise in the Great Commission to be with us to the end of the age, it never dawned on me that this is a continuation of Immanuel. I’ll never look at it the same way again.

    Matthew’s is a special gospel for me as it was during an intensive study of this book many years ago that God’s grace became irresistible. I had “played church” for a long time and it was during this study that it became apparent to me that my Christianity was nominal at best and that it extended no further than an intellectual ascent. I am living proof of the patience of God and his power to regenerate. I praise for Him sovereignty and for choosing me, purely out of His good pleasure.

  2. Bret Rogers Says:

    Chuck, thanks for your words here. They were an encouragement to my faith in our sovereign Redeemer, whose Spirit NEVER fails in bringing his elect to salvation through the power of the Gospel.

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