When Matthew quoted the glorious prophecy of Isaiah, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” he was inspired to add a simple explanation, “which is, being interpreted, God with us”; and I, for one, am very thankful for the interpretation.
Without it there would merely be the prosaic information “They shall call his name Immanuel,” which wouldn’t mean much more to us than “They shall call his name William.”
But the explanation is there, and the page lights up like a dull morning in December when the sun suddenly and unexpectedly explodes in the eastern sky, warm with love and fragrant with hope. “Immanuel.… God with us.” The word comes as a whisper, a still small voice, soft as the glow of altar candles, and too low to awaken the Babe sleeping in the manger.
Bishop Phillips Brooks caught the spirit of it,
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given.
FOREGLEAMS OF THE DAWN
In a sense, “God with us” is not a new message. What is new is the language in which it is spoken. But it is a mistake to think that the world was without God until Jesus was born.
We understand the doctrine of Providence to mean that God has always been so concerned for his people that he has never left them wholly to their own devices, but has overshadowed them with his presence, even when they knew it not.
The Old Testament says, “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel,” and we accept that statement as true by the evidence of history. The more we know of the other nations of antiquity, the more marvelous does the Jewish nation appear.
We look a little more closely at the Old Testament and find that the basic idea contained in “Immanuel” is not unknown to the other writers ...1
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