What does Immanuel mean? The name literally means “God with us.”
This name was first mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 when God gave a promise to a very wicked King of Judah, Ahaz. Foreign powers were aligned against Judah, and God promised Ahaz the sign of Immanuel, a child born of a virgin, as the sure victory that Judah would need. In every situation of life, we need Immanuel. In Isaiah’s day we read how no foreign powers were able to conquer Judah because of the truth of “Immanuel.” Isaiah 8:9–10 says
Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
give ear, all you far countries;
strap on your armor and be shattered;
strap on your armor and be shattered.
Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
speak a word, but it will not stand,
for God is with us. (ESV)
That last line is the meaning of Immanuel: no power shall be able to withstand God’s people, for God is with us.
Yet the future fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 is even more rich and full. In Matthew 1 a messenger approaches another man from the tribe of Judah. This time the angel Gabriel comes to Joseph in a time of his trouble and testing. His betrothed wife has been found pregnant, and Joseph, an honorable man, knows he is not the father. He has determined to end his engagement to Mary in private. Yet the messenger brings Joseph the good counsel of God and the sign to confirm it. “Joseph, you may have heard that the prophet Isaiah said the virgin would give birth!”
Joseph was likewise encouraged not to be afraid and not to go through with his plan to end his engagement. God was at work in a miraculous way. And the baby in Mary’s womb was the One baby long-promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David, and even to wicked Ahaz: Immanuel was coming.
And the best news of all that Joseph received was that this child would come to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Political and Military threats come and go. When they come we tend to think that wars and threats of wars are the height of danger and distress. But the reality is our sins are even more deadly. We cannot hope to defeat our sin and approach God. That is why Jesus came into the world as the full expression of Immanuel. God with us in our frail humanity, but not in our sin.
Yet even on the cross Jesus came to bear our sin in His own body, and that’s what He did. He became sin for all those who will call on His name in utter helplessness, forsaking their sin and believing in Jesus Christ as God with them. Friend, have you turned from your sin, repenting before Jesus and trusting in Him alone to save you?