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God With Us Brings HOPE in Jesus!

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NIV)

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:18-23 NIV)

Quick quiz: When he promised a virgin (maiden) would conceive and give birth to a son who was to called Immanuel, was Isaiah talking about his own son, to be born shortly thereafter and provide the marker by which God promised to deliver Judah from the invaders from Aram and Israel? Or was Isaiah talking about the promise of a coming Messiah to deliver God's people from sin and death? The answer is: Yes!

The prophecy of Immanuel was fulfilled both in Isaiah's own time and historical situation, and it was also fulfilled through Mary and Joseph, some 800 years later. Prophecies in Scripture often have an immediate fulfillment and a fulfillment in the fullness of time.

Another example of this multiple fulfillment of prophecy is the anti-Christ of the Book of Revelation. Behind the symbolism, Revelation speaks to the Christians who were enduring horrible persecution by Nero, emperor of Rome. Nero is the anti-Christ of Revelation. But there have been many anti-Christ's throughout the centuries since. And there will be a final anti-Christ in the end times who will initiate the Great Tribulation that Revelation predicts. And the message of Revelation WILL be fulfilled: God wins in the end!

Clearly the Apostles understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of Immanuel - God with us. And I stand with them. Eight centuries before the event, God promised to send His Anointed One - His Messiah - to establish the throne of David in a Kingdom that will last forever through a miraculous virgin birth. And that is exactly what He did.

So for centuries, faithful Israelites waited and hoped for the coming of Messiah. And finally, in an unexpected way, Messiah came when Jesus of Nazareth was born. Take note that the Jews expected Messiah to come as a powerful King to set Israel free. God had something much bigger in mind. The occupation of Israel by Rome was secondary to His larger plan of redeeming humanity from sin and death, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God both here and now in our hearts and, at Jesus' second coming, consummating the Kingdom for all eternity.

And so we enter the church season of Advent (which means "coming") expecting God to fulfill His promise and to be our Immanuel. Which is a bit weird, because Jesus already came as Immanuel. We wait expectantly for what God has already done? Not exactly.

The Hope of the ages is Jesus. He was the hoped-for Messiah of Israel, and He is the hoped-for King of a coming Kingdom that has already begun. In the centuries since Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead and returned to heaven, we have waited in hope for His return to establish His Kingdom forever. We wait in hope for eternal life. And whether Jesus comes again in my lifetime or comes for me at the moment of my death, He IS coming. The end of history has not yet taken place, and when it does, Jesus will be at the center of it.

In the meantime there is hope. No matter how dark the darkness becomes, the Light of the world awaits at the dawn. The promise of Romans 8:28 is real:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

In this fallen, broken world, all things that happen are NOT good. Unfair things happen every day. Heading the list of unjust acts in history is the crucifixion of the Son of God. No unjust thing is more unjust than that one. Jesus understands the "why, Lord?" of our hearts when unjust and inexcusable things happen to us. But God works for good for all who love Him in all things. Bad things will happen. But in the midst of all things, God works for good.

More than that, we who have Jesus Christ living in our hearts do not face ANYTHING alone. He is Immanuel. He is God with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Our feelings tell us God is a million miles away. Our feelings tell us our prayers are bouncing back to us off the ceiling. And our feelings are completely unreliable. God IS Immanuel. He IS with us, and that means we ALWAYS have hope.

If you are cruising through a time in your life when you are blessed and thankful, keep diving deep into your relationship with Jesus, and when the hard thing happens, you will have hope because you will have Him. And if you are in the middle of a hard thing - if you have lost a loved one or you are battling a devastating diagnosis, or experiencing chronic pain, or some other hard thing - hold on to Jesus. He is Immanuel. He is with you. And He will act to bring good out of the hard thing you are facing.

Jesus is our Redeemer. In Him, we have hope. And that is what Immanuel is all about.



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