Peninsula Community Church
He Came to Live With Us
December 22, 2013
Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
When we read this portion of Scripture there is a need to understand the context in which it was written. You see Mary had received the news that she would be the vessel through which Christ would be born. In her and through her the seed of God would become man. In those days, the Jewish custom and the Rabbinical law allowed a man to select a bride. Once selected there would be a period of time of up to one year between the betrothal and the actual wedding. This is what we would consider to be the engagement period of our day. Today, we would give the bride a ring and there would be an exchange of commitments. The act of betrothal was a big deal in that day as both families would have promised wedding day gifts that usually involved property, money, and/or cattle.
During the betrothal period, the couple would promise to remain pure. This was a season of preparation for both the groom and the bride. It was a time to plan their wedding as well as to begin to prepare for their future home together. If the betrothal law was broken, divorce papers were to be filed and the wedding was to be cancelled. To file papers for divorce was a serious matter as it would be an embarrassment to the groom and to the families involved. This was an esteem and pride issue for the family, so this was a big deal. If the divorce papers were initiated as a result of unfaithfulness, the bride to be was to be stoned to death. While this seems unfair, it was the law of the land in that day.
It was this context that Mary approached Joseph to tell him that she was pregnant with God’s son. It is easy for us to look back at this story now and think that this would not have been a big problem. But it was. Once Mary shared the news, Joseph was conflicted because he loved Mary. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he knew the law and what was required of him but he also loved Mary. He wanted to honor his family, but he also wanted to protect his bride to be. Joseph was conflicted and filled with fear.
The angel proclaimed the birth of the Messiah to Joseph. You see it was in this context that the angel came to Joseph and encouraged him with the words before us today. The angel came to Joseph in a dream. As he is sleeping or at least trying to sleep, God speaks to his heart. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us.) Matthew 1:19-22.
The angel in essence is saying you can trust Mary and you can trust God. The angel is saying to Joseph, look she has not broken any law, she has remained pure and holy. That is why God had chosen her to be the mother of His son.
Jesus – He will save us from our sin. In the angel’s communication he identifies two names for the Messiah. The angel stated that his name shall be Jesus for He will same His people from their sins. This is an awesome promise. Jesus came not just to forgive sin but to redeem men from their sin. There is a big difference in forgiveness of sin and redemption from sin. Forgiveness can be given to anyone but just because one is forgiven does not mean that they have been delivered from their sin. In fact it is possible for one to stay in their sin and to continue to live bound by the forces that come from the effect of the sin they have committed. But Christ came to redeem and to set man free from their sin and not just forgive them. Through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus still lives with you and has the power to deliver you from the grip of any bondage. No sinful habit, painful past, or present struggle is too difficult for the God-Man to overcome.
The second name the angel used is just as powerful. While the angel proclaims that his name shall be Immanuel, we don’t see this name used widely in the New Testament. It appears that rather than a name that would be used, it serves as a descriptive term of who Christ would be. The term is “Immanuel” which means that God is with us. It is noteworthy that one of the most common promises in the Bible is that God will be with us. We see this promise given to Moses before he led the children of Israel out of captivity. We see this promise given to Joshua before he led the children of Israel into the promise land. We see this as a promise to his disciples and to the church when he said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us; that is a promise.
Listen to this, what the angel is saying to Joseph through this passage and by way of identification with the Messiah was to not be afraid of the future or what people may say because I am with you.
While this passage is written to Joseph it is a critical for us to receive this passage into our life and understand that it is for us today just as it was for Joseph in his day. God was with Joseph and He is with us today. Joseph changed because he knew now that God’s will was being fulfilled in Him. He knew that Immanuel was with Him.
Immanuel, God is with us in the moments when we are confused and conflicted about the circumstances we face. God is there to give guidance. When things go awry and while we can be confused and conflicted, God is there through His spirit and through the Word to give us guidance and direction. What do you do when you are confused or conflicted? Do you go to God’s word? Do you pray? Do you seek godly counsel from those you know that love God? Through these resources, he reveals that He is with us.
Immanuel, God with us is when fear has overcome us. Have you ever experienced that gripping fear that binds you and keeps you reduced to faithlessness? When I was a kid, I always hated to take the garbage to the road. I would slowly drag the can to the curb and then I would run back as fast as I could. I told my mom about how scared I was. The next time I took the garbage to the road, I was not scared. Do you know why? My mom stood in the doorway and watched me take out the garbage, just knowing she was there I felt secure and safe. Know this, no matter what you walk through, God is there, you call feel safe and secure because He is watching over you.
Immanuel, God with us when we are discouraged. When we are discouraged we turn our minds and our thoughts to the fact that is with us and that He will see us through. Discouragement is a mind game that is so destructive. Discouragement can lead us to a false image of who we are. Discouragement can lead us to want to give up. Discouragement can lead us to run and hide. But God is with us to bring hope and life.
Immanuel, God with us when we do not know what the future holds. There is nothing more frightening than an unknown future, but with God we can be at peace. The angel spoke to Joseph in essence and told him don’t worry. You do your part. Marry Mary! I will take care of the rest.
While God is with us when we face emotional difficulty, there is one other benefit to understanding that God is with us. When God is with us the way we view life is changed. I know that I am an overcomer by His word and by the fact that God is with us. When I realize that God is with me it changes the way I act. It changes the way I live. It changes the way I think. This is a positive because as a passionate follower of Christ, we have a desire to please him and to honor his name.
Do you know that He is with you this morning? Do you know that He loves you? Do you know that he holds your future? Do you know He is with you wherever you go? Whether you believe it or not, He is there. Whether you feel Him or not, He is there. Whether or not you know Him, He is there and he desires to draw you to Him. That is a powerful promise and what a hope.