"They Shall Call His Name Emmanuel"

It has already been pointed out that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was in fulfilment of this prophecy. Not that the birth in, and by, itself contained its accomplishment: it was rather its pledge and guarantee. The meaning of the name, as divinely interpreted, is "God with us"; and this enables us to see that it looks forward to the full consequences for Israel of the introduction of their Messiah into this world; that, in other words, the Emmanuel name of our blessed Lord will only be realized in connection with the establishment of His glorious throne on earth, when He will make good all that God is in government, and when, as with His people, "His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed." It carries with it therefore the fruition of His death for "that nation," and the promise of His personal presence with His earthly people. It is of that time the prophet speaks when he says, "Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee."

A reference to the prophecy itself, together with its context, will make this abundantly evident. Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, was at that time upon the throne of Judah. He "did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord his God, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel." (2 Kings 16:2-3.) However, notwithstanding his wickedness and apostasy, God still waited with much long-suffering, and forebore to deal with his guilty servant. Yea rather, on Ephraim and Syria entering into a confederacy against the house of David, and going up to besiege Jerusalem, Jehovah sent His servant Isaiah with a message of encouragement, assuring Ahaz that the designs of his enemies should not prosper. The prophet added, at the same time, the warning word, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." Ahaz might be delivered from the present peril, but unless he turned to, and stayed himself upon, the word of the Lord, he should not escape his merited chastisement. (See 2 Chron. 28)

Yet again the Lord sought, in His tender mercy, to reach the heart and conscience of the offending monarch. God would condescend, if Ahaz requested it, to give him a sign, either in the depth, or in the height above, to certify him of the sure fulfilment of His word. The heart of Ahaz had turned to false gods, and thus hardened, he refused, though under the pretext of piety, the offered intervention, saying, "I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord." The Searcher of hearts was not to be deceived, and, after a solemn admonition, the prophet announced that the Lord Himself would give a sign. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." It is in this that the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, is unfolded. David's house might fail in their responsibility, as they grievously did, and forfeit everything; but, thereon God, acting from His own heart, and according to His purposes, could step in, and through the advent of Jehovah the Saviour - through His rejection, death, and resurrection - accomplish all the counsels of His grace. The birth of Immanuel would thus change everything. Those who were false to their trust would be punished as was Ahaz; but Immanuel would secure everything, and vindicate and glorify the name of God in government on the earth.

But there lies a long, weary path for Israel, because of their unbelief, between the birth of Immanuel and the glory of the kingdom. This was plainly foretold by the prophet in connection with the very prophecy under consideration. The careful reader will observe that the first invasion of the land by the Assyrian, bringing in utter desolation in its unchecked success (Isa. 7:17), does but shadow forth another assault in the last days, when he and his confederates shall be utterly broken in pieces. They may take counsel together, but it shall come to nought; they may speak the word, but it shall not stand; "for God is with us" (Immanuel). Before that time - the final destruction of Israel's enemy - He who is born of the virgin, and named Immanuel, is seen in rejection. The transition to this is exceedingly beautiful. The prophet was instructed of the Lord not to "walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." (Chap. 8:11 - 13.) But this instantly brings in separation, distinguishing as it does a remnant from the mass of the people. Accordingly we read, "And He shall be for a sanctuary" (for all those who sanctify and fear Him); "but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." As indeed Simeon prophesied, "This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against … that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Immanuel came. The sanctuary of those who had waited for Him, He is the true centre around whom His people are gathered; and here, for the first time, He Himself speaks, and calls them "my disciples." And He names them such in connection with "the testimony," and plainly states that the truth of that day, the law as well as the testimony, is entrusted and confined to the remnant, now His disciples. It was so also in the day of David's rejection. In the cave of Adullam, when every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, had gathered themselves unto him, and he became their captain, we find that the prophet Gad was also there, and immediately after Abiathar the priest is driven to the same company, which now possessed all the forms of God's testimony in the persons of the king, the prophet, and the priest. In like manner Anna the prophetess is with the few who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. It must be ever so, that those who are in separation from evil, and are in communion with the mind of God concerning His Christ, and concerning the state of things round about them, should be the depositaries of the testimony for the times in which they are living. The reason is that Christ Himself is with them. He loves all His people; but He only identifies Himself with the separated remnant, as in verse 18 of this chapter. That here and there much truth may be found outside of them is unquestionable; but only with them will be seen God's special teaching for the moment, or the truth held and presented in its due proportions. The testimony will be bound up, and the law will be sealed up amongst the Lord's disciples in an evil day, because, as already said, He Himself is in their midst.

The state of things at the time of which Isaiah speaks is unfolded in the following verses; and let it again be recalled that it is Christ Himself who is the Speaker. He says: "And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion." In the Epistle to the Hebrews parts of these two verses are quoted to show the Lord's complete identification as Man with His people, with the true remnant gathered out from among the Jewish nation (chapter 2:13); and this as preparatory to the object of His death, viz., to "destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." But we will not pursue these interesting circumstances, further than to call attention to the wondrous fact that the One who was thus as regards God in perfect dependence as Man, and hence waiting upon Jehovah, and as regards men despised and rejected, was, at the same time, no less a personage than the Immanuel of Isaiah's prophecy; and that, in this path of rejection, He was experiencing some of those sufferings which must precede His glories.

In chapter 9 the people that walk in darkness see a great light, and "they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." For the fulfilment of this glorious prophecy, Matthew records that Jesus left Nazareth, and came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim. (See Isaiah 9:1.) The moment Isaiah proclaims the appearance of the Messiah as light in the midst of darkness, he contemplates its full consequences in the results of the deliverance which Messiah will accomplish in the last days. The yoke of the Assyrian being broken, all the brightness of the glory of the divine person of the Messiah shines out in the blessing of His people. And all this blessing is connected with the birth of Christ into this world. "For unto us," the prophet says, "a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." All these names are given in connection with His kingdom in this world, for the prophet proceeds: "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." (Chap. 9:6-7.)

It is evident, therefore, that Immanuel, "God with us," is the name belonging to our blessed Lord in connection with the earthly people, and that they will not enter into its full and blessed significance until after He has taken His great power, and when He shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously. 'Who, then, is Immanuel? His birth is predicted in Isaiah 7:14, and, after detailing the circumstances of His rejection in the following chapter, the prophet foretells the establishment of His kingdom in chapter 9. Together with this he takes' occasion, in a passage already quoted, to present a series of titles or names which are expressive of the infinite and divine character of Immanuel's Person. Let us pass them briefly under review. The first is "Wonderful," a word used oftentimes for that which excites astonishment or admiration. Sometimes it is employed to denote a miracle, and nothing so awakens the attention as a miraculous display of power. And what miracle is so great as that of the Incarnation? What could produce such wonder as the fact that Immanuel could be born of a virgin? Then He is called "Counselor." Divine wisdom is indicated by this word, as, for example, where it says, "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." (Isaiah 11:2.) The appellation "The mighty God" proclaims its own significance, for there could not be a more distinct declaration of His Deity; nor does the following term, "The everlasting Father," or "The Father of eternity," speak less plainly, inasmuch as it sets forth the eternity of His being. Finally, He is "The Prince of Peace," a title which indicates the Solomon character of His reign, so admirably described in Psalm 72.

It may be permitted to us, in conclusion, to enquire why such a number of names should be combined. The answer surely is, that it is only by the contemplation of the rays of Immanuel's glory separately and singly that any conception can be formed of the truth of His person. However He may be presented, in whatever aspect or relationship, all that He is is there under the special aspect; and we are reminded of this by such passages as the one under consideration. It is indeed one of the fatal mistakes of these modern days to take some one feature of the life or Person of our blessed Lord, and to regard it as the whole truth. He is the living Word, and it is only in all that speaks of Him that He can be fully discovered; and it is because of our feebleness that the Spirit of God calls our attention now to one aspect, and now to another; now to one feature, or trait, or attribute of His Person, and now to another. But He is still beyond all our thoughts, seeing that He is Divine, "very God and very Man"; and hence it is written, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father."