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Today’s Truth

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’) (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).

Friend to Friend 

With all the decorating, baking, shopping, and holiday parties, I sometimes feel lonely during the preparation for the Christmas season. While I interact with a variety of people – from a sales clerk to other moms at a school party – I don’t always connect with them beyond small talk. I also find my quiet time with the Lord diminished due to my overwhelming to-do list. I want the celebration of Christ’s birth with family and friends to be special, but not at the expense of intimacy with the One who sent His Son to save me.

During times of spiritual loneliness, we might entertain questions like:

  • Is the Lord still with me?
  • What should I do in moments when I can’t sense God’s nearness?

We can rest in the truth this holiday season that even when we don’t sense God at work, He is. He is with us, and we can reflect on God’s promises when we can’t sense His presence. Seven hundred years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah revealed that God would send a Messiah to His people. Isaiah prophesied, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14).

This prophecy regarding a virgin has sparked much theological debate. I always thought this verse was just about Jesus the Messiah, but it also had significance in Isaiah’s day. It was fulfilled for the original readers of Isaiah’s message when the nations threatening God’s people were defeated in connection with this prophecy. Although we don’t know the identity of the mother or the child, the time frame of Isaiah’s sign fit with historical events.

We also know that this sign had future implications. One commentator described his opinion this way, “I believe that the sign as originally given had a single meaning but a double significance. Its meaning is that God is with us and we need not fear what other human beings may do to us.”  While the verse has only one meaning, it had a double fulfillment that would come 700 years apart.

The gospel of Matthew helps us see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the birth of Jesus. In Matthew 1, we learn that an angel appeared to Joseph giving greater insight into Isaiah’s words: “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:21-23).

Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Even when we struggle to connect with others during the hustle and bustle of the season, we are never alone. Our holy God can draw near to imperfect people because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins through His sacrifice on the cross. We don’t have to feel lonely because we can talk to the Lord, listen to His Word, and rest in His gift of a Messiah.

Signs like the one given in Isaiah 7:14 confirm God’s long-term plan and commitment to His people. The meaning is clear for both Isaiah’s day, Matthew’s day, and ours—God is with us. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can trust Immanuel’s presence at all times.

This takes active faith because our human defaults lead us toward distraction, self-pity, and lies when we feel alone. Isaiah’s prophetic words remind us to lean into the truth of Immanuel with intentionality. I don’t know what you are walking through this holiday season, but perhaps you can relate with experiencing spiritual loneliness.

In the midst of today’s tasks, gatherings, or regular routine, take some time to reflect on the truth that God loves you. He is with you. Christmas is a season to remember these certainties rather than sink into isolation. At the heart of Isaiah’s message is the hope of the gospel: God sent His only Son Jesus to earth, and He offered the perfect sacrifice—His very life—to cleanse us from our sins.

Let’s Pray

Immanuel, I know you are here. I am not alone. You are my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Help me trust You more and more. Grow my faith so that I might love and serve You today.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn 

What responses come to the surface as you consider that God is with you right now in whatever circumstances you are facing today?

More from the Girlfriends

Check out Melissa’s holiday devotional titled Total Christmas Makeover for practical ways to focus on Rituals, Relationships, and Rest this season.

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© 2021 by Melissa Spoelstra. All rights reserved.

10 Responses to “Immanuel”

  1. Sarah says:

    Lovely message. I’m confused about one part tho, were you saying they’re was a baby born to a virgin in Isaiah’s time as well? Thanks

    • GiGs says:

      This is one of God’s prophecies that had an immediate fulfillment and a later fulfillment. God sent Isaiah to the King of Israel, Ahaz to encourage him. Two kings are threatening war with King Ahaz. The prophecy foretells of the birth of a little boy – when this boy is still very young, the threat of war will be over. King Ahaz does not need to fear.The birth of boy is a sign for King Ahaz that God is going to keep His Word. The boy’s name is Maher-shalal-hash-baz born to the prophet Isaiah and his wife. (Isaiah 8:1-4) The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The word translated as “virgin” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “virgin.” It could just mean “young woman.” God confirms this when He tells Isaiah that before his son is even old enough to say his parents’ name, the threat will be over. The New Testament was written in Greek. In the Greek language, the word, “virgin” can ONLY mean “virgin.” the later fulfillment could only be about Jesus. (“The Things Concerning HIMSELF” by: Zach Mabry)

  2. Sherri says:

    Thank you Melissa for such a beautiful and much needed reminder. My heart is so full right now. Thank you God for your gift of Jesus Christ!! I am NOT alone!!!

  3. Carol says:

    Thank you, Melissa for this Seasonal reminder.
    “Oh, come let us adore Him”!!
    Blessings to you and your ministry, this Christmas.

  4. Hi Sherri – I needed this reminder today too – We are not alone!

  5. Carol – Blessings to you as well! Love that carol!

  6. Donna Thompson says:

    Although we don’t know the identity of the mother or the child, the time frame of Isaiah’s sign fit with historical events.

    Don’t know their identity…. Was a child born during Isaiah’s time that the people thought might be the Messiah?

    Thanks so much for your beautiful devotion, Melissa! Donna

    • GiGs says:

      This is one of God’s prophecies that had an immediate fulfillment and a later fulfillment. God sent Isaiah to the King of Israel, Ahaz to encourage him. Two kings are threatening war with King Ahaz. The prophecy foretells of the birth of a little boy – when this boy is still very young, the threat of war will be over. King Ahaz does not need to fear.The birth of boy is a sign for King Ahaz that God is going to keep His Word. The boy’s name is Maher-shalal-hash-baz born to the prophet Isaiah and his wife. (Isaiah 8:1-4) The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The word translated as “virgin” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “virgin.” It could just mean “young woman.” God confirms this when He tells Isaiah that before his son is even old enough to say his parents’ name, the threat will be over. The New Testament was written in Greek. In the Greek language, the word, “virgin” can ONLY mean “virgin.” the later fulfillment could only be about Jesus. (“The Things Concerning HIMSELF” by: Zach Mabry)

  7. Tiffany says:

    Melissa, thank you for writing this! It was a much needed reminded and it encouraged me this morning. In Jesus’ Name, I bless you and your family with an even deeper and more intimate knowing and relationship with the Lord’s presence. Shalom!

  8. Cheryl says:

    What a blessing! This devotional covered the topic of “Immanuel” in a fresh and appealing way. I appreciated the points made that a holy God still desires fellowship with imperfect people. His love for us is so great that He would endure separation from His only Son to save us in our sins. This is the greatest example of “God with us.”
    Thank you so much for this on-time devotional at a time when our world is in need of a Savior who heals and saves us for His kingdom. Be encouraged! He is with us always!

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"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…" 1 Thessalonians 2:8