The Promise within a Name
Between the closing of the Old Testament, with the book of Malachi and the opening of the New Testament there is a 400-year prophetical silence. After Malachi pens his letter to the Israelites, we do not hear God speak for another four centuries when the angel of the Lord appears to Mary and Joseph, separately.
Joseph, a Jewish carpenter from the lineage of David and a man of honor, finds himself in a dilemma. Mary, his bride to be, tells him she is miraculously pregnant. Undoubtedly, his friends and family are whispering in his ear to leave the woman he loves, because the baby certainly isn’t his. If he follows through with the marriage his reputation will certainly be tarnished, his status in the Jewish community will be impacted, and his livelihood will be hindered. Joseph surely felt alone and torn, as he pondered one of the most difficult decisions of his life.
Then, amongst the other voices and Joseph’s own doubt, God breaks the prophetic silence. In Matthew 1:20-21 the Lord says, “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.”
He goes on to remind Joseph of a prophesy written over 700 years earlier in verses 22-23, “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”). In the midst of his doubt and confusion, Joseph is told to not be afraid, and the promise wrapped in the name “Immanuel” unlocks hope for his future and all of creation’s future.
Think back to a time when you were facing a tough decision and felt alone. Were you afraid? Did you ask why you could not hear the voice of God? Notice, it was not until after Joseph had made up his mind to quietly divorce Mary, that God speaks. The phrase “Do not be afraid” occurs 366 times in the Bible and is always accompanied by the idea that God is with us. Immanuel is more than just a name, it is an enduring promise and prophesy, that God is and will always be right beside us. During this Christmas season, we not only celebrate the birth of our savior, but we also rejoice in the promise that was given us through His name, “Immanuel.”