God Will Come to Save His People, Just as He Promised
These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.
God’s Word for This Week
God will come to save his people, just as he promised. He saves them through the virgin-born Son of David who is also the Son of God, Immanuel. Today the Church prays for God to come in power to take away the burden of our sins. Since the Garden of Eden, there has been only one promised plan to do that: God would take on flesh and blood. Immanuel comes—God in the flesh—exactly as promised to save his people.
Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 7:10-14
What is the significance of the name Immanuel?
Immanuel is two words in Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament) put together. It literally means “with us…God.” So Isaiah tells King Ahaz that when that virgin has a child, it will be God himself coming to his people. God will be with us—in the flesh.
Why is this child born a “sign” to King Ahaz and to us?
God is not following the laws of nature in the case of this birth. This birth would not be ordinary. God would intervene with a child born in a miraculous way. But he would also be showing us humans something: he is coming to our world so that he might save us from our sins.
Such grace that God would even speak to a wicked king like Ahaz! What God said is even more surprising. He didn’t just promise deliverance and ask that Ahaz blindly trust him. God offered a sign to an unbelieving king to prove that he would keep his promise and save his people. How foolish of Ahaz to refuse! How sinful to make a pretense of piety! God, however, would let no sinful king stand in the way of deliverance for his people. So God chose the sign. Not merely a sign of Judah’s physical safety, God chose a sign that would prophesy the deliverance of the whole world from sin and death. A virgin would give birth to God in the flesh for the salvation of his people. In Christ Jesus, God kept every promise made.
Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 7:1-14,15-17
How do the verses added to this supplemental lesson broaden your understanding of this familiar prophecy?
This supplemental lesson expands the first lesson to include both the geopolitical scene and the intermediate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Both highlight the day’s theme that God will save his people just as he promised. When the people of Judah heard that Aram and Ephraim had allied against them, they were shaken. No wonder! Under King Ahaz, Judah had already lost in battle to Aram—with many prisoners carried away. They had also lost to the Northern Kingdom under Pekah. Consider the scope of their defeat in 2 Chronicles 28: in a single day Pekah killed 120,000 soldiers—including the prince, the officer of the palace, and the second-in-command of the kingdom. He also captured 200,000 wives, sons, and daughters. The magnitude of this defeat must have weighed heavily on the national consciousness. And now, Aram and Ephraim had joined forces to attack Judah; Judah had no chance whatsoever! Until God spoke and said, “It will not take place, it will not happen.” God will save his people, just as he promised. The enemies stacked against the people of God have proven impossible for us to withstand. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh have defeated us again and again. We stand no chance in the battle; we must be lost. Until God speaks and says, “It will not take place, it will not happen.” Immanuel has come, just as God promised—the Savior of his people.
Second Lesson – Romans 1:1-7
How does Paul the apostle see the promises of God kept in Christ?
After thousands of years of God’s promises, Paul looks back and sees every one of them kept in Christ. All of Scripture promised the gospel message summarized in the name: Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus, the man born of Mary, is also our Lord, God himself. This God-man was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power to be the Christ who would save God’s people from their sins. Any doubts about Jesus of Nazareth evaporated with the Easter morning dew: the resurrection declared to the world he was Immanuel, God with us. God kept every promise in Christ to give us what we so desperately needed—Grace and peace to you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel – Matthew 1:18-25
What is the significance of the name “Jesus”?
The name Jesus literally means “The Lord saves” or “Savior.” The name God chose for his Son aptly describes his work: to save his people from their sins. (See 1:21.)
How is Joseph’s willing obedience an example for us?
Joseph found himself in the middle of an unwelcome nightmare—his bride to be was pregnant, and he was not the father. As a righteous man, he could not go forward with the marriage; as a merciful man, he could not expose Mary to public disgrace. How long did it take for him to fall asleep with broken betrothal promises on his mind? During the night, Joseph sees an angel who calls him “the son of David.” Joseph’s father was Jacob, but the angel reminded Joseph that he was a descendant of kings. Starting this night, he would act as one of David’s line again: he would care for the promised Son who would reign on David’s throne. God had come to save his people, just as he promised. He would do it through the child in Mary’s womb. Joseph believed the promises of God kept in Christ and named the child, “The LORD saves,” knowing full well he was Immanuel.