Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, December 25, 2009


Sitting here meditating on the coming of the Christ child. A special verse comes to mind.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, English Standard Version)."

Christmas Dinner
It is amazing how much this verse has been debated over the years. The argument centers around whether the word "virgin" should be used here. When I first came to China, the standard "official" Bible was the New Revised Standard Version, which has "young woman" instead of virgin. Many Christians consider this change almost blasphemous. But for a long time, I wondered if they weren't making a bigger deal of it than they should. After all, the New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. The conversation between Mary and the angel in the book of Luke couldn't be more clear about this. So why all the fuss.

But more and more I have come to believe that there is something very important about this verse that we cannot afford to lose. In other words, if this verse is not a Messianic prophecy, we will be the poorer, even if the doctrine of the virgin birth is not dependent on it. Not to worry. The gospel of Matthew puts the whole matter in perspective.

"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 1:22-23)

Theologians can argue about the precise meaning of the Hebrew word in Isaiah Chapter 7--I mean, whether or not it refers specifically to a virgin. But nobody can argue about the Greek word used in verse 22 of Matthew Chapter 1. It definitely means virgin. Clearly, then, Isaiah 7:14 is a messianic prophecy. But why is this important?

Immanuel. God with us. The truth and the principle of Immanuel is established in Isaiah, and reaffirmed in Matthew Chapter 1. Without this prophecy, there would be no Immanuel. This is a truth and a reality we cannot afford to give up. We can lose everything else, but we cannot do without Immanuel. God with us. We live in a confused, changing world. But we are not shaken, because we have God with us. That God would be willing to dwell with men is the greatest message of Christmas.

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