Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel.
At first blush, this passage seems to lack any connection to our question of how God’s saving act changes how we live our lives. So, let’s step back just a bit.
The prophet Isaiah saw the world differently “The word that Isaiah, son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” (2:1) Isaiah knew visions, saw God’s word, translated God’s intentions for people to understand. These word choices are not random but Isaiah’s own neon sign that screamed “Prophet!” to the world.
The language throughout Isaiah boldly reveals the bleeding wounds of Israel, a desolate country, cities burned, Jerusalem besieged by its enemies and the abhorrent behavior of its inhabitants – “Crushing people, by grinding the face of the poor,” their haughtiness, their self-importance, etc.
God is angry. Isaiah sees that God is angry. Isaiah sees Judah’s complicity and how Jerusalem has become a place of injustice. It seems right to expect words of condemnation, the proclaiming of the consequences of sinful behavior.
But Isaiah starts with something more powerful and more important. Hope. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” In Matthew (1:23) we learn that Immanuel means “God is with us.”
While Isaiah is addressing the sinfulness of Judah’s here and now, his words are far reaching into our future. He (and we) must also face the destructive forces of the world and, like him, we must begin with hope. Only through the hope of this “God-with-us” can Isaiah (or we) create and sustain any systems of justice for the fallen people of God.
This “God-with-us” is hope in desperate times. The Babe is named as the one with authority to establish justice with righteousness, the one who brings hope. Immanuel grants us freedom from the chains of sin so we might live according to God’s vision for justice. Now, we can breathe in the hope of salvation and breathe out justice into our fallen world.
Gracious God, you have brought hope for the world through Jesus. Remind us of this hope and the freedom it brings for us to serve with your love and bring your justice to the world. Amen.