The Bad and Good News of Immanuel

David Schrock | December 24, 2015


Immanuel. God with us. This is good news, right? 

In actuality, we often jump to the good news of Christmas without giving proper attention to the bad news. As a result, we blunt the mercy of the gospel and the magnitude of our praise.

Consider that the coming of a holy God doesn’t mean life for impure rebels; it means death. Just ask Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10), Uzzah (2 Sam. 6), or the Israelite exiles. If our sin prevents us from dwelling on God’s holy hill (Ps. 15), how much more should “God with us” strike us with fear—fear, that is, until we know how God turned bad news into good news by sending Jesus as our Immanuel.

Immanuel as Bad News

Throughout the Old Testament, the promise of “God with us” could be deadly. When God promised a virgin would conceive and bear a son (Isa. 7:14), it was first fulfilled at a time when his presence meant judgment. Isaiah records God’s approach to his rebellious people in the northern kingdom of Israel. In Isaiah 8:5–8, the Lord warns of water sweeping over Israel, threatening the nation of Judah too. Though God’s people have “God with them” (Immanuel), their sin disqualifies them from his blessing.

Verses 9–10 only continue the…


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