Many Christians are familiar with the song “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” whether it is Enya’s version, or another. Handel’s “Messiah,” another piece that is often heard at Christmas time, also reflects on several of the titles of God that are appropriated by the Messiah, Jesus. Even from the promise of Jesus’ birth, there are both direct statements and hints at his sharing the attributes of God. Some of these directly relate to the name of God, others to his attributes and still others relate to both. The Old Testament prophesies these connections, while the New Testament reveals their fulfillment.
Emmanuel, a title that means “God is with us,” is mentioned first in a section of Isaiah that includes many messianic prophecies. Isaiah 7:14 tells of the Messiah being a sign, born of a virgin, and called Emmanuel. The prophecy of a virgin bearing a son goes back even further, however. Moses, in writing the book of Genesis, describes the promise of a deliverer in Genesis 3:15 where the “seed of the woman” is predicted to crush the head of the serpent. Matthew, in the first chapter of his gospel, cites both as he tells the story of how Jesus was born from the likely perspective of Mary (Miriam, in the Hebrew). Though Jesus’ adoptive father was told to call him Jesus, the passage in Isaiah likely refers to what his mother would call him. It was rare for both a father and a mother to name a child, but it did happen. For example, Benjamin, Rachel’s last son, was named, Ben-oni, (son of my sorrow) by Rachel, but was called Benjamin, (son of my right hand) by his father, Israel. (Genesis 35: 16-18) Isaiah 9:5-6, sung in Handel’s “Messiah,” is one passage that directly applies several titles of God to the “son who is given to us,” Jesus. These include Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity and Prince of Peace. (Pele Yo’etz, El Gibbor, Avi Ad, and Sar-shalom)
Another passage widely concluded to be a messianic prophecy is Micah 5:1-4. Along with Isaiah 9:5-6, this passage confirms the eternal nature of the Messiah. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the house of bread, is predicted here, as is his shepherding of Israel. This prophecy both alludes to David’s Psalm 23 and predicts that Messiah would be a shepherd of Israel, as God is (Yahweh-Roeh). Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd and alluded to this passage, as well as Psalm 23. Matthew mentions this passage, while Luke alludes to both Isaiah’s and Micah’s prophecies in his record of the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary. (Luke 1:23-38) “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born to you will be called the Son of God.” This is in fulfillment of two other messianic prophecies as well, one from David, the other, in question form, from a proverb writer, Agar. Psalm 2:7 gives the decree of the Lord to the son of David, “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to me, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you.’” Proverbs 30:1-4 describes God’s power and actions, then asks the intriguing question: “What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!”
When Jesus was born, there were visitors from both the fields and the Far East. The visitors from the East were prophesied in both Isaiah 60:5-6 and Psalm 72:1-10. Matthew 2 records their visit and their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. They rejoiced and worshipped the baby Jesus. The mention of worship directed at Jesus is a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6 and Psalm 2:7 and claims for him another attribute of deity, the right to be worshipped. The wise men from the East were aware of the prophecies because they asked about his birth. They inadvertently set up another prophecy by choosing to visit Jerusalem first and inquire about the child there. Soon Herod hears the news and finds out where the child will be born. An angel warns Joseph in a dream to leave, and he leaves for Egypt, fulfilling the word of the Lord in Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I have called My son.”
Throughout Jesus’ life, he continued to fulfill both prophecies concerning the Messiah and prophecies concerning his relationship with God. The birth of Jesus was just the beginning of the full unveiling of the plan of God, but it revealed in detail the connection between God and man. It also revealed a mystery that had been gradually unveiled since Adam and Eve, the Messiah would be both God and man, and uniquely the son of God. We can rejoice in the unique life of Jesus, who shares fully the attributes of God.
Penni Bulten is a homeschooling mom who is fascinated with the Founding Fathers and their faith. She can be reached at [email protected]