O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Radical

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

How can you have hope in a world filled with mourning, sin, and suffering? Is it possible to rejoice? It is if the One you’re waiting for is Emmanuel, God with us. In this message from Matthew 2:13–23, David Platt uses the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel to remind us of the glorious truths that relate to Christ’s coming. As we remember the good news of Christ’s first coming, we look forward to the consummation of all God’s promises when Christ returns!

If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to Matthew 1. 

During December and into the beginning of January, we’re going to be pausing our series of following Jesus through the book of Mark to spend some time in December specifically in these weeks leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas, looking at biblical foundations behind familiar songs we sing at Christmas. We’re calling this series, “The Sound of Hope.” And man, do we need hope!

Heather and I went to the University of Georgia; their football team was in a championship game yesterday. We’ve been to those games before, but we lost most of them. Now yesterday was supposed to be the day when we would win, but we lost yet again. One of my sons said, “You know, Dad, hope is a dangerous thing.” I said, “You’re right, son—if you’re putting your hope in the wrong things.” Clearly, we were. Then I told him, “Yeah, you’re right. If you put your hope in the wrong things, it’s dangerous. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.” 

We know this, right? I was thinking about the beginning of March 2020, when we thought, “Okay, things are going to be different for a couple weeks. It will get back to normal pretty soon.” Almost two years later, just look at the headlines on your phone: Delta, Omicron. We seem to be working our way through the alphabet, perpetuating disappointment.

So it’s good to pause together in these weeks leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas, saying “There is a place where you can place your hope, where you will never, ever, ever be let down.” So that’s what we’re going to sing about and celebrate. Each Sunday we’re going to look at some biblical foundations behind a particular song, then we’re going to sing that song together, hopefully with a deeper appreciation for what we’re singing. 

Then our worship teams in each of our locations are recording versions of these songs and making them available online for us to listen to in our cars or at home with our families. You can download these at mcleanbible.org/christmas. That will be available this week for the song we’re going to look at today, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” 

In fact, you can also download a copy of a devotional guide that our team has put together. This is so good! It has each of the songs we’re going to look at during this month and a devotion that goes along with it. You can do this individually or with your family. There are all kinds of activities for you and/or your kids. There’s a “names of Jesus” word search—hopefully you haven’t picked up a physical copy and are doing that right now. Seriously, I’m so grateful for all the work our team put into this. So pick up some of these on your way out and give them to others, or download digital copies. 

I’m really excited about this series and would encourage you to invite somebody to come with you one of these Sundays or on Christmas Eve. Don’t come alone to the celebration of the hope we have in Christ. This is one of the easiest opportunities you have to invite family members, friends, coworkers or neighbors to come with you to church during the Christmas season. 

If you’re a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor who has come today, welcome. We are so glad you’re here. I prayed specifically that God would open your eyes and heart, either for the first time or maybe in a fresh way to the hope that is possible for you to have in Jesus. 

We’re going to dive into this particular song today: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Let’s look at a little bit of background on this song. The roots go all the way back to 1710, when this song was written in Latin. Then it was translated into English in 1851 and put to a tune that actually goes all the way back to the 1400s. So when you hear Kelly Clarkson’s version, just remember that she did not come up with this one.

It’s pretty awesome to think about singing a song together today in our worship that followers of Jesus have been singing for centuries before us. I want us to think together about these words. Let’s read them out loud together, then we’re going to look at the biblical foundations behind them.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

It’s hard to just read this, isn’t it? You’re probably singing it in your head, but let’s just read it like normal people. Then when we get to “Rejoice,” there’s an exclamation point there. So let’s say it like we mean it—with a little pep and happiness. 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, desire of nations, bind
All people in one heart and mind
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

Those are some dense lyrics. Before we dive into some of the details, let’s just make sure we get the big picture of what this song is saying. It’s obviously written from the standpoint of people who were waiting—specifically, the people of Israel. God’s people in the Old Testament were waiting and longing for somebody to come. 

Did you hear the language? This is the story of God’s people throughout the history of the Old Testament. They’re captive and longing for somebody to free them. They’re mourning and waiting for somebody to come and wipe away their tears. They’re in gloom and darkness wanting joy and light. They need wisdom. They want peace in a world of strife and quarrels. They’re holding out hope that when this person comes, he will bring all of these things.

The refrain says, “Rejoice! Rejoice!” Be glad. How is it possible to be glad amidst captivity, mourning, gloom, darkness, strife and quarrels? How can you be glad? That’s a really significant question, isn’t it? We live in a world today filled with quarrels, strife, darkness, gloom and mourning. Just turn on the news. It might be headlines about covid—for almost two years now—or another school shooting. Just look around and see the tensions, the conflicts in the world, the church, in our families and in our lives. How can you be glad? How can you rejoice in the middle of it all? 

This song is saying you can sing and be glad and rejoice, because you know that Someone is coming to change it all—that is the good news I want to share with you today, amidst whatever is going on in your life, your family, the church or in the world. I have good news to proclaim today: this Someone has come to start changing everything and is coming back one day to finish what He started. His name is Emmanuel. 

I want to show Him to you in Matthew 1 and 2 and encourage you to write down what we’re about to walk through, especially if you’re going through weary days right now, or maybe to store away for weary days to come. For anybody who ever feels weary in this world—right now or one day in the future—I want to show you five reasons to rejoice in Emmanuel, to rejoice in why He has come and because He is coming back. I realize not all of us even know what Emmanuel means, so let’s start in Matthew 1:18. This is the story the Bible tells us in the very beginning of the New Testament about the birth of Jesus:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Did you see it? Verse 23 quotes from the prophet Isaiah—back in Isaiah 7:14, 700 years before this event happened. Isaiah had foretold that a virgin would give birth to a Son and His name would be “God with us, Emmanuel.” God-with-us. It’s not God distant from us. It’s not God detached from this weary world and all we experience in it, but God Himself coming to this weary world to be with us in the middle of it. 

This is astounding! 

What we celebrate at Christmas is the most extravagant claim and extraordinary miracle in all of Christianity, in all of the Bible, in all of the world. The idea that Jesus is God with us, in the flesh, born as a baby—God in the flesh. You might say, “Well, what about Easter, Jesus rising from the dead? Isn’t that extraordinary?” Of course it is. No one else has been dead for three days and come back to life, never to die again. But once you realize that Jesus is God, it’s not really that remarkable that He rose from the dead. What’s remarkable is that He died in the first place, right? 

What we celebrate at Christmas, the identity of this Baby in a manger, is the fundamental point where Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses and countless others disagree with Christianity. What we celebrate at Christmas, summarized in this one verse in the book of Matthew, is that Jesus is God with us, born as a Baby in this weary world. Jewish people say, “No way.” Muslims say, “That’s impossible; God would never debase Himself to come and be with us.” 

As I was meditating on this text, I was reminded of the trip we were going to take to adopt our newest son two years ago, but that was postponed because of this unknown virus in January 2020. It was before any of us knew all that was coming. Our plans were turned upside down. 

The next week I found myself catching a last-minute flight to an event that I had previously said I could not attend, but then I could. The only flight I could get last minute was at 5:00 a.m. out of BWI, which is about an hour from our house. That meant I needed to leave on in Uber about 3:00 in the morning, which I was not thrilled about. I remember groggily getting into this car and within five minutes of conversation with the driver—who was from the Middle East—he asked me what I do. So I told him, “I’m a pastor.” He said, “I can’t believe this. I need to tell you a story.” Keep in mind this man is a Muslim who thinks the idea that God would be born as a baby is blasphemous. So he started telling me he had a vision one night of a little baby who was talking as clearly as an adult. The baby looked him straight in the eye and said to him, “Do not question or underestimate what God can do.” He looked back at me through the rearview mirror and said, “Do you know what this vision means?” I’m like, “Man, I don’t usually interpret visions, but yeah, I know exactly what this dream means. I know for sure God loves you and has done the unthinkable. He has come to you, and to me, to save us from our sins by dying on a cross for us.” Also keep in mind that Muslims don’t believe Jesus died on the cross. 

Then I went on, “Jesus is God in the flesh. He died on the cross to make it possible for you to have a relationship with Him.” He started tearing up, crying as he was driving, so he was also apologizing. I’m like, “No apology necessary; just keep your eyes on the road.” I was tearing up in back seat too, sharing the gospel with him. He’s like, “This is unreal. This is unreal.”

 I didn’t feel like I was in an Uber anymore, but like in an Ethiopian chariot, looking for some water on the side. By the time we got to the airport, I just said to him, “Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh Who came to die for your sins? Are you willing to follow Him, starting today?” He looked back at me and said, “Yes, I believe this. I want to follow Jesus.” 

The birth of this Baby is the most extraordinary miracle in all the world and it changes everything. This ushers in the greatest news in all the world. I want to phrase these reasons to rejoice in a way that’s similar to this song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” There’s reason to rejoice in the present because there’s Someone coming in the future, even though we know He has come. We’re also going to talk about this longing in us for Him to return. So here are five reasons to rejoice that Emmanuel is coming, that God is coming to be with us.

Reason #1 – Matthew 2:13–23 and How Emmanuel will bring salvation from sin. 

This is straight from Matthew 1:21: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

Sin is the core problem in this weary world. This is the reason why we have quarrels, strife, darkness, gloom, mourning, viruses, violence, conflict and death in our lives, in our families, in the church and in the world. We are sinners—each one of us are. It looks different in each of our lives, but all of us have turned aside from God and His good ways for our life. We have said, “We have a better way.” We’ve all rebelled against God’s ways, sinning against God, and our sin has separated us from Him. This takes us all the way back to the beginning of the Bible, when man and woman sinned against God and were cast out of the perfect presence of God in the garden. Ever since then, we have experienced—and still experience every day in this world—the effects of sin in our lives. 

However, this is the good news of Emmanuel. The good news is God has not left us alone in a weary world of sin and separation from Him. God has come to us to save us. The name Jesus means Yahweh—the Lord saves. That’s what His name means. Here’s the good news, loud and clear. God has not left you or me alone in this weary world, just trying to find our way to Him and to joy, peace and life.

No, God has come right to us, to meet you and me right where we are in our sinfulness. He’s come to us in the person of Jesus, Who lived a life of no sin, then even though He had no sin for which to die, He chose to die on a cross to pay the price for sin. Then three days later He rose from the dead in victory over the grave, so that anyone, anywhere in the world, no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, can put your trust in Jesus. You will then be saved from the penalty of sin and eternal death, saved from the power of sin in your life, saved to enjoy life with God—God with you. This is possible because Emmanuel has come to bring salvation from sin. 

If you’ve never placed your trust in Jesus as God with us, God is inviting you to do this today. It’s not an accident that you’re here. It’s not an accident that you’re listening right now. Wherever you are right now, God is meeting you right now. By His Spirit, He’s speaking to your heart, saying, “I am with you. I love you and want to save you from your sin.” It’s why He came. That’s the reason to rejoice. 

Now you can see why the song says, “Rod of Jesse…” —one from the line of David. He will free all those who trust in Him “from Satan’s tyranny, from depths of hell Thy people save and give them victory o’er the grave. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” Emmanuel will bring salvation from sin and hell, from death’s dark shadows. He will give you victory over the grave. That’s reason to rejoice. More on that in a minute. 

Reason #2 – Emmanuel will embody wisdom in a foolish world.

Have you ever wondered why the first story Matthew tells us after Jesus is born is about some wise men who come to see Him, from some far away random place? Remember, these wise men didn’t get there the night He was born. There was a lot that happened, then they saw the star and started traveling that night, likely for months, before they actually got to Bethlehem. 

So all your nativity sets that have the wise men bowing over a manger are historically inaccurate. Just go home today, take the wise men and put them in another rom. They’re on the way, but it’s going to be a while. Just wait until July maybe, then pull them back out and put them around the baby. They did make it. 

So why would this be the first story Matthew told us in Matthew 2?

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Here’s a little bit of biblical background. Way back in the book of Numbers in the Bible, there’s a wise man from the eastern mountains named Balaam who prophesied about this. This was centuries before Isaiah spoke. Numbers 24:15–17 says, “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

Do you see that? Centuries before Matthew 2, Balaam—this wise man from the east—tells of a star and a king that will rise from the people of Jacob, whose name is Israel. Then centuries later, men who were known for their wisdom say, “A star has risen, a King has been born from the Jews, Who deserves all of our worship.” There’s no detail that’s an accident here. God is announcing the birth of Jesus to a foolish world, to a world where we actually think our ways are better than God’s ways. Today, we still think our ways are better than God’s ways.

You and I are going to wake up tomorrow in this weary world and we’re still going to tell ourselves we’re smarter than God. It’s a foolish world. Even when we’re experiencing the effects of our foolishness, God is saying, “When Emmanuel comes, He will reveal My wisdom. He will make it possible for you to live in My wisdom.” This is why this song says, “O come, Thou Wisdom from on high and order all things, far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go.”

This is good news. In a world of foolishness, in minds and hearts of foolishness, God has come to us and has put His wisdom at our disposal in Jesus. He has said, “I want to help you live, not in foolishness, but in wisdom.” The wisest way to live is to walk in obedience to God with us. This is a reason to rejoice. 

The wise men finally make it to Bethlehem. Then the story picks up in Matthew 2:9–11:

9 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Reason #3 – Matthew 2:13–23 and How Emmanuel will unite the nations with joy.

What a scene. These Gentile, non-Jewish wise men, prominent men from the East—from other nations—travel to bow down and worship a Baby with great joy. How many wise men were there? It actually doesn’t say. They gave three gifts, but that doesn’t mean there were just three wise men. Just picture this entourage. Not just three random dudes, but an entourage of prominent people from the nations coming down to worship a Baby. Listen to the language here. They “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew could have just said, “They were happy.” It’s like quadruple joy here. Rejoiced—not just a little bit—with a whole lot of joy. What other kind of emotion do you have with rejoicing? The nations are filled with joy as they behold this King, lying right in front of them. 

This whole picture is giving us a glimpse of where all of history is headed. Revelation tells us that every nation, tribe, tongue and people will be gathered around the throne of one King, singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10). “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13). He will unite the nations with joy. This is a reason to rejoice. 

Think about the people among the nations who fight, quarrel, slander, accuse, kill and destroy. There’s a King coming Who will bring joy to all the nations in His presence. Who can do that? Who can bring people from every nation together? Just picture Americans, Iranians, Saudis, North Koreans, Somalis, Afghans, Sudanese, German, Israeli, Palestinians, Brazilians, Salvadorians, Ethiopians, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Yemeni—keep going, on and on and on. Keep going to 16,000 distinct ethnic groups in the world. Who can bring people from all of them together in one picture of joy? Only Emmanuel can do this. Only the God Who created all of them—the God Who has come to be with them—can do this. Only Emmanuel can unite the nations with exceedingly great and everlasting joy. In the words of that carol, “O come, desire of nations, bind all people in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease. Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.” Only Emmanuel can do that! 

Look at what we read next in Matthew 2, 

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Right there is a quote from Hosea 11:1 which is a reference to when God delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt back in Exodus. Again, there is no detail by accident here. Out of all the places God would tell Mary and Joseph to take Jesus to flee from King Herod, why did He tell them to go to Egypt? Because, after spending some time there and now coming back from Egypt, God was making a point very clear. Just like in Israel’s history, when God’s people were enslaved and God saved them through a miraculous deliverance from Egypt, now in the beginning of the New Testament, God is saving His people by bringing a miraculous Deliverer from Egypt. This Deliverer’s name is Emmanuel which leads us to the fourth reason to rejoice.

Reason #4 – Emmanuel will deliver our souls from slavery.

I say “souls” here, because Emmanuel will not just deliver us from slavery to a foreign nation or some other capturer—as important as that is—but from slavery to Satan himself, from slavery to sin, from slavery to death. This is the language we see throughout the Bible. To all who trust in Jesus, you are free from “Satan’s tyranny.” To all who trust in Jesus, you are free from sin’s power in your life. To all who trust in Jesus, you are free from the sentence of death itself. This is why the song says, “O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here.” And that line leads to the fifth reason we have to rejoice today.

Reason #5 – Matthew 2:13–23 and How Emmanuel will ultimately heal our deepest hurts.

Right after we read about Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to Egypt, we hear the story of what King Herod did in Bethlehem—and it’s horrifying. Verse 16 says:

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Can you imagine that scene? Just picture that happening just within our church family. Bethlehem wasn’t a huge town. Just picture all the children under two years old, snatched from their parents’ arms and slaughtered, as their moms, dads, sisters and brothers weep and wail in agony and grief. Then Matthew 2:17–18 quotes from Jeremiah 31:15:

17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

This historical event is when the Babylonians came and attacked Israel and Jerusalem, razed people’s homes, destroyed the city, killed men, women and children, took those who survived to Ramah, a place just north of Jerusalem, then put them in caravans and carried them into exile. Families were separated from each other. Children were either killed or separated from their parents, never to see each other again. We can only imagine the trauma, all the weeping, wailing, pain and hurt in that scene. That’s the quotation here. What’s interesting, though, is right after Jeremiah 31:15, in verse 16 God says, “Weep no more, because hope is coming in your future.” God tells them He has not forgotten them. He promises them that He is going to restore them. 

So now Matthew quotes from that part of Jeremiah, in the middle of the pain and hurt of Bethlehem, as if to say, “This is not the end of the story.” Why? Because Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, will ultimately heal our deepest hurts. But this is the challenge, isn’t it? At this point in Matthew 2, Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus has come. Yet they’re weeping and mourning in the middle of His coming.

If you fast forward 2,000 years after Jesus came, today we’re still weeping and mourning in a really weary world. We still experience the pain and hurt of death, separation, viruses, violence, conflicts and tension. We could go on and on. So do we actually have reason to rejoice? This is where we realize that our reasons to rejoice come, not just in looking back, but in looking forward. 

Follow with me here. Every child, teenager, man and woman, amidst whatever is going on in your lives, amidst everything in church, everything in the world, look back and see that God has indeed come to us. What God’s people, Israel, longed for over centuries of waiting, we now know and celebrate. Emmanuel, God with us, has come. He’s lived among us, died for us, risen from the grave and made a way for all who trust in Him to be saved from our sin.

For all who trust in Him, we have the wisdom of God at our disposal. We no longer have to live according to the ways of this world, but according to God’s good, wise ways for our lives. He’s made joy possible, a joy that supersedes circumstances, a joy that transcends even suffering, a joy that nothing in this world can take away from you. It’s the joy those wise men experienced as they worshiped. That’s the point. Your deepest joy will be experienced when you live for God’s highest glory. They go together. Don’t buy the lies of this world that say your deepest joy is found in more possessions, more stuff, better positions, more acclaim, more applause from people, more this or that in this world. None of it will satisfy. Only He can satisfy. And the life that is eternally joyful is found in living for His greatest glory. They go together. See it here from the very beginning of the Bible and think of the news we have to tell the world that Jesus has come to deliver anyone, everyone, from slavery to Satan, sin and death. Jesus is able to heal our deepest hurts. 

I’ve just got to share this with you. One of Heather’s and my favorite people in the world is here today. Her name is Carla and she lives in Birmingham. She’s here today because her cousin is being baptized in a few minutes. I met Carla and her husband, Jonathan, ten-plus years ago and they changed my life. Carla is from Mexico; Jonathan is from the United States. They met, married, had a little baby and moved immediately overseas into the heart of unreached people. They gave their life for years in a really hard place, sharing the gospel with people who have never heard of Jesus. I met them when they were visiting back in the States and asked if they would consider coming to serve with me where I was pastoring in Birmingham. They did and Jonathan became one of my closest friends. He personally taught me more about God’s heart for the nations than anyone else. 

A few years back they found a tumor on Jonathan’s brain, so we walked with Jonathan and Carla, and their three kids by that time, through surgery after surgery. I was flying back from overseas when I got a call that Jonathan really wasn’t doing well, so they were bringing hospice into their home. I rerouted my flight to go visit him and sat by his bedside for a few hours. We talked and laughed and cried. He could barely speak. He was just whispering because he was so weak. There was one point when I had to step out so the palliative care people could talk with him and so he could sign some papers saying they could let him die. When I returned to the room, they were setting up a bed for him. I remember he looked at me and smiled. He just whispered, “David. God is good.” He told me about calling his kids into the room earlier that day. They were 14, 12 and 9 at the time. He explained to them what it meant that they were bringing in hospice for their dad. But he looked at his kids, who were crying, he smiled and said to them, “God is good.” A few weeks after that Jonathan went to be with the Lord. 

So how is that possible? How is it possible to rejoice, to smile and say, “God is good,” in a weary world of suffering and sorrow and death? Here’s how. One, Jonathan was looking back and telling his kids what he had told people among the nations his entire life. “Emmanuel has come. God has come to be with us. He’s not left us alone. Jesus has come to save us, deliver us and heal us. Jesus has come to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and put death’s dark shadows to flight.” He came for that reason. 

At the same time, Jonathan was looking forward, because he knew that Emmanuel didn’t just come. He knew that Emmanuel, God with us, is coming back for us. He’s not coming back lying in a manger; He’s coming back riding on the clouds. One day the trumpet of heaven is going to sound, the skies above us are going to split, and Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus, is going to come. We can rejoice today, no matter what you’re walking through in a weary world, because on that day we know sin will be no more, slavery will be no more, suffering will be no more. Neither will there be mourning, crying, pain, gloom, conflict, tension, violence, viruses, cancer or tumors. Death itself will be no more. Emmanuel, God, will be with us. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will be with Him forever. That’s reason to rejoice, because Emmanuel has come and Emmanuel is coming back. I guarantee you, based on the authority of the Word of God Himself, you put your hope in Emmanuel and you will never, ever, ever be let down. Ten trillion years from now, you will not be let down. 

Will you bow your heads with me? Just between you and God, right now, I just want to ask if you have that confidence. Have you put your hope in Jesus? Do you know what Jonathan knew? Do you know if you were to die today that you would be with God for all of eternity? 

That’s only possible if you’ve placed your faith and put all your hope in Jesus. So if your answer is not a resounding yes in your heart, God has brought you here today, in this moment, to hear His Spirit speaking to your heart right now. 

I invite you to say to Him in your heart—even if you’ve still got questions or don’t have it all figured out—just say to Him, “Jesus, I believe that You came here to be with us, to live and die on a cross for my sin. I believe You’ve risen from the grave and that one day You’re coming back. This longing I have in me for justice, the longing I have in me for resolution, redemption and relief, is a longing You’ve put in me that only You can fill. So today I trust in You. Today I put my hope in You. Please save me from my sin, Jesus, and bring me into relationship with You.”

The Bible says that all those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved from their sin and saved from death by faith in Jesus. For all who have this faith in Jesus, amidst all the things going on in our lives, can we just pray together and say, “God, You are our hope. Our hope is not even in our circumstances changing tomorrow or next week or next month or next year. Our hope is in You for all eternity. We trust that as we hope in You, You will give us, in the middle of whatever we walk through in this weary world, a peace that passes all understanding. We trust that You will give us a joy that supersedes suffering, that You will give us wisdom to walk through wearying days as we hope in You.”

I just pray that over every single person in the sound of my voice. I pray that they would know the peace, joy and wisdom that are found in hope in You. We love You, Jesus. We love You, God. We praise You, Emmanuel, God with us. In Your name we pray. And all God’s people said, “Amen.” 

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Alex Schroeder serves as the Associate Youth Minister for Junior High at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and as a Resident Director at Boyce College. He has a Masters of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Claire and has two children, Annie and Evie.

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