Rotation.org Writing Team
Advent: Isaiah Promised, Jesus Fulfilled
This graphic spells out the main objective of this lesson set — that your children would see Jesus as the one promised by God through Isaiah.
- the kind of Messiah that Isaiah taught us to look for,
- why God sent the Messiah into the world,
- and how we know Jesus is the one we have been waiting for.
These lessons will do this by unlocking the "secrets" of the titles and names Isaiah used to describe this coming king. As your students learn their meanings, you will help them will make the ultimate connection to our faith's central belief: that Jesus is more than just a great teacher or prophet, that Jesus is the Lord, which is to say, Jesus is God.
Scriptures for this lesson set:
Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:20b-24 (NRSV)
...an angel of the Lord appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,
Notice that Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14. Our inclusion of this scripture in the lesson is intentional and important in making the Isaiah~Jesus connection.
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (NRSV)
2 The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Learning objectives for this set:
Explanation: The following list seems a bit long, but that's because we're listing specifics rather than generalities. These scriptures are full of important theological points (Christology — who is Christ), and are frequently heard in Advent worship. Thus, our first objective is to give the kids a working memory of these passages.
Secondly, you will want to give them a working knowledge of key definitions. (For example, every grade school child should know that "Christ" and "Savior" and "Messiah" mean the same thing in three languages. -And what a Messiah is.)
Our third objective is to help them understand the titles Isaiah promised and Jesus fulfilled, so that they know who Jesus is (Emmanuel, God in the flesh), and what he came to do.
Certain workshops in this lesson set take extra time to emphasize certain learning objectives.
Listed specifically, your objectives might look like this:
- Recall Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 approximately word-for-word.
- Recall Isaiah 7:14 word-for-word. (These words are repeated in Matthew 1:23)
- Be able to unpack what the following words mean: Emmanuel, Yeshua/Jesus, Messiah/Christ/Savior/Anointed One.
- Convey what Isaiah promised, and express how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's descriptions of the coming Messiah.
- Express why they believe Jesus is God in the flesh.
Bible Background Intro
It could be said these verses in Isaiah 7 and 9, and Matthew 1 are the most important scriptures in the story of Jesus' birth because they reveal in concise language and imagery, both the identify and mission of Jesus.
While other "Birth" stories describe the circumstances and characters surrounding Jesus' birth, Isaiah clearly tells us "who" is coming into our world and what his mission will be. He does this through names and titles, and that is why many of the lessons in this set "unpack" what those names and titles mean.
Like the graphic at the top of this page, Isaiah paints us a word picture about the mysterious and long-suffering hope for a Messiah that was finally realized when Jesus came into the world. (The Art Workshop will have your kids literally creating a word picture with color and light.) When we read the words and look at Jesus, the connection becomes clear. Jesus is the Messiah. And then the implications become even more startling: if Emmanuel the Messiah is God with us, that means Jesus is God.
Traditionally, people have focused on the messianic titles in Isaiah 9, verses 6 and 7 — "wonderful, everlasting, mighty, prince." We have added verse 2's little noticed title: "great light" because the New Testament emphasizes the metaphor of "light" to describe Jesus. (The Games Workshop in this set focuses on the great light title in a fun and memorable way.)
Jesus himself lays claim to this Messianic identify when in Luke 4 he stands up in the Nazareth synagogue and reads from another of Isaiah's messianic prophecies. Jesus claims his identity by reciting Isaiah 61 and saying, "Today, these scriptures are fulfilled."
Jesus did the work of the Messiah that Isaiah foretold. Jesus embodied the titles given to him by Isaiah and the angel in Matthew. He acted like God because he was God. Perfectly caring, perfectly forgiving, patiently teaching, wonderfully counseling. And even when we tried to kill him, he was the Prince of Peace. As you teach Isaiah's vision, be sure you connect it to Jesus, because that's what it is there for.
The Name of Jesus — another great clue to his identify
As we compare Isaiah's words to Jesus' actions, we start to connect the dots about his identity much like the first Disciples did. "Who is this man?" -turns into Peter's proclamation: "You are the Messiah." Your lessons should make the same connection.
Looking back, however, the clues were there even at his birth; especially in the name given to him by the angel, through Joseph. The angel tells Joseph to name his son, "Jesus" — which literally means "God will save." ("Ya-shua" = Yah[weh] + the Hebrew word for "save." It is also spelled "Yeshua" from which we get "Jesus." These are great notes to slip into your Bible study with the kids.)
In a single name, the very name of Jesus, all of the promises in Isaiah 7, 9, 51, and 61 (among others) are summarized.
Learning the names and their meanings, reveals the identity and mission of Jesus of Nazareth. They are Jesus' DNA.
Make no mistake, even though the word "Messiah" is not found in Isaiah 7 and 9 or in Matthew 1, these verses are very much about the Messianic hope. The title, "Messiah" came into more common usage late in Old Testament times. It became the go-to title that embodied Isaiah's hope for Emmanuel, a Prince of Peace, and Israel's cry for rescue at the hands of its oppressors. In the Gospels, the name "Christ" (Messiah) is slowly revealed as Jesus' ministry unfolds and more discover who he is.
Isaiah lived 700 years before Jesus in a time when the northern kingdom of Israel had been swept away, and Judah was about to be attacked. The kings had failed God and the people, and they longed for another king like David, a "second David" (which is another synonym for "Messiah"). Much of Isaiah is a forecast of impending doom which only serves to contrast with its message of hope.
God inspired Isaiah and succeeding generations to look beyond present troubles and see the coming "advent" of the Messiah, a Savior/Christ who would be God himself, Emmanuel.
Importantly, Isaiah does not foretell the kind of warrior that the people thought they needed, or might have been handy to those facing doom in Isaiah's day. Isaiah's Messiah is a Prince of Peace. And later in Isaiah 53, he famously describes the coming Messiah as a "suffering servant" bruised for our iniquity. Sound familiar?
By the time of Jesus, the popular expectations surrounding the Messiah had coalesced around a single popular hope: a "Messiah" who would throw the Romans out. As we know by Jesus' confrontations with the zealots, they didn't want a Prince of Peace. And the religious authorities felt threatened by an unorthodox (liberal?) Rabbi.
Gradually, however, Jesus' followers realized who was among them. Jesus embraced that vision, quoting Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his ministry. He will be the one coming to restore, to set free, to save. And as we learn from Isaiah, the one doing the saving would be Emmanuel, God himself.
"Emmanuel" is the source of our theology of the Trinity.
Word Study about the term "Messiah"
The word "Messiah" is a Hebrew word that means "anointed" with oil. Synonyms are "blessed" and "chosen," as oil was often used to mark kings and priests.
Your kids might get a kick out of the fact that Hebrew root word "mess" in Messiah literally means, "to put or to smear or to draw," and it has come down through the centuries into English as the word we use in "make a mess." :-)
(The Hebrew word for Messiah is "mashiach" and is pronounced, "maw-shee'-akh.")
"Messiah" = the aroma of forgiveness
One of the most interesting and teachable aspects of the word "Messiah" -"Anointed One" is the SMELL OF THE ANOINTING OIL. In biblical times, aromatic oil was used as a cleansing agent and as a perfume for both sacred and secular purposes. In the Temple aromatic oil was used to make burnt offerings smell pleasing to God. And recall that the women brought perfumed oil to the tomb of Jesus.
The theological purpose of the oil's aroma was to say you didn't smell like sin. Literally, you smelled good to God! This aromatic idea is preserved in numerous OT and NT scriptures, including, 2 Corinthians 2:15 where we are reminded to be "a fragrance of Christ (Messiah) to God." And recall God's voice at Jesus' baptism when he said, "with him I am well pleased." Jesus smelled good to God, and hopefully his fragrance lingers on us. (Great teachable moment there.)
In the language of the New Testament, the word "Messiah" was translated using the Greek word for "the Anointed One," which is "Christos." When the New Testament was translated into Latin (the language of the Roman Empire), they used the Latin word, "Savior" in place of "Christos." In English we write it, "Christ." They all mean the same thing: Anointed One -the one who smells pleasing to God.
It is important that we teach our children that these terms are synonyms, but not just to avoid confusion! Teaching the meaning of these words connect Jesus with Isaiah's promise of the one who is coming, the Messiah, ...and reveals one more important insight:
If Messiah is Emmanuel (God with us), then, Christ is God
The Writing Team prays that your students will come to the same conclusion!
Written by: Rev. Neil MacQueen
A Note from Neil about the terms "Promise" and "Prophecy"
I have consciously avoided the term "prophecy" in this background because it popularly connotes "predicting" a specific future, as if the Bible were an encrypted clue book. Isaiah was indeed given a vision of the future, but it wasn't a date, and the people were not at all abandoned for the 700 years between Isaiah and Jesus.
Isaiah assured his people and future generations that the Covenant (promise) was still in force. Isaiah envisioned a time when God would make that promise abundantly, tangibly, and personally clear.
The term "fulfilled" can also be a little misleading, and has been the subject of much writing. Paul wrestles with it in Romans, reminding us that salvation (rescue) was present in the Old Testament. How? Because Jesus is God and was there. Fulfillment is more about "full revealing" of what has always been true: God is with us, not against us (there's that Covenant again!) The idea of "prediction" suggests that God is waiting to act, when in fact, God is always acting on his promises. That's what God does.
Jesus' birth was God's personal and tangible exclamation point on that promise, not the beginning of it.
As we learn from the Gospels, even with Isaiah's words and Jesus standing right in front of them, Jesus' contemporaries and even his disciples were totally unprepared for what those words really meant. It was only when they compared Isaiah's vision to the life and words of Jesus, that they experienced the spirit of the Risen Christ that they realized the specific way in which the Covenant had appeared in the flesh as Isaiah had promised. The words are no proof and mean nothing without the relationship.
Isaiah reminds us that the thing we need and look forward to the most, is not knowledge, but the presence of God himself, Emmanuel.
BTW: Is it spelled Immanuel or Emmanuel?
In most translations of Isaiah 7, the Old Testament Hebrew spelling, "Immanuel," is used. But in most translations of Matthew, the Greek spelling "Emmanuel," is used, because Matthew was written in Greek. Both are correct.
Regardless of the translation your church or Sunday School uses, you would be wise to mention these spelling variations to your older students as they will inevitably see it written both ways.
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