O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Christ in the Old Testament

We focus today on three portraits of Christ presented in the Old Testament book of Isaiah:

  • Immanuel:  God with Us (Isaiah 7.14)
  • Rod of Jesse:  God Our Hope (Isaiah 11.1)
  • Key of David:  Access to God (Isaiah 22.20-25)


God is with us, revealed in the person and deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  We sing to beckon the coming of Immanuel to ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.  He has appeared from our perspective.  He came to pay the ransom as the promised Messiah.  He suffered great rejection because His own would not receive Him.  Yet the promise remains.  All the nations may avail themselves of the greatest miracle of Christmas:  God in the flesh, Immanuel – the Lord Jesus with us!

If God is with you providing eternal salvation in Christ then is He not able to provide for your physical needs?  Is anything too hard for Him?  Shall we trust in the ransom Jesus paid for our eternal life and deny Him the power to heal, strengthen, and encourage us by His presence with us?  God is with us; therefore, who can rise up against us?

Rod of Jesse

Isaiah 10 is an unfolding of God’s judgment upon a tool He used to chasten His people.   The tool happened to be a rebellious nation named Assyria.  What is significant for us in trying to determine the title of Jesus in Isaiah 11.1 is the fact that God likened the judgment He would bring against the harsh Assyrians to the destruction of a forest.  Hewn stumps were left with only enough trees for a child to write upon.  There would be no hope for this nation again.

Isaiah 11 opens with the same imagery with one significant difference:  there is life in the stump!  Isaiah 11:1  states, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”

  1. The stem of Jesse has the sense of a stump of a tree that has been cut down.  Of course, this represents the failure of David’s line and the collapse of the nation of Israel.
  2. The new Rod and Branch of Jesse grows from the stump’s roots.  The word for Branch is netzer which calls to remembrance the prophecy in Matthew 2:23:  “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
  3. The sprig of life in the stump comes from David’s roots or family line.  Jesus is the promised fulfillment of the continuance of David’s eternal throne.  God always keeps His promises!
  4. Jesus will fulfill God’s promise literally during the Millennial kingdom on earth.  He will continue to fulfill His promise throughout eternity.

God gives victory over the grave.  Hope belongs to those in Christ.  The world is filled with the stump-like, barren countries that resemble ancient Assyria.  All writhing without hope.  There is one who extends hope to all nations – the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ – the Rod of Jesse!

Key of David

Isaiah 22 tells the story of a man named Shebna.  This man was the king’s steward in Jerusalem, a position of great power.  But he was a proud man with great authority represented by keeping the keys of the city.  He was also an evil man deserving of God’s judgment.  Isaiah 22:18 says that God “will surely turn violently and toss [Shebna] like a ball into a large country…”  there he would die.

Verses 20-25 explain that God will replace Shebna with a godly steward named Eliakim.  The Lord states that Eliakim will be given “the key of the house of David (22:22).”  God would also lay this key upon his shoulder – imagery we find in Isaiah 9.  The key of the city’s steward controlled access to the treasures of the city.  It was something that the ancients would equate with authority.

Revelation 3:7 reveals a title of the Lord Jesus:  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.’”

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.  – Isaiah 9.6-7

The key of David unlocks our heavenly home where all the saints with Him dwell.  Access to God comes from the uncontested authority of Jesus Christ.  He holds the keys and all the world is being driven to one destination – the base of His mighty throne.  We will either reject or accept the authority of this Great King at Christmas.  We must choose.


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