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December 8, 2015

(GOD WITH US): We can condense all the truth of Christmas into three words “God With Us,” not just as a baby in a manger, but as Immanuel, the omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth!Immanuel is a transliteration of the original Hebrew word derived from Immanu (with us) and El (God), while Emmanuel is a transliteration of the Greek “Emmanouel.” Whether spelled with an I or an E “every name of Christ is like a honeycomb dripping with honey, and luscious are the drops that distill from it.” (CHS) Indeed, Jesus’ Name IMMANUEL emphasizes His nearness, for His birth brought the infinite, holy God within reach of finite, sinful man. God came to live WITH US us so we could live WITH HIM! The Son of GOD became the Son of MAN that He might change the sons of MEN into sons of GOD (1Jn 3:1), who can forever “draw near with confidence (boldness) to the Throne of grace” through Immanuel (Heb 4:16). God grant us grace to come aside from our frantic pace and meditate on the great Name Immanuel, the mystery of godliness “revealed in the flesh.” (1Ti 3:16). “O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His Name (Immanuel) together.” (Ps 34:3) “Blessed be His glorious NAME (Immanuel) forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.” (Ps 72:19)

Immanuel! God with us in His meekness;
Immanuel! God with us in His might,
To bind our wounds, to gift with strength our weakness,
To bring us, redeemed, to the home of light – Morgan

Matthew Henry wrote that “By the light of nature we see God as a God above us (Ps 19:1-2); by the light of the Law we see Him as a God against us (Col 2:14); but by the light of the Gospel we see Him as IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US.” He was God FOR us before He became God WITH us, and it was because He was FOR us that He became God WITH us. And so C H Spurgeon rightly says IMMANUEL “is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.” “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as Man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.” (John Wesley) Let us praise the One Who is both transcendent and yet approachable, God Most High and yet God Most Close, God With Us, Immanuel!

IMMANUEL WAS FORETOLD – The Name “Immanuel” occurs only three times in the Bible, but the truth of “GOD WITH US” permeates the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. We first see Immanuel as God with Adam, the “LORD God walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day” (Ge 3:8), Creator communing with creature, until that awful day when “sin entered into the world and death (symbolic of separation entered) through sin” (Ro 5:12). Thereafter God’s interactions with man were generally MORE REMOTE (the Lord descended upon a mountain that could not even be touched! Ex 19:18, Heb 12:18-19), LESS PERSONAL (pillar of cloud by day and fire by night Ex 13:21-22) and LESS ACCESSIBLE (Only the high priest could enter the Holy of holies once per year – Lev 16:31-34). And yet because of His abounding lovingkindnesses (Ps 103:8), God “set eternity in our heart” (Eccl 3:11), giving every person a deep yearning to intimately know Him, for “that which is known about God is evident within us.” (Ro 1:19) But it is not enough to know that God is “up there” or “out there” somewhere. We want to know that God has come down to where we are, that He knows where we live, that He knows our name, that He cares about us, that He has “walked this lonesome valley” we walk. We want to know that we are not alone in the universe. Even wise Solomon asked “will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth?” (2Chr 6:18) In His great grace and mercy, God answered through the prophet Isaiah who foretold that “the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him IMMANUEL” (Isaiah 7:14). And so our hearts sing “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.”

IMMANUEL WAS FULFILLED – The young boy looked into the sky and asked his mother, “Is God up there?” When she assured him that He was, he replied, “Wouldn’t it be nice if He would put His head out and let us see Him?” What the boy didn’t understand was that God has let us see Him—in Immanuel. We don’t have to guess what God is like. Nor do we have to wonder if He’s alive. Matthew described His miraculous birth writing “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold (pay attention!), the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His Name IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Mt 1:22-23) Not God without us! Not God against us! But God with us! While Emmanuel in Isaiah 7:14 was a sign of God’s deliverance of Israel from temporal trouble, the Name Immanuel in Mt 1:23 is a sign of God’s deliverance of sinners from eternal trouble! The Father sent Messiah to earth as a Man and the eternal “Word became flesh” (Jn 1:1, 14). In Immanuel, the Infinite became Finite, the Divine became Human, while remaining fully God and fully Man, veiling His Majesty (2Pe 1:16) in Meekness (Mt 11:29). The King of glory became the servant of men (Php 2:7-8, Mk 10:45). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2Cor 9:15)! Little wonder that as John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused himself, opened his eyes, and exclaimed “The best of all is, GOD IS WITH US!” Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep in Jesus, His Immanuel! Indeed, as Spurgeon affirmed, Jesus Christ is “IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.” “There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains, Lose all their guilty stains.” (William Cowper)

The Gospel of Matthew opens with “Behold!…IMMANUEL…GOD WITH US” (Mt 1:23) and closes with the assuring words “Behold! I AM WITH YOU always!” (Mt 28:20)  Immanuel is with us through His indwelling Spirit (Ro 8:9), in His Word and by His providential care.  GOD WITH US allowed Jesus to be crucified as the God-Man, so that He could be GOD IN US, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). And if He is GOD IN US, then He is also GOD FOR US for a Paul says “If GOD IS FOR US, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Ro 8:31-32) “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as Man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’” (Charles Wesley)

IMMANUEL WILL ENDURE – From Genesis to Revelation, from “the garden of Eden” (Ge 2:15) to “the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7), God is IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US. John testifies to the surpassing richness of the future grace to be revealed to us (Eph 2:7, 1Pe 1:13) writing “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is WITH MEN, and He shall dwell WITH THEM, and they shall be His people, and GOD HIMSELF SHALL BE WITH THEM.” (Rev 21:3) Jesus descended to be GOD WITH US so that as a Man He might be “pierced through FOR” US (“for our transgressions”). (Isa 53:5) After His resurrection Immanuel’s wounds remained visible to His disciples on Earth (Jn 20:20, 27) and will remain visible to His bondservants in Heaven. Standing in heaven, John writes “I saw between the throne a Lamb standing, as if slain (~His scars!)” (Rev 5:6) As one has said, “the only man-made thing in heaven will be the scars of the Savior.” “The first Heaven and the first earth” will pass away (Rev 21:1), but the Lamb’s scars will endure eternally, marks that will forever testify of His unfailing covenant love. As Spurgeon says “Wonderfully true is this fact: when you and I come to the closing scene of life we will find that Immanuel, “GOD WITH US” has been there. He felt the pangs and throes of death. We will be raised in His likeness, and the first sight our opening eyes will see is the incarnate Lamb of God, GOD WITH US. We will see Him as Man and as God, and throughout all eternity He will maintain the most intimate relationship with us. As long as ages roll, He will be “GOD WITH US.” Both His human and divine life will last forever, and so too will our life.” He came in time as Immanuel on earth that He might be in eternity our Immanuel in heaven, God with us, we with Him, bound fast by the unbreakable union of the everlasting, new covenant in His blood, forever sealed by the marks on His glorified body! Hallelujah! Let us gratefully exalt “All hail to Thee, IMMANUEL, we cast our crowns before Thee; Let every heart obey Thy will, and every voice adore Thee. In praise to Thee, our Savior King, the vibrant chords of Heaven ring, And echo back the mighty strain: All hail! All hail! All hail IMMANUEL!” (D R Van Sickle)

IMMANUEL APPLIED: In our daily experience, when trials unexpectedly assault us, do we run to the Strong Tower of Jesus’ Name IMMANUEL that we might be safe (literally “lifted up” above the fray)? (Pr 18:10, Ps 91:14) I fear many of us (myself included) are too often like the children of Israel who showed their lack of faith asking “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Ex 17:7) We need to take up the shield of faith (Eph 6:16) and remind ourselves that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb 13:8) and that He has promised “I will absolutely never, not ever, leave you, no, never, not ever forsake you.” (Heb 13:5 five negatives in Greek!) Indeed, what we need even more than deliverance from trouble is the firm confidence that Jesus is our IMMANUEL in the midst of our trouble. The secret of peace is not a plan or program but a Person, IMMANUEL, God with us (cp Ps 20:7). David testifies “those who know (intimately, by experience) Thy Name (IMMANUEL) will put their trust in Thee.” (Ps 9:10) Knowing and trusting in His Name IMMANUEL is God’s antidote for fear. When Israel feared the giants in the land God had promised them, Moses reminded them “the LORD is WITH US. Do not FEAR!” (Nu 14:9) When “giants” arise, danger threatens or calamity strikes, we can be assured of Immanuel’s personal presence and power to comfort and calm our storm tossed souls with His encouraging words “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jn 14:27) In our “valley times,” we do well to remind ourselves of David’s affirmation that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I FEAR no evil, FOR (David explains why he has no fear) YOU ARE WITH ME (Immanuel), Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4) In Isaiah God tenderly exhorts us “Do not fear, for I AM WITH YOU. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isa 41:10, cf Dt 20:1, Isa 43:5). Enabled by the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), let us put our faith in His Name IMMANUEL and put our fears to rest! And when fear knocks at our door, may God grant us the grace to send faith to open it! “Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.” (C. Wesley)

IMMANUEL SUMMARIZED: Spurgeon declares “If GOD be WITH US, we are in ennobling company, even though we are poor and despised. If GOD be WITH US, we have all-sufficient strength (2Cor 12:9), for nothing can be too difficult for the Lord (Ge 18:14). If GOD be WITH US, we are always safe, for none can harm those who walk under His shadow (Ps 57:1). Oh, what a joy we have here! Not only is GOD WITH US, but He will be with us— with us as individuals, with us as families, with us as churches. Is not the very Name of Jesus, IMMANUEL—GOD WITH US? Is not this the best of all, that GOD IS WITH US? Let us be bravely diligent and joyously hopeful. Our cause must prosper, the truth must win, for GOD is WITH THOSE who are WITH HIM!”

PRAYER: Consider praying Spurgeon’s prayer “Blessed IMMANUEL, we gladly obey You! In You our darkness ends and from the shadow of death we rise to the Light of life. It is salvation to be obedient to You (Jn 3:36). It is the end of gloom to the one that was in anguish to bow himself before You. May God the Holy Spirit take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, and then we shall all cry— “Go worship at Immanuel’s feet! See in His face what wonders meet! Earth is too narrow to express; His worth, His grace, His righteousness.” to which we add “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Amen

Play Michael Card’s song…

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