Immanuel

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To Christ, all the prophets bore witness; but none so clearly, forcefully, fully, and evangelically as Isaiah. This singular prophet spent a lot of time on the person, the offices, the work and suffering of our Lord, but also on His glorious conquests – spiritually during His first coming and materially in His Second. When reading the prophecies of Isaiah concerning Jesus Christ, we have an outline of His ministry and of this world’s redemption.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV)

And this verse, more than any other, encapsulates a view of Christ and His mission; our Lord’s history in a single verse.

Christ is God

First of all, this verse tells us in no uncertain terms that Jesus Christ is God. This, of course, shouldn’t surprise Christians, but it was a baffling thing for Isaiah’s listeners to hear. For 2,000 years, Christians have had verses like these that serve to back up what Isaiah spoke:

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:1 – 5 TLB)

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power. (Colossians 2:9, 10 TLB)

[Jesus Christ] was God, [He] did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name… (Colossians 2:6 – 9 TLB)

Jesus Christ, admired by many people of many different faiths, was not a prophet. He was not a “good man.” He was higher and loftier than any angel or seraph. Jesus Christ was and is God. He is the Son of God, but essentially God Himself. That’s what Isaiah said and that’s what dozens of New Testament verses say. It’s the supreme truth above all others. Jesus Christ is God.

For the people of Isaiah’s day, the idea of “Immanuel,”  “God with us,” was nothing new. God had been in the midst of them before. Historically, God was with the Israelites as both a fiery pillar and a fluffy cloud. He dwelled in their midst over the mercy-seat. His presence came and went and came again for generations. But this was something new. For the first time, God would come in all His fullness, in all His glory, and in all His power in the Person of Jesus.

Why not? God can do whatever He wants to! Is it so hard to believe that the God who created the universe can visit us as a man? To dispute the possibility of the doctrine of the Incarnation is to limit God’s power.

Our Lord Himself said this:

He told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and earth.” (Matthew 28:18 TLB)

Jesus Christ was given unlimited authority, or if you will, “all power.” Power to bless. Power to heal. Power to save. Power to pardon and regenerate the vilest of sinners. Power to give eternal life to all who believe.  As God, Jesus also has the power to judge all people. Consider –

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10 – 12 NKJV)

Yes, Jesus Christ is God. The prophets foretold it. Jesus Himself spoke of it. His attributes prove it. Jesus Christ is God. But there is more to “Immanuel.”

Christ is near

Remember, “Immanuel” means “God with us.” In His own essence, God the Father is above us, under us, all around us. He is beyond us. He is behind us. As the governor of the universe God is everywhere, all the time.

But as “Immanuel,” this awesome God is “with us.” He is right where we are.

He is with us in our humanity. Again, the prophet Isaiah said it best:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given… (Isaiah 9:6a NKJV)

God’s Son has been given. A child was born to Mary. Divinity wrapped up in flesh. It’s a stunning verse that our minds are unable to fully comprehend. The Creator and creature in one Person. Jesus Christ. The eternal and the finite joined together. He assumed out nature – He was clothed in our flesh. Born of a woman, fully man yet fully God. God was “with us.” Not as fire or as a cloud or as the glory of the Shakina, but as one of us.

Yes, Jesus was a “with us,” but He had a purpose. He came to us as one of us to save us. God didn’t come to earth just to “get away from it all.” He didn’t come to earth just see how things were going down here. God came to earth to save mankind. Can you imagine?

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19, 20 NIV)

The word “fullness” is what drives home the truth of Christ’s deity. For some, Christ is great man or supreme spiritual being but not quite God. But the apostle understood the Incarnation in absolute terms: all of God fills, completes and pervades the Person of Jesus Christ. But Paul understood something else: there is a sense of permanence in the Incarnation. That’s what the word “dwell” implies. Some people think that “Jesus became God” or that Jesus was merely a role that God assumed for a few years. Yet “God with us” is not a temporary arrangement any more than the Incarnation is temporary. The permanent, eternal fullness of Deity in Christ and the permanent fullness of man in a single Person is the only basis for reconciliation. The great transaction that occurred at the Cross was not a play or a drama. It was a real event with eternal consequences. The consequences for sinful man are obvious. The work of Jesus makes peace possible between sinful, rebellious man and his Holy God. But rarely do we ever speak of the consequences for Jesus Christ. When the “Immanuel” event took place, our Lord took on aspects of mankind for all eternity.

He is “with us,” in all the stages of life. In the helplessness of infancy, God is with us. In the exuberance of childhood, God is with us. In the maturity of adulthood, God is with us. Through all the joys, the pain and the temptation of life, God is with us. He is with us as our Savior, our Friend, our constant Companion, our Deliverer, our dependable Advisor. He is with us in life, and He will be with us in death.

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. (Romans 8:38, 39 TLB)

That’s the real implication of “Immanuel.” There is no escaping Him.

Am I a God who is only in one place and cannot see what they are doing? Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all of heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23:23, 24 TLB)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that God hates sin – He hates our sin. But how He loves us! Paul wrote that it “pleased” God to have His fullness in His Son. The Incarnation “pleased” God.  Why did God find it so pleasing? What aspect of “Immanuel” pleased God? Maybe it has something to do with this:

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ… (Colossians 2:9, 10a TLB)

As sinful creatures, we have so many needs. We need health. We need wisdom. We need guidance. We need so much, but when we have Christ, we have everything we need. No wonder God the Father is so pleased with His “Immanuel.”

With US

“Immanuel,” “God with US.” He is with us. What do we do with such great knowledge? Do we ignore Him? The sad fact is, most Christians have become experts at ignoring and avoiding the God who went to such extremes to be with them. We are good at paying lip service. But we are terrible at being obedient. We are good at saying we love Him, but rarely do we show Him. Because He is with us, He demands our love, our confidence and our obedience. “Immanuel” is the greatest wonder in the universe, yet it means so little to so many.

This Christmas season, let’s take time to consider “Immanuel.” “God with us” is so profound we can scarcely realize its ramifications. So let’s start with worship. “Immanuel” demands our sincerest worship – not just on Sundays but every day of the week. We are to be obedient. We are to seek His will and fulfill it. We are to be devoted to Him. “Immanuel” ought to be last thing we think about at night and the first thing we think about in the morning.

We are not our own bosses to live or die as we ourselves might choose. Living or dying we follow the Lord. Either way we are his. (Romans 14:7, 8 TLB)

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 7:19, 20 GNB)

There is no doubt about it: God is with us. And we owe Him more than just our gratitude.

 

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