Thursday, December 10, 2015

Immanuel, God with Us

The word “Immanuel” appears only three times in the Bible. Isaiah 7:14 (Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.) is the passage we all know. Isaiah 8:8 makes reference to Immanuel, though it is a less understood text. And then Matthew refers to Isaiah’s 7:14 prophecy in Matthew 1:23. For something so great and awesome as “God With Us,” it’s interesting that this name for the Messiah is so seldom used. But flipping through any of the Gospels you will see clear evidence of Jesus acting as Immanuel.

At my church’s womens Bible Study a few months ago we read a chapter from Henri Nouwen’s book, Compassion. I took obsessive notes. So here are some of this thoughts, paraphrased: “Jesus was the divine embodiment of God’s compassion, the very thing that led God to become one of us. It consists of the fact that God was, and is, willing to enter in with us to our problems. He may not fix or remove our burdens, but we know that God is Immanuel, to share our joys and pains, to be a refuge and a stronghold. The cure is not what’s important, but His compassion is.”

I keep reading articles with this theme. A while ago I came across the writings of a woman named Vaneetha Rendell. She knows pain and suffering, doubting and waiting. Yet she writes with immense wisdom about God’s presence, sovereignty, and grace. Yesterday I read an article of hers entitled If Only I Knew Why. It was a very timely read because I had just been thinking/praying the same thing: wouldn’t things not seem so bad if only I knew why God hasn’t answered that prayer yet?

Rendell says, I was certain that if I had an explanation for my trials, if I could understand God’s purposes in them...Knowing why seems to be the elusive key that will somehow unlock all our pain. . . and bring clarity and peace.” And yet, though time and experience she goes on, “God is asking us to trust Him in the dark . . . I don’t need to understand the details. I just needed to trust God. Trust him because he is infinitely wiser, more loving, and more purposeful than I am” – God with us.

I wonder if this is how Simeon felt. While waiting for the “consolation of Israel,” the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not see death until “he had seen the Lord’s Christ”
(Luke 2:25-26). Living in Jerusalem, it was probably very apparent that Israel needed a savior from earthly rulers. But centuries of waiting and praying had yet to reveal him. I wonder how old Simeon was when God finally answered his prayer. Yet the important part of his story is not his finally seeing Jesus, but the Holy Spirit’s compassionate presence with him as Simeon “trusted in the dark”—a beautiful foreshadowing of the Christ’s role as “God with Us.”

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