The Names of God

Immanuel - God with us

"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”

Genesis 28:15

"... 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

Over 700 years later:

 

“'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.”

Matthew 1:23

I remember well the first time God sent me across the country to speak at a conference. I was afraid, yet I was trusting God to do what seemed impossible.  Shy and fearful in groups, I had no desire to stand before a roomful of expectant faces and speak into a microphone.

"I can't," I had argued. "Others are far more qualified." But He confirmed His call, reminding me that He would be with me and meet all my needs. "My grace is sufficient for you," He reassured me, "for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9  

Months later, as bright, billowy clouds drifted by my airplane window, I silently prayed for courage and strength.  And once again, my nearest and dearest Friend spoke to me through His Word:

"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

What could be more wonderful? Why should I fear when the King of the universe is with me! Day by day, He is my ever-present Shepherd, my Lord, my Master and my Friend! 

But the blinded world around us continues to reject our Immanuel.  Now as always, His presence in this sin-filled world is an offense and a "stumbling stone" to those who despise His Truth and refuse to follow Him.

Back when the long-awaited Savior was born into our world that starry night long ago, most people "loved darkness rather than light." They wanted earthly freedom to do their own will, not heavenly freedom to walk with God. Immanuel opened His arms to a troubled land, but only a few chose to enter His family.

John summarized both the tragedy and the triumph:

"He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of... the will of man, but of God." John 1:10-13

Many claim that special "right" though they have never been born of God. They simply adapt His message to fit their beliefs.  "All people are His children," they say. "Jesus is with everyone."

But that's not true.  While our Lord sees everyone, His loving presence is reserved for those who trust and follow Him

Abraham did, so God brought him into a special covenant relationship with Himself. He promised Abraham,

“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant....” Genesis 17:7

Yet, as the years passed, Abraham's descendants turned their backs to the God who had led them miraculously out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the wilderness and into the promised land. They pursued "other gods" in spite of His loving care for them.  Finally, He withdrew His protection and allowed His beloved people to face the devastating consequences.

But God always had a remnant of uncompromising believers whose hearts remained focused on His promise: the glorious fulfillment of the covenant relationship.

The first part of that fulfillment came through Christ's death and resurrection. We who are redeemed and "born of God" have been "grafted into" Abraham's spiritual lifeline.  All who trust Jesus -- whether Jews, Africans, Arabs or Americans -- live together with Him.

"For [we] are all one in Christ Jesus.... heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:28-29

But those who reject the triumph of the cross have no part in His covenant.  For He said,

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For...  what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'  Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate....'" 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

That's a hard message.  Those who seek global unity and social solidarity have little tolerance for such "separatism."  They are offended by the heavenly truths that clash with their earthly goals -- as were the Pharisees who sought to kill Jesus.  That's why Jesus continues to warn His people,

"If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you... For they do not know the God who sent me." John 15:20-21

As long as we still walk in this fallen world, we will share His suffering even as we rejoice in His presence.  And, like His people of old, we can take our stand on His covenant promises and know with certainty that He will do all that He has promised.

"For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'” Hebrews 13:5-6

On that cross-country flight so many years ago, I was delighting in those old covenant promises. Among them was Exodus 4:11-12,

“Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

He surely did. But I can't say I did well by any human standard. Rather, I must echo the wise and encouraging words of Paul, writing to church in Corinth,

"I... did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.... I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Isn't that what covenant relationship is all about? His life in us and His presence with us! Then we -- in our finite bodies -- may show forth the infinite love, power, faithfulness and triumphs of our wonderful, heavenly Friend -- the ever-present Immanuel!

His promise:

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you....
For I am the Lord your God, 
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:2-3

Our response:

"If God be for us, who can be against us?
"...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:31, 37-39 

Thank You, precious Immanuel, our faithful, ever-present Shepherd and King!

References:  Eternity

Genesis 17:7;  28:15;  Exodus 20:2-3;  Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5;

2 Samuel 7:8-9;  Psalm 27:9;  Isaiah 43:1-3, 5;  Jeremiah 32:38-41;

Ezekiel 36:25-27 Romans 6:4,   8:16-17;   1 Corinthians 6:15; 

2 Corinthians 3:3-6;  Ephesians 1:13-14;  Colossians 3:2-4;

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18,  5:10;  2 Timothy 2:11-12.

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