The name Immanuel means God with us. We use this name primarily at Christmas, but Immanuel is a name for God that should be used year-around because it has been his plan from the very beginning of time. The Creator of the world always planned to dwell with us. We can see this in the very first book of the Bible when he walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”Genesis 3:8
God walked in the garden with his man and woman, but their lack of trust and obedience separated them from His presence. And so began the plan for redemption. The plan to restore the world back to the original vision–God living with humanity.
It has been a long process.
Immanuel in the Desert
After the fall of Adam and Eve God chose a man named Abraham to walk with him. With Abraham God would build a relationship that would one day bless the world. Abraham trusted God to fulfill his promise even when it was impossible by human standards, and despite all odds, Abraham and Sarah conceived a son named Isaac.
God then walked with Moses and the Israelites for forty years in the desert as they awaited another promise, the Promised Land. God tabernacled with them. He led them and fed them, but the people had stubborn hearts. Even after making it into the Promised Land they could not keep their desires from idolatry.
Immanuel Born on Earth
Despite their wayward hearts, God kept his promise to Abraham. From Abraham’s line, the Son of God was born. He would save the world and restore God’s plan to live with man forever. One night, thousands of years after Abraham, God came just as the prophets promised.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) “–which means, ‘God with us.’Matthew 1:23
Immanuel With Us Today
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. Changes in life leave me empty. Losing loved ones, taking care of aging parents, these seasons are lonely even if others are around. I used to fight it, the loneliness. But I’ve been reminded lately that these feelings can be good because they open time and space in my heart for Immanuel. The empty makes me a little desperate for him.
Looking back at my life, with each military move, each deployment, the shock of motherhood, and the bittersweet success of grown children leaving home, God has been with me.
It has been up to me to seek Him. My part is to lean on him to press through the change until I become accustomed to the new rhythm and the loss isn’t as paralyzing. He fills my empty.
Christmas Made God With Us Always Possible
Loneliness is a fickle thing. You can be happily married, have children, friends, and co-workers you enjoy, and feel alone. I’ve stood smack dab in the middle of a party with a bunch of people, and felt lonelier than when I was by myself.
“Alone” really isn’t a number thing because it has to do with our hearts and our thoughts–our inside.
Changing seasons or holidays often stir up the emptiness inside–that void loneliness creates.
But this is exactly why Jesus came. He didn’t want us to be alone. He wanted to bring the presence of God into our world. And that is exactly what he did.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Immanuel is one of my favorite names for Jesus. Ann Spangler, one of my favorite authors writes in her book Praying the Names of Jesus:
“One of the most comforting of all the names and titles of Jesus, it is literally translated ‘with us is God’ or as Matthew’s Gospel puts it, ‘God with us.’ When our sins made it impossible for us to come to him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us, of making himself susceptible to sorrow, familiar with temptation, and vulnerable to sin’s disruptive power, in order to cancel its claim. In Jesus we see how extreme God’s love is. Remember this the next time you feel discouraged, abandoned, or too timid to undertake some new endeavor. For Jesus is still Immanuel–he is still “God with us.” (p. 15).
What kind of God would do this?
The God Who Came to Be Present With Us
His sandled feet plodded along the hills and dusty roads of Israel proclaiming the Kingdom of God for only three years. He touched the untouchable, cast out demons of muted men who could not say their name, and raised the dead —the people past hope.
He held children in his lap and chuckled as their chubby hands pulled his beard.
And he died so that one day we would never be alone. His Spirit would fill the void, the God hole only he can make whole. One day, one glorious day, he will forever dwell with man on earth.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”Revelation 21: 1-4
But until that day, He is with us by his Holy Spirit. Jesus promise his disciples his presence with them even after his death.
And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.John 14:16-18 (KJV)
3 Ways to Experience Immanuel
Until the new heaven and new earth are one and God dwells with humanity forever, he has given us ways to experience his presence now. Here are three ways to experience him:
- The empowering grace of Holy Spirit
- The Bible (His love letter to us.)
Prayer is one way we can experience Immanuel. Talk to him, but also listen for him. Someone once asked how I discern whether what I hear is my own voice in my head or God’s. It was a good question, and one that’s hard to understand if you haven’t walked with him for awhile. I have to admit, sometimes I question if I’ve heard God or my own thoughts, but other times, I have no doubt it’s God’s wisdom. This is how I know:
- It’s an answer too brilliant for my mind to fathom.
- It gives me great peace.
- I feel it in the bottom of my stomach (which I call my spirit.)
- It lines up with scripture.
Honestly, Scripture is the key. It is the witness of his presence, his promises, and his faithfulness. We can’t base out beliefs and our actions only on our feelings. In order to experience Immanuel and his wisdom we need to be in his Word everyday. That’s why I provide monthly reading plans. This month all of the verses are about God’s presence with us. This is a ten-page reading plan with prompts and room to journal your prayers and answers.
You are never alone.
Press into His presence. Press in through prayer, reading the Word, and trusting his empowering grace to direct you and help you.
Immanuel has come.
God is with us.
How do you “press in” to his presence when you feel loneliness creeping in?
Here’s a great devotional on the Tabernacle: A Place for Me in God’s Tent.
PSS. Here’s the YouTube teaching on Immanuel. :)