Isaiah 7:14 Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.
We had dress rehearsal today for our children’s Christmas program. (By the way, everyone’s invited next week.) The closing song is Michael W. Smith’s Immanuel. The song is now on continuous replay in my head. Therefore, I must conclude that the Holy Spirit is guiding me to share what it means to me when I call Jesus by the name Immanuel.
In order to better understand the awe of this name we must return to the Garden of Eden. On the sixth day, God created Adam and from his side Eve. He then placed them in this perfect garden He embedded upon the earth. It is the first prayer room. But I like to refer to it as the divine tryst: the place where lovers meet. God could’ve transported Adam and Eve to Heaven for their daily meetings. But He set a precedent for all time. He came daily to Earth to walk and talk with them. He intended to be the God among us.
By Genesis 3 we see where this plan was destroyed by sin. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and two angels with flaming swords guarded the entrance. For the rest of their lives the closest they could get to God was offering a blood sacrifice on the altar as they prayed. Don’t you know they put that altar as close to that guarded entrance as they could get in order to restore even a glimpse of the intimacy that was lost?
Generations later God visited Moses and gave him the instructions on building the tabernacle. This was to be the place where God promised to once again ‘dwell among them.’ (Exodus 25:8) The word tabernacle means literally ‘the place where God dwells among His people.’ Moses was instructed to hang a curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies where the LORD would dwell upon the Ark of the Covenant. In that curtain cherubim were to be woven as a constant reminder of the angels at Eden’s gate. Sin will always separate us from the holiness of God but at the Golden Altar before the curtain, the priests could approach God in prayer.
At its completion, the glory of the LORD settled upon the tabernacle and traveled with His people throughout their journeys in the form of a cloud by day and fire by night. (Exodus 40) He is God among us, Immanuel.
But generations later the people had so greatly sinned, God had to discipline them. He removed His Shekninah glory from the temple. (Ezekiel 10) Soon after this the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. From this time until now the Ark of the Covenant has not been seen. Even seventy years later when the exiles returned to rebuild their temple, the ark was not in the Holy of Holies. No where does the Bible record the Shekninah returning to the temple after the exile. Herod built a magnificent temple which stood at the time of Jesus but God’s glory was not among them.
Until, one quiet night in a manger, God left the splendors of Heaven to dwell among men. No wonder the heavens erupted with a host of angels singing. It was as in Eden, God would once again walk among His people.
Why do I delight to call Jesus Immanuel? The name assures me that I am loved by the God who desires to be with me. Immanuel means He is not a distant uncaring God. The history of His dwelling among His people tells me He will never stop loving me and desiring me. It also means that nothing can thwart His plan, not even my sin.
You see, Jesus was the Shekninah presence of God while He walked on this earth. But after His death, burial, and resurrection He returned to His Throne in Heaven leaving the disciples much like the people after the exile and up until His birth.
Praise to His mighty name, He continued the precedent set in the beginning. Nothing will stop His plan. At Pentecost (Acts 2) He again came to dwell among us: He tabernacles or dwells in believers in the form of the Holy Spirit. For as long as the last believer is alive on this earth, there will be a presence of God among us.
I’m feeling like the angels on the night Jesus’ was born. I want to burst out in praise:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”
Are you living as one filled with the Shekninah glory of God dwelling in you? I can’t imagine a better prayer than to pray we live our lives displaying the favor of His presence resting within us. Amen