EMMANUEL ~ GOD WITH US
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” – Matthew 1:22-23
Celebrating birthdays – at least my own – has never been very important to me. This despite the fact that along with Ludwig von Beethoven and a few other notable Sagittarians, I also share the anniversary of my birth with Catherine of Aragon, Jane Austen, Arthur C. Clarke, Margaret Mead, Zoltan Kodaly, Billy Gibbons, Leslie Stahl, Noel Coward, and my favorite abstract artist of all time, Wassily Kandinsky.
But, like the shepherds who were the first to discover the newborn King wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger on that first Christmas in Bethlehem, and just as countless Christians have done on every December 25th since around AD 200¹, there is one birthday I celebrate each and every year. I speak, of course, of the birthday of Jesus – the Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6 … our Emmanuel.
Putting aside for the purpose of this journal post the most well-known passage of the Christmas story found in Luke 2:1-20, it should not surprise anyone to learn that I discovered a nexus between the prophetic scripture of the coming Messiah in Isaiah 7:14, the fulfillment in Jesus Christ found in Matthew 1:22-23, and Psalm 46 – the foundation of nexus prayer. What follows are just a few of the highlights:
FIRST – Whether called Immanuel by the Jews or Emmanuel by the Gentiles, the birth of Jesus not only represents God with us – God incarnate, but is also the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (see also Matthew 1:22-23). As mentioned elsewhere on this site, you will recall that that the historical backdrop and context of Psalm 46 (and the point of the command to “be still” in Psalm 46:10) was the pending invasion of Jerusalem and annihilation of the Jews by the Assyrian King, Sennacherib – the very same event alluded to in the sign given to King Ahaz. Matthew Henry described it this way:
“Now the scripture that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ was that promise of a sign which God gave to King Ahaz Isa. 7:14,”Behold a virgin shall conceive…”; where the prophet, encouraging the people of God to hope for the promised deliverance from Sennacherib’s invasion, directs them to look forward to the Messiah, who was to come of the people of the Jews, and the house of David”²
SECOND – We find in Psalm 46:5 that God (Emmanuel) is with us when we read “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” And likewise, along with the refrain in verse 7, the final verse found at Psalm 46:11 speaks of God being with us when it says: “The Lord of hosts (Emmanuel) is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
THIRD – Just as the Angel exhorted both Joseph Matthew 1:20 and Mary Luke 1:30 to not be afraid, we are admonished by God along with the children of Israel in Psalm 46:2-3 “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea….“ ’though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” We are not to be afraid because God – our Emmanuel – is with us no matter the difficulties, challenges, and perils we face in life. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Daniel 3:20, God will be right there smack in the middle of all of the fiery furnaces of our life. Now, that’s being Godsmacked!
FINALLY – Although there are many other correlations to be found in Psalm 46:10 between the five key components of nexus prayer, Isaiah 7:14, and Matthew 1:22-23, I’ll end this post with one of the most valuable insights I discovered, this time, in Luke 2:19.
“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
Like Mary, pregnant of the Holy Spirit, we discover through nexus prayer that our God – Emmanuel – is indeed “with us” each time we take the time to be still, be silent, and draw near to the heartbeat of God that we both hear and feel deeply embedded within our soul. The “still, small voice” I Kings 19:11-13 that we hear is the voice of God, first expressed as the cry of an infant King, but ultimately expressed as the living Word John 1:1.
So, by all means, please join me this year in celebrating Jesus’ birthday. But also during this season of Advent, amidst all the hustling and bustling, the shopping ‘til dropping, family gatherings, gift giving, and all the merry making, let’s not forget to give Jesus the most valuable gift of all – not gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but the gift of our time, the gift of our ourselves. Through nexus prayer, let’s lay not our presents, but our presence at the feet of Jesus. Only then can we truly know Him as Emmanuel – God with us.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”
– Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861)
Ready to begin? Nexus prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!
NOTES & REFERENCES:
1 Jesus is believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. His actual birth date of December 25th was calculated by Tertullian of Carthage around A.D. 200 | Bible History Daily
2 Most biblical historians (including Matthew Henry) believe both Isaiah 7 and Psalm 46 are making reference to the invasion and pending destruction of Jerusalem by King Sennacherib of Assyria. | Matthew Henry, Isaiah Chapter 7, Bible Study Tools
3 Photo: Nativity from Sherbrooke Missal (Modified) | Used with permission via Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication