A man begs for change. Some throw him coins. Most pass on by. Now imagine a true philanthropist (meaning “lover of man”).
This man doesn’t just reach into his pocket for some change. He stoops down and sits in the gutter with the beggar. He reaches an arm around the man and says “Friend, I’m going to be with you. From now on my kind of life will be your kind of life. And I’m going to lift you out so that your kind of life will be my kind of life.”
That’s the meaning of Immanuel.
It’s a Hebrew word that means “God with us.” And it’s been the hope of the Hebrew people from the very beginning. Back in Genesis 3 the human race were promised the Messiah, born as the seed of a woman. Among other things, this meant that
1) divine help would come in human form
2) His entrance into our world would involve a miraculous birth.
Men have seed, not women. Yet the help of a man is not mentioned in this promise of a Deliverer. The serpent-crusher would be the offspring of a woman – a miraculous gift.
And so, as Isaiah faces the troubles of his own day, he reminds himself and his people of their true hope:
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)
The Messiah will come, says Isaiah. And when He comes He won’t be against us, He won’t be over us or above us, He will be with us. In fact He’ll be so with us He will become one of us. This is incredible philanthropy! This is God getting down on our level.
Think again of the homeless man. Every other religion has the gods walking past and maybe handing out some change. Other faiths might have helpful deities bestowing benefits from on high. We have Immanuel. We have Jesus – God with us, entering the mess, entering the darkness, drawing very near.
And He has not changed. Though He is seated at God’s right hand, He remains one of us – bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh. He still yearns to stoop, to come close and to be with us in our situation, whatever it is.
Anyone can tell you God is big. Immanuel tells us He is also small. May we know Him drawing near us today.
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