Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God With Us

You probably know that Immanuel, one of the names designated in the Tanak (Old Testament) for the messianic figure, means "God with us." The name Immanuel didn't lead Jews to look for God incarnate but rather for the assurance of God's presence; still, it's not difficult to see how that prophetic name for the coming Messiah reached its fulfillment in the person of Jesus, the God-man. And this notion is far more than just a name to sing songs about in December; God really is with us!

As Lauren Winner has said in her memoir Girl Meets God, "Here is the thing about God: He is so big and so perfect that we can't really understand Him. We can't possess Him or apprehend Him. But God so wants to be in a relationship with us that He makes Himself smaller than He really is. Smaller and more humble [in His still] infinite and perfect and beautiful self, so that we may be able to get to Him, if even just a little bit."

First, God made Himself small for us by giving His Word. The Israelites were able to "get to Him" because He spoke to them through the vehicle of human language, first audibly, then through judges and prophets, then in t
he written canon of Hebrew Scripture. And today we Christians have not only the Tanak, but also the New Testament to guide us in our understanding of God. And this Book is no less a miracle and no less an Incarnation than the Son; in fact, the Apostle John tells us (John 1) that they are inextricably linked. What a paradox we live in that we can know God intimately even as we wait to know Him fully (1 Corinthians 13:12)!

Next, He made Himself small by coming to us in a manger: the "fullness of God in helpless babe" as Keith and Kristyn Getty put it in their modern hymn, "In Christ Alone." And this is the doctrine that is so unbelievable to Jews: how could a Holy God who has instructed us to believe that he is ONE, duplicate Himself in the form of a human being? And surely, the doctrine of the Trinity is an impossible one to conceptualize fully, as I talked about in a recent post titled "HaShem." But we Evangelicals believe that regardless of our ability to completely understand God's nature, He is above all, three in one. And so Jesus, "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedience to death--even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8). This is the Gospel, and it would not be possible without the God-man. If God were not an incarnational God, we would be stuck making sacrifices once a year to get close to Him.

Finally, He made Himself small by giving us the Holy Spirit. And this is no small thing. To have the Spirit of a Holy God residing within our hearts is a mighty thing, indeed! There are many who want to de-emphasize this revelation, and others still who want to overemphasize it. It's important for us to remember the significance of God's promise to His people in Jeremiah 31:31-33:
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" I'll write more about the nature of God's covenant with His people in a coming post, but for now lets suffice to say that this promise was fulfilled at Pentacost when the Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of the believers. We can stand on the promise that the Spirit will guide us in all truth (John 16:13), will intercede for us on behalf of God the Father (Romans 8:27), and will impart perfect peace (Romans 8:6).

And so, as Tozer has said "God hides nothing. His very work from the beginning is a revelation--a casting aside of veil after veil, a showing unto men truth after truth." God, by His very nature is a God of revelation. He is incarnational in His approach to us, wanting us to get a taste of Him in this life so that we may feast on Him in the life that is to come. We may not have Him here with us in the flesh any longer, but we do have the assurance of God's presence through His Word and His Spirit. He is Immanuel.

For more on this concept, look for a post in the coming weeks about my favorite Jewish holiday and some pretty profound Messianic traditions!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

1 comment:

Jason said...

We praise Him every day for His presence with us! I wanted to comment on what you wrote about God being a God of revelations who WANTS us to discover Him. Just last night, we were talking to the kids about how there have been many discoveries that have changed the way people thought about our world (ex. earth is round, sun does not go around the earth, etc.). Jason mentioned the verse in Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter." He explained to the kids that it's like God has little surprises hidden in the things He has created, and He is thrilled when we discover them! I thought that was a simple, yet profound way to put it.
* Looking forward to your coming post about the New Covenant! A topic close to my heart!