“‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23, ESV).
I realized after posting the quote last week that I had really jumped the gun. We will get to that quote, and more of what it entails, soon enough. But this week I want to look at the name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:1 identifies Jesus and specifically points out that He is the Messiah (Christ). Our text quotes Isaiah 7:14 and identifies one of the roles that Jesus fulfilled. I’m sure that all of us who grew up in the Church know immediately what that name, Immanuel, means. “God with us.”
The concept wasn’t completely foreign to the Israelites in Moses’ time. God’s presence with them was demonstrated in several ways. They knew God was with them when the waters of the Sea of Reeds parted before them. They saw that they were in the midst of God’s presence by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). The Tent of Meeting, and most notably the Ark of the Covenant, was at a minimum symbolic of God’s presence with them.
Through the periods of the kings, judges and prophets, as Israel maintained an on-again-off-again relationship with God, He made Himself known to them whenever they repented of their infidelity. Then, in the roughly four centuries between the prophets and the advent of Jesus there was nothing. This intertestamental period has been referred to as the “silent years,” as God didn’t speak through prophets, or any other obvious way. I’m sure many felt that God was no longer with them. Sure, the Israelites still believed that Messiah would come, but they had endured so many silent and oppressed years that they weren’t really sure what He would look like when He came. In fact, it seems as though they were looking for a result (deliverance from the oppression of Rome) more than they were looking for God.
Enter Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.
Fast forward a couple thousand years. While enlightened about the identity of the Messiah (Christ), many of us are still trying to fit Him into a box. We have heard that He is a healer, so we expect that He will always heal; and when He doesn’t choose to heal us or a loved one we grow discouraged with Him. Our faith is shaken. We have heard that He is gracious, so we expect that He will forgive us without expecting that us to change. Some of us like the idea of a Savior but redefine His identity such that He is made in our image.
So, what does this have to do with bearing His Name well?
Bearing His name is about an identity, not ours but His. When we claim “Christian” as our identity, everything about us should show the world that Immanuel, God is with us. Bearing His name is a solemn commitment. We are representatives of God. So when we mold Him to fit our image we slander His name.
So, it is our responsibility to show the world that God is with us. And it is also our responsibility to show them who He truly is.
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Photo by Garrett Jackson on Unsplash