Immanuel, God With Us

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”—C.S. Lewis

Advent season and the celebration of Christmas invites us once again to remember, retell, and celebrate the whole drama of God’s revelation. One of my favorite things to reflect on throughout the year, but especially at Christmas, is Immanuel—God with us.

Up until a few years ago, Immanuel was a name associated with Jesus that I only heard at Christmas time (“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” Isaiah 7:14, Matt. 1:23).  However, in college I read a book about all of the different covenants God made with man and I began to realize that this theme of Immanuel was surprisingly more prevalent than I had initially understood. At the heart of all of God’s interactions with man in the covenants is the “Immanuel principle,” which goes something like this: “I will be their God and they will be my people, and I will dwell among them.” We forfeited our close relationship with God when we disobeyed Him in the Garden of Eden. Since then, God has been relentlessly working out His plan of redemption, and throughout history this Immanuel principle is evident as we look back on each of the covenants God made with man.

God enters into a covenant with Abraham and promises to make Abraham into a great nation and give his descendants the land of Canaan. “I will be their God,” He declares in Genesis 17:8. During the time of Moses, God gives His people the Law, an externalized summation of God’s will. He travels with the Israelites as they wander the desert, in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He commands His people to build Him the tabernacle, a special tent in which the Lord in all His glory dwelt in the midst of His people. “I will put my dwelling [literally tabernacle] among you…I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:11–12, see also Exodus 29:45–46, 40:34–38). In the time of David, the Lord says, “Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you…I will be His father and he will be my son” (2 Samuel 7: 5, 11, 14). God shall maintain His permanent dwelling place as king in Israel through the kingship of the Davidic line.

One of my favorite passages that ties together all of these covenants is Ezekiel 37:24-28:

“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd (Davidic covenant). They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statues (Mosaic covenant). They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived (allusion to the Abrahamic covenant with the Promised Land). They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

The Immanuel principle reaches its climax through its embodiment in a single person, not in the tabernacle or the temple, but in Christ Himself: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14). In Hebrews we learn that all of the covenants God made with His people in the old testament all pointed to Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to usher in a new covenant (Jeremiah 31: 31–34, Hebrews 8:10).

Jesus dwelt among His people for a time, entered into the great battle against Satan, and became the perfect, acceptable sacrifice for our sins. He did what we could never do so that we could be reconciled to God. Jesus became a man—humbled Himself and took on flesh—so that through His death and resurrection we could become sons of God. When Christ ascended into heaven, He graciously gave us the Holy Spirit who lives in the hearts of men—God with us: “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people’” (2 Corinthians 6:16). The last echo of the covenantal Immanuel theme appears in Revelation as John sees a vision of the new heaven and new earth and hears a loud voice proclaiming, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself with be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3).

Herein lies the good news of Christmas: Christ came as a baby, was born “in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7–8). Christ who was “born a child and yet a King” serves as the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption so that God can be our God, we can be His people, and He can dwell among us.

It is amazing to look back over the history of God’s dealing with man and marvel at His love, patience, graciousness, and great faithfulness at work in the covenants. We see how His beautiful plan, even from the beginning, was to be accomplished in Jesus, whose coming to earth we celebrate during Advent. I hope the scriptures that display this unifying thread give you a renewed appreciation for what Immanuel—God with us—means this Christmas.

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel
Hark! The Herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn king!’”

–Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing

1 reply
  1. Ian Shire
    Ian Shire says:

    This name of God is awe-inspiring. Andie, you have highlighted the real joy of this season: remembering Christ is Immanuel, God With Us! This review of His covenant is gripping and refreshing. Thank you. Father, Your covenant promises are fulfilled completely in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ! May His Spirit’s presence in us refresh us and renew us this season at Christmas. Thank You for our sister, Andie. We love You. Amen


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