One thing that I like to do during my prayer and devotional times is to reflect and pray the names of God. Herbert Gabhart wrote a book The Name Above Every Name in which he wrote a devotional on every name of Jesus. There are enough devotionals to provide one every day for a year. Who would have thought there were so many names for Him!
One of my favorite names for Jesus is Immanuel. Immanu is Hebrew for “with us.” El refers to Elohim, or God. God is with us. He is not a god who is “Up there,” not an unreachable god on a pedestal. He is right here with us.
Think for a minute about that term. To be with someone is probably the ultimate compliment we can give. We are choosing to spend our time with this other person. “Will you go to dinner with me?” “Would you like to go to a concert?” Would you marry me and spend the rest of your life with me?” Anne Murray recorded a song “Can I Have This Dance?” The lyrics, in part, read:
“Could I have this dance
For the rest of my life
Could you be my partner
When we’re together
It feels so right
Could I have this dance
For the rest of my life”
To me, this is a human expression of the ultimate “with you.” God has promised to be with us. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus stated “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Jesus has promised to be with us always. There are no conditions once we become one of His. And he punctuates his promise by saying “Amen.” I don’t know if Jesus whispered it softly. He was speaking to the remaining 11 disciples, so this would be understandable. But I can see him shouting His final words to them. He wanted to be certain that they heard and understood him. We often make a big deal about a person’s final words. What wisdom does he/she have, what do they want to tell us, speaking to us for the last time? These were Jesus’ final words on earth. I can see him loudly proclaiming it, maybe even staring at Peter and the other disciples. His look said “Do you get this?” Do we get it?
It is one thing to acknowledge that God is always with us in an intangible sort of way. Even though I may not be physically present with a friend or loved one, I may feel like I am with them in my thoughts, at least. But God is not with us in that way. He is here, with us right now. He came to earth to be a part of mankind. He came as a baby with all the physical characteristics of an infant. Imagine Mary burping Jesus on her shoulder, changing His diaper. He became one of us, entering our world, so that we might enter His.
You might say “I don’t feel God next to me.” Max Lucado answers that by saying that God goes to those who have time to hear him. Initially, His coming was announced to some shepherds. They were of no social standing, they were guarding sheep in the night. Time was the one thing they had plenty of. So God got their attention. Someone once said “If you don’t feel God is close to you, guess who moved.” God is there, but he doesn’t command us to accept him. We can ignore Him and we just sort of forget him. But He is still there, placing people or events in our midst to try and get our attention.
In his book Jesus: The God Who Knows Your Name, Max Lucado states: “God’s nature would not hold him in heaven. It led him to earth. In God’s great gospel he not only sends, but he also becomes; he not only looks down, but he also lives among; he not only talks to us, but he also lives with us as one of us.”
Immanuel – God with us. That is almost incomprehensible. But praise God, it is fact.