God has always been “Immanuel”

Tonight marks the beginning of Advent.  The word advent means coming or arriving.  This is the season of the year where we celebrate the first coming of Jesus, and we prepare ourselves for His second coming, His second Advent.

During Advent, we read verses like John 1:14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling… (WHERE?) …among us.

Matthew 1.23We read Matthew 1:23, and we learn one of the primary names that Jesus, the Messiah, would be known by: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us”.

But “Immanuel” is not just a new idea God had in Jesus; God has always been the God who is with us.  One of the names God was known by throughout the Old Testament was Jehovah Shammah, which means “The Lord God who is here”.

Genesis 39:1-4Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.  The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.

Fast forward a bit.  Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but Joseph refuses to give in, so she frames him for rape, and this is what happens:

Genesis 39:20-23Joseph’s master took him and put him in the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.  But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; God showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.  So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.  The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Are you picking up on a theme yet?…

Look in Exodus 3.  Moses was raised as a prince in the kingdom of Egypt. but then he got into some trouble and had to run away.  Now he lives alone in the desert with sheep, when God comes and calls him to go back to Egypt to rescue the Hebrews from slavery:

Exodus 3:10-12aGod said, “Now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  And God said, “I will be with you.”

Where is God in this story?  And where does God promise to be as He sends Moses?

Moving on to Exodus 33.  God has worked through Moses to deliver the people from Egypt, but now they are in the wilderness, complaining, and worshiping idols!

Exodus 33:12-16Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.  – (Wait, is that true?  No!) –  You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  Remember that this nation is your people.”  The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from this place.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?  For Your Presence among us is what distinguishes us from all the other people on the earth.”

Where is God?  Where does God promise to be in this story?

Turn to Joshua 1.  Moses has led the people up to the entrance to the Promised Land, but has died.  Now God calls Joshua to lead the people in to conquer the Promised Land.  This is what God says:

Immanuel collageJoshua 1:1-9 – “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Where is God in this story?  And where does He promise to be as He sends Joshua?

Look in 2 Chronicles 20.  God calls Jehoshaphat to lead Israel in battle against three massive enemies, who have all gathered together to attack Israel at the same time!

2 Chronicles 20:10-17Jehoshaphat says “Here are the armies from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir.  Our God, we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.  Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, and he said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them.  You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

Brothers and sisters, I ask you: where is God!?  Where is He in the battle?

  • Standing up on a distant hill, wishing you His best?
  • Or faraway, up in heaven, deeply concerned for your welfare?
  • NO!  He says, “I WILL BE WITH YOU!

Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

Psalm 23 teaches us that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not walk there alone!  Another walks with us: God is with us in the shadow.

Psalm 139:7-10Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

I’m asking you, where is God?!  Where was He then?  Where is He now?  Where has He always been!?

He is Jehovah Shammah, the Lord God who is here.  He is Immanuel, God with us.  He always has been, and He always will be.  In the next post, we will look at what Jesus secured for us, and at His promise to always be with us.

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