Sunday, December 10, 2017

More than a name - Immanuel

Do you know the meaning of your name? There is something fascinating about why you were given your name and what it means. Those I know who have done family history, especially with family links to England, are constantly amazed at who it includes. Of course, Biblically we are not surprised at the importance attached to being given a name, or having it changed. We see that in such cases as Abram into Abraham, Jacob into Israel, Cephas into Peter. There is also the prophetic aspect inherent in names.

As Christmas creeps up on us one name will emerge and linger for a time. Immanuel! However, is this merely a name or is it a prophetic description defining the person? Both! Isaiah 7:14  is where the name emerges and points beyond that moment to a future event. That was fulfilled with the announcement by Gabriel to Mary that the child she was to bear would be Jesus, and also be Immanuel.

In the Old Testament  the Creator is seen as being keen to share in the life of His chosen people. When the tabernacle furnishings were complete the ark of the covenant became the symbol of His presence. When the Nation was on its marches the ark was carried in the midst of the tribes who travelled under their respective banners. That underlies the meaning of Immanuel. It is 'God with us' God in our midst.'

At Christmas time when we apply the name to Jesus it arouses certain strong feelings. Is it merely a name or is it descriptive of the very nature of the Man? "Who do you say I am" was the challenge of Jesus to His disciples. Peter's response showed his growing awareness "You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God!" (Matthew 16:16). That would be challenged repeatedly until after the resurrection from the tomb Thomas reaffirmed it most emphatically. He said ""My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). From that moment on the awareness grew about the babe of Bethlehem, the man of Galilee, the Rabbi of Nazareth and the crucified one. He was Immanuel in the flesh. The mystery of the Godhead revealed in the one designated as 'The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world' (John 1:29).

Of course there are those who disagree. That is their privilege. It should be treated with respect. It is also their danger. That should make us sad on their behalf. Why? Because of what Peter talked about from the day of Pentecost. There is no other Name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). This is reaffirming what Jesus said about Himself prior to the cross (John 14:6). That salvation embraces numerous factors and most would be expresses of His Christmas name and designation, Immanuel. For it is His desire to turn our lives from 'slum city' into the 'Temple of God' by His indwelling presence. It is His promise that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is in their midst. It is the declaration of Scripture at a future point in God's purposes Jesus will reign in the midst of the Nations  - that will be from Jerusalem!

Jesus is Immanuel in both name and person. The question all will face again at Christmas time is 'do I believe it?' If so how do I live out that relationship in my life?

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