Immanuel is one of Christ’s most precious names. It is a combination of two Hebrew words that together mean “God with us.” The gospel of Matthew explains that Christ received this name in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
For many people, the name Immanuel has a nice ring to it that suggests comfort and hope in times of trouble. Yet there is a lot more substance and significance to this name. The encouragement Christians can take from this name is no mere vague impression or passing emotion. The truth conveyed by this name has both a glorious beauty and a wide range of blessings attached to it.
The Beauty of Immanuel
The Bible uses the name Immanuel mostly in connection with the incarnation of Christ. The first time we hear this name is when Isaiah prophesied the virgin birth of Christ: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
Isaiah spoke these words to Ahaz, king of Judah, who was being threatened by surrounding nations. When you read the context you find that, sadly, Ahaz had no interest in God being with him. Despite that, Isaiah told him a person named “God with us” would come. In the fullness of time, Christ would become incarnate in order to bring God’s presence to us. He would be born of a virgin, thus escaping the corruption of David’s line while remaining David’s son.
Christ is an incarnate Savior. That’s the beauty of Immanuel. He didn’t come as an angel or some spirit manifesting itself from time to time. He took to Himself bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. No other religion can give such comfort and hope.
The Blessings of Immanuel
Because the Son of God took to Himself our nature, there are a myriad of blessings represented in His name Immanuel:
1. He is God-with-us to reconcile sinners to God. Man is born alienated from God, and God can have no fellowship with Him because of sin. But Immanuel came to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). He gave His life as an offering for sin so that sinners can be brought back into fellowship with God (1 John 1:3). On the cross He could promise the repentant thief that he would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43), that is to say, in fellowship with God.
2. He is God-with-us to guide, empower, and expand His church. Having ascended into heaven, Christ is now no longer with believers physically here on earth. Yet as the Heidelberg Catechism expresses so beautifully, “with respect to His Godhead, majesty, grace and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us” (Q&A 47). At the close of the gospel of Matthew, Immanuel promised His church, “Behold, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).
3. He is God-with-us to comfort His people. Think of Psalm 46, which so beautifully describes the encouraging presence of God in the midst of very chaotic circumstances. He is “a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). Christians need not fear, even when the earth shakes and kingdoms rage. God’s presence with His people is constant: “The Lord of hosts is with us” (vv. 7, 11). Believer, God is near you, to help and protect you.
4. He is God-with-us to bring His people to glory. We read in Revelation 21:3 of the new heavens and the new earth, where “God himself shall be with them.” In glory, the presence of God with His people will be perfect and uninterrupted. Revelation 22:4 tells us that they shall even see His face.
Do you believe this record God has given of Immanuel? Do you see how low Christ stooped to be God-with-sinners? Do you experience the blessings of God-with-us? These can only be ours through a new birth from above. His birth calls us to ask: Have I been born again? If so, He is your Immanuel.
This article was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.