Seven Epithets: 5.5 Immanuel (עמּנו אל) God with Us

Immanuel is Hebrew and means God is with us (Imanu’El). It is often stylised to conform to the Greek and Latin pattern as Emmanuel, and we can be drawn immediately into Christmas thoughts – go on, admit it: you were already thinking of the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”!

A quick digression: The complete hymn was originally written in Latin (“Veni, veni Emmanuel”), but has its origins in the O Antiphons –  Advent Vespers sung from the 6th Century onwards in Italy. These shorter lines were then paraphrased by Cynewulf, an Anglo Saxon poet who lived about 200 years after, but was inspired directly by, Cædmon. So we are looking at a link with Celtic Christianity, with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” being rendered as “O curna O curna alwealda ben ús.”

Isaiah set out the prophecy clearly:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Matthew was particular and precise in how he set out his Gospel, in the facts that underpinned the narrative. Having recited the earthly lineage of Jesus, he then referred back to that earlier prophecy set down by Isaiah, to show it had been fulfilled:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’). (Matthew 1:23)

Immanuel is a name of God, and means so much more than the Baby in the manger, even though it appears only three times in the Bible (plus one further reference to it).

After the initial prophecy, we next  find it when the Lord is speaking to Isaiah and telling him that the people have rejected the Lord and that Assyria will invade, but will not conquer Judah. As part of this, the Lord tells Isaiah that the raging and powerful floodwaters of the Euphrates River (meaning the king of Assyria with all his power) will come …

“…and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it,
    passing through it and reaching up to the neck.
Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land,
(Isaiah 8:8)

Did you see the significance of the name there? Of God’s constancy to us? Immanuel – God with us – even in in those times, God would be with His people. He would not abandon them. They brought about pain, and God allowed Assyria to invade as part of that pain, but God did not run out on them; He stayed. He loved. He forgave.

The Lord provides us with all strength. The enemy makes plans against us in an attempt to fight the Lord, comes against us in an attempt to defeat the Lord. But that battle comes to nothing because Immanuel; it comes to nothing because God is with us.

Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
    propose your plan, but it will not stand,
    for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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