Immanuel means we have become children

How "God with us" is more than "God close to us"

Most of my personal struggles come down to my failure to securely rest in the love of God. As children adopted into the family of God, we can never quite rest in our identity as children and heirs. The trauma of our past keeps us uneasy in our bodies, hearts, and minds, always deeply convinced that we will say something, do something, or be something that will expose the limits of our Father’s love — that it is just a matter of time before we find ourselves on our own again.

We need to take Jesus’ identity as Immanuel, “God with us,” deep into our bones.

Jesus is not “God close to us.” He’s not “God close enough for us to finally know who he is.” Yes, Jesus reveals the Father to us, but Jesus doesn’t simply reveal God to us as information — “These are cognitive truths about God that you need to know.” Jesus reveals God to us as Father. One of my favorite books as a new Christian put it this way: This is the God you can know — intimately know.

When Scripture identifies Jesus as “God with us,” it places the emphasis on the “with.” “God with us.” Jesus is the embodiment of God’s covenant-making and covenant-keeping love.

Photo by Stacy Leigh Hutchens

God makes his goal pretty clear in Scripture. Forty-eight times across the entire canon of Scripture God records his covenant goal, either in part or in whole, what biblical scholars call the Covenant Formula: “I will be your God, and you shall be my people” (e.g., Exod 6:7; Rev 21:3, 7).

This is God’s great desire. God wants to dwell with us, to love us, and to be loved by us. Certainly, God’s chief end is to be glorified, but if we miss the fact that he plans to be glorified through a loving covenant relationship with us, then we’ve missed almost everything. God wasn’t satisfied with a sort-of platonic human-divine relationship, in which we unemotionally recognize his immense worth and superiority. God condescended himself to make a covenant with us and sealed that covenant with the blood of his precious, only-begotten Son. God made it clear that he wanted to be with us.

This is God’s great desire. God wants to dwell with us, to love us, and to be loved by us.

Did we deserve this love? Certainly not! But he has given it. Our legalistic instincts tell us we have to earn this love or keep this love, and we constantly fear that we will lose this love or that our mistakes will result in a lessening of this love.

But the birth of Jesus beckons us to take a deep breath, to loosen our rigid bodies, and to embrace the Father who through Christ has run to embrace us. Immanuel means we have become children, and nothing can separate us from this love.

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Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a missionary to Malawi and president of Gospel Life. Before becoming president of Gospel Life, he served as a pastor in Kentucky. He is married to Stacy Leigh, and they have five children.

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