In my last blog, I talked about the Incarnation – the idea about God taking on humanity in the form of a baby. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to this event. One of the most well-known is:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14 NASB).
In the New Testament, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’” (Matt. 1:23 NASB).
What is significant about this name – Immanuel – is that it proclaims that God is with us.
Looking back to the time of Moses, we see the law being given. Moses leads the children of Israel (and the adults, too) to Mt. Sinai in order to hear God pronounce His commands for the people. After God had spoken, Moses records this in Exodus:
“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’” (Ex. 20:18-19 ESV).
The people wanted God to be near them, but not with them. If He had anything to say, then Moses could go to Him and take a message and then deliver it himself. They were too afraid of the presence of God to actually be in the presence of God.
Once the tabernacle was built, a room was created called “The Most Holy Place”, or “The Holy of Holies”. This room was separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a large veil, or a curtain. This is where the Arc of the Covenant was housed, which represented the presence of God. Once a year (See Heb. 9:7) the high priest entered this room to make atonement for his sins, and then the people’s sins. Their access to God was made through the high priest.
Fast forward to Jesus’ birth. Here He is called Immanuel – God With Us. Here, for the first time, God was with us in a physical form. Throughout His human ministry, He continued to be God With Us.
When Christ died, the temple veil was torn (see Matt. 27:51) from top to bottom, revealing to the everyday people what was in the Holy of Holies. Again, this is where the presence of God dwelt. I don’t mean to make it sound like this is the only place God was. After all, He is omnipresent – everywhere at the same time. However, this was the place designated for the high priest to come into the presence of God. When the veil was torn, it was like God was saying that the need for this room had ceased. Jesus’ blood was all the atonement that ever needed to be paid. Access to His presence was now open to all, not limited to a once-a-year visit by the priest on our behalf. By tearing this veil, God was inviting all of us into His presence at any and all times. We are being told that God is with us whenever we choose to be with Him.
I am adding a link to a YouTube video of Michael Card’s Immanuel. The lyrics are included on the video.