God With Us
by Jason Overman
The Bible is a fascinating collage of story and song, wisdom and rules, promises and prophecy, letters and news and history, and so much more. All of it is God’s Word, an assorted composition that touches the ordinary and extraordinary of life. Mysteriously united by the Holy Spirit, it is God’s transforming revelation to us.
Amid all this divine diversity, fundamental themes and recurring patterns appear. One of the most ubiquitous, comforting, and deep running of these is the beautiful truth of “God with us.” Immanuel is the Hebrew word and name for this principle. Concretely revealed first as a promised baby by the prophet Isaiah, this prophecy finds its full expression in the birth of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
That the good news of “God with us” is revealed most explicitly by way of a baby’s birth, an embodied life inhabited by God unites His ways and His presence with our deepest and most ordinary experiences of hope and joy: new life!
Jesus, in birth and life and death and resurrection, is the fundamental and focal expression of Immanuel, God with us. This reminds us that the Creator and Redeemer of heaven and earth desires to be present with us, is intimately present, ever present in every situation. The psalmist expresses what all strands of Scripture witness: God is near, with us in the good and bad, the high and low — through it all:
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
The truth that the psalmist sings is manifest directly in Christ. He shares our joys; He suffers our trouble — death itself. The declaration of Immanuel begins the story of Jesus at conception, and God with us finishes His story too. To the twelve disciples, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus said last of all:
“And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:20).
From alpha to omega, Immanuel. Jesus. From beginning to end, God with us. Jesus. Always. With. Us. Is there a more comforting assurance in all the Bible and for all ages? This is the singular biblical truth pasted across every genre of its vast collage, because all Scripture derives from, points to, and reveals Jesus Christ.
God was present with His people long before He came to earth as a man. When Jacob fled Esau, God went with him. When he returned years later, God was still there (Genesis 28:15; 31:3). When Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, God went with him. And when he was reunited with his family at the end, God was there (39:2; 48:21). Before Israel’s exodus from bondage, God said, “I go with you.” And decades later, on the banks of the Promised Land, He reminded them, “I am present and go with you still” (Exodus 3:18; Deuteronomy 20:4).
Before climaxing in the person of Jesus Christ, this blessed and comforting refrain is repeated again and again by Israel’s poets and prophets: “Do not fear; God is with you” (Psalm 73:23; Isaiah 8:10; Jeremiah 1:8; Amos 5:14; Zechariah 8:23). Yes, it is the coordinating theme subtly coloring the whole collage of Scripture and faith, and Jesus is its personal face.
What is your story? What are your ups and downs, highs and lows, beginnings and endings? This truth orients all believers in Jesus and calls to those who don’t know Him. We need to remember and repeat it in our life and times, in the church, over and again: Fear not; God is with us in Christ.
Immanuel goes with us even to the ends of the earth. Amen!
Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.