At the center of life there is a longing.
If our possessions crowd every inch of space in the house, garage, and rented storage space, we can still see something we do not possess and long for it. It is just the way we are. At the dawn of man’s existence, fellowship with God was broken by sin. Adam and Eve “walked with God in the cool of the day.” This provocative description describes an intimacy of creature with Creator that we cannot really understand. Still, we can long for it, and we do.
- The restlessness deep in each of us testifies to it.
- The drive to learn, to understand, and to explore, is evidence of this longing.
- The need to own more and more, to control events and people, and to organize the universe around our desires is the residue of an unfulfilled longing for fellowship with our Creator.
Ancient Israel Longed for Messiah, sometimes.
They knew they were “God’s Chosen People.” They knew also that this was as much a curse as it was a blessing.
- They had to fight their way through their Land of Promise.
- There was an inconvenient connection between true worship of God and victory over their enemies. When their worship was true, their borders were safe. When they forsook Jehovah their borders were porous.
- Their beliefs were spiritual not material, rooted in an invisible world of faith rather than in the tangible, visible world around them.
Why couldn’t they have good, solid idols to pray to like all the other peoples of the earth and practical, sensual rituals like the pagans around them? They had been short-changed—only one god—and he could not be seen! Their seasons of faithfulness were outnumbered by their many apostasies.
By the time of Jesus, Israel was a bundle of conflicting longings. Their leadership was divided into competing factions. Corruption connected religious leaders with political ones. Only a faithful remnant called upon the Lord.
A Sign from Heaven
There was a remnant who continued to seek the face of God. They had the Book of the Law, God’s own words to them. They had priests and prophets and a Temple to call them to faithfulness. Isaiah was a prophet whose writings defined their longings.
- Someday God would give a sign—a virgin would conceive and bear a son. His name? Emmanuel—“God with us!”
- This child, this Emmanuel, will not dwell in obscurity—He will be King!—A King with Us!
- He will take the government on His broad shoulders and He will be called my many names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace. His ever-increasing Kingdom would emanate from the throne of His Father, David, and it will have no end.
This longing fueled the prayers of the faithful through the dark nights of Roman tyranny and the depressing days of religious corruption. They must have reasoned to themselves, “When Emmanuel comes, surely we will walk with God again, in the cool of the day.”
Little did they know! Emmanuel—God with Us—would indeed walk this earth in holiness to redeem all who call upon in truth. “Unto us a Child is born!”
Genesis 3:8 NKJV
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Isaiah 7:13-15 NKJV
Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Isaiah 9:2-7 NKJV
The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian. For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Matthew 1:22-25 NKJV
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Lord Jesus, like ancient Israel, my heart longs for You. You are, indeed, Emmanuel, God with Us! We do, indeed, walk together in the cool shadows of this day of Your amazing grace, sins forgiven, the Spirit in residence within, and a squad of guarding angels patrolling on every side. What else could I long for? Only more of You for all my loved ones and for all those I contact today. Help me point them to You! Help me love them with Your love. Somehow, let them see that You long to be their Emmanuel, too! Thank You, Jesus! Amen.
O Come, O Come Immanuel
Ancient Christian Chant
1. O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
2. O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain
3. O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain
4. O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain
5. O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain
6. O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain
7. O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved