What does Immanuel mean?

Immanuel, sometimes spelled Emmanuel, is the symbolic and prophetic name of the Messiah used in both Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23. When Mary's pregnancy with Jesus became known to Joseph, an angel told Joseph in a dream that the son Mary bore was "conceived in her . . . from the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). The Gospel writer then goes on to say, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1:22–23). Hundreds of years before Jesus' birth, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that the Messiah would be known by this title of Immanuel. The angel was confirming to Joseph that Mary's son truly was the promised Messiah who would "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

So what does this title of the Messiah mean? As the Gospel writer explained, Immanuel means "God with us." It is made up of two Hebrew words: 'im and 'el. 'Im means "with, equally with, together, at the same time." And 'el means "God, the Almighty." So when placed together, Immanuel means "God, the Almighty come to be together with us." Jesus is God come down to earth in human form. Colossians 2:9 states, "For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." Jesus is truly God dwelling with us in human form.

God has longed to be with His people from the beginning. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve "heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day . . . [calling] 'Where are you?'" (Genesis 3:8, 9). Later, God promised "I am with you" to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and to his son Jacob (Genesis 28:15). He told Moses "I will be with you" (Exodus 3:12). Moses reminded the Israelites, "These forty years the LORD your God has been with you" (Deuteronomy 2:7). God told the prophet Jeremiah, "I am with you" (Jeremiah 1:8) and then commanded both Jeremiah and Isaiah to encourage the nation of Israel with that same message (Isaiah 41:10). Haggai repeated God's promise of "I am with you" (Haggai 1:13; 2:4). Ultimately, Jesus Himself told His disciples, "behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

The way God is with us to the end of the age is through the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to the Spirit as "another Helper, to be with you forever" (John 14:16), thus fulfilling God's promise when He said, "I will put my Spirit within you" (Ezekiel 36:27). Finally, at the end of time, Revelation records, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God" (Revelation 21:3).

We serve a God who desires to be Immanuel, God living together with us; a God who incarnated Himself to live as a man among us; a God who made a way to be with us forever through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross; a God who then sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in us now; and a God who will one day dwell with us in eternity. The title of Immanuel reveals that our God is a relational God who loves to be with His people.

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