Then the Lord said to me, Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, “Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz,” and have it attested for me by reliable witnesses, the priest Uriah and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah. And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; for before the child knows how to call “My father” or “My mother,” the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria. The Lord spoke to me again: Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and melt in fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah; therefore, the Lord is bringing up against it the mighty flood waters of the River, the king of Assyria and all his glory; it will rise above all its channels and overflow all its banks; it will sweep on into Judah as a flood, and, pouring over, it will reach up to the neck; and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel. Band together, you peoples, and be dismayed; listen, all you far countries; gird yourselves and be dismayed; gird yourselves and be dismayed! Take counsel together, but it shall be brought to naught; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. He will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; for both houses of Israel he will become a rock one stumbles over—a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken. Isaiah 8:1-15 (NRSV)
Immanuel, (or the Latinized version Emmanuel) literally means “God with us”. I that if I had to summarize all 66 chapters of the prophet Isaiah, I could not do better than that. Immanuel. God with us.
The impact of that is enormous! If God walked into my living room today, I would have about ten different emotions going through me. That’s about 9 more than I can normally handle at a time. I think my mind would be filled with wonder and worry all at once. I’d probably just stand there speechless and hope I didn’t drool. To believe that God could become a human being is one thing. Meeting Him in person is another thing altogether.
Israel was not looking for God in flesh. They only desired the return of His presence, noted most importantly by His favor. They wanted the blessing, not the Blesser Himself. God just wanted them.
God’s presence means more than just good times for all his people. It means judgment too. I think He chooses to begin judgment with His own people because He knows we can be better with His guidance. His judgment tempered with His mercy transforms us from fallen creatures into a new creation by being a “rock” or “snare”, as Isaiah puts it, that trips us up and captures anyone who crosses His path. There is no escape from God. He is coming. He will not stay away.
Many of us find God by being tripped up and falling, or by being caught in a snare and in need of rescue. But we do not have to wait to hit rock bottom before coming to God. He is ready and waiting for us right now. His only desire is to be with us. God wants to come be with us, so that we can learn to come and live in Him. Will you welcome God into your sanctuary today so that He can become your sanctuary Himself?
- What part of your life do you wish God was more present in?
- What in your life do you wish God would leave alone?
- What is different about the way you see yourself when you are spending time in God’s presence?
All that is within me cries
For you alone be glorified