Knowing the One called Emmanuel
“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
How Could They Not Recognize Him?
The passage above is just one of the many prophecies (foretellings) in the Old Testament of the Bible about the “Messiah.” The man that those who held to the Jewish faith believed would come to be the Savior of the world. They held out hope for this Anointed One long before He was born in a manger on the day we have now dedicated as “Christmas.” You can imagine the whispers on the streets as they awaited with wonder at who this Messiah could be. “Will He really fulfill all that has been said about Him? When will He come? Will we recognize Him when He does?” There were so many preconceived notions about this man and how he would come that many missed His strikingly humble arrival. But it’s not like there was a giant star in the sky or choir of angels to announce His birth, right?
If you’ve read the story of Jesus’ birth (which I recommend you do… Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1-2) you know that those things did, in fact, happen. Yet so many people missed the connection of the Messiah they dreamed of to this child named Jesus who grew up to perform miracles, teach of His Father’s kingdom, and love in a way that no one had seen or experienced before. Not only did they fail to recognize Jesus as the One who could redeem them from their laws and religion (things which lead only to hopelessness), but they rejected and ridiculed Him, too! “Let us challenge this man,” the Pharisees said. “Let’s spy on him and test his teaching.” They even went so far as to put Jesus to death on the cross, the lowest and most shameful way to die. How can this be? How could they be so convinced of their own efforts of righteousness that they were so offended by the way Jesus presented? Their structures and traditions were things they could not seem to look past in order to finally see that righteousness can only be accessible in Christ, abiding in and following He who gave up His own life to save those in sin (which is everyone!).
If you continue reading the story of Jesus, past birth, you’ll read about His death. You’ll read about how He rose up from the grave in, what I believe to be, the greatest display of strength in history. And about how He ascended to his home in Heaven with promises to return someday to triumph over darkness once and for all and reign with us for eternity. We know how the story ends. An ending which the people who turned their backs on Jesus, killing Him out of their own fear and doubt, did not expect at the time. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,” was Jesus’ prayer even as He took His last breaths.
Reading the story, I must admit, I responded with frustration toward those who so easily dismissed Him. After you cried out for this Savior for so long! How could you not know Him?! He’s the One you’ve been waiting for!
Do We Recognize Him Today?
I wonder how often we dismiss the presence of God in our own lives because we simply haven’t taken the time to get to know who He is. How often do we miss where He is and what He’s doing because it’s not quite what we expected? Maybe you feel like you know Him pretty well already; after all, you read the Bible and pray everyday. Or maybe you’ve been doing things on your own for so many years that you’ve subconsciously closed the door to what God may be saying to you. “I haven’t had any problems on my own up until now.” Right? Or maybe you’ve been believing God for something in your life and it didn’t come through as you expected, so you gave up trying to get to know the heart of God for you and for your life. I’ve been there. But the good news is this: Jesus did not come into the world only to save it.
Galatians 4:3-5 says this, “We, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Jesus came to extend an invitation into the family of God. Now that we’ve been saved, we have an open invitation to become God’s sons and daughters. A Father knows His children, and this particular Father has given us the opportunity to know Him as well. He may not always come as we expect. But He will always come. God holds nothing back from someone who is earnestly (humbly, free from preconceived notions or selfish desires) seeking to know His heart and intentions. And what a reason to celebrate!
Whether you’re reading this blog as someone who believes in Jesus and what He did thousands of years ago, or as someone who doesn’t personally know that reality, the opportunity is the same. There is always more to know about God. Maybe that is why our number one value in YWAM is to Know God. YWAM is committed to know God, His nature, His character and His ways. We seek to reflect who He is in every aspect of our lives and ministry. The automatic overflow of knowing and enjoying fellowship with God is a desire to share Him with others.
Knowing God is important for anyone, but there’s an extra measure of accountability attached to it when you’re involved in ministry. It’s simple really: How can you portray to others, whether through word or deed, the character and nature of God if you don’t really know it yourself? How can you help others to recognize Him if you don’t really know what He looks like?
As a christian and a leader in whatever sphere you find yourself in (ministry, business, government), people will trust you to make decisions as someone who holds Godly values at the core of who they are. No one wants to be lied to, misunderstood, or mislead. There is a call placed on our lives to always keep our eyes open, to seek to know and understand God in every area of life. Whether big or small, significant or seemingly insignificant, God is revealing Himself to us. Let’s not miss out on the invitation to know Him in the way so many did at His birth!
How Do We Get To Know Him?
It’s a good questions! At this point some of you may even be thinking, “ok, I get that I need to know God in order to really recognize Him, relationship with Him, be like Him… But how do I get to know Him in the first place?” It seems daunting, I’ll admit. An invisible God, who most often speaks to us through the Word and by impressing things on our hearts. Sounds a little vague. The really beautiful thing though is that God has already given us the best way to get to know Him. It’s Jesus! The baby born in a manger! The Prince of Peace; Savior of the World! Jesus was the perfect reflection of the Father. He constantly did what the Father was doing. We know that God is compassionate and forgiving because of the way He treated the woman caught in adultery in John 8. When everyone expected Him to uphold the law and sentence her to be stoned, He deterred her persecutors and forgave her. So we know that this is who the Father is, too! Therefore we know that any voice which condemns, which says that you are a bad person and must be punished, is not the voice of God! It contradicts His character displayed through Jesus!
Getting to know God is just like getting to know a person. The more time you spend getting to know their life, how they behave, what they say, and the more time that you spend with them, the more you know them! If someone came to me and said, “Hey your dad is here. He said that He’s about to leave for the Maldives for a 2 month vacation so you should go say bye.” I would know immediately that they were not talking about my dad! My dad is one of the most hard working, responsible, caring people I know. There is no chance that he would just up and leave his job and his family for 2 months with no forethought or warning. My 25 years of experience with my dad means that I know what his character, therefore I know what behaviors are or aren’t a reflection of that character. No one could fool me into thinking my dad would do something contrary to his nature.
Getting to know someone takes time and takes intentionality. It takes intimacy. As you go through this Christmas season, I encourage you to not allow the busyness of it all to get in the way of what awaits us. It’s the promise of the experiential knowledge of a Savior who came to earth many years ago, and who will return someday in utmost Glory. No one will miss Him then, but let us take advantage of the privilege we have access to now: To know the Highest of Kings, the Messiah, the Savior of the World, the One true God.