2016 Christmas message … Immanuel – עִמָּנוּאֵל – “God with us”

Immanuel

עִמָּנוּאֵל

“God with us”

Jesus with us and among us

 

Psalm 23(KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Psalm 23 is a very well-known message from the Bible.

It is short and easy to remember as there are only six verses to it.

It is comforting, encouraging, and it has a good ending.

First I like to bring your attention to v4

 

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

There are quite a few interpretations of the “rod” and “staff” and I want to address one important issue here. Imagine a herd of sheep going through valleys and mountains. Has anyone ever seen a “rod” and a “staff” floating in the air moving on its own? And those sheep were staring at that “rod” and “staff” floating in the air.

What am I trying to say here?

That “rod” and “staff” implied the presence of the shepherd and the sheep felt safe and secure as they recognized the presence of their shepherd.

It was not just any shepherd, but that shepherd whom the sheep knew.

In “the valley of the shadow of death” there will be fear and uncertainty …

Fear of the unknown

Uncertain of the future

Sense of danger

That “valley of the shadow of death” is a passing process and the sheep were looking forward to a better place, wherever their shepherd will lead them to.

Shepherd move sheep from place to place for green pastures and water and of course we already know, Psalm 23 is not just talking about sheep. It is a reflection of our journey of faith with Jesus, and let this message reach out to those who have yet to know Christ.

For us in our time reading Psalm 23, we already know that shepherd mentioned here refers to Jesus, the shepherd of our soul.

 

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God

 

I want to emphasis here that in Psalm 23, the most important character is the shepherd. And the most important personality in the whole of human history –

 

Jesus Christ, that same person who went to the cross, died for us to redeem us from sin and death.

The same Shepherd and Messiah, when He shall returns, the nation of Israel shall see those nails scared hands and His side that was pierced. (Zechariah 12:10)

 

In Psalm 23, the shepherd was there for an obvious purpose – to protect and to guide the sheep.

 

Jesus is with us and among us for the same purpose

Jesus is with us and among us to protect and to guide us

 

Let us go back to history, in the days of the Gospel when Jesus lived among the people, both Jews and Gentiles. Let’s look at Matthew 4:16

 

the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

 

That was how they saw Jesus. Like the sheep in Psalm 23 recognizing the presence of their shepherd, they felt safe and secured when they saw Jesus.

 

Jesus brought them out of “the valley of the shadow of death”

We feel safe, secured, redeemed when we received Jesus into our hearts.

 

And according to the records of the Gospel, Jesus was betrayed, crucified and died. But He rose from the dead.

What does that mean?

 

Jesus’ promise of eternal life is guaranteed

 

40 days after Jesus was raised from the dead, He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3)

His disciples who witnessed the event, I am sure they wished Jesus could stay longer with them in person. But Jesus went up to the clouds and off He goes back to heaven.

The disciples, they continued to live with the reality Jesus was with them and among them.

How did that happen?

They had the words and promises of Jesus with them and they lived in obedience to Jesus’ commandments. And of course Jesus gave them the promise of the Holy Spirit.

The early Christians were men and women of convictions, confession, and were noted as followers of the ways of Jesus.

They believed Jesus, they confessed Jesus, and they lived according to Jesus’ commandments.

 

Jesus was with them and among them leading them with the promises of God.

 

When persecution arises in Jerusalem, the disciples were scattered everywhere but everywhere and anywhere they went, they carried with them the words and promise of Jesus.

 

Immanuel

עִמָּנוּאֵל

“God with us”

Jesus with us and among us

 

In times of difficulties, it is so easy to feel frustrated. In times of adversity it is so easy for us to cry “God where are you when we needed you”. And in our most difficult time we have to face it alone.

But we have with us the words and teaching of Jesus and we have among us the promises of Jesus.

Question is – where do we keep the words and promises of Jesus?

 

In our hearts and minds of course, and with the confession with our lips

 

And how do we know Jesus is with us?

 

When we live according to His ways

“ … that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3), (Matthew 4:4), (Luke 4:4)”

 

Now I want to bring your attention to v6, the ending verse of Psalm 23

 

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

That is the ultimate destination of Psalm 23

 

Eternal fellowship with Jesus, to be in the kingdom of God forever

 

It is through our journey of faith with Jesus, that we experience the goodness and the presence of the true living God in our life.

Our ultimate destination is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever in eternity.

All these are only possible because of the shepherd.

 

Immanuel

עִמָּנוּאֵל

“God with us”

Jesus with us and among us in leading us to eternal life

“(Jesus said) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)”

 

In-His-Service

David Z