"The virgin will be with child and ll give birth to a Son, and they will call him Immanuel — which means, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:23
"Person To Person" December 2010
Fran Rubio, one of our current students at the College and pastoral interns at Pearl Church where I attend, challenged us a few weeks ago with a brief narrative from I Kings in the story of Ahaziah — an ordinary story really, one previously unfamiliar to me, and yet through the recent re-telling one that has connected with my heart in a meaningful way.
Ahaziah is an evil king, who when faced with illness (even after having witnessed the power of the living God) chooses to seek counsel outside of Israel. As messengers are sent to inquire of a foreign god in whether or not Ahaziah's sickness will be unto death, they are met en route by the prophet Elijah (in Hebrew meaning "the Word of the Lord") who then sends word back to Ahaziah. Weighted with sarcasm and judgment — Elijah's message in essence is; "Ahaziah, you know that there is a God in Israel, but you've chosen to pursue other gods and because of this you will surely die." Subsequently to his demise, a frightened and alarmed Ahaziah then orders three separate armies (two of which are consumed by fire) to arrest Elijah, though unsuccessful in each attempt. Finally at the humility of the third army's commander and the Lord's prompting, Elijah concedes and goes to Ahaziah, only to deliver the word initially spoken and prophesied. In the end Ahaziah dies in his sickness.
A Look At Our Hearts
As Fran told this story, he challenged us to look at our own hearts. Noting Ahaziah's response, perhaps similar in some ways to that of our own, he asked us; In the face of fear, insecurity and anxiety, do we like Ahaziah try to cure our ailments by taking matters into our own hands? When faced with the need for intimacy and companionship, do we find ourselves swinging from relationship to relationship as we try to fill a void deep within? When faced with a need to be in control, do we manipulate people and situations towards self sufficiency so that our cure is found in isolation alone? When faced with the need for power, do we elevate ourselves at the expense of broken relationships? When faced with the lack of purpose, do we try and find meaning in our jobs, our families and our spouses?
In many ways, perhaps like Ahaziah, we too turn to other gods to remedy the sicknesses within our lives. Too often it is easier to look to the world first, and to the answers of man rather than seeking God Himself. When we go about trying to cure our ailments in pursuing things other than God, what we are really doing is trying to arrest "the Word of the Lord." When we try to take control, we are wrestling the power of our circumstances from God's hands and putting them into our own. God's desire is that we would trust Him as we seek Him for the answers to the concerns within our lives. In response, He promises to walk with us in faithfulness.
Immanuel - God With Us
In anticipation of the upcoming Christmas season, I am reminded once again that He is Immanuel, God with us. That is, He came to live right where we do. A babe born to Mary in a manger, the infant that shepherds ran to see, the newborn child that the wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship is "Immanuel, God with us." Not a God who is distant or far off but one who is near...Immanuel, "God with us."
As we celebrate the significance of this special season rather than seeking to find substitute in that which doesn't fulfill — attempting to fill emptiness with romance, relationships, family and friends, or throwing ourselves into our careers to find meaning; let us recognize Immanuel — "God with us" ... Only He can give our lives the meaning and completeness they were intended for. Immanuel — In this one name, everything humankind needs and the entire plan of God's salvation is subsumed.
Celebrating the gift of Immanuel,
Michelle M. Peel (BA ‘00, MA ‘10)
Director of Alumni Relations
Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary