Matthew 1:18: This is how the birth of Yeshua the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
So begins Matthew’s Gospel about the most important event in human history. An event we still use to divide time itself, the Incarnation of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God. This time of year, we remember and celebrate this pivotal moment in human history. Even if our society has tried to drown it out with a cacophony of commercialism.
This morning, Lord willing, I would like to take some time to discuss what it means that Messiah Yeshua is Immanuel, God with us. Specifically, we will be looking at the power and strength that comes from the Lord dwelling with everyone who is His disciple.
We find these truths beautifully communicated in a prayer of Rabbi Paul’s found in the letter to the Ephesians. This is a prayer not just for the Ephesians but a prayer for us as well, found in Ephesians 3:14-21. In this prayer we are invited to trust and experience the full power of the incarnation, understanding the immeasurable love Immanuel has for each one of us.
First let’s familiarize ourselves with where we are in Ephesians. Ephesians 2 discusses how both Jews and Gentiles are saved through the life, death, and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua. In Ephesians 3, Rabbi Paul praises the Lord that he has become an Apostle to the Gentiles and has the privilege to be a part of the Lord’s plan to bring the Good News which saves the entire world. When Rabbi Paul considers all these things it leads him to a powerful prayer beginning in verses 14 and 15.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
The plan of God to save fallen humanity brings Rabbi Paul to His knees in prayer. If we comprehend what it means that God is with and dwelling inside us, we will find ourselves in the same place. God the Father is the Creator of all human beings. Though we divide ourselves into different nations and groups we are ultimately one race of people. Each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made and we are also united by being part of one community together, Jews and Gentiles. After directing the prayer to God the Father we continue with what this prayer is all about.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith.
I have split verse 17 into two parts so we can deal with it separately. Each of us needs the Lord to be with us through our faith in Him. So, Rabbi Paul prays that we all would have Messiah Yeshua dwell in our hearts. The type of “dwelling” meant here is not just a casual visit. It is not as if Messiah Yeshua stops by for a cup of coffee and a chat then leaves. He permanently moves into our hearts so that He can live with us forever through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Lord is with us in every season of our lives. He dwells in us when we have great successes and when we have great failures. When we are loved by others and when we are despised by the world. In every situation, every mountain top and every valley our Messiah is with us always. This is a gift from Him, a gift we can never earn, but even so is given freely. He gives us this gift from His glory that He richly pours out on us. Through His glorious dwelling we receive strength and power to the deepest parts of who we are. We then have the power to resist temptation, experience real transformation in our lives, and share the light of Messiah Yeshua in a world desperately needing Him.
People today desperately search for real power and strength. We search for it in-person, online, and especially through other human beings. But whatever power or strength we find runs out and then we are left to search anew. You probably have experienced this cycle in your own life. Maybe you are experiencing it right now. It is exhausting and depressing.
The truth is that real and lasting spiritual and emotional strength can only be found in the one called Immanuel. Only in Messiah Yeshua, a name meaning salvation, are we saved from our sins. He alone provides us with everything we need for life in this world and the world-to-come. This is a power and strength that defies our human comprehension. It surpasses every human source of love, peace, power, and blessing that is found in this world. These are truths we can only begin to understand after the Lord has entered our hearts. A point Rabbi Paul beautifully conveys as we continue.
17b And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Messiah,
When the Lord is with us, who can stand against? When the Lord is the foundation of our lives we will be rooted in His love as He makes His dwelling within us. The love of the Lord is the foundation for all His blessings and the Good News itself. We read that because God so loved this world, He sent His only begotten son. It is love that motivated our Messiah to be born into this world, live life as a human being, and die an agonizing death for our sins.
Rabbi Paul’s prayer is that we would reach out towards the love of God, both as individuals and as a community. We are invited to meditate on how wide, long, high, and deep the Lord’s love is. These are things worth contemplating more often than we probably do. When we reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of our Messiah we begin to grasp Hos overwhelming love. The Good News is how the width of His love was made known to us. He did not just come to save the Jewish people but all people, every nation on this Earth. We see that His love is so very vast. He reaches out to us across all time and space.
God is also with us in the highest and lowest places of power. For those who have been ignored by society, who are in despair and feel completely alone and abandoned, the Love of the Lord is real, lasting, and available. Human beings are fickle and faithless, the Lord is firm and faithful. Our Messiah knows what it is like to be despised, betrayed, and abandoned. He promises to be with us always, a promise He will keep.
For those like King Solomon, who have tasted every pleasure this world provides and found it lacking, the Lord is also available as well. He is ready and able to satisfy the thirst of our souls. When He dwells with us, He fills the Messiah-shaped hole each of us has deep inside. He fills us completely from within so we can all say, “It is well with my soul”. Being filled with the Lord’s love is Rabbi Paul’s next prayer for us all.
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
There is a paradox in this verse. How can Rabbi Paul pray for us to know the unknowable? The answer is that the love of God, the indwelling of Messiah Yeshua, is something beyond mere intellectual understanding. This is more than subscribing to a specific set of beliefs. The incarnation is to be lived and experienced daily in our lives. It is being filled with His love and knowing we lack for nothing in our relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. To have some of God’s love would be enough for us. But our prayer should be to be filled with all the fullness of God’s love. To be filled to the spiritual brim.
The reality though is that we are not usually filled to the brim. We are distracted with all the busyness of modern life. When we allow life in this world to overwhelm us, we can find ourselves being quickly rooted in other things instead of God’s love. Then we find ourselves filled to the brim with the desires of this world that take us away from the lord.
By experiencing the love of God in our lives, we will realize that whether we are in jail like Rabbi Paul, or free like the Ephesians we have everything we need to live life in abundance. That there is no need to be filled with anything else.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Messiah Yeshua throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The world sees Messiah Yeshua as someone small and not worthy of respect. We who have experienced the power and love of the Lord know it is the opposite. The Lord is able, more than able, to do more than we could ever ask or even imagine. I can imagine a lot of things and I bet you can as well. The Lord can accomplish even more than that and unlike us everything He does is done perfectly. We share in that lifesaving power through His love as He lives in us.
Every day is an opportunity to reach out and grasp the love of the Lord instead of the love of this world. This very moment if Messiah Yeshua is the Lord of your life, then He is with you as well. We have the promise that He will never leave or abandon us. Unlike human beings who are fickle and change their minds we can have confidence the Lord will fulfill all His promises perfectly. These statements are not opinions, but facts. They are truths found in the Word of God authored by the only real source of Truth, Capital T. Often though we forget or doubt the promises of the Lord. We live our lives as if these truths might exist but are distracted by the discord and darkness of our lives.
As we celebrate the incarnation of Messiah Yeshua let us remember and trust that God was not just with the generation of Israel 2,000 years ago. He is with us today as well, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and empowers us in ways that are limitless.
In this season and every, may the Lord enable each of us to experience the full reality of His love for us through Messiah Yeshua. May each of us be filled to the brim with the fullness of His love. May each of us know that God is with His disciples, to the end of this age and forever.