Emmanuel: a New Year’s Devotional

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”Matthew 1:23

I just love the “Daily Bread,”[1] the annual Bible reading plan arranged by Robert Murray M’Cheyne in 1842, and used first by his congregation in Dundee at the first of the year in 1843. The reading plan has been used for 169 years; oh my—another testimony of the grace and goodness of God.

I love the bible reading plan because every year I can count on a fresh start through the Bible, reading through the Psalms and the New Testament twice and through the Old Testament once in 365 days. Every year we begin in the first chapters and verses of Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts. In keeping with my habitual encouragement unto others to read through the Bible using the plan, I’ve selected Matthew 1:23 as my New Year’s devotional text.

With 2012 right at the very door, there will undoubtedly be those whose ears have perked up to the meanderings of certain doomsday pundits suggesting that, since the ancient Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, our world will end as we know it (read about the Discovery Channel debunking that theory here). If too much time has passed since the Y2K kerfuffle to remind us of the futility— and sin!— of anxiety and worry, we should at least remember the more recent Harold Camping debacle, with his very wicked prognostications of the Lord’s coming. Yes, wicked. Mr. Camping not only predicted erroneously, but he directly denied the words of our Lord when He, Himself, spoke of His return, saying, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).

Many of these “events” attempt to pull us away from the Word of God and move our attention onto the event itself, and worse, upon the benefit or impact it brings to us personally. The Bible is clear about where our attention should be: upon our crucified and risen Lord of glory, Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26-27). Yes, He is coming again, which is an essential truth of the gospel; for not only will He come to glorify His people, but He is coming with judgment upon the wicked. Yet, the blessed focus of the gospel is the Way, the Truth and the Life of that gospel, Jesus Christ the Righteous. Come what may, when our hearts are fastened to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be afloat through every tempest and steadfast through every flood. The professing believer is prepared for His coming, yet does not predict His coming; just as we are ready for death (for we die daily), but don’t rush headlong and foolhardy into death.

The fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, by a virgin bringing forth a child, is the only hope worth living and dying for: God became a man to die upon a tree, bruising His heel and crushing Satan’s power. Emmanuel, God with us, is the blessed hope of every new year, of every new moon, and every dawning day because the Son of God becoming a man makes His mercies new every morning and makes manifest His steadfast love unto all His children. Mr. Spurgeon brings us some joyful insights to the truth of Emmanuel:

Here is the first truth of our holy faith— “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh.” He who was born at Bethlehem is God, and “God with us.” God— there lies the majesty; “God with us,” there lies the mercy. God— therein is glory; “God with us,” therein is grace. God alone might well strike us with terror; but “God with us” inspires us with hope and confidence.[2]

What a blessed joy we have in this eternal truth: God with us. When the Word became flesh an dwelt among men, coming to His own yet rejected, the blessed Lamb of God slain, and raised again, ascended in majesty and had returned to the glory He once knew with the Father. He did not leave us as orphans, however. He did not leave us comfortless: He sent His promised Holy Spirit, who is with us, and dwells in us. The Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance… and although the Lamb of God rules and reigns upon His Father’s celestial throne, through the third Person of the Trinity, He is with us and dwells in us, in a much closer relationship than ever the disciples knew when they walked with the Master on the shores of Galilee.

Emmanuel! Hallelujah!
O, praise the Son who pray’d
The Father who had sent the Spirit;
By Him we give our accolade.

The Comforter doth testify
Of Christ, our Cornerstone;
Although we should not doubt His coming
Our faith must seek Christ’s face alone.

Lamb of God, my precious Savior,
On Calv’ry’s cross You died;
And by Your blood I have forgiveness,
When crimson love flow’d from Your side.

[1] Download a free PDF copy of McCheyne’s “Daily Bread” here.

[2] Charles H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, “God With Us”; Sermon No. 1270, delivered on December 26, 1875

About Jon J. Cardwell

"The Spirited Speaker" - Pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama. Nationally recognized speaker and publisher. Author of several books, including the bestseller, Christ and Him Crucified.

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