The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I am not sure that it is possible for us to truly grasp how awesome the event was when the Most High, Holy God of the universe came to Earth through His Son to dwell among us. Imanu’el, God with us. A concept mentioned by name in Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14. It was a truly radical event in the history of humanity. Now to the true Bible scholars reading this post, please stay with me for just a moment longer. I don’t believe that this amazing event actually happened on December 25, 0000. I do believe that it did happen and I am thankful that we have chosen a season and a day to remember it.
I also believe, however, that the true scope of this event has perhaps lost some of its contrast over the years as our western world view has shaped Christianity into its own way of thinking. It is possible that some of the immensity of this event has been lost in traditions, religious ceremony, romanticized pagan philosophy and the like. Perhaps unpacking this a little from an ancient Hebrew perspective will help us expand our appreciation of this event.
God, El…one important description of the most high person, power and authority in the universe, The I AM, Yahweh, He Is, To Be, the Almighty Lord came to dwell with us. While there are certainly many different and more ancient descriptions of God. From the Hebrew perspective, there are no single words that describe God adequately. However, one of the simplest descriptions of God in human terms is the word El. In my opinion, the words we call names of God were actually descriptions of the almighty person of the universe. Ancient Hebrews didn’t dare utter God’s name for fear of using it in vain. How do you reduce the almighty person who created everything, who embodies all love and a power into a name other then to simply acknowledge Him as “HE IS”… YAWH.
If I understand all the history behind this word correctly, El may not the the oldest description for God, however, in very ancient times, when the Hebrew written language started as pictographs to record thoughts and ideas for others to read, the word El came from 2 important symbols that have been passed down to many cultures over the centuries. The symbols I refer to are the staff, and the Ox or Bull’s head, . The staff symbolized control and the ox symbolized strength. The ox eventually became the letter Aleph א and the staff eventually became the letter lamed ל. These symbols, which when used together became the word El were applied to various powerful kings and rulers of the day. However, the Hebrews took it to a new level. To them the great Yahweh or “HE IS” was El Shaddai…the Almighty, Controlling Power and Authority of everything. God used this term to describe himself in Exodus 6:2
2 God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD…ְ(יהָוה …YAWH.) 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as
God Almighty…(El Shaddai), but by my name the LORD… (YAWH) I did not make myself fully known to them.
Being unholy, not-perfect or “un-clean” as it were, people would shutter at the thought of seeing God, the King, the Lord Almighty face to face. To do so would mean certain destruction. I think that the point is clear that God is a perfect almighty being and that we are not. Now enter Jesus, the Son of El Shaddai, born into our world as an infant. Some might respond to this crazy idea as Unthinkable! Fanastic! Impossible! How can someone so amazingly perfect as Yahweh do such a thing. Yet if you believe in El Shaddai, then you must at least admit that Imanu’el is possible. But Why? It is no wonder why those of us who think we know so much miss “God with us” when we see it. It is too amazing of a concept for our minds to comprehend. When you reflect for a moment on the immensity of Yahweh as El Shaddai, you quickly come to the realization that there is nothing of value we can add to the king of the universe. There is nothing we can do ever earn his respect, admiration or love. The truth is El Shaddai became Imanu’el for one reason…Because He loves us. And if you ask why, I think the answer is, “HE IS” because “HE IS” and He loves because He loves. If God Almighty wants to be God With Us, He can…and I will love Him all the more for it.
Some References I used for this study…I encourage anyone to study it further.
- Hebrew Interlinear Bible – Found the interlinear English/Hebrew translation to be helpful. I would recommend using another “old school” Hebrew/English dictionary as well though to make sure your context, spelling and usage are accurate. Some of the phonetic spellings in the Interlinear Bible are confusing. An addition Hebrew/English dictionary helps for this as well.
- Hebrew4Christians.com – Nice Pictograph chart. I would head their warning though. “While the study of the pictographic script can sometimes yield insight into the underlying meaning (etymology) of Biblical Hebrew words, it is generally to be avoided as a stand-alone exegetical principle since this can lead to speculations and doubtful interpretations. For honest interpretation, the rule of thumb is to first master the p’shat (plain historical meaning) before moving on to of the Scriptures. For this brief study, I compared the history of El with other historical resources.
- The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible By Jeff A. Benner
Old School Resouces –
- Strongs Exhaustive Concordance
- Strongs Hebrew Dictionary
- Vines Comlete Expository Dictionary
- The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, (Paschall, Hobbs)