Slow, cautious steps forward until flames strike out toward skin and eyes burn. Another step. Then one more.
“Do not come any closer.”
A shepherd’s staff forgotten. The arm of a cloak raised as a shield from the heat.
“Take off your sandals. The place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Dirt-caked sandals set aside.
Bare feet, bare soul. Holy ground.
“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”
Tanned hands trembling. Head bowed in fearful reverence.
Flames licking the sky, but the bush below remaining unconsumed. No branches breaking, no leaves withering.
“I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard them crying out in their slavery, and I am concerned about their suffering.”
In Egypt, the backs of the chosen break under the weight of bricks and the beatings of slave drivers. Nightly cries for deliverance are thrown at the skies. Weeping and wondering and waiting.
“So I have come down to rescue them.”
A hesitant yes from a man born in secret, hidden in a basket, and raised among princes.
“I will be with you.”
Plagues. Passover. Parting seas.
Disobedience and doubts and decades of wandering in the desert.
Provision and prophecies and promises.
Quick, panicked steps forward, fear flickering in wide eyes.
Knocking on a closed door. Then another door. Then one more.
A walking staff forgotten. The arm of a cloak raised to wipe a sweat-drenched brow.
The place where you are standing is holy ground.
A desperate call for help. Dirt-caked sandals tripping on gravel. Refuge found in an unassuming corner of a crowded city.
I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
Tanned hands trembling, unsteady voice sending pleading prayers up to the sky.
A cry of new life as light is born into the darkness.
I have seen the misery of my people.
A soft palm and tiny nails and wrinkled fingers inspected and kissed by a virgin who quietly learns a lullaby.
Dark hair and pink cheeks and little arms gently scrubbed by the calloused hands of a man who has only known the rough work of sanding wood.
I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
Woven together in a womb. Formed from flesh. Born from a cry of pain onto a bed of hay. From a frame of faith and innocence into a cave, dark and damp.
So I have come down to rescue them.
A stable as the holy of holies, the dwelling place of the Divine. A manger as the altar where the Sacrifice lie swaddled and snug. A shrill, tiny cry as the call to worship.
I am with you.
Angels rejoicing. Shepherds running through the streets. Deity resting.
When I think of Yahweh, I think of power, might, a thundering voice. I think of God in the Old Testament, sending plagues on the Egyptians, parting the Red Sea, leading with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
But then He came to us as a Baby. He gave up every ounce of strength, everything we associate with Divinity. He showed us the length He would go to save us.
He showed us what Emmanuel truly means – not just God with us on a mountain, handing down commandments. Not just God with us in a bush that blazes but doesn’t burn up. Not just God with us, leading us through the desert.
When He became incarnate, He became intimate. Closer than walking in a perfect garden beside us, He placed Himself in our arms.
He placed Himself in the womb of a girl so He could one day place His Spirit in our hearts. He challenged everything we thought we knew about God, showing us true love is messy and painful and often takes time.
“God said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.’”
I Am. Yahweh.
Teaching and guiding and freeing.
Drying tears, healing hearts, breathing life into those paralyzed by fear and shame and disease.
Reaching out to the outcast, healing souls in desperate need of hope.
Provision and prophecies and promises fulfilled.
Jesus. Yahweh is salvation.
Back bearing the weight of wrath, palms pierced with nails driven by hatred.
Then dawn breaks and life defeats death.
The stone is rolled away and the curtain separating God and man lies on the floor, ripped in two, forever breaking the silence and freeing us from slavery to sin. Inviting us to come if we believe this good news that is truer than feelings and more certain than what our human eyes can see.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
The name we still remember on the other side of His first coming and in anticipation of His second.
I have seen the misery of my people…I have come down to rescue them…I will be with you.
This is rescue.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21
(Find the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3)