As my husband and I were praying the other morning, he said, “Thank you, God, for not giving us ‘a manual,’ but ‘Immanuel.’” The profundity of how one simple syllable could separate the Christian faith from every other belief excited me….
When we think of a manual, we picture a handbook or instructional guide. It consists of detailed information on how to accomplish a task or put something together. If we just follow the directions, we’ll acquire the desired result. Even dummies can supposedly achieve success if the rules are adhered to. Therein lies the problem when we’re talking about life. We are human. We mess up. In fact, we mess up so badly, that it is impossible for any of us to follow a manual on life. Muslims, Buddhists, Humanists—they all try. But fallen man can never meet even his own, what CS Lewis calls, “standard of right and wrong.”
Enter…Immanuel. God knew our human nature would always miss the mark. He proved it by giving the nation of Israel the Law. No matter how strictly the Law was followed, it could not take away the stain of rebellion and the heart’s penchant to sin. So he sent us a Savior. One who would not only be “with us,” but who whose Spirit would live “within us.” Immanuel changes us from the inside. He writes laws on our hearts, not ledgers…loved-laced laws that transform us into new creatures.
When “manual” is used as an adjective, it refers to work accomplished by human effort, skill or energy as in “manual labor.” Mechanisms like “manual gearshifts” are operated by the hands in contrast to an electrical or electronic device. Polar opposite from Immanuel. The work of Immanuel flows from God, is sustained by God and completed by God. His finished work causes all man-centered endeavors to shrink.
I’ve often heard the Bible referred to as the Manufacturer’s Handbook. Some would look at it as a manual of sorts, but it is so much more than a how-to-book or a list of do’s and don’ts. It leads us to true truth….to true love….to true life….
It leads us to Immanuel.