Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

The Immanuel Project: Chapter 2 God with Us

Posted by undergroundchurch on June 15, 2009

Click here for Chapter 1 part 3

Chapter 2: The Immanuel Project – God with us

“So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us).”[i]

What a strange way for God to interface with our universe.  He chose to start from the beginning. He chose to come as a baby.  He chose to be born as a man.  He could have come in like Adam – fully formed with good looks, the breath of God poured into him and no belly button.  But He decided to come in low and quiet, and if it weren’t for a crowd of noisy angels in the heavens that couldn’t contain themselves any longer, no one would have noticed. 

Well there were those Magi following a star.  You know, people have tried to identify that star for years, but that star might not have been a real star.  It might have been the twinkle in God’s eye.  The wise men saw the twinkle because they were looking for it. – Wise men still seek Him.

However, as important as this event, the incarnation is not where the Immanuel project began.  The[e1]  project’s plan began in Genesis 1:26 when God said to Himself “Let us make man in our own image.” (Just a side note; God set the precedent on talking to one’s own self, so don’t think it strange when I do it. I’m just imitating my creator.)

The most inspiring component to the passage above lies in what God doesn’t say.  He never mentions anything else created in His image like the baboon, the tree, the squirrel or the whale.  He only says it about man.

He set, as it were, a mark on man – His own image.  So that man would always see in Himself a reflection – the fingerprint of God.  By making us in His image, God signs His creation with all the joy and pride that only God could have. 

If you will pardon my simple illustration, it is like an artist that signs a painting in the lower right-hand corner.  He, in essence, puts his stamp on it that says, “This is my work.”  The signature then becomes part of the art work.  I especially like one painting in the Gettysburg battlefield museum.  The painter painted a huge cyclorama of the Pickett’s Charge.  In the middle of the painting, he painted himself leaning up against a tree smoking a pipe.  Like the Gettysburg painting, God put His image in us, not just His signature.  God may not be smoking a pipe against the hardwood in your life, but He did put His image in you.

However, God didn’t stop with a signature.  He took the painting home.  The first time we see man, we see God. – God placed him in the garden. God brought to man all of the animals searching for a help-mate. When none could be found that would adequately meet that need, God performed the first surgery on man taking everything that he needed from him to make woman. 

I know people think God took a rib from Adam and made woman.  Actually, the phrase there could be translated “out of the side”.[ii]  When Adam awakens in a couple verses, he notices that he changed because he says, “this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”.  God took something from Adam physically and emotionally and placed it in the woman.  This is the driving force behind marriage.  When man and woman come together in the marriage act, the two pieces God separated come together and become one flesh. 

Let me pose a question for you to ponder.  What did God look like to Adam?  I mean, was God just a voice from the sky, and impression in his heart, a noise in the trees?  Or, dare I say it, did God physically present himself to Adam and just simply talk face to face with him? 

It’s hard to put a dramatic pause in a book, but if I could, I would place it right about here.  That is because the bible does tell us how God presented Himself to Adam.

We don’t see it until after Adam and Eve sinned, but we can only assume that God did it daily.  The picture is priceless and tells quite a bit about God’s character, love and passion.

I must call your attention to Genesis 3:8, probably one of the most incredible scenes in the bible.  “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”

Where else in man’s history do you find the creator of the universe in His entire splendor walking in a garden?  And what is he doing there? 

I am sure that this was not the first time that God strolled through His creation. I’ll even go so far as to say that I believe God probably habitually walked in that garden.  And I am sure many of the walks He experienced with Adam and Eve.  In this moment, we find God’s basic desire. He was there because He desired to be with man.  He created man to be with man. 

Indulge me while I lay down the scenario in my paraphrased manner. Six o’clock PM and Adam and Eve just defiantly ate a late afternoon snack at the bidding of a soon-to-be legless reptile.  Failing to look at his Blackberry®, Adam forgot his appointment with his Creator to meet him in the garden for their late day stroll.  Every day, Adam had looked forward to this time.  He loved to walk side-by-side with His first love.  Nothing stood between them and they could, and probably did, talk about anything. 

But now darkness encompassed Adam’s soul.  He had forsaken his first love for a new path – one that led him to death and total separation.  How could he face his maker now?  He had failed.  Now this dark cold penetrated so deep. The shame felt so overpowering, that he sought anything to cover his body, his soul, his heart.  He frantically ripped leaves from a tree and hid himself in the bush.

God, knowing what just happed, walked nearby to ask Adam, “Where are you?”

This isn’t because God was unaware of Adam’s location.  God said this because Adam lost his way and became unaware of his location when he sinned against his creator and friend. 

The question God utters, “Adam, where are you?” opens a small portal into the nature of God.  In it, we see God reaching out first.  God always makes the first move, especially when we are frozen solid in our fear, guilt and shame.  Paul tells us later, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[iii]

Real love doesn’t respond to situations, but proactively pursues people in their situations.  It’s easy to feel empathy when someone hurts, but God’s love differs.  He wants to be with man so bad that He chases after him.  Man’s sin caused a barrier that would cost God dearly to overcome.  That cost was completely paid by Him, not us.  We think of ourselves to highly when we say things like, “I found Jesus”.  We don’t find Jesus, He finds us.  We hide off in the woods with poorly assembled leaves for garments.  God must find us because of our lostness.

Adam didn’t get up from his sinful spot and chase after God, “God here I am!  I ate the fruit like an idiot! I am so sorry!” He did what we all still do when we sin.  He hid.

Second thing I notice in the question God asks is that God is asking a question.  Yes, I know that is obvious and somewhat redundant, but think about this.  The all-knowing God asks a question.  Why would God ask the question for which He already knows the answer?  Is he testing Adam?  Is He ignoring the problem?

It reveals God uses love as the weapon of choice.  He could have come at Adam in His holiness and blasted him off the face of the earth.  But God chose to come at Adam in love knowing full well that His holiness would still need to be satisfied.  God did this for Adam’s sake.  Adam discovered God’s love in the way God approached Him after the sin.  This made Adam want to build His relationship with his creator. 

Who wants to serve and angry God?  I know that there are religions out there that preach the anger of God before the love of God.  But God’s love existed first.  This component protects us from the fury of His wrath and allows us to return to Him.  God gave Adam a choice to obey at the tree.  He gave Adam the freedom to receive and return God’s love after He sinned.  What an amazing God!

In addition to all of this, we get a sense that God asked the question more than once.  When Adam finally responds, he tells God that he heard His voice and hid.  That means that Adam heard God walking around probably in some manner that indicated that He didn’t really know Adam’s location.  God probably looked around the big tree in the corner and then went to the big rock in the middle.  He did this until either he found Adam or Adam couldn’t take it anymore and came out of hiding.

You are probably saying right now, “This writer has gone loco”.  I would agree with you normally, but I believe God made a habit of doing this, and that it happened more than once. I’m going to call God’s approach the self-discovery technique.  It is a highly effective way of getting someone to recognize their own demise[e2] .

One example that immediately comes to mind is the picture in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.” (KJV)

This verse is actually Jesus talking.  He says that He is knocking, but to listen to His voice. 

Have you ever had someone come up to your door and just start knocking incessantly?  In fact, they not only relentlessly knock, but they yell out – “Hey Jeff, you home!  Answer the door!”

Usually if someone knocks, I get up slowly and take my time answering the door.  If they knock repeatedly, I say something like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming, hold your horses”. But if they knock repeatedly and yell through the door, I almost run to the door.  They tend to get my attention.

In this verse, Jesus is ceaselessly knocking at the door hoping desperately that someone will answer it.  He wants to come in and dine with the person at home.  One of the reasons that He is so passionate is because the door He refers to is the door of the church, His body, and not the door of the world.  Jesus could barge in, but He leaves it up to the home owner to let Him in.

That’s the self-discovery technique I see God using in the garden.  He’s lifting bushes, searching around trees, looking under rocks… it’s like He somehow knows that something is wrong with Adam, and He needs to find him quickly.  And like the Revelation door-knocking episode, God is chasing after someone that was saved and has now sinned.

God is always chasing after sinners.  If this were a movie, it would be sad.  The hero in this movie is a rescuer that can save the lives of millions of drowning people.  His technique is to dive into the water with a life preserver and swim up to the victim and ask them to put on the vest.  The struggling victim says that they can make it on their own despite the fact that they are hundreds of miles from land.

Looking back to Adam and Eve, the same sad tragedy plays out after their fall as the discourse between them and God leads to blame, avoidance, curses, punishment and banishment.

Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent, the serpent is cursed as is the lowly couple where they are finally banished from the garden prepared by God for them.

However, encoded in this unfortunate event we find a single sentence that sets in motion events that would take 4000 years to come to fulfillment[e3] . 

God says, “I will put hostility between you (the serpent, a.k.a Satan) and the woman, between your seed and her seed (offspring) and he shall break your head and you will break his heel.”[iv]

If we look beneath the prophecy in this verse that shows the Messiah would one day destroy Satan, we see God leading the charge.  The sentence starts off “I will put”.  God is going to get back that which was stolen.  God is going to redeem where no one else can.  God is going to win where there seems to be no hope. God is going to vanquish the universe of sin no matter the price, no matter the time, no matter the depravity of man.

My favorite portion of the Bible is the first 10 chapters of Genesis.  In it you will find everything you need to live a victorious Christian life and you will find all the teachings of the New Testament veiled within its verses.  This story of the fall of man is no exception and shows us the roots of several biblical themes – sin, pride, selfishness, evil, lying, corruption, etc.  But there is a greater purpose to the events that took place that fateful day.  This is the story of Love.

Love?” you ask. “How in the world can the most dreadful day in human history be a story about love?”

You have to understand what love is to truly grasp the power of this moment. Love is not a feeling, thought, emotion or any of the butterflies that flutter in the tummy. Love comes from one individual to another through some act that reveals the love element. To do this, one must make a conscious effort to show love. Love requires a choice not to love in order to be love.  Until the day God planted the tree in the midst of the garden and set the rule that said, “Do not eat”,[v] there was no opportunity for Adam to demonstrate his love for God.  He could not compare the options to love God or not love God unless he had an option to choose not to love God[e4] .

Every time love is demonstrated, a choice is made.  Husbands, you chose to love your wife every time you do the dishes.  The alternative would be to avoid the dishes at all cost.  But when you fight your desire to please yourself by sitting in front of the boob-tube and decide to bless your wife instead, you have shown love.

Wives, in the same way, when you show interest in the things your husband enjoys, not because you especially like NASCAR, golf or cars, but because you want to be “with” him no matter where he is just because he is the one you love, you show love. 

“Hold on.” I hear you say, “I can’t do those things, I don’t like them.  They don’t interest me.”

That is precisely why you should do them.  Wives wouldn’t you be surprised if one day your husband told you, “Honey, here’s $500.  Go shopping.  I’ll clean the house top to bottom for you.”

Husbands, wouldn’t you love for your wife to call you at work one day and say those three magic words we all want to hear, “Let’s go golfing!”

The number one rule in making friends is showing interest in the other person.  Why do we have such a hard time when it comes to the person we said “I do” to

For Adam the rules were simple.  All he had to do was stay away from the tree.  I look back on that day and say (in my best Monday morning quarterback voice), “If I had been Adam, I’d have taken the sharpest rock, tied it to a stick and started chopping that tree down.”  But he didn’t. 

What I find really interesting about this story lies in where God placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  God planted it smack in the middle of the garden.

In our human reasoning, we would expect that if God really loved Adam and, He should place the tree somewhere where it would be easy to avoid.  Why couldn’t he put it in the corner of the garden next to the persimmon tree?  Adam surely would have never gone over to the persimmon tree – yuck!

But God never asked a “rational human’s” opinion, so He placed that tree right where Adam was going to be every day, right in the middle of the garden next to the Tree of Life. That tree was the one the tree Adam and Eve had to eat from of every day. [vi] In this we see plainly the test for Adam.  God says, “If you love me, you will obey me.” [vii]

Have you ever noticed sometimes that the things we need to avoid exist right next to the things that we need. 

Let me tell you a little about myself now that you’ve been with me for a chapter and a half.  I pastor a church and I work for a large pharmaceutical company as a computer systems specialist.  I spend a lot of time on computers.  Much of what I do for both the church and work require me to browse the World Wide Web (a.k.a the internet).  I need many of the resources that exist on the internet – Music, studies, system information, training, application code, etc.  But I am constantly on guard because I know that if I type in the wrong search words, I could be pummeled with porn or my computer could be destroyed by viruses.  I must avoid that tree of the knowledge of good and evil every day.

You could say the same about anything – TV, billboards, magazines, movies, the Super Bowl.  Nothing seems to be safe.  The temptations are everywhere.  The question is, do we have enough love for God to avoid that which displeases Him, or do we rationalize our wayward moments like Adam and Eve thinking that God is holding back from us and doesn’t want us to have fun.

God wants our love to be freely given by us to Him.  He sets rules and boundaries for two reasons: 1) Our own good so that we are protected and safe. 2) to allow us to demonstrate how much we truly love him.

But don’t think for a moment that God puts all the responsibility on us.  Love works both ways, and God’s love always flows first.  God’s love is proved in that He loved man enough to give man a choice to love Him back.  In so doing, God opened Himself up to rejection.  True love takes risks.  God laid it all on the line knowing the end from the beginning.  Yet, even though He knew the outcome, He didn’t falter on demonstrating his love to us[e5] . 

First, He showed love by giving us a choice to love Him in return.  Second, He showed love through reaching out to us after we rejected His first offer to love Him willingly.  This second form of love shows the relentless nature of God’s passion for man.

If we knew that someone was going to betray us, could we go out of our way to show love to them knowing full well that they would soon hurt us? 

God only got to experience love from man in its purest form for a few days, maybe weeks before man blew the whole thing.  Once this happened, man could never again walk with God in the garden.  If man simply looked upon God, it would cause instant death to the onlooker. 

God had to drive Adam and Eve from the garden, and worst, from His physical presence.  From that day on, only prayers, offerings, worship and other forms of long distance messages could be sent to God.  No longer could he walk side-by-side with God physically speaking. 

Man wasn’t satisfied to be made in God’s “likeness”; he desired to be “like”[viii] God by his own means and that trumped God’s “ability” to be with man.  However, man could do nothing that would trump God’s passionate “desire” to be with man.  Nevertheless, the Immanuel factor (God-With-Us) had to be placed on hold, but it would never go away.


[i] Isaiah 7:14 (MSG)

[ii] Genesis 2:1

[iii] Romans 5:8; See 1 John 4:19

[iv] Genesis 3:15

[v] Genesis 2:17

[vi] Genesis 3:22 (Note that this is the reason God banishes them from the garden)

[vii] Exodus 20:6, John 14:15, 23, 24, 15:10, 1 John 5:3

[viii] Genesis 3:5

 [e1]The incarnation began in the garden of Eden


 [e2]Jesus at the door


 [e3]Prophecy of the Messiah

 [e4]Love is a choice

 [e5]God demonstrates love


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