One of the highlights of my seventh grade year was learning the Preposition Song in Mrs. Eaton’s language arts class. (I do realize how lame that sounds, but hey, it was seventh grade. It was a rough year.) Every day during our grammar unit, the whole class would belt out the prepositions to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”:
Aboard, about, above, across
Against, along, around….
I confess that I still sing the song on occasion. You know, when I’m sitting around pondering parts of speech.
I’ve always loved the name used for the promised Messiah in Isaiah 7: Immanuel. God with us. It evokes mental images of starry skies over Bethlehem, peaceful Nativity scenes of Mother and Child. But as I take in the events surrounding Isaiah’s prophesy of Immanuel, I’m struck by the rather desolate context. Israel and its kings had been going their own way ever since the end of King David’s reign, defying God and disobeying his commands. God was warning his people in no uncertain terms that if they didn’t turn their hearts back to him, they would face the consequences.
Watch out, because now the Lord’s fierce anger has been turned against you!
—2 Chronicles 28:11
Isaiah described the coming judgment in bleak terms: Israel’s enemy Assyria would invade their country. Their land would become a place of famine and desolation. And ultimately they would be taken captive and exiled to enemy territory. It’s into this sober visual that Isaiah promises the coming of Immanuel.
In other places in the Bible, God is described with a number of other prepositions:
God above us (Job 31:2)
God before us (Psalm 90:2)
God beyond us (Psalm 147:5)
God for us (Romans 8:31)
But when God announces the Incarnation—his revelation in human form—he describes himself as with his people. Not just above us. Not just before us. Not just beyond us. Not just for us. But with us. Facing our struggles with us. Standing against the enemy with us. Going through the years of desolation and hopelessness with us.
When I find myself in a difficult season, I admit that at times I long for other prepositions. I want God to take me out of it. I want to be through it. I want to be over it. But God gives me something messier, more involved. He dives in and enters my world, even in the hard places. Especially in the hard places. He gives me the best preposition of all: Immanuel.
God is with us.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.