Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God with Us

Leslie Basham: Today on Revive Our Hearts we’ll explore the carol, “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” But first, we’ll hear from Janet Parshall. We asked her a question we’ve been asking several guests over the last couple weeks: What does it mean to thrive in Christ?

Janet Parshall: I think the first thought that comes to my mind is "I don't stagnant." My relationship with Christ cannot plateau. Growth, by its very definition, can't plateau; it can't stop. If I'm to be transformed into the image of Christ, those are action words. There's stuff that's going on that's molding and reshaping me.

So to be thriving in Christ means I know Him deeper; I love Him more consistently, more faithfully; I'm more cognizant of my own sins; I have a greater desire to serve Him. 

It seems to me from my vantage point that those would all be indicators of the fact that I'm not just surviving, I'm thriving. There's a distinction there. I don't want to just know Christ, I want to KNOW Christ. If I really know Him, then I pant after Him; I hunger after Him; I want to drink from His; I want to be in His presence as much as I can possibly be. 

If those things are not part of my daily life, if I'm not sensing them on a regular basis, then I have to stop and do a growth check. "Whoops, I think I've stagnated here. Whoops, I think I'm at a plateau. Lord, I want to thrive. The true of the matter is, I'm going to be spending a whole lot more time in Your presence in glory than I am here."

I want to get to know Him now. I don't want to wait until then to get to know Him.

Leslie: Later in the program, we’ll hear how the Lord is helping women thrive in small villages in Uganda.  

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, December 1, 2014.

This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss, from her brand new Christmas CD, Come Adore. Christmas carols like this one provide such a rich backdrop to the holiday season. But do you ever find yourself so used to hearing them that you don't pay attention to the important things they're saying? Let's join Nancy and take a closer look at this song you've probably heard many times.

Nancy: One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the chance to sing Christmas carols. I looked up the word "carol" in the dictionary this week, and it says that a carol is a joyful song, usually celebrating the birth of Christ.

I want to tell you this week about my new favorite Christmas carol. It's called "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Perhaps you've been singing it already during this season. As I've looked into the background of this carol, I learned that it may be one of the oldest Christmas carols that is sung today.

It dates back to the ninth century—written sometime in the 800s.We don't know who wrote it, but it was obviously someone who had a very great knowledge of the Scriptures—both Old and New Testaments—because there are a lot of references to Old and New Testament passages.

This Christmas carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," was originally written in Latin. It had seven stanzas, most of which we don't sing today and most of which are not familiar to us today. One of those stanzas was sung each day during the last seven days before Christmas.

Each of those seven stanzas highlights a different name of Jesus—a title for the Messiah. Most of those titles are found in the Old Testament. Let me read to you what the seven different titles are.

  • The first stanza talks about Emmanuel.
  • Then there's a stanza about Adoni, which is the Hebrew name for "Lord."
  • Then there's a stanza on Christ as the Rod of Jesse.
  • There's another one on the Key of David.
  • Then there's one that calls Christ the Dayspring.
  • Another one calls Him Wisdom from on High.
  • The final one, which is in many of our hymnals, refers to Christ as the Desire of Nations.

You may not have had a chance to get all those down, but we're going to look at several of those names. Each of those names, those titles for the Messiah, was fulfilled when Christ came to earth. Those titles express who Christ is and why He came and what He came to do and what He intends to do in our lives.

I've been meditating for the last several days on the words of this carol. It's been fun to go back and study the Scriptures that are referred to in these stanzas, the Scriptures on which these names for Christ are based.

As I've been meditating on those passages, I found that God's been giving me a new love for Jesus and a fresh sense of gratitude for who He is and for what His work and ministry and life mean for me.

This week we want to look at four of those stanzas, and I think it will help us get a fresh sense of the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas and a fresh look at the Savior and what He means to us. Some of these stanzas may not be in your hymnal, but we'll have the words on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, so you can look there and follow along if you're not able to get them all down.

The first stanza is the one that is most familiar to us.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

The picture here is of the Children of Israel in captivity in Babylon. They were in mourning. They were lonely. They were in exile. They were away from their homeland.

They were living somewhere they didn't really belong. They were in a culture that was foreign to their faith, a culture that didn't know and honor Jehovah as they had been trained to do.

It was a season where life was just hard. The words of this stanza express the longing of the Jewish people to be delivered.

The Messiah was the One that God had promised for centuries, the One who would come and deliver His people, the One who would ransom them from their captivity. The song expresses a longing: "Come Emmanuel and do it."

The chorus is a statement of faith and assurance and praise that Messiah will come.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel!

It's a promise.

Emmanuel is a title for Messiah that is first found in Isaiah 7:14, where we read, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name [E]mmanuel." Emmanuel, as many of you know, is the Hebrew word that means "God is with us."

"God with us"—this was a promise that was given to Ahaz who was a king of Judah. He was being threatened by an alliance of two northern armies coming from Syria and Israel. He was terrified.

God sent to Ahaz the prophet Isaiah with a promise from God. It's a promise that the enemies of God would be defeated, that Ahaz had nothing to fear, that he should not be terrified. God gave Ahaz a sign that His promise would be fulfilled.

The sign was that a woman who had never had a child would become pregnant, would give birth to a child, and before that child was old enough to know right and wrong—when the child was still a toddler, within two or three years—the threat of the opposing armies would disappear. The armies would go away.

The deliverance would come, and the sign was that God would send this child named Emmanuel, whose name means "God is with us." That was the immediate fulfillment. But there was a longer-term promise here that was not fulfilled until 700 years later when an angel made an appearance to a young, unmarried virgin in Nazareth and told her she was to have a child.

We read in Matthew 1:22 that all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet Isaiah. "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name [E]mmanuel, (which means God with us)" (vv. 22–23). Here was a second and more important fulfillment to God's promise—that God would be with us and we could be free from terror, from the enemy, because God was coming to earth.

In answer to that promise, we know that God did come. He came to this earth. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). I want us to be reminded this Christmas that the coming of God to earth in the form of Jesus Christ makes all the difference in the world—not just for those Jews who were "mourning in lonely exile," but for us as the children of God in this Church Age as well.

God's promise was not just one to deliver His people from physical captivity; but more importantly, it was a promise to deliver His people from spiritual captivity, from their sin. "Until the Son of God appear," the song says. Well, until the Son of God appeared, until Jesus came, we were in captivity.

We were enslaved to sin; we were enslaved to Satan. We were in exile, just as those Jews were in exile. We were alienated—lonely, separated from God, separated from others, barriers and walls in our relationships—because we didn't have God. We had reason to mourn even as those Jews did. Our plight was miserable and hopeless.

As we read in Ephesians 2:1, "we were dead in trespasses and sins." We were separated from Christ. We were alienated and strangers to the covenants of promise. We had no hope, and we were without God in the world.

What a way to live! And just a reminder, that is the way most of the world lives yet today—mourning in lonely exile, in captivity to Satan and sin. "Until the Son of God appears," the song says.

What does the coming of Emmanuel mean to us? It means the end of captivity. It means we've been ransomed; we've been redeemed. It means the end of exile. We're no longer alienated. We're no longer separated from God and from one another.

Ephesians 2 tells us, "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (v. 19). You know what that says to me? We're back home—no longer in a foreign land but back home with God.

It's the end of aloneness when Emmanuel comes. It means that God is with us. I don't know about you but my heart says, "If God is with me, what else and who else do I really have to have?" If God is with me—and Jesus said to His disciples as He left this earth and returned to heaven, "I am with you always [Emmanuel], even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).

The coming of Emmanuel means we can rejoice—not just because Emmanuel is coming but because Emmanuel has come. We no longer mourn as those who have to hope.

Nancy: Then there's a stanza on the Rod of Jesse. This stanza has a tone of triumph, a tone of victory.

We often sing this carol in a very minor key, and we sing it sometimes real slowly and in a little bit more of mellow way. That's okay—but when I hear this stanza, I want to sing it with a little more tempo and little bit more upbeat because there is this sound of victory and praise.

The song writer said: "O come, Thou Rod of Jesse." That's the title for Christ—the Rod of Jesse. We'll look into the Old Testament in just a moment to see what that means. Here's what the Rod of Jesse will do according to this hymn:

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse,
Free Thine own from Satan's tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave.

When I first read this stanza and began to think about it, it seemed to me that this Rod of Jesse was talking about a mighty, kingly rod, a royal scepter. If something or someone is going to free people from tyranny, is going to save his people from the depths of hell, is going to give them victory over the grave—I had in my mind this picture of a gold scepter, a royal scepter.

I thought maybe this is the scepter, the rod, by which Jesus executes judgment on His enemies. But as you examine the Old Testament reference to the Rod of Jesse, you get a totally different picture. Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 11, and we'll see the origin of the phrase the Rod of Jesse.

Isaiah 11:1—This passage is a prophecy telling of the coming of Messiah, and it says in verse 1, "There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (KJV). There shall come forth a rod of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, who was the second king of Israel.

Jesse came from an obscure family. He was, however, an ancestor of Jesus. I think the implication in this passage is that Jesus was born to a poor, obscure family. He didn't come out of a royal family line. He came to the family that came of the line of Jesse.

"There shall come forth a rod of Jesse," the Scripture says. That word rod could also be translated "branch" or "shoot." Some of your different translations may say it that way—a rod or a branch. Both of those words in the original language speak of something that is weak and small and tender.

That reminds me of another passage in the Book of Isaiah that's familiar to most of us. Chapter 53:2 tells us,

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him (NIV).

He was as a tender shoot, a rod, and branch, not a great kingly scepter who comes in triumph to rule over His enemies—just a shoot, a tender twig, if you will.

This phrase "the rod or the branch of Jesse" is in contrast to what we see in the last paragraph of Isaiah 10, the immediately preceding chapter. The enemies of God are compared to strong and lofty branches that tower over the earth. We're told ultimately God is going to tear them down.

But in contrast to those proud, lofty boughs, Jesus is compared to a tender branch. You see, Christ came to this earth in humility. He was despised. He was rejected. He died a criminal's death—a twig broken off.

But, as we see in the thread of scripture, the Twig ultimately will triumph over those towering trees, over the enemies of God. You can see how this happens if you continue in Isaiah 11. Verse 1 says, "There shall come a rod [or a branch] of Jesse." Verse 2 tells us "the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him" (KJV). 

Then the second part of verse 4 tells us, "He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked" (NKJV). The twig rises up to strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and to kill the wicked with the breath of His lips. How does it happen? Verse 2 tells us it's the power of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God who comes upon the Lord Jesus.

You see this theme running through the New Testament as well. Second Thessalonians 1:7 tells us that the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus (see vv. 7–8).

Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus shared in our humanity. He became a weak twig, put on human flesh, so that "by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil; and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (vv. 14–15, paraphrased). 

"O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan's tyranny." The Rod of Jesse—the humble, the meek Son of God—comes in the power of the Holy Spirit of God to this earth and is victorious ultimately over all of God's enemies. He delivers His own from Satan's tyranny.

He saves us, as the song says, from the jaws of hell. He rescues us. He conquers death. He delivers us from Satan and hell and death.

How does He do it? In the power of the Spirit He comes to save us from our sin. That's Emmanuel. That's why we rejoice at Christmas—because the Rod of Jesse has come to deliver us from our sin.

As I meditate on this name—the Rod of Jesse—there are two "take-aways" for me. The first is the reminder that the Rod of Jesse can set me and you and those we love free from Satan's tyranny.

I was on the phone a few nights ago with a friend whose husband is struggling with a lot of longtime sinful bondages. As I prayed with my friend on the phone, I prayed that the Rod of Jesse would come into the heart and the life and the experience of her husband and would set this man free from Satan's tyranny.

There's another "take-away" that has been on my heart, and that is that you may feel very much like a tender shoot, a twig, a root growing up in an obscure place in dry ground—as it was said that Messiah was like a root out of dry ground.

You may feel in your circumstances that you are fragile and helpless, weak and frail. Maybe you're in a season of life where you feel that if one more thing comes into your life, it will make you snap.

Could I remind you that when you're filled with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was, that you will be strong? With His strength filling you and flowing through you, you can overcome every obstacle in your path.

God will use you in your weakness, even as He sent Jesus to this earth in weak, frail human flesh and caused Jesus to become the One that sets us free from Satan's tyranny.

Hebrews 11 tells us that the men and women of faith who were cataloged in that great hall of faith were made strong out of weakness and became mighty in war—not because they were strong but because God was strong in them.

In 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul says that he was given a "thorn in the flesh," that it harassed him, and it was sent by God from Satan to keep Paul from becoming proud.

Paul says, "I pleaded with God to remove this thorn from me." But God said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). God takes twigs; He fills them with his Spirit, and He uses them to display His power.

Paul says in verse 9,

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (vv. 9–10).

When God uses you, when God uses me, we can say, "I didn't do anything; I'm just a twig. But I have the Rod of Jesse in me—I have the Spirit of Christ in me, resting on me, filling me, using me, flowing through me—and in my weakness the Rod of Jesse is strong."

Leslie: During a busy Christmas season, you might be feeling pretty weak. It's hard to get everything done. I hope Nancy Leigh DeMoss' words have encouraged you today. She's been helping us know how to better understand the familiar carol "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

To help you remember today’s teaching from Nancy, we’d like to send you her brand new piano CD called Come Adore

When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll send the CD Come Adore as our way of saying "thanks." And Nancy, I know our listeners are going to love hearing this CD.

Nancy: Thanks, Leslie. Having the chance to record this CD was one of the highlights of my year. And when you support Revive Our Hearts, not only will you receive some worshipful Christmas music. You’ll also know that your gift is a big part of helping women thrive in Christ—women like this wife and mom in Uganda.

Danielle Hurley: My name is Danielle Hurley. I'm from Uganda.

Nancy: I had the chance to meet Danielle personally at the True Woman Conference in October. It was such a joy to hear her share how God is using the ministry of Revive Our Hearts in her life all the way over in Uganda.

Danielle is a busy serving her family and investing in other women. She has to get to be filled up with God’s Word herself so she can then pour out to others. So every few weeks, she travels from her small village to a larger city where she can get the only Internet connection in the area—and even that's slow. While she's there, she downloads the Revive Our Hearts podcast.

Danielle: It takes about twenty minutes to download one radio broadcast. Then I download it to my iTunes. When I'm there maybe I can get two at a time.

Nancy: But those long download times are worth it to Danielle.

Danielle: I take them home. As I’m making dinner, I can be in the middle of the jungle and be listening to Nancy. There's been many a day I've been in my kitchen and I have tears streaming down my face because I'm feeling so ministered to by a godly woman that now is in my kitchen in the jungle. It's just amazing. It's an amazing gift. 

Nancy: And now Danielle is spreading that gift to others. She and a team of leaders are using Revive Our Hearts transcripts, taking them into villages there in Uganda, and teaching these messages to other women.

Danielle: In our village, we began this last year to teach through "The Wonder of His Name." 

Nancy: That’s the radio series that aired earlier this spring on Revive Our Hearts.

Danielle: So every week, we’ve taught it first to our leadership team on Tuesday afternoons. Then on Wednesday the elders' wives would each take the material to a different village and teach an attribute of Christ to the village.

There have been many weeks as the women would open their Bibles and realize the truths applied to them and their own relationship with Jesus. They would literally have their mouths open. There were many times that the next week they would come back and share with each other the impact it had made on them the week before.

It's been incredible to see brand new believers then counseling the other women in the Bible study with all the passion and sincerity of saying, "This is true. This is who God is."

Being in a remote village in the middle of the jungle of Africa, there would be a tendency to feel isolated, but because of Revive Our Hearts, I've had the opportunity to have a fellowship of women right there in my kitchen where I listen to the program.

Nancy: I am blown away that the Lord can take the teaching on Revive Our Hearts and get it into places we never expected—like tiny villages in Uganda.

But without the support of our listeners, there wouldn't be any Revive Our Hearts programs or transcripts for Danielle to download.

Each year, over 40% of that support arrives during the month of December. So the gifts given this month are going to have a big effect on our ability to continue encouraging Danielle in Uganda, as well as the women in your community.

When you support Revive Our Hearts between today and December 31, your gift will be doubled by some friends of the ministry who see how God is using Revive Our Hearts to help women thrive in Christ. They said they would like to match every dollar given—one for one—up to a total matching challenge amount of $650,000!

This is such a great opportunity, but to receive the entire amount, we need listeners like you to respond. I want to encourage you to ask the Lord if He would want you to give to support Revive Our Hearts at this time and to help women around the world thrive in Christ.

Danielle: Revive Our Hearts helps me thrive in Christ by directing me to His Word and ministering to me through the teaching of His Word. I'm so thankful that other women in my village thrive in Christ through Revive Our Hearts and our study of "The Wonder of His Name."

Nancy: You can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.  

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

Well, have you ever thought of Jesus as a key? Tomorrow, we'll see why He's called the Key of David as we continue exploring the song, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.