are you really around? Are you with us?
I thank you for giving my family a chance to enjoy the beauty and
the economic abundance of Vancouver, British Columbia, my heart
continually bleeds for billions of human beings around the world who
are created in your own image.
Half the world—nearly three billion people—lives on
less than two dollars a day. The
GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e., a
quarter of the world's countries) is less than the wealth of the
world's three richest people combined.
Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to
read a book or sign their names.
Less than one per cent of what the world spends every year on
weapons would be needed to put every child into school by the end of
this year. (Global
you with those whom you created in your image?
my country of residence—Canada—is enjoying its economic
stability, my country of origin—The Philippines—is still paying
the debts incurred by the Marcos Regime.
developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it
receives in grants.
2000) This is a major
factor why the Republic of the Philippines is regarded as a supplier
of cheap labor and cheap raw materials in the scheme of the global
you with the poor nations?
my wife and daughters are enjoying their journey towards their full
potential as persons-in-community, millions of women continue to be
subject to persistent discrimination in education, employment,
health and nationality. Violence
against women and sexual exploitation remain serious problems,
despite government efforts to address the issue.
There had been an increase in trafficking of
women--especially from Latin American countries to Europe and from
Eastern Europe. As we
enter the 21st Century, there has been an increase in
trafficking in women, a drastic rise in domestic violence and the
fact that unemployment was higher among women even though they still
receive lower pay than men. (UN
Report On Women)
you with the women of our time?
I praise you for the growth, security, and safety of my own
children, I can’t help but cry for the millions of children around
the world. Between
1997 and 1998, an estimated two million children have been killed in
armed conflict. Three times as many have been permanently disabled
or seriously injured. (Center
for Defense Information)
you with our children?
I am grateful to you, God, for the support of my wife in many daring
and risky adventures in our 21 years of marriage, my friend, whom I
think deserves more than what I enjoy, has been abandoned by his
wife for a younger and wealthier man.
you with those whom you joined together?
you promised that you would be with us: “Therefore, the Lord
himself will give a sign to you:
See! A young
woman bearing a child. And
she will call his name Emmanu El.”
(Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)
aware that I do not belong to the nation of Judah, the people group
you originally gave this promise to.
The approximate year when you gave this promise to that
people was 735 BCE. Israel
was a divided kingdom then. Northern
Israel (often referred to as Israel or Ephraim) was at
war against Southern Israel (often referred to as Judah).
Ephraim’s king, Pekah, made an alliance with Aram (ancient
was a frightening situation for Judah.
The combined armies of Ephraim and Aram who were marching
against the south intimidated Judah’s King Ahaz.
And yes, Judah’s royal family belongs to King David’s
dynasty. You promised
the Davidic Dynasty that they will remain on the throne of Israel
forever. So, it was a
time of multiple crises in their life—political, theological,
social, economic, and spiritual.
the midst of these crises, you spoke through the Prophet Isaiah.
Your message was frightening.
You assured King Ahaz that the two small nations who formed
an alliance against Judah were not really the problem.
You were sending Assyria, a superpower, to defeat Ephraim and
Aram. However, you
warned Ahaz not to put his trust in the strength of Assyria.
But Ahaz chose to align his kingdom with Assyria and
supported Assyria to conquer Ephraim.
In 722 BCE, Assyria razed Ephraim to the ground.
Ahaz thought he was safe.
But no. The
Assyrians made Judah a vassal state.
The king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, made Ahaz one of his
promised King Ahaz, through the Prophet Isaiah, that all these
unpleasant political-military prophecies will surely happen.
That was the time when you gave a sign:
Therefore, the Lord himself will give a sign to you:
See! A young
woman bearing a child. And
she will call his name Emmanu El.
its context, how would I interpret this verse?
What is the meaning of Emmanu El in my personal experience?
What is the meaning of Immanu El in the context of the global
realities of the 21st Century?
though I do not belong ethnically to the nation of Judah, I feel I
can identify with their feelings of superiority as a chosen people,
and their feelings of insecurity and helplessness as a small,
powerless nation in the context of geo-politics. On
one hand, as a Christian who lives in Canada, I tend to project a
feeling of superiority because in many Christian instructional
activities, I have been told repeatedly about the superiority of
Christian worldview against all other worldviews.
Historically, this religious superiority complex translated
well into military-cultural superiority complex that brought about
imperialistic crusades. On
the other hand, as a Filipino, I have an experiential or existential
knowledge of what it means to be discriminated because I came from a
"Third World" country.
My country of origin—The Philippines—was even named after
King Philip of Spain. My
people were enslaved by Western Christian colonial powers.
God, I hope you don’t mind me embracing your promise of Emmanu El.
more I reflect on the meaning of Emmanu El, the more I sense your
presence in my life. God,
I cannot deny the ultimate reality that, when I talk to you,
you’re there. I
cannot deny the truth that I really do experience your presence and
I’m in you. Our time
together helps a lot. In
the midst of millions of uncertainties in my life, I’m certain
that you are present. I
experience Emmanu El!
presence is real inside our space-time world.
A child was born in Judah as a sign that you were
present among your people in the 8th Century BCE when the
Assyrians were in power (Isa. 7).
The Child was born in Bethlehem around 6 BCE as a sign
that you were present among your people during the Roman occupation
of Palestine (Mt. 1:23). Matthew,
the Gospel Writer, saw both pictures as a continuum of your presence
and intervention in human affairs.
Both events were instances of Immanu El in history.
These events show that you continually intervene in human affairs to
remind us of your presence.
are present where I live. You
are present among my friends and loved ones who are in the
mysterious ways beyond our comprehension, you are present among the
billions of people who are experiencing pain, suffering, and
injustices. You are
present in the midst of all the crises and struggles we experience
as one humanity. Therefore,
we are never alone.
presence is also real outside our space-time world.
The prophecy of Isaiah included your statement of your
eternal presence and sovereignty: “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these? He
who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by
name. Because of his
great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
are present where we are. But
you are not “boxed” by the limitations of our place and time.
You energize us with spiritual power from sources outside our
time and space. Therefore,
we are supernaturally resourced and empowered!
promises are based on your presence, not on our expectations or
In 722 BCE, you saved Judah, the Southern Kingdom, from the
Aram-Ephraim military coalition using Assyria.
You disciplined Ephraim or the Northern Kingdom.
But in 586 BCE, you also disciplined Judah by sending the
Babylonians. Judah was
sent to exile.
presence involves both the promise of protection and the promise
of discipline. The
promise of protection is pleasant.
The promise of discipline is unpleasant.
But both protection and discipline are promises of
we are always blessed!
presence does not guarantee economic security and socio-political
In The Book of Isaiah the coming of Emmanu El meant
Judah becoming a puppet kingdom under the Assyrians (7:14-25).
It implied economic poverty because of King Ahaz’s
tributary gifts to the King of Assyria.
In The Gospel of Matthew, the coming of Emmanu El
meant triggering the fury of King Herod, an insecure monarch who was
a puppet of the Roman Empire. Herod’s
psychological and political insecurity led to the massacre of male
children 2 years old and below (Mt. 2:16).
Jesus, the Emmanu El, became a Semitic, trans-continental
refugee—from West Asia to North Africa.
Jesus, a Jewish boy, became a target of Anti-Semitic hatred.
presence is true whether we succeed or fail in whatever we seek to
accomplish, both in the areas of economic security and
socio-political causes. When
we allow your presence to determine the meaning and significance of
our life, then we are allowing your power to do your purpose in, and
through, our lives. Therefore,
we will seek your power to be the person you want us to be.
presence does not change.
God, your presence is a constant.
Our awareness of your presence is a variable.
You are never absent. Our
perception does not always tune-in to your presence.
All along, you have been present in human affairs, even
during the times when we are weak and weary (Isa. 40:28-31).
All along, you have been preparing the coming of the Emmanu
El (Matthew 1:1-17). The
ancient Jewish religious leaders and scholars were not aware of the
coming of Emmanu El; they merely responded to the Magi from the East
who made them aware that the Emmanu El has been born (Mt. 2:1-6).
Indeed, your presence do not change!
you are always present, you are always faithful.
Through your power, we can focus our whole being to the fact
that you are present—moment by moment, day by day.
Therefore, we will be faithful to you!
God, I thank you because your presence is an eternal reality.
Your presence—not my perspectives and expectations—is the
ultimate basis of your faithfulness.
El is real in the year 2001.
PANTOJA's passion is to help multiply effective leaders for the
global and digital realities of the 21st Century. He makes his
living and has traveled globally as a leadership
consultant. He's married to Joji,
his college sweetheart. They have three young adult children--Alethea
(20), L'nielle Joy (17), and Byron (16). They live in
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.