Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
I recently watched the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings (and definitely recommend it). In it was one of the most striking depictions of the suffering of the Jews and their journey to freedom. “We’re going to Canaan”, they said. “We’re going to Canaan”, they said for 400 years. “We’re going to Canaan”, they said for 400 years, still believing, still hoping. Still waiting.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion! How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:1-4)
Beaten. Tortured. Taunted. Forced to build altars to inferior gods. Waiting. 400 years of waiting and still, “We’re going to Canaan.” Still pining for rescue. Still praying for ransom.
They could have given up the ache for liberation. They could have resigned themselves to their fate. They could have wallowed in defeat, the towering pyramids around them mocking them, asking for songs. “Where is this Cannan you speak of? Has your God delivered you yet? Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
Still they told stories of the Emmanuel to come amidst the darkness of their present exile. Still they passed down the stories of old, lighting candles of destiny, of hope on the lamps of their children’s hearts. Still they prayed and believed this God who’d not moved His hand – YET – because their deliverance was promised. Their future was secure. Their freedom would come. And in the meantime, in the waiting, He was Emmanuel: God with us.
He still is.