God is With You

The Lord God told Abram (Abraham) “I will bless you . . .” (Gen 12:2) and at first glance, we see that God made Abram a wealthy man with “livestock, silver, and gold” (13:2).  So much so that he and his nephew, Lot, had to part ways because the land could not support them both (v. 6). That’s a lot of blessing! But the real blessing of God is found a couple of pages over. “The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1). The greatest blessing God gave Abram was Himself.  The more I read the Bible the more I’ve discovered that the blessing God desires most to give us is the same.

To Moses, who questioned his ability to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God said “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12). To Joshua, as he prepared to lead them into the Promised Land, “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God goes with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). To Gideon, “The Lord is with you mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). To the disciples Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). And when Paul was in prison, the Lord Jesus Himself “stood near” him and gave him strength (Acts 23:11). And Jesus promised that He was returning to heaven to “prepare a place for you . . . that you may always be where I am” (John 14:2-3). Forever.

But God’s presence is not just relegated to the past. Jesus promised His own Spirit would dwell in His followers so that His presence would never leave them (John 14:16-17).  That means when you accept Christ, you are given His Spirit at that very moment. The same God that was with Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, the disciples, and Paul is with you. In you. What you and I need now is an awareness of His presence. That’s my prayer for us both today, that we would be acutely sensitive to the Spirit, keenly attuned to His voice and His leading. The most comforting words in Scripture are not, “it’s all gonna be okay,” but “I am with you.”

The Real Jesus

Matthew is one of only two gospel writers to mention the birth narrative.  He wrote to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah of old.  He included details that were pregnant with Jewish prophecy. Luke wrote his gospel account via careful investigation and eyewitness testimonies (Luke 1:1-4). Church tradition maintains that the story of the nativity in Luke came directly from Mary’s remembrances, which is why his gospel is rich with the details of the event. Mothers remember everything about their children’s birth. It’s interesting to me that Luke, writing from Mary’s perspective wrote about lowly shepherds who visited the holy family in the mean stable, while Matthew wrote about wise men – probably wealthy Persian kings – who followed the star to worship the then-toddler.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew reaches back to Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith, and identified David, the chosen king of Israel. Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage back to “Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:37). Matthew wanted to show Jesus as the rightful King of the Jews.  Luke wanted to show Him as the God-Man, who lived and died in humility among humanity. So was Jesus a King or a common man? Yes and yes. To have a full understanding of Him, we must see Him as both. And as more.

He is the Baby in the manger. He is the itinerant preacher. He is the dead man on the cross. He is the risen Lord. He is the Son of God, seated at the Father’s right hand. He is the Redeemer of the world. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one who is, was, and is to come. He is part of the Triune Godhead. He is the soon-coming King. He is the Victor who crushed Satan’s head. And He is my Savior. Is He yours?

The Joy of Emmanuel

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel* – which means, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23 NIV

Who doesn’t love a good reunion?  It gives us great joy to see loved ones who have been away: college students, military servicemen and women, missionaries, your brother who moved across the country, a granddaughter who lives abroad.  The best television commercials show a family member embraced loved one as he returns home. We all love the videos that show service personnel coming home to surprise their joyful families after being deployed far from away.  I remember running through the airport to welcome my own Dad back home after a tour of duty in Vietnam.

The Bible tells us that God finds great joy in reunions too.  In fact, that is the point of the Christmas story.  God wanted to be reunited with His beloved creation-mankind – you and me.  God created us for relationship, not that we might service His needs, and not to use us in some cosmic chess game.  But so that he could lavish His love on us, and we would respond with love back to Him.  The Bible shows us that God has continually drawn near to man.  In the garden, He had close and personal fellowship with Adam and Eve, walking through the Garden with them in the cool of the evening.  But sin broke that intimate fellowship, and a barrier was placed between God and man.  God commanded the Israelites to make a Tabernacle that He might come and dwell among His people, and He did for hundreds of years, until again, the sin of the nation of Israel became so great that God withdrew from the Temple.  The Old Testament records many visitations of God to Abraham, Jacob, Daniel and others who were devoted to Him.  But these were brief occasions, to impart a message or empower His servant for a specific act.  God desired a deeper communion with man.  And God had a plan.

Galatians 4:4 tells us “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son,” His Son whose is called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”  Jesus came as a baby, all of the fullness and deity of God wrapped in flesh and lying in a rough manger because God loves the joy of being with His beloved creation.   Jesus, the God-man, walked among His creation, though they did not recognize Him.  Jesus brought God near to us, a joyous reunion indeed.  “God with us” means you and I are never alone, if we are trusting in Him as our Savior and Lord.  We have the joy of His presence with us continually in the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Immanuel is with us in storms and darkness and trial and suffering.  He is with us in our times of doubt and fear and loneliness and emptiness.  The joy of Immanuel is knowing that there is no place we can go and no circumstance of life we will face that God is not with us.  Jesus made Himself on of us that we might know the joy of His presence now and for eternity.

I pray that the joy of Immanuel is with you this Advent season.

“Oh, Emmanuel*, Emmanuel, Your name is called Emmanuel God with us Revealed in us, Your name is called Emmanuel.”  Amen

* Some translations spell this word differently, the NIV uses Immanuel, the KJV uses Emmanuel – either way God is with us.