God with us

God being with his people is a common biblical theme. You can trace it through Genesis, with mankind enjoying God in the garden, then being cast out. Exodus begins with the people enslaved, and ends with God dwelling in the middle of the camp.

But God being in a tent is one thing. The rules and procedures to get through to him, the one man who could approach him – God living in a tent, and then the temple, was only a glimpse of life in the garden.

And finally, we hear the promise longed for since the man and the woman were cast out of the garden. Through Isaiah, God speaks to the wicked king Ahaz:

‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14).

In this child to be born, God would be ‘Immanuel’, meaning ‘God with us. In this child to be born, once again God would walk with his people. We wouldn’t be separated from him by veils or altars or priests. He would be with us, walking and talking with us.

And finally, the child was born. God in the flesh, walking among an unclean and sinful people. Yet he won’t break out in judgement. Instead, he’ll show them mercy.

This God in the flesh will show compassion to the poor and sick. He’ll preach of the coming kingdom, and will raise the dead. But most importantly, he will go to the cross. Rather than coming in judgement on us, he’ll face the judgement of his Father for us.

And because of his death and resurrection, those who trust in him are guaranteed an eternity with God. Everlasting life, with our everlasting God. Because of Christmas, and Easter, those cast out can be welcomed back into his presence.

Never Alone

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matt 1:23)

If we were to list all the particularly sweet verses in the Bible (Psalm 19:10), this verse would no doubt make the list. The promise made through Isaiah is now quoted by the angel, finding its fulfilment in Jesus. This son of a virgin has long been anticipated and is now finally arriving on the scene.

Why is this verse so sweet? Because what had long been lost is finally restored. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created they enjoyed perfect harmony with God. They heard his voice and enjoyed fellowship with him.

One of the many tragedies of that horrendous day when humanity fell into sin was that our fellowship with God was lost. We were cast out of the Garden and his presence. (Gen 3:24).

The story of the Bible could be summarised as God bringing his people back into his presence. Pictures of being in God’s presence are scattered throughout. Exodus finished with God in the tabernacle in the middle of the camp. That tent was eventually superseded by the temple.

This is again superseded, now by a person. In Jesus, God once again walks with his people. And now, because he has ascended, he sent his Spirit to be with us. When he was with us bodily he was isolated to one place and group of people, but in the Spirit he is with us all (Jn 16:7).

While we long for Christ’s return we can rejoice that we are never alone. When the world turns against us and we feel alone, or when we are physically lonely, we need not despair. God, in Christ, by his Spirit, is with us.