Thursday, 15 December 2016

Advent 3: God With Us

Throughout the Old Testament, we see the ongoing relationship between God and the nation of Israel (God's chosen people).  We see how the Jews learn about God, as He shows Himself to them in a number of ways.

For example, they had seen "God for us":  they'd seen Him rescue them from Egypt, through a series of plagues against Pharoah and the Egyptian people.  As another example:  David, taking on Goliath, knew that God was fighting for him:  David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head."   1 Samuel 17:45-46

The Israelites had also seen "God above us" during the 40 years of marching through the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land.  God led his people with a pillar of cloud by day, and a the pillar of fire by night.  They knew God was above them: "Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other."  Deuteronomy 4:39.  

Sadly, the Israelites also knew about "God against us", when, following their unrepentant disobedience, God had to punish and discipline them.  Their cities were beseiged; the people were enslaved, or were taken into exile.

However, the promise that God gave his people through the prophet Isaiah is "God with us" - Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Previously, God had worked remotely, from heaven - speaking to his people through the prophets and through signs.  This wasn't a lasting fix for the separation between God and His people - a separation caused by sin - and so God knew that the time would arrive when He'd come to be with His people:  "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14

No longer just "God above us", "God for us" or "God against us", but now, God with us.  And he was named Jesus:  "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  Matthew 1:21.  And the only way that God could save His people?  By coming down to Earth and being with them: Jesus is Emmanuel.

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