When We Think God is Not “With Us”

A few months ago, I listened to a sermon by a prominent evangelical pastor in which he referenced the words “God with us” as among the foremost of the goals of God and the storyline of Scripture.  The goal of this post is to give a brief understanding of what he means behind these words.  WARNING: this may change how you read Scripture or view the Bible!

“God With Us”

In the beginning, as God created the heavens and the earth, He was perfectly with His creation as it was all considered “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  In the beginning, God was with His people.  Adam and Eve walked with and talked with God on the norm.  Don’t believe me?  Go and read Genesis 1–3.

The Break

Then Genesis 3 came along, and the relationship between God and man was separated.  The message was no longer “God with us,” but rather “God separated from us” because of our sin.  Everyone knows the awkwardness and despair that comes through a broken relationship.  A broken relationship from God is infinitely more awkward and despairing than any other.

Since Genesis 3, out of love, God has been working toward restoring the “God with us.”

Old Testament “With Us”

He began by calling Abraham, but much of God’s work is seen through the life of Moses.  The majority of this Old Testament work is seen in the Tabernacle.  Where God went, so the people of Israel went, and so went the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle represented God’s dwelling amongst His chosen people.  As God Himself said, “I will make my dwelling place among you…” (Leviticus 26:11; cf. Exodus 25:8–9).  Here, “dwelling place” literally means “tabernacle.”  God is making an effort to be “with us!”

Jesus “With Us”

Later, as Jesus comes and is named “Immanuel,” we learn the name means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  As John wrote of the incarnation, he said that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14).  The word we translate “dwelt” is a verb that means “to tabernacle.”  At this point, God is not “with us” as a mobile tent, but as the incarnate Son, Jesus!  Jesus literally “tabernacled” among us.  How cool is that?

Holy Spirit “With Us”

Currently, in the interim between the present and the future perfection of redeemed creation, God is with us through the Holy Spirit.  Paul writes to the Corinthians that aren’t aware of the “God with us” message, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16)?  God has made a home in our very hearts, and not only dwells, with us, but in us.  But at this point, sin is still a common thread throughout broken creation.

“God With Us”

In the future, what we all have to look forward to is a permanent, perfect, sinless, “God with us.”  John writes in Revelation 21:3, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.”  This is uttered in the moments that the new heavens and new earth are coming into effect.  Again, the words translated “dwelling place,” mean, you guessed it, “tabernacle.”  Again, as all things will again be “good” as in Eden, we will walk with and talk with God.  God will perfectly be “with us.”  Oh, what we have to look forward to!

Among the Goals of the Gospel

You can rest in this, God has taken the initiative to be “with us.”  It was God who reached out to Abraham.  It was God who came to dwell in the tabernacle.  It was God who came to earth to dwell in flesh.  It is God who dwells in His sons and daughters.  It will be God who comes to earth and dwells forevermore with His perfect creation.  It has been and always will be “God with us!”

What is one of the overarching goals of the gospel?  God with us!  God redeems and restores our relationship between Him so that we can be with Him!  The calling of Abraham, the establishment of the Law and tabernacle, the prophets that God sends in the Old Testament, are all toward the goal and purpose of “God with us.”  The incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are all toward the goal and purpose of “God with us.”  All of this for the utmost of the overarching goals and purposes of the gospel: the glory of God!

 

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