Where is God? Is He there? Does He care?
Anytime we try and contemplate the INFINITE in our limited finite ability, it can create confusion, a vacuum, or even distance or darkness.
This seems especially true in times of crisis. Ahaz was walking around the water supply to Jerusalem in Isaiah 7, burdened by the reality that not only were the Assyrians on the move- but even Syria and the Northern kingdom were planning an attack.
Isaiah was sent to speak to the King and encourage him to stand firm and trust the Lord...which the king continually refused to do. Ahaz had a fearful and hard heart- refusing to even accept the sign from God that things were in His hands.
The Sign of Immanuel
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”Matthew 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means God with us).
As we approach this famous passage, we actually get into one of the most intriguing parts of Biblical prophecy. And we also get to a theological controversy at the same time. In spite of these issues, if we are not careful we will miss the biggest message and our best comfort during this season..... GOD IS WITH US.
Do you believe that? Do you really comprehend what that means?
May years ago, Bette Midler sand a song with a very catching melody:
but her ending line is such a disappointmentGod is watching us.....God is watching us.....God is watching us.....
From a distance.
As appealing it was to actually hear God in a popular song, this ultimately was not helpful. Fortunately, it is not correct. God is NOT sitting way up in the cosmos, wringing His hands and wondering what will happen. He is not like Lucille Ball overrun by the assembly line or Jim Carrey inundated with e-mails- He is present, living, active, and sovereign over the minute details of your very life. AND HE IS FOR YOU!
REMEMBER ROMANS 8:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What an awesome message! What a Christmas message!
Now a little Bible teaching here.....
The toughest one is the translation of the word 'virgin' in Isaiah. It may be a little bit of a force here by translators. Please don't tag me as liberal, just wanting to give you all the evidence.
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary as recorded in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38. But the emphasis of this verse and in Matthew is "IMMANUEL" not the woman. The word in Isaiah is more likely 'young woman' here in Isaiah. But the virgin birth of Jesus stands on the account in the gospels where Matthew and Luke testify to this. And then Matthew gives a legitimate rendering of 'virgin' to the Isaiah reference.
The greek work in Matthew is parthenos (a virgin, chaste woman).
The greek work in Matthew is parthenos (a virgin, chaste woman).
Now why is this even important? We have to be careful to understand that there is often in Biblical prophecy DUAL fulfillment of the text. In other words, there will be a literal fulfillment in a soon time, but also a larger more expansive fulfillment in the future.
An example of this is prophecy regarding Babylon- the literal fulfillment of its destruction, but also the larger prediction of the world's system which will be destroyed in the second coming of Christ.
This passage in Isaiah is an excellent example of this. It was literally fulfilled in Isaiah 8:1-10 but it also points to Christ 700 years later. The Old Testament contains types and shadows of the King. Again, we use Scripture to establish these ideas... that is why I included Matthew 1 where he points back to this verse.
Now it points out an interesting part of 'Immanuel', which is this: God's presence - His being with us- is not loved or wanted by everyone. The reference in Isaiah is again judgment for God's enemies and comfort for God's people.
It is never easy... Christ is always a battle ground. That is why you see even today, conflict over nativity scenes and over the name of Jesus Christ.
But do not lose heart. Embrace Immanuel. He is with you. Yes that frightens me too. He is so with me that He knows how I think. He knows how poorly I obey. He knows how weak and sinful I am. And He still loves me- WOW!
AND He is FOR me. He is WITH me. When others run, He stands and supports. When Satan accuses, He defends.
This Christmas.... meditate on this truth. God is with us. He is not distant. God is with us, He has not tucked tail and run. God is with us. Allow Him to draw even closer still.