Immanuel

Genesis 31:3 “Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

When God told Jacob that He would be with him in the verse above, what did He mean?  Is it the idea that He would be “with him in spirit” as we say when we want someone to know we are thinking about them?  Jacob couldn’t see God, so if it was more than “in spirit,” i.e., if God was actually physically in Jacob’s presence, how would he know?  Same with us.  The Bible tells us several times that God will never leave us nor forsake us (e.g., Hebrews 13:5), but in what sense?  Like Jacob, we can’t see God either, so how do we know if He is there somewhere?  In what sense is He “with us?” 

God wants us to realize this so much that He gave Jesus the name Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  Yes, Jesus was with His disciples physically for a three-year period. They walked with Him and talked with Him, so He was obviously with them in those instances. But is He with us now?  Interestingly, when Nathaniel first met Christ, he was very skeptical.  However, when Jesus told him that He had seen him under the sycamore tree although He hadn’t been physically there, it caused Nathaniel to exclaim “Rabbi, you are the Son of God (John 1:49-49)!”  You see, Nathaniel knew full well that if Jesus had seen him, it was a supernatural act, for no one can see someone when they have no physical means to do so. 

The fact is, God is with us in such an intimate sense that it is beyond our comprehension. Psalm 139 tells us this in many ways.  For example, we are told “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me . . .  Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” This Psalm then goes on to say that God was with us even when we were in our mother’s womb.  It also says that God’s thoughts toward us are more numerous than the sands of the see.  God is omnipresent. That means He is everywhere all the time at every moment of every day. 

Is anyone else “with you” like that?  Of course, the answer is no.  But even more incredible, the sense of how God is “with us” for the Christian is even more wonderful than this.  Jesus told the disciples before He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit to them. Of Him, Jesus said, “he lives with you and will be in you (John 14:17).” Did you hear that?  He said that the Spirit would not only be with us, but also “in us.”  He dwells in us, for our physical bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).”  And we know all this because God has told us. That should be enough for us, for God cannot lie. He’s with us and in us no matter what time of day or night, no matter where we are, no matter if we feel like it or not.  The Holy Spirit is motivating us to love Jesus as well as our neighbor. He’s teaching us to understand His Word.  He’s guiding us constantly. Of course, we can resist Him. We can sin against God and grieve Him. We can live in such a way as to close ourselves off so that we aren’t in communion with Him, but if that’s the case, it is always our fault, never His.

God is with us. God is in us who know Him.  What an awesome thing this is.  May God help us to glorify Him with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20), as we commune with Him, yield to His guidance, and long for a constant awareness of His presence in our lives.

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