God With Us: The REAL Meaning of Christmas
We are told Emmanuel means “God with us.” But what does that really mean? What does it look like? And how does it affect our lives? This Christmas I hope you will get a glimpse of God With Us and what Christmas is all about.
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. (Judge 6:1-6)
Anyone been there before? You hit rock-bottom and all you have left to do is look up. You realize you can’t do it on your own. And only God can save you.
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judge 6:11-12)
Notice “The Angel of the LORD” says these things. We will come back to who that is in a moment. The Angel of the Lord calls Gideon a “mighty warrior,” but Gideon hadn’t done anything…yet. He had not been in one battle and he was already a mighty warrior in God’s eyes. God sees you for the person you will be, not the person you used to be. In the midst Gideon’s most difficult moment, He says “The LORD is with you.” But Gideon has a question.
“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe it feels like God has abandoned you. If God is really with me, why did I lose my job? Why did I lose someone I loved? Why do I never get a break? Doesn’t He want me to be happy?
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “But LORD,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
If you know the story, Gideon does strike down the Midianites as he follows God’s commands step-by-step. It was not because of his strength, but because he put his trust in God.
Abraham, on the other hand, was confident that God is with him. He had been promised a son and grandkids and great grandkids as numerous as the stars in the sky. Miraculously, Abraham had Isaac when he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90! Yet 37 years later, Isaac didn’t even have a wife yet. He was dangerously close to being a 40 year old virgin. (Genesis 25:20)
Something needed to be done and they didn’t have Ye Harmony back then. They had arranged marriages, but Abraham was too old to travel so he sent his most trusted servant to find Isaac a wife. In Genesis 24
2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth,
Now I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me, “Put your hand under my thigh” I’m not doing it. Especially when you consider that men generally didn’t wear underwear under their clothing so there was a good chance that if you put your hand there, you might touch something else. What was Abraham doing? He was showing how serious he was. This was not something that warrants a pinky swear.
What was he swearing about?
that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
This is not racism. Abraham lived with Canaanites. He worked with Canaanites. But he knew that their religion was much different than his. Canaanites didn’t believe in the Lord so he made his servant swear that he would not look for a wife for his only son among the Canaanites.
That was a serious issue for Abraham. Is it a serious issue to you? Are you looking in all the wrong places?
7 “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send His angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.
Abraham speaks with confidence that the journey will be successful. He doesn’t hope that God will help his servant or promise to pray for him; he states as a fact that the LORD will send His angel to help the servant be a part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. He knows that God’s promises will happen because God will make them happen just as He has seen time and time again in his own life. The servant would not be burdened with all the pressure and labor that would be needed in order to find Isaac’s wife. The LORD would send His angel even before Abraham sends his servant to do the work of preparing hearts and arranging the timing and placing the people where they needed to be when the servant arrived at his destination. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” “What” we are certain of is the Greek word PRAGMA. If we have faith or trust in God, then we are sure of PRAGMA, which means “that which is done, an event, an occurrence, an undertaking.” If we need a job, we can be certain that what has to happen for us to get a job is already being done by God who goes before us to make sure it happens. He will create the job opening. He will make certain that you see the job posting or meet the right person to refer you. There are events happening even now that we cannot see and we have no real evidence that anything is happening for our benefit, but our evidence is what God has ALREADY done in the past for us. If we truly believe that God is with us, then we can be just as positive as Abraham that “He will go before you” and provide for our every need.
God has perfect timing. He will orchestrate everything. The servant would merely have to be faithful and his journey would be successful. Are you full of faith or full of something else?
Does “His angel” intrigue you as much as it does me? Who is “His angel”? Gabriel? Michael? Cupid?
This is no mere angel; this is The Angel of the LORD. The fancy theological term for this is a preincarnate theophany. Theophany means “God sighting.” Preincarnate means “before the Incarnation,” which is what we celebrate every Christmas when Jesus came to earth as a baby and lived among us for 33 years. But the incarnation wasn’t the first time Jesus appeared to us. Preincarnate theophanies happened often and if you look closely at some familiar stories, you will see Jesus in the Old Testament. Because Jesus is the Angel of the Lord. Here is a list of the most familiar appearances. Study them! Jesus really is in the Old Testament.
The Angel of the LORD called out to Abraham twice to stop him from sacrificing his son (Genesis 22:11,15)
The Angel of the LORD appears to Moses in the midst of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2)
The Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon and says, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6)
When God comes to earth as a man, it is Jesus. We know this because of the reaction of those who see Him face to face and live to tell about it. They name mountains after Him and wonder aloud how they could see God and still be alive. Abraham saw Jesus. Moses saw Jesus in the burning bush. Gideon saw Jesus. And when God goes before us to give us a job or a spouse or money to pay a bill or a healing, we see Jesus.
So when we say God is with us, we are trusting in His promise that He will go before us to prepare His provisions for us.
So the servant puts his hand under Abraham’s thigh and swears – maybe a different kind of swearing (why the sheol do I have to do this? I swear, I swear!). So the servant takes ten camels and heads to the only town he knows that has believers in the Lord, Abraham’s hometown. As soon as he gets there, he stops to pray.
12 Then he prayed, “LORD, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
The servant asks for a sign – not of her outward appearance, but her inward character. The sign is more obvious in the original language where two very different words are used. The servant is going to ask, “Please give me a sip of water from your jar” and he will know he has found the right woman for Isaac if she answers, “Drink as much as you want and I will go get water for your thirsty camels.” Considering that there were 10 camels and it took about a month to get to that town, this would be going way above the call of duty. It would indicate that she is generous, unselfish, patient, kind, and loving. If she did this for a complete stranger, she would obviously be a great wife for Isaac.
15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
God’s timing is perfect. Sometimes He makes us wait; sometimes He can’t wait for us to finish our sentence. That is the power of prayer, giving control over to God where it belongs. Pray with your eyes open. He may just answer your prayer when you least expect it. Rebecca was just doing her daily chores. She wasn’t going clubbing every night or trying to get on “The Bachelorette.” She worried more about her character and her kindness to an old man helped her find the one God wanted her to be with.
17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.” 18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.
The servant waited until she did what she said she would do. When she finished, he told her and her family everything almost word-for-word as it is told earlier in the chapter – with one key change. God has blessed Abraham, he made him swear by putting his hand under his nasty thigh (I didn’t touch anything!), then he asks what if she won’t come…
40 “He replied, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family.
You might be asking yourself, “I thought he said ‘before you’?” He did, but since all that he tells them has already come to pass, this is his testimony of what the LORD has done for him! God not only went before him to prepare for his successful journey, He even went with him to guide him every step of the way.
God is not just the wedding planner in this story, getting everything ready for when the servant shows up; He is our GPS system if we will just let Him take the wheel and trust Him to guide us every step of the way. He’s not like an Apple maps app where you end up in a lake somewhere. He is more like Google Maps with 360 street views if we stop and listen to His direction. He’s not like the guy that won’t give you directions and just says, “Follow me” and then runs red lights and goes 15 over and forgets that you are behind him and then doesn’t pick up his cell phone when you lose sight of him. He will go with you and makes sure you are on the right road.
The servant testifies about his success…
48 I bowed down and worshiped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road
Well, that’s great to know, Jon. Jesus will go before us to prepare the way and Jesus will go with us to guide our steps. Those are future tenses. When is He going to start to go before and with me?
54 When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”55 But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”57 Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.”
Rebekah’s family tried to hang on to her – even though it was time for her to follow the servant, and ultimately God. If she stayed, she would probably keep extending her stay and get stuck in a rut and never reach the place that God wanted to lead her.
58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
Jesus will go before you to prepare the way and Jesus will go with you to guide every step when you choose to say, “I will go.” For some of us, that means we need to let go of some things – our bitterness over bad past relationships, our need for control over everything in your life, our friends that influence us negatively and try to lead us on the wrong roads, our fear for the unknown. You will never get to where God wants to lead you if do not drop everything that weighs you down and embrace Jesus. You ever try to hug someone when your hands are full? You ever try to walk to your car with a bunch of baggage? Let go of your baggage. It will not be an easy journey, but it will be worth the wait and sacrifice. Isaac found that out.
63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her came and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
It was love at first sight. The Hebrew word for “got down” literally means she fell off her camel right after she looked up and saw Isaac. She was like “Hubba, hubba, (crash) who is that man in the field?” They got married and lived happily ever after when their kids weren’t trying to kill each other for stealing their inheritance money before dad kicked the bucket.
2000 years ago, Jesus came again, but this time He stayed. He lived with us. He talked with us. He died for us. He saved us. And He still wants to be God with Us. He will go before you. He will go with you. If you only let go of what is stopping you, and follow Him.