- God With Us (3)
…continuing looking at how God reveals Himself in covenant with us,
especially through His names, in the Bible.
God’s covenant with Man is one of the great themes of the Bible.
This finds expression in that simple, oft-repeated declaration of God’s: “I will be your God, and you shall be My people.”
Nowhere this side of heaven has that been realised more wonderfully than in those words:
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)
Only when we get to heaven itself will “God with us” appear more wonderful.
But, as long as life continues on this present earth, this is as good as it gets.
Fellowship demands words.
Communion requires communication.
And communication is best practised with words. Communication without words is possible, but will always be but a pale reflection of what it could be .
Christian fellowship requires that we speak with each other, that we use words:
- “Those who feared the Lord spoke to one another.” (Malachi 3:16)
- “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 2:13)
- “Comfort one another with these words… Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11,5:14)
- “Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19)
- “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, so as to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” (Colossians 3:16)
This is how the body flourishes.
Love demands that we speak.
But words can only foster fellowship where the words are true.
We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15)
Words that are “true” are those that are true to who we are; they reveal our true soul to others.
We can use words to conceal; or we can use them to reveal.
Talkative, in Pilgrim’s Progress used words (a lot of them), but used them to conceal who he really was. They were not true words.
Marriages thrive where a couple uses words to communicate.
A marriage will founder on the rocks where the couple ceases speaking to each other.
Or, when they use words to conceal, rather than to reveal.
I knew a man once who headed up a successful youth ministry here in Australia.
He used lots of words, spoke incessantly; he was the life of the party with young people, even when he grew older.
But though he used lots of words, he used them mainly to keep the conversation at a superficial level. He used words to conceal.
His marriage fell apart.
God uses words to communicate.
He could have cut off all communication the moment Adam rebelled.
One day Adam is walking within the Garden in the cool of the evening, listening to the sound of God’s voice.
The next, he is walking away from the garden, listening only to the sounds of silence.
God could have left it there.
But He didn’t.
He entered into a new covenant – a covenant that required communication.
Without communication there could be no fellowship.He sent prophets to communicate His spoken Word. By them “God spoke in time past to the fathers, at various times and in various ways.” (Hebrews 1:1)
Now, “in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” (v 2)
Here is God’s greatest communication with us: His own Son.
This One who was “in the beginning with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
He is pre-eminently “the Word of God.”
He is God’s greatest communication to us.
He is truthful communication. He reveals what God is truly like.
“We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (v 14)
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.” (v 18)
No one knows the Father better than the Son.
He is “the brightness of [the Father’s] glory and the express image of His person.” (Hebrews 1:3)
The Grand Miracle
Words communicate because they (metaphorically, at least) put flesh on our hidden thoughts. They reveal our soul.
But God’s great miracle is no metaphor.
In Christ, the Word, God literally put human flesh on His hidden Being: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
The Word IS God. (v 1) That is what He always was, always is, and always will be.
The Word BECAME flesh. (v 14) That is not what He always was; but it is what He is now, and always will be.
This was real flesh – flesh we could see, and touch, and handle.
It was flesh “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1)
This was “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3) – the likeness of your sinful flesh, and mine.
Christ is One “who cannot but sympathize with our weaknesses, since He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
God with us
The incarnation meant “God with us” – in a way that had never been known before.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
1) God had already stooped to communicate with His people through the words of the prophets.
Communication meant communion was possible.
2) God was seen to dwell with His people in the tabernacle, and later in the temple, when He visibly descended in His “glory” and filled the Holy of Holies. (Exodus 40:34, 1 Kings 8:10-11).
Here was the visible Presence of God among men.
The presence of God’s glory is for those in covenant with Him.
In a previous post we saw how God revealed Himself to Moses by His covenant Name, the LORD (Heb. YHWH), meaning “God is with us” (Exodus 3).
Later, God revealed more about the meaning of His sacred Name when Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18)
God responded: “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
The glory of God’s name is revealed to His people in His goodness, grace and compassion. That is how God “proclaimed the name of the LORD” to Moses.
Furthermore: “The LORD passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (34:6-7)
But, in CHRIST we read:
“The Word became flesh and [lit.] tabernacled among us.” (John 1:14)
When Christ dwelt among us on earth, this was no less than the very Presence of God.
Christ embodied the Name of the LORD that was revealed to Moses.
“We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
God with you?
But what is God’s Presence worth if you are estranged from Him?
Before God revealed His glory to Moses in Exodus 33, God had earlier removed Himself from among the people.
After the people had sinned in the Golden Calf, they were alienated from God
Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting.
And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. (Exodus 33:7)
When the people were estranged from God by sin, God removed His Presence from them. Those who sought the Lord had to go outside the camp to seek Him.
What is God’s Presence worth if you are estranged from Him?What did it mean to those who did not believe, even when Christ was physically present on this earth, if they were estranged from Him?
Christ’s physical presence by itself does not mean you have fellowship with Him.
The Word of Life
Christ did not come simply that we might have His physical presence for a brief time.
He came that we might find fellowship with Him forever.
The Bible refers to this as “life”; “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
“Life” is fellowship with Christ and, through Him, with God the Father.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
In his 1st Epistle John calls Jesus, “the Word”: “the Word of life”.
John tells us this is “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us, which we declare to you.”
What does “life” like this mean?
It is “that you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
It is only through Christ – “the Word of life” – that fellowship with the Father (and with Christ Himself) is possible.
And, it is only as we fellowship with the Father and with Christ, through the work of the Spirit, that we can have fellowship – real fellowship – with one another.
The Word of Judgment
John’s final word on “the Word” is found in Revelation 19:13-16,
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.
And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called: The Word of God.
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.
And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
Who will meet you in the Last Day?
The Word: “God with us”?
Or, The Word: “out of whose mouth goes a sharp sword”?
The dead in Christ shall first arise, at the last trumpet’s sounding,
Caught up to meet him in the skies, with joy their Lord surrounding;
No gloomy fears their souls dismay;
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet him.
But sinners, filled with guilty fears, behold his wrath prevailing;
For they shall rise, and find their tears and sighs are unavailing:
The day of grace is past and gone;
Trembling they stand before the throne,
All unprepared to meet him. – Thomas Kelly