As we move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, we’re reminded of the name of Jesus both prophesied by Isaiah and also the name which the angel instructed Joseph to give to Mary’s child; Immanuel – God with us.
This is a tremendous name that helps describe and understand more fully who God is. He is the God who is with us. This name for Jesus perfectly explains who Jesus truly was – God in the flesh. However, that name goes beyond just His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. It embodies the promise of God and the nature of God. He is the God who is with us.
It was true in the Garden of Eden before our sinful choices separated us from God. It was God’s desire as He covered our sin and shame in the garden. It was on God’s heart as He continued to reach out to us and to work mightily in and through any who turned their lives to Him. It was God’s longing as He created a way for us to be forgiven of our sins that separate us through the Old Covenant.
It was God’s passion as He, Himself, humbled Himself to live a sinless life in our flesh and then sacrificed Himself to pay the price for our sin and to die that we might live. It was His joy as He pours His very Presence into our lives through the Holy Spirit under the New Covenant. God with us in the most significant way ever!
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NCV)
Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
James 4:5-8 (NCV)
5 Do you think the Scripture means nothing that says, “The Spirit that God made to live in us wants us for himself alone”? 6 But God gives us even more grace, as the Scripture says,
“God is against the proud,
but he gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)
7 So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you. 8 Come near to God, and God will come near to you. You sinners, clean sin out of your lives. You who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, make your thinking pure.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
2 Corinthians 6:16
…For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.” (Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 37:27)
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
All of those who have placed their faith in Jesus to receive His salvation are now carriers of the Presence of God because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us. God with us; carriers of the Presence!
Beginning in Exodus 25, God instructed Moses to make a sanctuary where His Presence would dwell with His people. God gave Moses specific instructions on how to build a tabernacle and contents for within it. One significant item was a wooden ark overlaid in gold called the ark of the covenant. That was the place where the very Presence of God dwelt (Exodus 25:8-22).
The ark of the covenant was placed in a unique location in this tabernacle, later in the temple buildings in which it was placed, and of course, within Heaven which this place was a shadow copy of. This place was the inner court known as The Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. Only one person was allowed to enter this place; the high priest at the time. They were only allowed to enter that place once a year and only after a lengthy process of preparation.
The curtain that separated everyone from this place was the very one that was torn in the temple when Jesus gave His life on the cross. It represented that there no longer needed to be a separation between God and man because the cost of sin had finally been paid for in full. It is finished!
Now, we are the temple and within our lives is The Most Holy place where the very Presence of God dwells. It’s an awesome reality!
However, I feel that God is cautioning us today about this reality. Too often, we take this for granted. We take for granted the forgiveness and grace of God that make this possible all because of the work of Jesus. We become careless with this great gift and don’t live our lives with this reality in mind.
We receive the grace of God not to shove under the rug all of our weaknesses and failures and sin. We receive the grace of God to empower us to rise up above them all in the strength of the Lord and to live our lives in the way that He has called us to. We receive God’s grace not to cover our sin, but to empower us to choose not to sin!
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
We receive the grace of God so that we can stop living life however we feel like living it and are empowered to live our lives in freedom by living them His way! God’s grace empowers us to walk away from our old, dead selves into our new life in Christ!
Too often we live our lives in a way that is right in our own eyes and then tug the Holy Spirit along with us as if though He is a tool to be used when we need Him and not a person to follow. We can learn from God’s own people that this doesn’t end well for us.
Today, under the New Covenant, the Presence of God dwells within our bodies. Under the Old Covenant, the Presence of God dwelt with the ark of the covenant. If you’ve ever watched Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, well, that’s what they were seeking after.
1 Samuel 4:1-11
1 …Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2 The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”
Notice that when things didn’t go the way that they wanted them to, they carried God’s Presence into their failure expecting Him to just make everything right. They didn’t stop and seek Him and inquire what His will and plan for them was.
4 So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6 Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”
When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”
10 So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Now everywhere that the ark of the covenant went throughout the Philistine region, curses came on that place. In one funny instance, they placed it within the temple of their god and when they arrived in that temple each morning, their god was bowed down to Presence of God. The most common issue was that the people would have an outbreak of either tumors or hemorrhoids depending on the translation of the Bible that you read.
After a while, they decided to send it back to God’s people and it eventually ended up spending 20 years at Abinadab’s house in Kiriath Jearim throughout the reign of King Saul. After King Saul’s reign ended, God raised up David as king and he repeated history in a bad way, as we so often tend to do.
1 Chronicles 13 (also 2 Samuel 6)
1 David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our people throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us. 3 Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.” 4 The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.
5 So David assembled all Israel, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. 6 David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubim—the ark that is called by the Name.
7 They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.
9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.
11 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
12 David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” 13 He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 14 The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had.
1 Chronicles 15:11-15
11 Then David summoned Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab the Levites. 12 He said to them, “You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. 13 It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” 14 So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.
This time, the ark was returned to its rightful place in the right way and it brought blessing and peace to God’s people for many years.
The point of all of this? We’re filled with the Presence of God to follow. We’re filled to follow.
There is incredible blessing in living life God’s way lead by the Holy Spirit. We are not supposed to receive God’s salvation and then continue living life our way dragging God’s Presence along into it. We receive God’s salvation, which is a commitment to die to our old self and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead as He raises up into His new life.
As we enter into the Christmas season, let’s remember Immanuel, God with us, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Let’s get serious about that reality and be more aware of how we should live as a result. Not living life our way, but living a life in step with God’s very Presence within us!