Sweet Sunday Sermon – The TRUTH of God’s PROMISE to be With his PEOPLE
Submitted by Dr. GP
I WILL BE WITH YOU
The word or promise of assurance which echoed throughout the patriarchal period was the theme and the repeated promise or pledge “I will be with you.” The Scriptures teach that one of the results of the Lord’s second coming is that God will have his longest and dearest desire. The desire to dwell and share an intimate and close and special fellowship with mankind (1 John 1:3.) It is not difficult to trace the thought that God has always wanted to be with man. Nor is it difficult to prove by a review of Bible History that God has kept this promise, for the Bible clearly teaches that this is the glorious prospect of the child of God. Current events indicate that soon God will have His dearest wish. We must, as we trace the notion of God’s desire be with His chosen people throughout the ages, below, remember that though we will enjoy His presence, that it is all because God wanted to be with us, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). As we engage in this exercise, we must humble ourselves at the thought that this exhibition of God’s unmerited favor to each believer begins long before we could ever know that there is a God.
The Bible teaches in Jeremiah 1:5 that God’s presence with the believer begins even before organogenesis; a process for which He is totally responsible as suggested by Job in Job 31:15;31:18, and Isaiah in Isaiah 44:2, 24; 49:1. As a result, He has been with us in utero, as clearly taught by Psalm 139: 13. In Psalm 22:9 we are taught that He affected our delivery at birth, and that God was there while we suckled at our mother’s breasts. This thought is corroborated by Job 10:18-19.
Genesis 3:8 teaches that at the beginning of man’s existence, God would come daily to fellowship with our original fore parents. They, like we, preferred the forbidden fruit of disobedience over God’s company and so this fellowship was broken. The story of Enoch in Genesis 5:24 further illustrates that God desires the fellowship of men so dearly, that when he found such a man in the corrupt civilization of that time, he took that man home to be with him. We read “And Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him.”
God maintained a close relationship with the Patriarchs for we read in Genesis 21:20 that God was with Abraham and Hagar’s son Ishmael (the father of the Arabs-though not a patriarch). The Philistines noted that God was with Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 21:22 and 26:28). God comforted Isaac in 26:24 with the words, “Fear not, for I am with you” and in 26:3, he commanded him to sojourn in Canaan with the promise, “I will be with you”. Jacob had a dream at Haran of a ladder in which God’s assurance was given thus: “Behold I am with you (28:15)”. There seems to be echoes of this dream in John1: 51 where Jesus is portrayed as a conduit upon which. or by which messengers of God ascend and descend to heaven. When Jesus referred to this incident, he advanced our understanding of the concept of “Behold I am with you”. It seems that Jesus is referring to the possible commuting of the saints after the millennium between earth or the holy city, the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21:3-22:5.
Thiessen opines “While it would seem to be the home of the redeemed, it is clear that both the Father and the Son will dwell in it also. This may not be their constant abiding place, for heaven is that: but it certainly will be a place frequented by them…..The kings of the earth will bring their glory to it (Revelation 21:24,26). Apparently, they do not reside in the city, but make visits to it.”
Whatever is the exact truth, we must accept that (Jesus by referring to this incident and promise in John1: 51) is suggesting that the concept of God being with His people will be a very interactive, personal, and intimate experience. We like to think of how nice it will be to renew relationships with our loved ones in heaven some day. But will it not be a stirring occasion for our God who made it all possible, and yearns to fellowship with us? This is hard for us to comprehend, but the thought is certainly not unscriptural.
God also promised to be with Jacob in 31:3 when he sought to return to Canaan. Jacob, himself recognized that God had been with him during his sojourn in Padan-aram (31:5;35:3). Just as Jacob had been favored and blessed by the God who knew of his problems with a scheming Laban, Joseph was likewise rescued and blessed by the same Lord who followed his changing situation in Egypt (39:2,3,21,23). Even in his deepest and darkest days in the dungeon during his 13 year imprisonment in Egypt we read concerning him in Genesis 39:21,23, that “the Lord was with Joseph.” In Matthew 10:30 and Luke 12:7, Jesus assures us that the same God is with us such that He knows the number of the hairs on our heads. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23 assures that He is with us during our testings and will not let the tempter exceed our breaking point.
God dwelled with His people during their wanderings in the wilderness, signaling his presence in the pillar of cloud in the day and the pillar of fire at night. He demonstrated his presence to be their God and empowered them for victory at the beginning of the periodof the conquest of Canaan by appearing as the “ Captain of the Lord’s Host ” as recorded in Joshua 5: 13-15.
The period of the Judges was characterized by extreme wickedness and this period was well summarized by the comment that: “in those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6 ; 21:25.) Even then God did not desert his people and at the interface of this period and that of the kings God sought out an obedient child whom he could use and tells us of this boy in 1 Samuel 3:19 that “the Lord was with him”. In the period of the kings, God’s presence filled Solomon’s temple until he was forced to leave.
In the period of captivity God was with Daniel in the lion’s den and throughout his long service among wicked enemies as he served under five different administrations. God was with the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:24-25). The Lord was clearly with the prophets before and during the exile. He was so involved, that when Jehoiakim sent men to kill Jeremiah, the Scriptures records God’s personal involvement by telling us in Jeremiah 36: 26 that “the Lord hid him!”
After the exile God found a man called Ezra of whom it is recorded in Ezra 7:10 that he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. This same man confesses in Ezra 7:28 that God was with him in the words “I was strengthened as (or because) the hand of the Lord my God was upon me”. He later reports in Ezra 8: 22, that “The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him”. In chapter 8: 31, we are told that “ the hand of our God was upon us and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.” Nehemiah records a similar experience in Nehemiah 2:4b, 8b, 20: 4:20b: 6:16b, and in Esther God was with his people as seen in Esther 2:15: 4:14, and 5:2.
The New Testament opens with the announcement that the virgin’s child shall be called Emmanuel or GOD WITH US. And in John 1: 1 we are told that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God wanted to be with us so badly that he came to stay on earth in the form of a servant and in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7,) so that one day he could change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (Philippians 3:20). God sent his Son to die and purchase our redemption so that he may fellowship with us. What condescension!! God came to be us because we did not care to go to Him; we didn’t want to be with him. While we were yet sinners, Christ (GOD) died for us (Romans 5: 8). When we were yet sinners he offered up his own Son (Romans 8: 32; Hebrews 9: 26). God came to us in the person of His Son, but when God came to his own they received him not. So he offered us the same opportunity. He set his people aside temporarily and came to us Gentiles and offered us the same opportunity. How He longs to be with us. He sent his Son to procure the means of bringing us back to Him (1 Peter 2: 24).
The Bible promises that having procured for us the right to come to God (1Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:12), that Jesus would return for those who are looking for Him. (John 14:1-3; Hebrews 9: 28). Since He has always kept his promises, the cry of our hearts must therefore be “Even so come Lord Jesus,” for when He returns we are told in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we shall from then onward “ever be with the Lord.” Finally after enjoying the blessings of the millennial kingdom with Christ, there is a glorious prospect for us as recorded in Revelation 21: 1-3 where we read “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying “ Behold the tabernacle (or dwelling place) of God is with men and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God himself shall be with them and be their God.”
It should be very clear from the foregoing that God’s active presence which manifested his character, power and ability to fulfill the repeated word of promise, is as active in the lives of His people today. As then it remains preeminently a promise of personal relationship. God has continued to keep his promise. The Scriptures give a convincing record and provide adequate proof to attest [SLH1]to the fact that God has ably and diligently persisted in his desire to fellowship with men, even though we have been most unworthy of his interest. Psalm 23: 6 puts it this way.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow or pursue me all the days of my life.” Pursue is following earnestly in an effort to catch up with some one who does not seem to want to be caught. That is the meaning of follow in that verse. That this is true is seen in Romans 5:8,10 and also 1 John 4: 9-10. It is therefore obvious that God’s repeated promise to the Patriarchs and later to His people of all ages in the words “I will be with you” has never been an empty one. Not only has he maintained His honor faithfulness in this regard, but concerning His final acts toward us in this regard, we can truly say that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
What is abundantly clear from studying the patriarchal period, along with Hebrews 11 and 13 is that the patriarchs realized that there was life after death. They all believed in a bodily resurrection, in the “land” that God had promised. They were not sure of all the details and did not have the full revelation that we do, but they knew that the land of Palestine was involved. We now know that this will occur in the Millennium. We know too, that there is also “a land that is fairer than day” that we will also occupy, of which the patriarchs also had a glimpse.
Abraham certainly believed that God had the capacity to raise Isaac from the dead if he offered him as a sacrifice as ordered (Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham was willing to obey God and slay his precious son of promise in the expectation by faith that God would have to raise him from the dead to fulfill the purpose and promise for which Isaac was specifically born. Jacob insisted that he be buried in Canaan (Genesis 49:29-30), and Joseph gave particular instructions concerning his bones (Genesis 50:25; Hebrews 11:22). Since the account of Enoch’s translation was probably passed on by tradition and thus well known to those of the godly line, the concept of leaving this world to go to be with God in a heavenly city was not as remote or ridiculous as scoffers promote.
Kaiser points out that “the patriarchal text always carefully distinguished the fact that each patriarch was “gathered to his people” from the act of burial in the “grave” (Genesis 25:8-9; 35:29; 37:35; 49:29,31,33). Neither was their relationship to God or His continuing association with them canceled after death, for He repeatedly identified Himself, the living personal God, as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6, cf. Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37). No wonder the psalmist confidently expressed the fact that men continued to enjoy fellowship with God beyond the grave (Psalms 16:10; 49:15; 73:24). Likewise Job argued in 14:14 that men enjoyed the same prospect of “sprouting forth” again as did the felled tree (Job 14:7).
This concept of the promise of a bodily resurrection finds its ultimate fulfillment in the New Testament first in John’s eschatology of John 3: 3:16-18, 36; 5:21 ff,14:3, and later in the Pauline epistles. In John 5, Jesus stated that in the same way that the Father had raised the dead in the past (e.g. Elijah’s miracle in 1Kings 17:17-24), the Son has the same ability to raise the dead both physically and spiritually. Jesus means that he will not only raise individual deceased persons but all the dead- whether in the resurrection of life or the resurrection of damnation- as he discusses further in this argument. He went on to say in verse 24-25 that eternal life is the possession of those who, after hearing His word, believe on God the Father who sent Him. Jesus then predicts in verse 27, that when these believers hear His voice at His coming at the rapture, they will live. We must appreciate that Jesus is here clearly alluding to the resurrection which occurs at the rapture as later described by Paul in 1Thesalonians 4:13-18; 1Corinthians 15:52 ff; Philippians 3:21. John also alludes to the bodily resurrection of the saints in 1 John 3:2 where he declares that we will look just as Jesus does when He comes.
He warned in verses 28-29 that an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good (by believing on God the Father who sent Jesus, after hearing Jesus’ word (vs 24) to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil (i.e they who have rejected Christ) to a resurrection of damnation to appear at the Great White Throne judgment to be sentenced to the lake of fire. We know from further study of the Bible that these resurrections are 1007 years apart. They will not occur simultaneously as is at first apparent in this passage. The resurrection of the saved is both a present day spiritual resurrection (5:24-25) and a future physical resurrection.
The hope and promise of the bodily resurrection for God’s people alluded to by the patriarchs and some Old Testament saints like Job, and taught in type in the translations of both Enoch and Elijah and the teaching of Jesus in this passage and in John 14:3 dominates the epistles; in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 and 1 Corinthians it is finally revealed. Paul indicates in Philippians 3, that this hope motivated him to give up all in his quest, in order to know Christ-The Prize for Christian Living,intimately and perfectly, and to ensure that he became a part of the “out resurrection” from the dead. This thought is also expressed by Peter in 2 Peter 1:10. The idea is not that this wholesale effort will gain our salvation, but that this dedication will ensure that we do not fall or fail. In Philippians 3:20-21 Paul suggests that the hope and promise of the bodily resurrection for God’s people alluded to by the patriarchs, should motivate us to maintain our gaze towards Heaven where we have our true citizenship. Paul thereby urges us to copy the attitude of those Caribbean[SLH2] people who migrated to Britain in the 50’s and 60’s to make a living. These people talk, and long, and live only for the day when they can return to their home lands, where their true citizenship is (even though they have British citizenship).
In the patriarchal narratives, there was a series of names for God which are significant because they provided a sense of comfort and assurance that the stated promises could be kept in their entirety. These names included El Olam, ” the Everlasting God” Genesis 21:33); El Elyon, “the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18-20,22), or Yahweh Yireh, “Yahweh will provide” (22:14) and El Shaddai or “God Almighty ”(17:1;28:3;35:11;43:14;48:3,49:25).
The name El Shaddai or “God Almighty ” stresses the might and power of God and “emphasized the supernatural work of His grace” it speaks of his ability to master his creation and override in the affairs of men and matter so that his will and plan can be effected according to his purposes and in the time frame that he desires. Only thus can God be assured to keep his promises. This is especially so when the complexity and intricacy of these promises are analyzed.
“Thus the theology of this section was intertwined around that word from on high, its blessing to a chosen seed, and the assurance of the divine presence that guaranteed the certainty of the promised heir, inheritance, and heritage or even the present success of the patriarchs. It was all God’s word of encouragement.” “Just as important as the act, however was the word of blessing itself. The blessing was many things-a prediction, the gift itself resulting from blessing (Genesis 33:11), a capacity given by God to ensure the fulfillment of the promise (17:16; 24:60), the reward of prosperity 15:1), the peace of the Lord (26:29), and nothing less than the presence of God Himself (26:3,28).”