God With Us - Part 1
Its Christmas season!
December is here, and boy did it get here in a hurry! Where did 2017 go? The more years that go by the more speed they pick up. I feel like time is marching forward at a much faster pace then when I was younger. It took forever for me to be old enough to drive, but specially after I had children, time has been flying by!
December means, at least here in America, Christmas music and in many places Nativity scenes. I assume most of you know that Jesus was not born on December 25, and the date has no connection to the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. However, since this is the time of the year when everyone is more likely to ponder about Jesus and His birth I believe it is a good time to talk about it.
This message will be the first of our new series. Our new series is entitled “God with us.” taken from Matthew 1:23
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
On this sermon series, I propose to you that this theme is not new, but rather it is the main theme of the whole scriptures. So we will be looking at this theme the entire month of December.
We will pick up this theme today with Genesis and Finish it on December 30 talking about the second coming of Jesus, and I am excited about this series!
Jesus as descendant of Adam
Luke 3:23-38 is not the most exciting chunk of scriptures in the Bible. But I do wish to highlight one key point in this genealogy.
The genealogy of Jesus in Luke establishes Jesus as the “seed” of Adam.
The son of Mary is the son that was promised to Adam in Eve in Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
Jesus is not a new idea, not an update to God’s plan of salvation, not a new patch to the system or plan of salvation, but rather a crucial part of it as intended from the beginning. Jesus was to come a crush the head of the serpent. Ultimately, Jesus, born of a woman, would defeat Satan.
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. - Revelation 13:8 NKJV (Emphasis mine)
Of course right? I had to bring in Revelation.
I bring up Revelation 13:8 just to highlight even more that the birth of Jesus was part of God's plan even before the creation of our world. I want to clearly establish what I believe that many of you already believe, that God does not change, that He is perfect and His plan of salvation is perfect and has been from the beginning. The death of Jesus on the cross was not an afterthought, it was not a patch to fix a system that was not working.
For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
- Malachi 3:6 NKJV
Our hope exists because of God’s character and His immutability. Some may want to argue that God changed his mind regarding the destruction of Nineveh, and that is true, you could also argue that God changed His mind regarding having Saul as king etc.
There are conditional prophecies, where people are given a choice. Nineveh would have been destroyed, but the people repented, and God decided to not destroy them. Saul was chosen, but he rejected God and God rejected him (1 Samuel 15:23). Remember how God told Abraham that if there were 10 righteous He would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? (there is a whole post on that here)
Saul was chosen until he rebelled against God.
Israel was God’s chosen people until they rejected the Messiah.
But the overall arching character of God and His plan for salvation does not change.
The Messiah came and He was a descendant of Adam, the son of David, just like prophesied.
God With Us
That might have seemed like a digression, but I really want to establish our understanding of God's character, Who He is ultimately, does not change.
I say all this to say that when Luke tells us that Jesus is God with us, that this special revelation about the character of God, His desire to be with us, if this is Who He is, and I believe it is, then we should be able to see this throughout the Bible, and I believe we do.
The God that Jesus revealed to us when He was born as a baby and lived among us is the only God there is, the true God as revealed in the Bible.
So where do I see the very first indication of God’s desire to be with us? The earliest and clearest indication I was able to find in the Bible was in Genesis chapter 2.
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Genesis 2:1-3 God rested, blessed, sanctified. The Sabbath was created, time and space for holiness and communion. This was the culmination of the creation week.
Adam and Eve are not tired since they were created the day before. (Gen 1:26-8)
God is not tired because He never tires. (Isa. 40:28)
Since there is no physical need of rest, the Sabbath then represents a shift from creating, from doing, to being, to enjoying, to community, and to relationships. In Genesis 2, the Sabbath not as a physical necessity but as a priority. The seventh day of creation is about putting first things first. On our first day of existence as humans God wanted to clearly show us the most important thing to learn, the most important thing for us to experience. The point, the reason, of everything that was done (created) up to this point is made clear on the Sabbath (the seventh day).
The Seventh day is the capstone of creation and comes forth at the dawn of history as the first signifier of the character and meaning of creation.
- Tonstad, 20
On Genesis 2:2 God finished the work and rested - looking back
On Genesis 2:3 God blessed and sanctified - looking forward.
God is the One who interprets the meaning of this day, and it is God who indicates its permanence.
"By the act of hollowing the seventh day God drives the stake of divine presence into the soil of human time."
Notice how the sanctity of the sabbath predates Israel and rests upon all mankind. The Bible does not begin at the birth of Israel. The God of the Bible is not God of just the Jews. He is a universal God and the Sabbath reminds us of that.
The seventh day leans on nothing else besides the Bible for its origin and meaning. This is what some refer to as negative evidence, the silence from other sources. Numerous attempts have been made to detect some kind of seventh day precursor in the languages and ruins of the Near East, but to no avail. (Tonstad, 26)
The seventh-day keeps ever present the true reason why worship is due to the God of the Bible. The rest on the seventh day serves as an expression of God’s personhood more than of God’s infinite power. The seventh day reveals God's desire for intimacy. His awesome power and glory and majesty fade to the background in order to allow human approach. God is really interested in having a close relationship with us!
“The relational implication of the seventh day is often overlooked, dwarfed by the tendency to prioritize God’s power, sovereignty, and majesty as more representative features of Creation.”
- Tonsdat, 32
God's humility, in spending time with His creation, touching and being touched, does not negate His majesty. On the Sabbath we have God "feeling" the world. God reveals His amazing power for six days, when there is not much of a crowd to behold His awesome power. Once the earth has been populated with life and humans created in God's image, God chooses to reveal His love. God is clearly emphasizing His love and desire for intimacy, in the creation week. How often we debate creation vs evolution, and completely miss what God is revealing regarding His love for us?
God does not create humans to serve Him and bring Him gifts and work for Him. On the contrary, on the seventh day He invites us to rest and enjoy each other's company. Here we have the foundation of what we see throughout the Old Testament, what some would argue to be one of the major themes of the Old Testament, a Theology of Presence. God with us! The reality of God's presence lies at the heart of the divine ceasing on the seventh day. This is a revelation of who God is, of His character. In Genesis, history begins with God's presence, and the reality of God's presence is emphatically affirmed in the seventh day.
The seventh day sets life priorities for human beings in the most tangible way. It brings into view God's priorities. God prioritizes a personal relationship with us!
Human time begins not with a day of work, but rather with a day of rest. The seventh day reminds us of the importance of human beings to God, it reveals God’s love front and center.. p37-38
Love did not begin with Jesus.
Love did not evolve when Jesus came.
Love was there from the beginning.
God has been interested in being with us from the very begining!
So this Christmas season. As we ponder the wonder and power and miracle of the birth of Jesus, lets consider that this is the God we serve. SomeOne who was willing to die for us.
SomeOne who longs to be with us.
And as we ponder these things, perhaps we should also ponder, how willing am I to spend time with God?
God is clearly interested in being with me, in developing a relationship with me.
How willing am I to spend time with Him?
How willing am I to allow Him to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior?