Faithlife Sermons

God With Us

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Scripture Introduction:
The movie theater is open again here in Neosho. And on any given night you can drive by and see folks pouring out of the theaters. We’re a people who are hungry for story.
90% of Americans own a Bible. Only about 1 in 5 have read more than just a few sentences or chapters.
So you’ve got people hungry for story and the greatest story ever told is sitting on the shelf collecting dust. I wonder if part of the issue is the way that we’ve presented the Bible. We present it like its’ an instruction manual for how to live life. And I think there is some truth to that, isn’t there? But who reads a refrigerator manual? You might pull it out when something is going really wrong but you certainly aren’t going to read it with your family, or study it. And it’s not going to be compelling. Want to go to the movies or read this instruction manual?
But the Bible isn’t boring. It’s captivating. It’s a beautiful and mind-blowing story. And I’d argue that it’s not a book filled with a bunch of stories that are unrelated. And it’s certainly not a “story” as in a fairy tale. It’s a story as in the truest thing that you’ve ever heard. It’s a story in that all other stories stem from this. The movies in Hollywood aren’t really diverting as much as they think. Creation—Fall---Redemption—Glory is woven through many of these stories.
I want to read a little snippet from the Christmas story and then I want to show how this is a bit like sitting down to a movie about an hour into it and wondering what in the world is going on. Sure it makes sense within itself but you don’t get the full story unless you’ve been watching from the beginning.
READ
There are a few things that we could pick up from this passage but I want to draw your attention to a couple. The first one is in what the angel says to Joseph. He calls him “son of David”. Hold onto that one. The second one is that you’ll call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. And then notice how it’s connected to the next verses--”this is to fulfill what was spoken to the prophet” That’s Isaiah. And it’s and it says the virgin will be with child and you shall call his name Immanuel—which means “God with us”.
Now tie this together for a second. says, “you shall call his name Immanuel”. Okay, “I think we’ll name him Jesus”. Or the angel says, “name this baby Jesus so that it fulfills what the prophet said, Immanuel.” Is this just one of those language things? Immanuel is like Hebrew or Greek or something and Jesus is just the Aramaic form of that or something? Nope. They aren’t related verbally. But the key is in what the name Immanuel means. “God with us.”
And that’s where we will tell our story. You could almost sum up the entire Bible as a story about the presence of God with humanity. You could almost name the Bible “God with us”. It’s all about the presence of God. I was thinking a good deal about that this week. Why do we care about the presence of God. It’s kind of a tough question to answer really. Do I say well when God is here I’m happy, fulfilled, his presence comes with blessings. That’s true. At his right hand there is fullness of joy. There are pleasures evermore.” And so that’s certainly true. Finding joy in God and seeing him as the most desired in all the universe certainly glorifies him and magnifies his worth. But it’s also incredibly relational. And that’s the part that—at least for me—is hard to explain.
When my wife is gone for a trip I miss her. Of course I miss her making awesome soup. I miss holding her hand. I miss watching a movie with her. I just miss her being there. I just enjoy her presence. For those of you who have lost loved ones you know this far deeper than I do. And it is especially difficult at holidays. And you might not even be able to fully explain it. You just miss their presence. You’ve give anything just to be in the same room with your beloved. And if that’s how we feel about a shadow—then how true is this of the presence of God?
Why does the presence of God matter? Every bit of your relational longing, the loneliness that every American feels so prominently these days, the answer to our questions, all of that stuff is wrapped up in the presence of God. To be “before His face” is the answer to everything.
Listen to this from Mark Sayers:
Secularism is the attempt to create a system for human flourishing in which the presence of God is absent. As we explore the failings of the life system that secularism has created, we also see the damage that such an absence of God’s presence creates. Therefore, any renewal of our culture, any healing and reviving of our personal and social systems, must begin with an understanding of God’s presence.
I think Sayers is correct and I think you see this in the Garden of Eden.
We have to go all the way back to the beginning.
So we have to go all the way back to the beginning.
Look at the Garden of Eden. We read from the very beginning that Adam and Eve walked in the cool of the garden with the Lord. What we’re supposed to see in this story is that God dwelled amongst people in the Garden. You are going to keep hearing me say these things but the three big things present there is rest, rule, and relationship. God gave man a place to live, a purpose with which to live, and all within the context of a loving relationship.
Consider also . Adam was tasked with “work” and “keeping” the garden. Those same words will be used later to describe the role of priests in the tabernacle and temple. I say this to say that the Bible paints this picture of the Garden of Eden being like a first temple…the place where God’s presence especially dwelled. If you connect this with the call in “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion...” then what you’ve got here is a call to spread the presence of God over the whole earth. The “temple” was supposed to expand.
But what happens? That whole thing is turned on it’s head in the Fall. And notice now what happens in after Adam rebels. He failed to “guard and keep” the temple because he let an unclean serpent in to defile the sanctuary. And as such Adam forfeits his priestly role and now rather than Adam “guarding and keeping” the “temple” you’ve got the cherubim guarding the tree of life. And notice now how this impacts Adam and presence of God. As one author put it:
God had told Adam that on the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he certainly would die (). Yet what God actually does to Adam and Eve is banish them and separate them from his presence. Thus the banishment from the garden likewise suggests connections to death. Loss of direct access to the tree of life and loss of direct access to the presence of God seem to be inseparable.
So God is still “present” in the “God is everywhere” sense…but the presence of God is not there. And that’s the root of every horrible thing you’ve experienced.
Thankfully God isn’t finished and the story doesn’t end there. You see even seeds of a coming promise and rescue in God’s provision of clothing for them and promise that the seed of the woman will crush the seed of the serpent. And this is picked up again in . When we see this promise to Abraham. There’s much that could be said here but notice that in , , God’s promise to Abraham includes language like, “I will be with you.” And those same words appear with Isaac and the reaffirmation of the Abrahamic promise in to Jacob.
Thankfully God isn’t finished and the story doesn’t end there. You see even seeds of a coming promise and rescue in God’s provision of clothing for them and promise that the seed of the woman will crush the seed of the serpent. And this is picked up again in . When we see this promise to Abraham. There’s much that could be said here but notice that in , , God’s promise to Abraham includes language like, “I will be with you.” And those same words appear with Isaac and the reaffirmation of the Abrahamic promise in to Jacob.
And then you’ve got the Exodus story. God shows up and rescue happens. But the central thing in the book of Exodus is the presence of God. I’ll be with you, Moses. Why does God rescue the Israelites. So they can worship me on this mountain. And the whole thing leads to this climax in Exodus where God takes up residence in the tabernacle to dwell among the people. There is a phrase that keep appearing in the Exodus and it’s picked up all throughout the Old Testament and especially in the prophets: I will be your God; you will be my people; I will dwell in your midst.”
I will be your God; you will be my people; I will dwell in your midst.” All three elements appear in various texts throughout Exodus, but the two aspects “I will be your God” and “I will dwell in your midst” are stressed in this passage
But then you’ve got this absolutely crazy interruption to the story in . Last week in Hebrews we read about Moses getting the pattern for the earthly tabernacle from God. So here is Moses upon the mountain interacting about all the details—how a physical tabernacle can be an accurate symbol of the heavenly temple and what you’ve got down below are people growing impatient.
and with the assistance of Aaron, they construct a golden calf, blasphemously declaring, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (32:4). Aaron then announces that there will be a “festival to the LORD” (32:5), apparently trying to attach the name of Yahweh (“the LORD”) to this calf idol. The entire event is a blatant violation of the first two commandments of the covenant. they apparently wanted the presence of a more tangible and visible god to lead them,103 one more like the gods of their neighbors.
Then notice what happens in . We looked at this a few weeks ago.
Exodus 33:1–4 ESV
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments.
You see again that God’s presence is absolutely vital. And as we saw a few weeks ago it’s vital but it’s also a fearful thing now. And so what you’ve got throughout this OT is that the people know that they absolutely cannot live without God’s presence. Their desire is to be “before the face” of God. Because they know that with God there is pleasure evermore. All the covenant blessings are theirs. But they also know about the curses in and that what happens when we choose sin and self over God and His loving kingdom. When we choose something over God’s presence we end up losing God’s presence. Not because God is mean and cruel and insecure and just can’t take worship of something else—but because God Himself is not an idolater. He will not accept rivals. Our greatest joy is in God Himself and so God isn’t going to allow everything to be cozy and wonderful while we are swallowing cyanide.
Let’s camp out for a moment on the concept of tabernacles and temples. Temples weren’t only the center of the world for the Israelites. The temple was the center of the world even for the Gentile nations. The ancients viewed temples as microcosms—little universes. And I think we’ll see this a couple of weeks from now in Hebrews as well.
So what did you have in pagan temples? In those temples you had the gods who required officials who would provide for their needs and satisfy their thirst and hunger through offerings. These gods would get empty and so in order to get filled back up they would require sacrifices on behalf of people on earth. So you need crops—you need the harvest for wine—you go and get absolutely hammered at the temple of Dionysius. The gods would then awake and be reminded of their job to provide wine, or prosperity, or fertility.
At it’s absolute lowest spot you’d see human sacrifices in temples in South America and the Middle East. Thankfully we have moved on from this way of viewing the world…but have we? Again I turn to Mark Sayers:
Understanding that temples are models of our life systems that offer us a chance to move and manipulate our worlds, we can see how our societies, cities, malls, sports stadiums, social media platforms, online habits, and even our homes operate as temples, microcosms in which, through following the [ceremonial] practices our culture [assigns] to us, we try to move the world and our lives toward flourishing.
But it’s a failing temple. It was failing in the Gentile world and it’s failing even now. A good argument can be made that Israel’s temple was a “protest statement against all other pretenders”. You see there is one massive difference between the temples of the world and the temple in Israel; namely, God’s presence. That’s what changes everything.
But I want to show you something…and this will then propel us into the Christmas story. Listen to . So this is at the dedication of the first temple. Everything is in there, they are singing and praising, and it’s perfect…just as it was designed. The biggest thing is that the ark of the covenant—this would be the presence of God—enters into the temple. And listen to what happened
2 Chronicles 5:1 ESV
Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.
2 Chronicles 5 ESV
Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God. Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark. And they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
2 Chronicles 5:13–14 ESV
and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
First, God’s promise to Adam that the seed of the woman will crush the seed of the serpent. This tells us that God is going to eventually eradicate evil and he’s going to do it through a human being.
Secondly, God’s promise to Abraham in .
Genesis 12:1–3 ESV
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
There is in this promise what we could call rest, rule, and relationship.
1 Kings 8:10–11 ESV
And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
1 Kings 8 ESV
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness. “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers. “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance. “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers. “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.” Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.” Then the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. Solomon offered as peace offerings to the Lord 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, for there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to receive the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings. So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days. On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.
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2 Chronicles 5:13–14 ESV
and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
Do you hear it? God’s presence fills the place. And it ends with worship and exuberant joy and fulfillment and all these great and wonderful things. And this causes Solomon to give a rousing speech and declare that God has fulfilled his promise to David. He said that David’s son would build God’s house and it’d be filled with his glory and here you have it.
But Solomon acknowledges that God is bigger than can be housed in a building.
1 Kings 8:27–30 ESV
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
But listen to this. Solomon had given a lengthy prayer. Blessed the people. And then in chapter 9 God responds to Solomon’s prayer. And hear what he says:
1 Kings 9:4–9 ESV
And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.’ ”
So, what happened? The people…and Solomon himself…turned from the Lord. The nation was split in two. And this glorious temple fell. In fact something very significant happens in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 10:8–9 ESV
The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings. And I looked, and behold, there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub, and the appearance of the wheels was like sparkling beryl.
Ezekiel 10:18–19 ESV
Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
That is God’s presence leaving the temple. And the people are exiled and all the curses that were mentioned in Deuteronomy falls upon the people. And it’s a horrible time.
I just wrote a paper on this for my recent OT class on . The darkest psalm there is. I think it’s what happens when those curses fall upon you. It’s what happens when the presence of God leaves. Darkness is your only friend. It’s such a depressing psalm for a reason. But it’s actually set in a context that would lend itself to hope. It’s not the end of the story.
While the prophets speak of judgment and such they also speak of salvation through this judgment. There are promises like in Hosea—that God’s presence will once again return.
What ends up happening is that the people end up going back into the land. The exile is over. And they are called to rebuild the temple. Listen to Haggai. He calls upon the people to rebuild and gives this great promise.
Haggai 2:9 ESV
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ”
So they end up rebuilding the temple. And in Ezra we’ve got another dedication. I’d read that to you but I’d only be reading it for what isn’t there. You can read all through Ezra and you can see that this temple is rebuilt they did everything as they were told—except they couldn’t bring in the ark of the covenant—but one great and glorious thing is missing. There is absolutely no indication that the presence of God filled the temple as it did the first temple. And this, I believe in part, is why we read in that the elders were weeping.
So why am I telling you all this? Because how in the world is Haggai’s prophecy true? How if there is not this manifest presence of God in the temple can he say that the “latter glory” will be greater than the former?
It is because Immanuel…God with us…would set foot in that very temple. You see this is why that promise and the name of Jesus matters. This is why that son of David reference matters. It’s part of that promise to David and to Solomon
But the key thing in that passage in Matthew is that Jesus would be known as Immanuel—God with us. I said earlier that this comes from . The context of that is King Ahaz who is scared to death of invading armies. And he finds himself trusting in everything else. And then you’ve got this prophecy in there…it’s basically saying, “will you trust in my provision or seek out your own.”
Same question for us today. Christ is the provision.
Notice how Jesus’ identity and mission is tied to saving us from sin. That’s what his name means. And so God is with us is tied to Christ died for us. Are you trusting in that? Do you believe that redemption is found in a person or is it in something else?
What you are fighting for and longing for is already accomplished in Jesus. It’s the presence of God that you are wanting. It’s getting back to the Garden. That’s what it means that God has set eternity in your heart. That is what the longing is. And it’s fulfilled in Jesus.
REDEMPTION IS FOUND IN A PERSON
But we aren’t there yet are we....We are. His presence is given to us. We have Christ within us the hope of glory. That’s something they could never say. That’s why Haggai is fulfilled in Christ! But there is an already, not yet.
O, Come O Come Emmanuel.
REDEMPTION IS FOUND IN A PERSON
into my own heart
into our world
fix it. we need your presence.
Can you have a good Christmas without his presence?
But notice what happens at the Fall. Man is kicked out of the Garden. And what happens there? The presence of God is no longer among humanity. We don’t dwell with God. God doesn’t dwell with us.
I’ve likely shared this before, so please forgive me.
BIBLE?
Why does the presence of God matter. Immanuel, God with us. Why do I care?
The presence of God in the Garden
The presence of God in the Abrahamic Promise
The presence of God in the Mosaic Promise
The presence of God in the tabernacle, the temple, and the curses and exile.
Compare Ezra to Solomon
The second temple—promise to Zerubbabel.
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