The Lord is with us

jesus-231724_640Psalm 124:2: if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,

The psalmist was saying: it could have been worse than this, if not for God (Psalm 124). He was seeing the glass half-full instead of half-empty. It is in that context that the biblical injunction that we should give thanks to God in all things makes sense (1Thessalonians 5:18). In the midst of pain there is some gain. We don’t thank God for the pain but we can thank God that it is not more than it is.

Someone in the bible said: except the Lord of hosts had left us a remnant, we would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:9), which experienced total annihilation. Another said: It is by the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed because his compassion fails not (Lamentation 3:22). They were in distress but they knew it could have been worse. Paul said that he was cast down but not destroyed (2Corinthians 7:6).

The disciples were in the boat and a storm arose with a boisterous wind. Eventually the storm was stilled by Jesus (Matthew 8:23-27). Though they experienced the storm, it did not swallow them up. It threatened to end their lives, but it didn’t, Jesus came to the rescue. The water scared them but did not drown them. The difference was because the Lord was with them.

So also with you, whatever storm you are going through now, will pass. It may threaten to end your life, but when you come out of the other side; you will come out with a renewed revelation of the Lord. When the Lord calmed that storm, the disciples gained a better understanding of who Jesus was; their eyes were opened to the fact that he is the supreme one.

That was why the next time that a similar thing happened and the disciples saw Jesus walking on water towards them (Matthew 14:22-33), Peter was able to take a leap of faith saying to Jesus: if it be you, bid me come to you on the water.

And Peter walked on water. The earlier storm on the sea, which did not swallow them us and which Jesus with a word of commanded to be still, prepared Peter to walk on water, with the conviction that whatever Jesus says comes to pass. Jesus told Peter to come to him on the waters and he did.

Job experienced great loss in a very short time. But he was left with hope. The bible says that to him that is joined to the living there is hope and a living dog is better than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4).

But that is in the Old Testament, where physical death was the final end, but in Christ we know that we have hope in the afterlife. Paul says that we should not mourn for the dead as those who do not have hope (4:13-18), whose life is all about this world. We should not be afraid of death because Christ conquered death, by resurrecting from the dead and giving us the hope of resurrection. We can ask: death where is your sting (1Corinthians 15:50-57). We have the experience of the presence of God, not only in this life but also in the afterlife.

God with us is the meaning of Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23), being one of the Jesus’ nick names. In Christ, God is no longer afar off, but at hand, one we can relate to. He is God who became like us to properly being touch with us. When he was leaving his disciples he said: I will not leave you as orphans I will come to you, and he did come to them by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). He called him another comforter, another presence, another representative of God, God in us.

Jesus said that when they are taken by persecutors before the authority, the Holy Spirit, their invincible partner, will give them what to say (Luke 12:12). Rather than worry they should depend on the ever-present reality of the Holy Spirit in their lives. And the first century church lived in the reality of the presence of God.

he is not some far away person that we need to reach by some ritual, but one who even initiates conversation with us, supports us, empowers us, connect to at the deepest levels.

The presence of God does not derive from a location, he is in us. Under the Old Testament, the presence of God was attached to a location. Even Daniel (an Israelite) in a foreign land (Babylon) set his face towards the location of the temple in Jerusalem as he prayed three times a day, opening his window in that direction (Daniel 6).

Solomon had prayed at the dedication of the first temple that if through their disobedience the children of Israel were expelled from their land by foreign powers land and if they repent and pray repenting and seeking God facing the direction of the temple (2Chronicles 6), that God will hear from heaven and bring them back.

God agreed to Solomon’s proposition saying: if my people called by my name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, God will hear for heaven and heal their lands and bring them back. So, Daniel was acting based on that.

Therefore, over the centuries the children of Israel had attached the presence of God to a location, it was the centre of their religious activities, and it was the core of their spiritual identity. But Jesus told the disciples that the temple in his time will be totally destroyed (Matthew 24:2).

You might expect that since Jesus was a Jew, he would use his power to prevent any harm coming to the temple, but he understood that God was shaking off the people’s old concept of him, though he fostered it.  He was breaking from his “confinement” to a physical location; he was coming to stay inside each one who welcomes him to their heart, going everywhere in them; infusing them with the awareness of him.

He does not want you to make a physical journey to encounter him, as it was in the Old Testament, when the people travelled to the temple, but rather he wants you to have a heart journey a spiritual journey of faith, to experience him deep in your heart.

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