Tuesday, December 23, 2014
By Rick Blumenberg / @RickBlumenberg
When God created heaven and earth he created a place and a people that were new and different than anything previously in existence. The primary difference was that we were his beloved creation but we would not live in his immediate Presence. God wanted to create a race of people (humans) who serve him out of love, rather than requirement. He began by creating humanity to spend time with him in what we know as the Garden of Eden. This was the first experience of Emanuel (God with Us) for our human species. It must have been amazing; to live with God so intimately—like heaven on earth.
As most of you know, this “God with Us” experience was temporary because sin entered the picture and separated us from God. This did not catch God off-guard. He knew it would happen and had planned for it, but it took several steps and much time before “Emmanuel” became restored reality in the best sense of the word. God had to move at a pace with which his human creation could cope. They were not immediately ready and Self-Ish-Ness pulled them this way and that in the years that followed.
God used many methods to bring his people back to the “Emmanuel” lost to sin. He used charismatic leaders like Abraham and Sarai, and Hagar, the persecuted concubine of Abraham who was driven from her home by Sarai in a fit of jealousy. Hagar showed great insight in the search for Emmanuel when she called God “the God who sees me”. By this time humanity’s relationship with God had been largely obliterated and it was only in her despair that Hagar realized God was not only alive, but was aware of her and her unborn child. This was a move toward an Emmanuel or “God with Us” relationship.
The early books of the Old Testament abound with charismatic leaders such as Joseph, the mother of Moses and Moses himself. Eventually he established judges to bring people back to himself but when the people asked for a king things went backward for centuries while the Jewish people tried to exist without God.
“But when the time had fully come…”(Galatians 4:4), after sending us the law and the prophets, God sent his Son. He even called Jesus “Emmanuel” because he would save us from our sin and thus restore the “God with us” relationship. So when Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin and announced by the angels, mankind experienced a whole new level of Emmanuel. God was literally “with us” in the life of his Son Jesus. Fully God and at the same time fully man, Jesus brought God and his creation together in a way never seen before. Through his incarnational (God in the flesh) coming, Jesus lived among us and showed us God’s true nature instead of the warped nature given to him by godless men and women through centuries of godless human living. But instead of merely gloating about the fact he was one with the Father, Jesus helped us see that oneness with God (Emmanuel) was God’s ideal for all mankind and that through faith in him we, mere creations of the most high God were created not for drudgery and death, but for a glorious relationship with the God of all creation. And Jesus had come to make that possible!
When Jesus finished his work and went back to the Father he had already told the disciples of the next, final, and most perfect level of Emmanuel.
That’s right, Jesus on earth, in the flesh, was not God’s best. It was a step toward the best earthly level of Emmanuel. Jesus made this clear when he promised to send the Holy Spirit, saying “It is for your good that I am going away.” (John 16:7) Jesus had no intention to stay forever in the flesh. He came to make it possible for the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of the Father and the Son—to come and live in us so that everywhere every Spirit-filled person goes, God goes, because he lives in us and works in us and through us, thus restoring the world to the highest and best level of Emmanuel or “God with Us”.
This Christmas and for all time, if we accept this gracious gift of God himself through his Spirit, the “God with Us” phenomenon reaches its highest earthly level, where God Himself—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, lives in us for His glory and for the good of all mankind.
I’m Rick Blumenberg and that’s My View from Tanner Creek.