God Is With Us
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
I owe Charles Spurgeon for much of this sermon. A preacher once said if he read a sermon by Spurgeon on a text he either had to preach Spurgeon’s sermon or find a different text because it was impossible to write a sermon better than his.
Matt. 1:22-23a (Holman) Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, . . .”
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah (7:14) predicted God would someday come among His people intimately and personally.
God Himself would become flesh and blood. This “never before” entry called for a “never used before” entryway. Therefore, a virgin conceived.
The word in our text is parthenos, meaning virgin. Athena, the virgin goddess of Athens, was worshiped in a temple named the Parthenon because parthenos meant virgin. The virgin birth is not a peripheral, secondary doctrine, but at the heart of our faith, celebrating Jesus’ birth as the only time God was born.
Matt. 1:23b . . . and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated . . .
Immanuel, more a title than a name, combined two Hebrew words: immanu (with us), el (God). Israelites would have known this. To benefit us Gentiles, Matthew wrote some of the New Testament’s kindest words, “which is translated.”
Stop the press!! Slow down. Don’t miss this blessing. Go back and ponder it again. Israelites spoke Hebrew; they would have known what Immanuel meant. “Which is translated” was inserted solely to help those of us who were outsiders.
It was Matthew’s way of making sure we Gentiles knew Jesus is Savior of not only Israel, but of all the world. We too are invited to celebrate God’s arrival.
In our USA airports I more and more see signs written in many languages. It’s our country’s attempt to accommodate international travelers, to say welcome.
“Which is translated” was Matthew’s way of accommodating us Gentiles, of saying we are welcome in this divine “visitation to earth” of cosmic proportions. “Which is translated” means the birth of Jesus truly is a sign of good will for us.
Matt. 1:23c “. . . God is with us.”
This is the truth that makes our life here as Christ-followers precious. A sense of “God is with us” is the greatest blessing anyone could ever have on earth. John Wesley repeated his dying words twice, “The best of all is, God is with us.”
This truly is the best news ever spoken. In the heavens, we see God above us; in Nature, God around us; in Law, God teaching us; in Providence, God ahead of us. In Jesus, God is with us, in our flesh, sharing our life.
The fact it was the birth of “God is with us” is what makes the Christmas season significant. Had an angel become one of us, it would have been impressive, but not nearly as significant as God coming among us. The latter explains the festivity surrounding Christmas. We celebrate the birth of God.
I don’t want to dampen anyone’s holiday cheer, but do want to be jealous for Jesus. We face a paradoxical problem as our culture increasingly secularizes and commercializes Christmas. Ever growing numbers of people want Christmas without Christ. They want the birthday party without the birthday Boy. This is not right. Christ is Christmas. Christmas is Christ. It’s all about “God is with us.”
“God is with us” is news worthy of dreams, of angels spilling over Heaven’s walls in order to preach in a field, of a star never seen before, of travelers from the Far East, of being preserved in the Bible and celebrated till the end of time.
God became human. He can relate to us in every phase of life because He passed through them all. He was a baby in the womb, thereby proving it is as sacred as any other life-phase. He was a baby and a child. Children, Jesus was like you. Teens, Jesus was a teen. Young single adults, He was one of yours.
Are you lonely or sad? He walked there. Do you grieve over unbelieving family? He did. Are you hurt, betrayed, persecuted, unappreciated, unloved? He lived there. He knows how it feels. “I am with you,” He says, “I’ve been there.”
We’ll be hard pressed to find any valley of trouble to pass through that Jesus has not preceded us there. All our lives seem to have been condensed into His.
Two believers may be totally unalike yet both can identify with Jesus. He became what we are, what we all are. He is one with all of us, God with us all.
Something very good had to come out of “God is with us.” “God” thunders majesty, while “is with us” sings of mercy and grace. If Jesus’ mission had been mainly to destroy and condemn, He would not have wed Himself so intricately with our existence. In “God is with us” we find good news in abundant supply.
Any who fear God’s wrath can set apprehensions aside and run to Jesus. Any who bear guilt can come for forgiveness. Never fear coming to gentle Jesus. A donkey probably ate of the hay He slept on and feared not. Don’t you be afraid.
God came to us. Will we not come to Him? If we ponder His coming to us, it’s unthinkable we’d not come to Him; no wonder unbelief is the condemning sin.