God With Us Part 2
Bible Facts Newspaper Article (Ian C. Kurylyk)
"Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?" (Jeremiah 23:23). The prophets of God spoke much of the sublime subject of the nearness and presence of God. They lamented if He seemed far away. "Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me" (Psalm 38:21). They overflowed with joy when they felt Him near, even if sorrows or problems plagued their lives. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over" (Psalm 23:5). David's enjoyment of the Lord's presence was like a great feast in the best hotel, even when threatened on all sides by his enemies.
It is fair to say that most people do not have an experience of God like this. To most, God is a stranger, a "God afar off". This should make us think again of the comforting message in that Bible verse we hear so much at this Christmas season. "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" (Matthew 1:23). In His Son, Jesus Christ, God comes very near. His name means "God with us".
To understand how that is so, we must understand the problem a man has without Jesus Christ. He is separated far from God. In the beginning this was not so. God made man in His image and Creator and creature enjoyed close fellowship in the Garden of Eden. God was friend and provider and He was all things, as the original creation plan intended. It was the entrance of sin into the world that changed everything for the first man Adam. God's great goodness in creation and His faithful care afterwards did not change the fact that God is also holy. God is absolutely set apart from all sin. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13a). So when Adam disobeyed the law of God he became alienated from the Almighty. Sinfulness became a fixed trait or nature to him. The Bible also teaches us that the whole human race he fathered has shared the same sinfulness with the separation from God it brings. "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). It is a very serious thing to be cut off from the God of all life.
Man's sin leaves him guilty, condemned, and totally unable to solve His problem. He cannot overcome the great distance he has been removed from God because of his sin. All religion that depends upon human goodness to restore mankind to favour with God puts man under an impossible burden and is in open contradiction of God's Word about the way to heaven.
But God in infinite wisdom and love took it upon Himself to do what man could not. He came where we were in our need. This is the significance of the prophet Isaiah's giving to Christ the name Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God come down to the world of men to lead a people back to God. He became God in human flesh by the miracle of the virgin birth, the God-Man.
He did not and could not involve Himself in any way with sin. He did, however, go to the sinner's place of judgment. He died a criminal's death on a Roman cross, but not for any sins of His own. He had none. So God came all the way for us - even to our place of punishment. But this was all done so that through His payment for our sins we could escape the condemnation of hell and enjoy eternal life with the resurrected Saviour. All that believe the message and turn from their rebellion against God to receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour are reconciled to God. In Jesus Christ the believer is restored to God, and to righteousness, and has eternal life.