Beth Moore - Immanuel: The With-Us God
I cut my teeth on the Word of God in this church, a different campus, but in this same fellowship of believers. I also became a worshiper at this church. I was in my early 20s when we first started coming to First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, and I was their very first aerobics teacher. I need you to understand how my ministry began at that time at First Baptist. That is what threw me up in front of people for the first time. I'd surrendered to ministry at 18 years old. I had no idea. All I knew was that he had called me. He had made that much clear and it was so specific and I wish so much I could go back and relive it to even know what was it I sensed?
There was no voice out loud, there was nothing I saw but I knew, I knew. There was just a sense of the Spirit of God that came upon me and I knew that my future belonged entirely to him. But I didn't know what it would look like. All I knew to do was whatever was the next thing and do it in his name. Anybody know what I'm talking about? Just meet the next need. Well, a group of women came to me and said, "We think that you could teach aerobics". It was the huge thing, it was the early '80s and they were, I was in my early 20s. They were, like, "Let's go. Let's go". I said, "Well, you know what? I've made this commitment that I am only going to do what I can just, like, blatantly glorify God to do because I've surrendered my life to ministry. So somehow it's got to become blatant ministry".
Well, at that same time there was Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and all sorts of people like that that were beginning this huge movement that became Christian contemporary music and so I put all of that to choreography that I made up myself and I've gotta tell you that there are some women in this room that were in that class. And listen, this thing went on for 12 solid of the most fun years that I have just about ever spent in ministry. But coinciding with that, I started doing about in my mid-20s what you would call Christian motivational speaking. So that started happening because I'd gotten a little bit accustomed to being up in front of people and so then it became that it might be a women's breakfast, it might be a luncheon of some kind, every now and then a dinner. And I would just go while my kids were in Mother's Day Out and then come back home. I just did whatever I could do.
Thirty-four years ago, I was asked if I would sub for one year in a Sunday school class, adult women. Now, by that time, I had already taught four-year-olds in Sunday school and I'd taught 6th graders in Sunday school. I had been active in church all of my life. But this was the game-changer but I didn't know it. And so I was, like, "I guess I'll do that". And my mentor at that time said, "No, you really, really need to do that". And I think it was because she understood that I had an ability to talk but I did not know what I was talking about. And so that's always, you know, that's always, because there's a name that you call a teacher who doesn't study and that is a talker. Because that's not and so I just began, every week I would try to think on Saturday, "What do I want to talk about tomorrow"? And then I'd think up what it was and it would always be good and fun. My class was fun. My class was packed. But my class did not learn anything about the Scriptures. Nothing, nothing.
I would think up what Scripture I could use and I would just be frantic 'cause I would think, "Lord, if you could just come up with Scriptures to fit my notes," it's just so we can, but what happened in the course of that year, toward the end of it, I mean, I was miserable. I thought, "Get me to the end of this year and I will never do this again". Never do it again 'cause it had become so stressful to try to teach Sunday school without knowing anything about the Scriptures. And so, I mean, I knew the basics. But you cannot teach every Sunday, you cannot teach John 3:16, it does not work. And so I saw in the church bulletin, in those days they were offering a Bible doctrine class on a Sunday evening and it was like there was a thunderous noise from heaven going, "Go ye therefore to that class". And I went and took my notebook and my colored pens and my Bible that still had beautiful edges on it.
And that man, about my same age at that time was just awes me now, looking back at it. Twenty-seven years old I was. He walked to that podium and he flopped open that big heavy Bible and when he started teaching, the Spirit of God so fell on him. I was so mesmerized that I could not take a note. I had never in my life seen anything like it. I had known people who had loved Jesus, I mean, seriously loved Jesus. I had known servants of Jesus all my entire life but I had never known anyone who would rather study the Word of God than eat a meal. Never in my life. I had never known anyone to whom it was bread and meat, never in my life. His voice was not even in a loud pitch. There was nothing dramatic about him. I had a very good friend who was in the same class and she said, "You know, Beth, it just never moved me the same way it moved you". But I got in the car that evening after that class and I shut that car door, burst into tears, and I said out loud to the Lord, "I don't know what that was but I want it, I want it".
And I'm telling you, I've told this testimony many, many times but it is because I'm telling it tonight because of that young girl right there and as I look around this room and I've seen so many women in this room that were in my classes back in the day and your adult daughters are sitting beside you tonight. So I am overwhelmed by what God is doing generationally and because I believe that somebody in this room, somebody on the other side of that screen, somewhere along the way is gonna say, "I don't know what on earth that is when the Word of God lights up on that page but I'm gonna tell you I want it". And there is no one he would withhold it from. No one he would withhold it from. And it has delighted me every day of my life since that day. Today, today, today, I sat at my kitchen counter and was nearly overwrought at the pure beauty of the ink on the sacred page and I need you to know I could not have a greater privilege than to be with you. Would you turn with me to the 1st chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
So you're gonna break open your Bible between Testaments where there has been 400 years of silence and then we begin with the Gospel of Matthew chapter 1 and I'm going to start reading at verse 18 and I'll read to you through verse 25. Now here's the beauty of it, even as I'm about to read what may be to some of you the most familiar Bible study that you know. Or maybe the second most familiar since this birth narrative of Christ is not quite as commonly read as Luke chapter 2 for reasons we may get into in just a few minutes. But here is the beauty of it and what I'm hoping for someone to discover about the fact that the Spirit of God animates the words of God. That this is living and breathing words that we have on the page. There's nothing like it. No other sacred book compares to it because these words are alive with the Spirit. Which means it does not matter how familiar the story is to you, it's the storyteller you cannot exhaust knowing. And that's who it drives us to over and over again, the one who is telling us the story, the Spirit of the living God.
Verse 18 of Matthew 1: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but he knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus".
I got to tell you something that is significant to me as I serve you through this lesson. When we knew that we had a Christmas taping coming up, my co-worker and one of my dearest friends in all the world, Sabrina, said to me, "Beth, as you're thinking toward Christmas," she said, "do you remember back when you gave a message called 'Immanuel'"? And I said, "Yeah, I do. I do". And she said, "I wonder if you could do something like that"? And so when she looked it up, she said, "It was 1998". And we realized that all of these years had gone by, several decades had passed. And what I wanna tell you and if I were you I'd wanna know this from a woman my age or a man my age, that way back then a concept that we're gonna talk about in this series so moved me and so shifted the ground for me that I have never gotten over it.
And I think somebody in the house needs to know that something can take forever and ever because, if you're like me, you're thinking to yourself from time to time, does any work of God ever really get finished or is it constantly that it's just like... do we ever get to go, "Well, maybe we tied that one up"? And the answer to that is no because we just stay under construction. "He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it". But I can tell you this. Some decisions every now and then do get settled. I need to hear somebody say a very relieved "Amen". There does come a time when we turn from a particular sin or we lay down a particular addiction or we walk away from an area of bondage and at first we don't know that it really is going to take. We're just living it one day at a time, trying to get 'til 10 a.m., trying to get 'til noon, trying to get 'til mid afternoon, trying to get 'til early evening. And then the bewitching hours of darkness overnight when you sleep with your Bible wide open next to you because you're scared to death that somehow you're gonna drop back into that chasm during the night.
So it's much further down the road that you can glance over your shoulder and go, "Glory to the living miraculous God. It took". The lesson I'm about to share with you took with me all those years ago and I'm gonna believe with all of my heart it's gonna take with somebody today. Anybody game for that? I want you to notice with me back in Matthew 1, verse 18, that it says: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way". That's the ESV wording: "In this way". And I dearly love this because there was a "this way" that was going to go for "the way" and by "the way" I mean John chapter 14 when he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me". And there was a way that the way was going to go and the reason why I think it's so important for you to see that in the very beginning of Matthew is because all of these years there has been no fresh Word from God that has come to the prophets for the sacred page, not one.
It did not mean that people were not speaking. It did not mean that there were not leaders and that God was doing nothing whatsoever among the people of Israel. You would go and you would see history between the two Testaments. But they searched far and wide. There was no fresh Word from God, no inspired Word that would go down in the concrete of all eternity. They just longed for it and longed for it. And I'm constantly mesmerized by the patience of God who loves progressive revelation so much that he literally timed - Galatians 4 says that when the time came, the woman gave birth to the son and he's talking about Jesus Christ, that in all of this time, I mean, wouldn't you have just, like, jumped to it and gone, "This is really getting long here. I mean, honestly, this is getting long".
After 100 years, a second century, a third century, finally completing four centuries, and the voice of God will be heard next through the cries of an infant. I need somebody to get that with me that when the sound barrier was broken, after all of the silence, it was broken by the cries of a baby. I don't even know what to do with that information. Now I want you to just glance at what you have beginning the Gospel of Matthew because it's the genealogy, if you'll note with me, in 1:1, "of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham". And it starts with Abraham and goes down through the lineage that's gonna bring it all the way to Christ.
And what you'd see if you would look back in that lineage is a number of names of people who had stories just as marred as many of us. Some worse, some maybe not as bad. We see it from the very beginning because if you know anything about Abraham then you know how instead of waiting on the promised child of God who would be Isaac, he took his maidservant and had the child and had to still wait for one that God would bring about through Sarah. Been a lot of disobedience coming up. And through that lineage, there are not only people that had failed in ways that we have failed, perhaps dropped into a ditch deeper than ours, but also those who had been victimized and had been hurt by the sins of others. You would look through that lineage and you would find one after another, names like Tamar, like Rahab. Like David, the man after God's own heart, who took a woman that was another man's wife. The redemption of God.
And what occurs to me is that Scripture is just simply no Instagram feed. Can anybody go there with me? He did not post a picture of the perfect family, the traditional family in the Gospels. And so it's really absurd that we would feel the need to and, yet, we do. One of the things that I love about Scripture is that it's gorgeously and refreshingly unfiltered. It's just out there, telling it like it happened, not bringing glory to anyone but God. Recently, I was at a salon with a young woman that is my hair stylist and I've been going to her for a couple of years and I'm just absolutely crazy about her but she was just fit to be tied. I said, "How has your week been"? She said, "Well, yesterday was absolutely exhausting". She said, "I had a client that was coming for color," she said, "and a cut". And she said, "That means she was in my chair for 1 hour and 40 minutes".
And she said, "She never shut her mouth, not once, not for one minute". She said, "She was just extra". And I just love that. She said, "She was extra". She said, "Extra in every way. Never shut her mouth". And she said, "And her family was so messed up". I said, "Oh, she told you about her messed up". She says, "Oh, no, no. She didn't tell me about her messed-up family. She told me how perfect her family was". And she said, "That's how I knew it was messed up". She said, "Nobody goes on for an hour and 40 minutes about their ideal family that doesn't have a messed-up home". She said, "That I am sure of". And I knew she was saying, "I ain't buying that bull even on sale," anybody? "I ain't buying it, no, no". And time comes for the visitation of God, the Word made flesh to dwell among us.
I'm gonna give you four points through this series. Number one is this. It is the most significant moment in all of Scripture up to this point: Immanuel came to earth, warm-blooded, wearing skin and bones. I want you to look in your Scriptures where you are seeing that word on the sacred page and I want you to notice that at the very end of it, do you see the "E-L"? The "E-L"? You know, we already see it translated to us in the Scriptures, Immanuel meaning God with us. So I want you to look at it because if you'll underline that little "E-L" at the end, that's the part of that word that means God. The rest of it means "with us". With us. So if we took the title exactly as it is in the name, what he would be called is "With Us God". With Us God.
And I don't know if that rings a bell inside anybody but me, but there's something beautiful about turning that around, isn't there? That he is the "With Us God". That Jesus Christ came to be God with us, the With Us God. And I'd want, if we could, to just take a deliberate pause and appreciate the sacredness of touchable warm skin, especially in our touchless social media culture. Now, I'm gonna tell you something. You couldn't love social media more than I do. I was born looking for a party. If I'm anything at all, I am social. And I love media. I mean, it was an accident waiting to happen for me. But I'm just gonna tell you what we've moved into relationally is not only odd, it is scary. And so, as we're talking about Immanuel, the With Us God, and realizing that God sent his Son to be a warm-blooded human, although fully God, wearing skin and walking on bones.
We started doing something this year at the ministry that we really did not mean to be completely pivotal to us. We thought it would be a wonderful idea but we did not know that it would be something that would breathe so much fresh life into the ministry that we couldn't really think of the last time we'd ever experienced anything quite like it. Couple of years ago I just got this thing in me. I said, you know, I told myself, I said, "I am wanting to just pick a day of the week, just over the noon hour, I just wanna throw open the doors of the ministry and go, 'Man, if you need prayer, come. We'd just love to have you.'" They were, like, "Like, nobody calling in"? I said, "No. No, we just, like, throw open the doors".
Well, there were all sorts of concerns, naturally, because, like, we're just women and what I mean by that is, you know, we have to be able to take somebody down, you understand what I'm saying? I mean, we're strong in Spirit, strong in soul, but we are physically in a situation where we're vulnerable in that there's not a man in the house at the ministry so it's, like, we would just, like, talk ourselves out of it. I said, "I just cannot let it go". And so about, oh, a little more than a year ago, I announced it. Starting in January we are opening the doors of the ministry from 12 to 1 to take anybody, any woman, any girl, who wants to walk through this door that needs prayer. We're gonna pray over 'em. I can't even begin to tell you what it has meant to us. And do you know why? Do you know why? Do you know why? Because we serve people every day of our lives. We serve them online. We serve them at conferences. We serve them at classes.
This is everything we do, everything we do. But let me tell you, it's a different story when a woman is sitting right in front of you, warm-blooded, wearing skin on her bones. And we can kneel at her feet and I can grab onto her wrist so I can pray for her and I can feel her pulse. Because see, every single group that I'm in, I always can assume certain things. That in this group, I know it today, that in this group there are people with a myriad of problems. Like, for instance, there are some of you in here, all sorts of categories, relational problems, school problems, job problems, financial problems, addictions, broken hearts. Some of you have been recently betrayed, somehow forsaken and left. There are physical illnesses, mental illnesses. All sorts of emotional problems and hardest of all, the loss of loved ones. And it means something to us. Never do I come before a group that it does not mean something to me that those are real women that are on the other side of that page with real problems.
But let me tell you, you get somebody, just one person in front of you, just one - did I say how many people? I said just one person in front of you, and you grab hold of that hand and suddenly no category fits. I don't even care if she has the same general problem as the last one I prayed over. All of a sudden, she has got her own name, she's got freckles on her arm, and the last one did not. She's got highlights and the last one was gray. This one brought in a child. This one brought in her elderly mother. And all bets are off because suddenly, it's warm-blooded flesh and bones incarnation. I love how Jesus said to Simon the Pharisee in the story in Luke chapter 7 where the woman comes in who's been such a sinner and she washes the feet of Jesus with her tears. And he says, "Simon, do you see this woman"? Not, "Simon, do you see women at all"? No, no, "Simon, do you see this woman? This one? This one. This one, with her braid of DNA. With the environment she came from. With her education or lack of it. With her skill set or lack of it. With her talents, with her genetics. This woman".
You see, this is not from a distance. This draws us close where God has chosen to send his Son, fully God, wrapped in infant flesh, weighing somewhere, could we guess at an average of 7 pounds? Who would do that? God said to David, "I knew you in your mother's womb. I formed you there, knitted you inside of your mother. You were fearfully and wonderfully made". You know what I think constantly about? I think what was it like when they parted? Because you know, God and Christ, together for eternity, you can hear the longing of Jesus in John chapter 17 when he says, "Lord," when he's longing, he says, "For the glory that we had before the world was". So he's gonna send him 'cause the time has come. And so how did they say, "I'll see you"? And that Holy Spirit, like, moves over Mary. The Son of God is conceived in her womb and Jesus just, like, stares into that womb. He knows exactly the second that heart starts beating. He sees the fingers. He sees the hands and the feet and the divine ultrasound and knows those hands and feet will be nailed to wood.
Who does that? Who does that but God? Who does that but God? Appreciate the wonder of Immanuel with a human pulse that sped up when he was a little boy and ran. God bearing human flesh. Now Matthew doesn't tell us the specifics of the birth narrative. Luke does that. Now, we don't know why. God just chose it to be that way. Sometimes I think maybe because Luke was a doctor and he wasn't as squeamish so he chose him. Matthew just skips right over it. He does it from a man's point of view. As far as you can tell there's no pain, nothing, nothing. Joseph, just like show up, see the baby. When you see the baby, name him Jesus, and get on with it.
We hear a lot more about it in Luke chapter 2 but I'm gonna tell you something. I took Lamaze classes. I'd like to think I excelled. I took child development classes during my first pregnancy and made an "A" and was sorrowful that they could not put a "plus" on my report card. And then it was early one Sunday morning about 5 a.m. I awakened in labor and I knew that I was. And I taught 6th grade Sunday school and so I needed to go teach my class first. So I awaken my husband. I am in labor. I feel sure we'll have the baby today. But I'm going to need to go by and teach my Sunday school class on the way. And do you know, because we were early in our marriage, he went with it. He would never go with that today. He would never go with that today. I went and taught. I just crossed my legs while I taught. Just set my Bible right on my tummy. I'm sure I taught John 3:16. I left there. It was beginning to get a little more intense by the time I left Sunday school. I said, "We better get with it". We had my bag in the car. We started driving.
I thought, "Okay, it's really getting intense," and it was quite a way to the hospital. It was getting more and more intense and I was finally going, "You know what, you're gonna need to speed it up a little". And then it was, like, "You know what? Stop stopping at the red lights. I'm telling you if you stop again, I'm gonna be taking over the wheel and you're not gonna be in the car. And so I need you to go". And so, like, I'm full on, feet on the dashboard, going because I've taken my classes. I'm in control, I'm in control. But I am about to give birth. So we drive up. I mean, he wheels up. Says, "You're probably gonna take her right to the delivery room. She's about to have the baby". They said, "We've got her".
They take me in and they say to me, "Mrs. Moore, you are 2 centimeters dilated". Two. When I tell you it was the longest day of my life, you have absolutely no earthly idea how much I mean it. I had chosen to do what they would call painless childbirth with no anesthesia whatsoever. No anesthesia whatsoever. I'm gonna tell you, when that thing was over, I felt like I had been in one of those bull-running things where you just, like, go and they let the bulls out and you're just standing there, and then I somehow got flattened and everybody ran over me, including the bull. Including the bull. I mean, it was like, I had never gone through anything like that in my life. And so somehow, I gotta put some of that back on the page here. It might not have been quite like that but let me tell you something, the woman brought forth her son in travail. My mother used to say because her grandmother said to her and her mother said to her, "When a woman gives birth, she walks in the Valley of the Shadow". They never did finish the rest of it. They just said, "The Valley of the Shadow". And I knew that I was scared to walk through the Valley of the Shadow. But you do it 'cause that's the only way they get here.
Now somebody in this room has adopted an infant and when they handed that baby to you, you looked at that baby and thought, "Who are you, you precious little stranger? Who are you"? But what you may not know is that it would have been the same way if that baby had come from your own body. You still look at that little thing and go, "You precious tiny little stranger. Who are you? And I thought I knew your name and I guess I'll still name you your name but what would you tell me? What is your name"? But the angel had told Mary: "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and of his kingdom there will be no end". This was Mary's baby boy. Active witness comes automatically from authentic, and I'm gonna make up a word with you in this series: with-ness.
When we engage with Immanuel in the with-ness of God, I mean, totally engage, we enter into it, take him up on it, that we're conscious of it, we will witness from with-ness. The more you spend time with him, the more it will just come from you because you cannot help it. You cannot help it. It comes out. What you have put in will come out. What I have put in will come out. Whatever we store in the secret places will be manifested. And that's scary to us and it is scary but it's a beautiful thing when you have the secret life with Christ, know him in the secret places, the two of you. Know him through his Word. You have your own thing going with him that is separate from what your friend has going with him, what your mother had going with him, if you come from a heritage of faith. Your thing with him.
And let me tell you, whatever you have tucked down in there in the secret chambers of your life, oh, it manifests. You won't have to worry about how you're gonna get the words right because somehow they're already onto you by the time you're talking about it 'cause they already know you're not the same as most people they know. So make a little comparison here. There comes the farewell discourse in the Gospel of John, it begins in scene about John chapter 13 and then lasts all the way through John chapter 17. At the very beginning of 18, that's when they are then at the Garden and that's when the soldiers come for Jesus. So in that whole time, it's the evening that he will be arrested and so he is telling them everything in this last evening, what he wants to sit with them, what they need to know when he is gone. He's tried to tell them that he's gonna be crucified and raised from the dead but they could not even grasp it. They could not get their minds to wrap around that.
And he says, essentially, this: "All this time, I've been walking beside you but when I send my Spirit to you, I will come and I will dwell in you". I mean, listen, this was everything. It's what completely, dramatically changed those disciples into the kind that would just, like, fumble the ball constantly, they would all forsake him and run when he gets arrested. And we only see one showing up at the foot of the cross and that is John the beloved disciple. All these guys that were boastful, like, "Are you gonna rain down fire on them like you did Sodom and Gomorrah"? This was the kind of thing he had going. He had Peter who took him to the side and rebuked him. Rebuked him for saying that he would be killed. This is what he had until the Spirit fell. And then the Holy Spirit would dwell in them and suddenly the life of Christ was being lived out through them by way of his Spirit.
So here's the question I have on the table for you. So why didn't that replace the with-ness of God? Since he's in, why would the concept, what I'm presenting to you as a theology of sorts, its own doctrine of sorts, why would it still be important that you need to know that if you're in Christ, not only is he in you by way of his Spirit, but there is also this concept of him being with us. What is the difference between the two things? That's what I'm throwing out on the table with you because from Genesis to Revelation God With Us is the sacred and holy concept all its own. So here's what I did. I've got 'em all back here. I looked up every single occasion in Scripture and printed them out, one page right after another, you can see them here. Every single time it says, "And God was with him," or "God was with them," or "The Lord was with him," or from the first person aspect, God himself saying, as he did to Joshua: "I will be with you". He also said it to Jacob: "Like I was with your father and your grandfather, Abraham and Isaac, I will be with you".
So I looked up every single place in Scripture that there's any reference of that kind and read every verse and it's so profound to see what the implications are of a "With-us" kind of God. When he said it, when he would make the statement, what was happening in the passage, what kind of follow-up do we see when he would say, "I will be with you"? And so I began to look and look and look and look. And so here's what I'm going to try to do. I tried to come up with some sort of identifier for what distinguishes God With Us conceptually and theologically. Is anybody following with me here? So what does it mean? The with-ness of God appears to indicate effectual presence that bears some measure of manifestation on a human. And what I'm presenting to you is it's distinguishable both from his omnipresence and his accompaniment because we know he's present everywhere. There's nowhere we can go.
Psalm 139: "Where can I go from your presence? If I made my bed in hell, you would be there. If I went to the uttermost parts of the earth, you would be there. Your hand would reach out to me and your right hand would hold me. There's nowhere I can go from your presence," so that's omnipresence. There's also, we just know he's with us in accompaniment but what does it mean when he says, "No, the Lord was with him"? What did that look like? What did that look like? And so what I'm gonna suggest to you is that each time, 'cause we know he's not gonna ever leave us or forsake us, but this is a different matter. Each time it is when a human will give some kind of evidence of the divine. Anybody tracking with me? By the time he was saying "I will be with you," then something human was going to give some kind of evidence of the divine.
Think of it this way. It would be when the hand of God would leave prints. Does that help? Some kind of manifestation. The with-ness of God appears to signal effectual presence. Now, effectual presence, you know what I'm talking about. It's producing some kind of desired effect. Okay, so listen to 2 Chronicles 15:9 and you'll hear a little bit of it: "And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him". Was with him. So they saw that. So they didn't see the Lord. But they could see some kind of evidence that the Lord was with them. Why?
Somebody stay with me. Because they could do something they couldn't. Oh, I need somebody to enter in with me today. Because when the Lord is with you, you can do what you can't. You sometimes may know what you don't. See clearly into something you can't. Because it's the divine now that is having effectual, it's not just the fact of his presence. It's that there's somehow, someway, through that human a manifestation of something that is divine. That is divine. Let me tell you something. By no means is it always marked by positive circumstances. So it doesn't mean if the Lord is with us, man, we are always going to be prosperous. That is not what it means. Means we'll be prosperous in our Spirit if we wanna be.
Go with me all the way back to Genesis and let's track back and see when we first begin to see a pattern of "And the Lord was with him". We would see it earlier in the patriarchs with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but it says it one time after another with Joseph, starting in Genesis 39. Why this is such a perfect text to look at is because it's such varied circumstances and yet it keeps saying the same phrase. Genesis 39. I'm gonna do 1 and 2 because we're heading to 2 and because we just may as well. "Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt". It's because, ladies, his brothers had sold him into slavery, put blood on his clothes, taken them to his dad, and said, "He has been torn up," implied to him that he had been killed by wild animals.
You talk about meanness. They tried to leave him for dead and some of the brothers were, like, "No, no. No, no, let's at least leave him alive. We'll just, like, sell him into this caravan". And so they took him to Egypt. Finds himself there. Watch what happens. It says: "Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there". Verse 2: "The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him," and it says that "the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. And Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him".
So I mean, it's like, boy, first glimpse of it is, I'm gonna tell you something. If the Lord is with me the way it will show is that I am going to be successful. And so, when you see somebody successful out there, we would just think, "Well, then, the Lord must be with them. The richer they are, the more successful they are, the more the Lord must be with them". Only that is not how the narrative goes at all because in those circumstances, I mean, he had success in what he had been carefully, carefully listen, sold into slavery to do. But then it all goes awry because Potiphar's wife is looking to have sex with him, keeps trying, keeps trying, keeps trying, gets so frustrated because he will not agree to. That he runs from her. She holds his garment, lays it on the bed beside her for her husband to see, and says, "This is what he has done to me".
Well, needless to say, he's thrown in prison. That's when we see, Genesis 39, that now says this in verse 20: "And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison". Verse 21: "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison". The man prospered because the Lord was with him. Verse 23 says: "The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed". It's the craziest thing because it's not circumstantial. It's that no matter what situation he was in, because the Lord was with him, he could do what he couldn't. Is anybody getting the concept with me? But it's when the Lord is with you, somehow, in some way, you can do something you can't.
I can tell you this, you cannot, you absolutely cannot fulfill your calling. You do not have it in you. You do not have what it takes. The only one who can fulfill your calling is Jesus and he does it by way of his Spirit through you, his Spirit through you. And that's why if we quench him, for decades on in we could get to the end of our lives and go, "You know what? He promised me that he would use me and he never did". Because we quenched him and quenched him and quenched him and quenched him. He said, "You know what? You only ever did what you could do because you never let me fill you enough to teem over and anoint you where we could do what you couldn't do". Because the only way people can see Jesus in you is when you do what you can't. When you have joy when your life is miserable. When you are the one at work that doesn't talk about everybody, when you don't stab everybody in the back, when you're still generous when you feel like you can barely make ends meet, these are things you cannot do. These are things the Holy Spirit does through you and that is when the handprint of God shows up when the hand of God is upon you.
Now, let's contrast Moses, the servant of the Lord. Everybody turn to Exodus 3. By this time, there is no pharaoh who remembers anything whatsoever about Joseph and Joseph's family, that had all found deliverance in a famine there in Egypt and yet all the Israelites are still there and they've been made into slaves and they are terribly oppressed under a very wicked pharaoh. And it says the Lord heard the cries of the people who were oppressed and came to deliver them. And if you'll pick up with me in Exodus 3, I wanna start reading at verse 4. Let's see what it says. Says then, when he's on the far side of the desert and he goes over to look because there is a bush that has caught fire. And it's not so unusual that a bush would catch fire. What was unusual is that the fire would not consume the bush. It just kept burning without burning up what it had lit.
And it says in verse 4: "When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called out to him from out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then he said, 'Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.' And he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, 'I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of the land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come up to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring up my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.' But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?' And he said, 'But I will be with you'".
I am Immanuel, the with you God. I will never ever forsake you. "And this will be the sign for you, for I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, and you shall serve God on this mountain". So he goes into all of this. Moses says, "Well, who am I supposed to tell 'em has even sent me"? So he says, "You tell them I Am. I Am who I Am. That's who is sending you". And then he tells Moses, "Listen, I'm gonna do all of this for you. I'm gonna cause all these signs. I'm gonna cause all these wonders". Would you then go with me to Exodus 4:10 through 15: "But Moses said to the Lord, 'Oh, Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant.'" You've got to appreciate that. 'Cause he's going, "You know what? I'm no better than I was when I met you a few minutes ago was the thing. I couldn't speak before I met you, I can't speak now, I can't, so I..". You know, and so "The Lord says, 'Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth.'"
I don't know if that's good news to anybody else. "And I will teach you what you shall speak". And he says, verse 13: "Oh, Lord, please send someone else". And then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, 'Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well, and he's coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he's gonna be glad to see you and you will speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with his mouth and I will teach you both what to do.'" Moses is, like, You're not enough. I'm gonna need somebody else. So he gives him Aaron. Now, Aaron, God works sovereignly. See, with Aaron, he already knows that he's gonna use Aaron to be the lineage of the great high priest. I mean, this is important. But I also want to remind you that this is the same guy when Moses was up on the mountain of God, receiving the Commandments, that he was down there going, "Man, the time is getting late".
And so when Moses is coming down the mountain, with the tablets in his hand, going, like, "What? I hear dancing and singing. What is that"? Gets down there and he goes, "Aaron, what have you done"? And I'm gonna put it in a nutshell but you can see it for yourself 'cause it's nearly word for word. He says, "It's the strangest thing. We took all these gold earrings, we threw them into a fire and out jumped a golden calf. It's crazy. You can't believe what happened. What could we do but worship it"? When we demand human with-ness where divine with-ness belongs, the results can be perilous. When that space which is for his with-ness I insist upon somebody else being in it's gonna get disastrous.
I remember many, many, many years ago, learning an acronym of the word "Easter," and it said, "Every Alternative Savior Takes Early Retirement". And I have never forgotten it. In other words, you want a relationship to go awry, you just make a false Christ out of them because you do not have another Savior but Jesus. There is no other name that saves. There are helpers in our lives, there are rich friendships, romantic loves, but that space in our lives where he said, "When I am with you, I can enable you to be who you're not, to do what you can't, and to be who you aren't," and when anybody else gets in there, we never even know what that's like. "Moses, but I will be with you". We get this disastrous, big co-dependent situation, and he says, "But I told you I would be with you". But I thought he was gonna be my Savior. "No, I told you I would be with you".
I thought if he hired me and I just worked at that church or I worked at that mission. "No, no, it wasn't them. I told you I would be with you. They don't have what you needed. They weren't your Savior. They couldn't give you that ministry. I was the one who was with you". I want you to see something where the name Immanuel first originates on the page in that spelling in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah because its context is absolutely fascinating. Turn with me to a couple of last Scriptures. I want you to see Isaiah chapter 7, verses 1 through 14: "In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, that son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, 'Syria is in league with Ephraim,' the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind".
So Isaiah's the prophet of God at this time, one of them. He's a prophet of God at this time. King Ahaz is a foolish and evil king over Judah, and so two peoples, the Syrians and then the Ephraimites were God's people, had come together into an alliance to come against King Ahaz and the people of Jerusalem. So he is totally freaking out. So God tells the prophet Isaiah, "Go to him. Go out and meet Ahaz, you and your sons, and say to him," and I'm at verse 4: "Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands," he says because they have "devised evil against you, and said, 'Let us go up to Judah and take it,'" and it says in verse 7: "thus says the Lord God: 'It shall not stand, it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within 65 years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.'"
That's saying all this because he's saying, "Do you see that these are all people led by people? And you're intimidated by these stumps of firebrands"? And he says, "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all". Those words in the second half of verse 9 are so powerful. "And again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 'Ask for a sign of the Lord your God; let it be as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven.'" Do you know what God is saying? "Ask me for a sign. Ask me for a sign". You talk about mercy and grace? This guy was an idiot and God's going, "Listen, you don't need to be scared of them because I have put my name on that place. Ask me for a sign". Well, he won't. He will not do it. Ahaz says, in verse 12, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to test". And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you would weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel".
Now stay with me here and let me tell you something because the context of it is absolutely perfect. Because he's saying, "Listen, when I am with you, you do not need an alliance with any powerful man. I am the Lord your God and I have promised to be with you". This is the significance of the With us God. And so I started thinking about something. That the really peculiar thing about the culture we're presently living in is that our temptation has even surpassed putting warm flesh and blood in the place of God. That used to be us. Now, we're putting technology, cold as ice, in the place of the human that we used to put in the place of God. So now, technology, not even warm flesh and blood, technology is now in the space where the With us of God would have borne witness in our lives.
So here's what I did. I thought what an odd thing. I thought what an odd thing it was. And so I jotted down a little rewrite to make the point of the 23rd Psalm: "The phone is my shepherd; I shall not want. It maketh me to lie down in bed and check my notifications. It leadeth me into isolation. It addicteth my soul. It leadeth me in the paths of social media for my namesake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of Christ's abundant life, I shall not know it for thou, O phone, art with me, thy charger and thy earbuds, they comfort me. Thou sittest with me at the table in the presence of my family. Thou anointest my head with anxiety. My cell bill runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life but I shall surely not know it for I will dwell with my face in my phone for all of my days".
One of my very favorite of all occurrences that speaks of the with-ness of God happens right at the end of 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy is written by the apostle Paul and one thing that makes it so extravagantly unique is that it is the last thing he writes before he gives his neck to the sword. So I mean, we're at the last, the very end of it, where his pen is about to go dry, this profuse pen that has written all of these letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, all of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and on and on. And it is about to go bone dry and he is about to be in the presence of the Lord. So he tells Timothy something because he's in prison. Not Timothy, but Paul himself, he's in prison. Been through all manner of things, beaten, nearly dead, over and over again. "At my first defense no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the proclamation might be fully made through me and all the Gentiles might hear. And so I was rescued from the lion's mouth".
The reason why you're on the planet probably is on the other side of you finding out what it's like for no one to come through for you. How do you know what he could be to you if you are never alone enough with him to find out? This is what happens on the other side of this kind of moment. I'm gonna tell you something. I struggle with doubts about a lot of things. Whether or not Jesus Christ is real and is more than my imaginary friend is not one of them. I have lived through things that are absolutely outrageous, that I am positive that the woman I knew at 20 could not possibly get through and be able to collect three thoughts that made any sense. Does anybody know what I'm talking about? Things that should anybody besides me be dead, just like, yeah. I mean, I'm gonna tell you something in a different: if not for Jesus, I should be dead. I should be dead. Him I know.
I don't know him like I wanna know him. But I can tell you this, "I know the one in whom I believe," is what Paul said, "and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day". Would you look back with me and let's conclude in Matthew 1:21: "'She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,' which means, God with us". How precious that God would send his Son to be born of a young woman, holding this tiny little infant in her arms. That God would so esteem warm flesh and blood that he would wrap his own baby in it.