I’m With You, photo by rosmary from Flickr
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” –Isaiah 7:14
“Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” –Isaiah 8:10
In ninth grade Bible class the other day the students and I got into a fascinating conversation about the fiery furnace in Daniel 3.
The student did not understand why God, being all-powerful and almighty, would come down and rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the furnace, when all He had to do was rescue them from a distance.
"He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.'” -Daniel 3:25
Here is how the conversation went:
Student: "Sir, Why would God not just save them from the fiery furnace? He didn't have to go in there.”
Teacher: "This is our God. He not only saves us from the fiery furnace, He enters into it with us and saves us!"
The mysterious and marvelous incarnation is simply this: God is with us.
God enters into our sufferings and delivers us from them. This is what the Angel was saying when the announcement was made: “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). Our God is Immanuel. Our God is with us.
Tim Keller talks about the incarnation as God’s answer to suffering and he talks about this answer to suffering being the gift of Christmas: “We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t just end suffering. But we know that whatever the reason, it isn’t one of indifference or remoteness. God so hates suffering and evil that he was willing to come into it and become enmeshed in it . . . The gift of Christmas gives you a resource – a comfort and consolation – for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering with us and for us.”
God is with us.
Frederick Buechner says this about the incarnation: “The incarnation is ‘a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers... Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.’”
God is with us. Are we scandalized by this reality? Are we aware of God’s presence in the fieriest of furnaces that we find ourselves in? God does not just want to rescue us from our hardships, pains and sufferings; God is with us in them.