“And the Lord was with Judah , and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots.” Judges 1:19
We in our humanness expect that if God is with us we will overcome any obstacle. our hearts resonate with Gideon as he cried out, “oh my Lord if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us and where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about” Judges 6:13
In the first chapter of Judges, God instructs Israel, to send Judah first because “I have given him the land.” To me this sounds like a sure thing. Judah can surely expect to gain the advantage, take the land, drive out the Canaanites.
But that is not what happened. God was with Judah but Judah didn’t succeed. I don’t understand, Judah lost, he could not drive out the inhabitants. But if God was with them, why couldn’t they execute the plan, gain the promise and win the day?
The Lord was with Joseph in the pit when he was dragged out and sold as a slave, when Joseph was accused of rape and when he was a servant to pharaoh in a strange land. In fact there is no person in the bible of whom it is said more then Joseph that God was with him, yet Joseph was not in paradise with God. For a lot of years Joseph was not free at all. What does it mean that God is with us? Doesn’t that mean we “win”? God was with Joseph yet Joseph was imprisoned, accused, suffered and forgotten. Even after his rise to the throne, the pain of betrayal no doubt overshadowed Joseph’s life.
The fact that God was with Joseph but Joseph still suffered, doesn’t prove that God is weak, it merely proves that the presence of God doesn’t guarantee our success. The Father was with Jesus in the garden too, but Jesus was arrested, there was a greater good. When Jesus left his disciples he said , lo I am always with you and further more he left the Holy Spirit with them, but even the indwelling of the Holy spirit, didn’t eliminate the suffering and failure the disciples experienced post ascension.
So is God weak in his delivery or do we need to redefine what we believe about Immanuel. What does Immanuel, God with us mean for us? If we don’t adjust our thinking about how we are to interact with the idea that God is with us we might feel like God has let us down.
I suggest the phrase and name God with us, first is true. He is “with us.” but i believe it is the purpose that we need to explore. God is not with us to give us the win. He has come down from his throne to sit with us in the prisons, in fears, in losing battles, in hospital rooms, in the places of life where we are alone to be with us. He comforts, he encourages, he sings to us, he cries with us, he speaks shalom over us.
Judah did not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, but God was with him, just not for the reason I expected. Those inhabitants eventually became a snare to Israel, eventually turning Israel away from God. Do we know for certain this wasn’t God’s plan? We know from scripture God is not in the habit of preventing sin. Adam and Eve sinned with God’s “permission”, but not his blessing. This tells us something about God. It tells us that God is concerned about something greater than us not sinning. His goal is not sinlessness, his object is not to produce perfect people. He is not threatened by sin. He is not overcome by sin. He is not driven by it’s presence. We are, but he is not. the fact that we see and experience God allowing us to sin, tells me that God is anticipating the opportunities that sin uncovers. Which means there is something even greater than sinless, flawless men.
This also tells us that God expects human beings, made in his image to take action in our own lives. He is with us, he is for us, but he is not us. This idea of God being beside us reveals that he is other, and it gives us a great push to work along side God, rather than try to be God. We are invited to live out, walk out and speak out in his presence. that is awesome. God’s presence encourages the human heart to be alive and animated.
What ought Immanuel to truly mean to us. God’s presence is the victory. His presence is evidence that God has provided reconciliation. Man is no longer locked outside the garden gate away from our creator, but he is with us. He opened the way to join us.
God doesn’t remove difficulties from around us, but his presence in the midst of our difficulties is a victory over the sin inside us. Sometimes we gain victory sometimes we do not. Some of that relies on us. But regardless if we win or lose, God’s presence remains. The Father doesn’t wax and wane he doesn’t remain beside us only when we are successful, but when we are sitting in prison or unable to drive out enemies. He is with us because of Christ in us. He is faithful simply because he is faithful.
whether we take the land or not, whether we conquer sin or not, whether we are faithful or not, God is with us. If we win great and when we lose, we can remember God is still with us, and he may have a bigger purpose than “winning”, he may want to show you that he is faithful and will remain even when you fail. That is love. a love that is slowly disappearing in the world today.
If your in prison, if your on the battle field if your alone in your world right now and you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, God is with you!
He isn’t afraid of your losses and your failures, he isn’t in it for the win, for the land, for the promise, he is in it for you. He wants to be with you.