In preparation for our church’s Christmas Eve service, I meditated on Matthew 1:22-23, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’” Verse 22 arrested my attention because of its resemblance to Hebrews 1:1. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways. . ..” I wondered if there was any correlation between what “God spoke to the fathers through the prophets” and what the “Lord spoke through the prophet” in Matthew. Here’s what I found.
First question: What did God speak?
Did God speak a consistent message to the fathers through the prophets? I found one thing that God repeatedly spoke to the fathers.
• Abraham - Genesis 26:3 “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you . . .”
• Jacob - Genesis 31:3 “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’”
• Moses - Exodus 3:12 “And He said, ‘Certainly I will be with you . . .’”
• Joshua - Joshua 1:5 “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”
• Gideon - Judges 6:16 “But the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you . . .’”
• David - Psalms 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me . . .”
• Israel - Isaiah 43:4-5 “Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you . . . Do not fear, for I am with you.”
• Israel - Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
• Matthew - Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
God repeatedly spoke the same message to the fathers through the prophets, “I will be with you.” After telling his readers that God spoke to the fathers, the author of Hebrews said God had spoken in His Son. What did God speak in His Son that the writer wants us to focus on? The only word spoken by the Son of God referred to by the writer is found in Hebrews 13:5. “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Are you as amazed and encouraged as I am that there is a correlation between what Matthew had in mind and what was on the heart of the writer of Hebrews?
Surely you see the connection. Over almost 2000 years, God repeatedly said, “I will be with you.” Furthermore He made sure it was recorded so we wouldn’t miss it! Then God sent his Son and prophesied He would be called “God with us.” When Jesus informed His disciples that He was going to the Father, He said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He maybe with you forever . . . I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16, 18). Jesus repeated the same promise to His disciples before His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). I’m pleasantly surprised and amazed that God repeatedly said, “I will be with you.”
Second question: Why did God speak it?
Of all the things God could speak to the fathers, why did He choose to repeat that specific message to the fathers, through His Son and then Hebrews? Here are my conclusions.
1. “I will be with you,” must be what best expresses the heart of God the Father for His children. One might think God would say, “I love you,” since God is love. Or perhaps one might expect God to say, “I forgive you.” It seems to me that both of those messages are inherent in experiencing the manifest presence of God in one’s life. If you see any evidence that God is with and in you, then you know He loves and forgives you. So I conclude that the best expression of the heart of God as a father is that He wants to be with His children.
2. God knew it was the most important word He could speak to us. As I think about my own experience in knowing God, nothing speaks more to my fears and needs than to hear God’s promise to be with me and never leave me. Hearing those words and experiencing the reality of His presence should produce faith, love, peace, security, hope, joy, and obedience in us. If you know He is with you, then you know this is true.
3. The repetition over thousands of years testifies to the existence and presence of God and the divine inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. Our hearts should respond with awe and wonder at the love of God to reveal Himself consistently through the ages as a father who wants to be with us. It should make us believe Him and trust His Word!
4. The repetition in the message of the prophets to the fathers and in the Son testifies that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the promised Messiah and is God in the flesh. One way to look at the life of Jesus Christ is to view Him as the fulfillment of the promises of God to mankind. The apostle John wrote his gospel account to testify to this great truth that Jesus is God with us (John 20:31).
Third question: What are we to do with this message?
Hopefully, we would hear this message with our hearts and believe it. If we believe it, we should walk through life with a confidence that God will be with us to help us do what He requires of us. That’s exactly what was expected of the fathers to whom He spoke. He expected Abraham to seek out the promised land. He expected Moses to obey Him and lead Israel out of bondage. He expected Joshua to obey Him and lead His people to possess the land. So today, He expects you and me to obey His Word with confidence that God’s grace will guide, empower, and comfort us in the process. Have you failed to obey God’s Word because you were afraid you would fail or were afraid of the consequences? It’s time to repent and obey because you know He is with you to help you. You will find Him faithful to fulfill His promise to be with you and help you.
If we believe these words best express the heart of God the Father, then these are the most important words we can speak to our children. Of course, it is the doing of the words that make the words meaningful and hopeful. How are you communicating to your children that you want to be with them? Are you doing anything that says, “I don’t want to be with you,” or that other people or things are more important to you than they are? Fathers, we have the responsibility and privilege to prepare our children for a relationship with God as their father. One of the ways we do this is by being His representative, reflecting His heart to our children. I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit, who is Godwith you, to teach you, guide you, and empower you to communicate this good news to them through your words and actions.
These words are just as important to our wives. Nothing builds more security and convinces your wife of your love than your faithfulness to carry out the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
You might try this today. When your family is gathered, perhaps at a meal, tell them that you want them to know that you will be with them through thick and thin and that you will never leave them. Encourage them that by the grace of God you will be there for them in the toughest times and you will be committed to them. Then watch their faces. Ask them what it means to them that you would say those things. Then when they tell you what it means to them, read the Scriptures where God says, “I will be with you and never leave you.” You might follow up by expressing thanks to God with grateful hearts for this good news.
When Jesus gave His farewell address to His disciples, He promised that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to them. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came, He would come to be with them so that He would abide in them and they would abide in Him. Apart from this reality, they could do nothing. Dear friends, the same is true for us. Our only hope of fruitfulness for the glory of God is that Jesus is with and in us and we walk in and with Him. Believe! Enjoy!