ODJ: With Us and For Us

August 31, 2017 

READ: Matthew 1:18-25 

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (v.23).

It’s easy to think the world has never been as dangerously divided as it is now. We can’t agree about how to address wars in the Middle East or how to help refugees fleeing the conflicts. The world’s superpowers seem to be edging ever closer towards the plains of Armageddon.

But the world seemed just as divided when Jesus came on the scene. Israel, ruled by the iron fist of Rome, couldn’t agree on how best to respond. There were the powerseekers—such as the Sadducees and Herod—who allied with Rome to secure power. Militaristic zealots chose to strike back while the Essenes fled to the Dead Sea, living in separate communities, waiting for God’s Deliverer to come.

Meanwhile, teachers roamed the countryside promising it wouldn’t be long until God sent His Messiah to defeat Rome. The Pharisees prepared for His coming by enforcing purity. Zealots sharpened their knives. Essenes prayed. Herod stood ready to stamp out any sign of the coming King.

This was the dangerous world into which God’s gift of Immanuel brought peace and hope. But in Christmas we celebrate that God is with us. The holy God, from whom even angels must cover their faces, is now . . . with . . . us (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Our main problem is not Rome, Herod or religious intolerance. Our problem is us. We’re sinners, and so we’re naturally spiritually dead in our sin. But God didn’t leave us for dead. “Immanuel” means God is both with us and >em>for us. Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It’s true that we must die with Him (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20), but only so we can live with Him. God says no to our past so He can say yes to our glorious future with Him. God has given us exactly what we need: Himself!

—Mike Wittmer

365-day-plan: John 12:37-50

Read Luke 5:1-11 to learn the fear and joy of being in the presence of Jesus. 
How does it encourage you to know that Immanuel is with you? What might you need to change in your life to more fully experience life in Christ? 
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