What does “to be with you” mean to You
Emphasis passage…”for I am with you”
There are those whom you and I really like being around, aren’t there? These likable folks are special to us. And for whatever the reason, when they happened into our lives, this “connection” was unique enough that we wanted them to be our friend. And throughout the days that followed we chose to stay in touch. We accepted them as part of our life and they accepted us as part of theirs.
How this special relationship started is different in each case. Could have been a chance meeting on the street or at the grocery store. Or perhaps you were in class together or you worked together. Or maybe you met at church or a family function or a friend’s house. But you met.
And at that meeting, whether by chance or design, you just clicked. Perhaps it was the things you had in common. Perhaps it was the differences that opened the door for you. Perhaps you just saw something in them that said to you, “This person is someone I’d like to get to know.” Or perhaps you saw how others connected with another person and that caught your interest. But no matter, the “how” of the meeting, you found you liked being near, being with, that individual.
Sometimes you liked being with them on occasion, sometimes a lot. Regardless the times of togetherness, a bond was formed. A mutually agreed upon bond. A bond that deepened and became very important to you. So much so, that you knew this bond, this relationship, would alter the course of your life. And this would be a “last forever” relationship.
When I went off to college I knew this choice would change my life…and boy, I was ready for a change. (I’m sure no one else ever felt that way, right?) So, okay a change…a drastic change for this farm boy. And like some others who have gone off to college i wondered about friends. Well, I wondered a little about friends. I sort of had an ace in the hole regarding the “friend” issue. Four other classmates from my former high school were also attending the same college. And we kind of pledged to hang out together…at least for a while. This promise gave each of us some comfort.
Well, that worked out fine in the beginning. We’d meet for a chat or a soda or to go bowling or even church. But, as the semester got into swing, classes and work and other activities and interests, we “friends” or “sort of friends” started to drift apart. And the getting together became less and less.
As a result of these “changes” we each found that we made “new” friends. This posed no issue for me. I liked making new friends. And some of these “new friends” led to a “date” situation.
I remember my roommate, Tim, who obviously thought I had way too many “dates”, would asked whenever I got back to our shared room, “Well, how was this one?” And I always answered with a “Fine.” or an “ Ok.” or just a shake of my head. I think he lived vicariously through my “friendships”.
Then one night I got back late and Tim, as usual, asked, “Well, how’d this one go?” And I said, “Well, you know, I think I’ll marry this one.” And Tim said, “You are the craziest guy I know.” “Maybe so, but I’ll make sure you’re invited to the wedding.”
Now you might be wondering, what was so different about this newly formed relationship. And my answer would be simple. Her hand felt and fitted perfectly into mine. I was raised by “some folks’ standards” as a little old fashion. I never “took” a lady’s hand, I asked for it. And when this particular young lady gave me her hand I knew she was “the one”. Very simply put, I liked being with her.
That night as I lay in bed and said my prayers, I thanked God for her. I don’t know about you but I had, from a very young age, prayed for my future loved one…my future wife. And I wanted the one God wanted for me. I, also, prayed that I would know her when I met her. He did not fail me.
As I prayed I committed my heart to her, even though she knew nothing of that commitment till much later on. In that chosen moment of commitment I knew that I loved Julie. What she would do with that commitment of love, which I would share with her when the time was right, was her choice. I would let that decision rest with her and God. With that settled in my heart I fell asleep, believing that I would one day be with her.
As so it is with our relationship with God. Before we have committed to Him, He has committed to us in love. And He leaves our decision making then in our hands.
C. S. Lewis wrote: “When I love God more than my earthly dearest, then I shall love my earthly dearest more than I do now.” Lewis knew that his love for God had to be deeper and truer than the love that he had for his beloved wife, Joy. God came first. And because that was really so for him, well, his love for her was the lasting kind…the “forever” kind. Considering that their love came late in his life, and lasted only four years due to her untimely death to cancer, their love was all the more precious and God-given to him…to them both.
Such a love that C. S. Lewis speaks of and such a love that God continually speaks of is all about…commitment.
What is commitment, do you think?
It’s a promise, isn’t it? A pledge, an oath, an assurance, an agreement, the giving of one’s word.
It’s about dedicating one’s self to someone else or to a cause. Devotion is involved…and allegiance.
It follows then that faithfulness is required with this obligation we’ve taken on, with this duty we’ve assumed. And loyalty is expected…needed…when we make such a commitment.
God puts His commitment another way…He calls it a Covenant.
His covenant is a covenant of loving completely, without reservation or condition. He loves us with an everlasting love. And He pledges and proves His love, whether we commit to this unique and holy relationship or not. He does so when He says, “…for I am with you…”
“…for I am with you…” What did that mean to the Hebrew people? It meant that He would watch over them. He would protect them. He would lead them. He would provide for them. He was their God and they were His Chosen People.
His commitment to them said that He’d never leave them or forsake them. He was committed to “being with them.”
And His commitment, His covenant to them, said that He loved them like no other “god” could or would. And they could trust Him in that absolute love.
A train was speeding along its tracks through a terrible storm late one night. The sky was filled with flashes of lightening and the thunder roared and bellowed and the dark storm clouds hung low and were oh so ominous. It was a frightful and fearful night. A night that held little promise of safety, but certainly the promise of a pending catastrophe was in most of the peoples’ hearts.
The passengers screamed and shrieked as the tensions grew. All was lost or so they thought.
Everyone had just about given up hope. All that is, except one little boy, who sat in a seat all by himself, playing with his few toys. His calmness began to draw some other folks’ attention. Finally one lady had to ask, “Sonny, I see you’re alone on the train. Aren’t you afraid to travel by yourself on such a stormy night?” The little boy looked up and smiled, “No ma’am, “ he answered, “ I ain’t afraid. My Daddy’s the engineer.”
The little boy knew his Daddy, who loved him very much, would never let any harm come his way. So he “rested” in that love. And he trusted in his father’s commitment to him and that made him “feel” secure. But there was something else…the little boy had also committed his love to his father. They had a “covenant” with each other. A covenant that both of them followed through on.
Now this was the same kind of general consensus that the Hebrew people felt. They liked the fact that God had made such a covenant with them. It made them feel “secure”. But was their commitment of love the same as His for them? Well, time and their true behavior would tell the real story. So they “loved” God as He loved them…hum…
You see, true love, absolute love, Godly love, sometimes takes us to places and into situations that we’d rather not go. And when confronted with these “less than desirable or wanted” intrusions the Hebrew people, (and we), sometimes question this wonderful love of God. And we find ourselves wondering, “Is it worth “being with” the one who professes to love us so much?”
Looking at our Scriptures today, the Hebrew people found themselves in this situation. You see their nation had been ripped apart. This had been going on for decades. The nation was divided by civil war and internal conflicts and disagreements for as long as anyone cared to remember. And it wasn’t just internal “stuff” that plagued them, they were constantly fighting off other countries. The Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians…everyone wanted a piece of them…literally. And “agreements and payoffs” only worked for so long. Soon the divided nation, the northern and southern kingdom of Israel and Judah, was “really” divided. The northern kingdom was swept away and assimilated into the Assyria nation, and much of the southern part was also taken away to Babylon. Exiled!
Exiled!? Seriously, God? What about Your Covenant, Your Commitment, Your God love-plan? This is more than we bargained for!
Yes, they were questioning His “being with them” and their “being with Him”, for that matter!
But sometimes He has to take us back to the beginning of things to get us re-focused. They, whether they knew it or not, had lost their “direction”. God had lived up to His part of the covenant; but, had they?
Let me throw out, may be for some, a peculiar way of looking at their situation. Most, probably all students of the Bible, look at this time as the “Time of Exile.” And I mean, why not, that’s what Scripture calls it; but, perhaps, we should call it, “the Time of Going Back Home and getting their proper bearings.” (My mama use to say when I was out of sync with everyone else and everything else, “Son, you need to get your head on straight!” And that wasn’t a pat on the back; that was a chastisement!) It was time for the Hebrew people to get their heads (their hearts) on straight.
Remember where the Hebrew people had originated? In Ur of Chaldees. God had called Abraham and all of his household to follow Him into a land that He would give them. And He would make Abraham descendants to be as many as the grains of sands and the stars in the sky. A big promise to someone who had no sons to carry on in his name. But God had promised and God would see it through…and He did. But even more, God made this covenant with Abraham’s “children and their children”.
He’d kept His end of the deal; but, what of the “children”? Well, let’s just say, they sort of wavered a bit…ok, a whole lot. So God did the only thing He could do with a disobedient “child” (nation), He got their attention by “punishing” them to draw them back to Him. They had sinned against Him and many others. They had rebelled. They had taken this covenant relationship for granted. Now, God said, “Nope, doesn’t work that way. So, let’s go back to the beginning and start over. Then maybe you’ll get it right.” And,so, God brought them back to the land of Ur of Chaldees, or present day Iraq if this helps us modern day folks understand better the local.
Their response to such an obviously harsh punishment, and ours when we’re faced with going back to the starting over stage of our faith walk, “This is not the way I would have planned it! This isn’t my idea of a good time. Can’t we come to some kind of different arrangement?”
Lots of us would, do, feel the same way when God calls us up short. His idea and our idea of how things should be, or how thing should go, usually are quite different.
H.G. Wells, a wonderful English writer of the late eighteen hundreds and the early nineteen hundreds, was friends with Henry James, an equally wonderful American writer of the same time period.
Once when H.G. was visiting Henry in his home in America they entered into Henry’s drawing room for a chat. And over in the corner of the room Mr. Wells saw a stuffed bird and he said, “What is that?!” Mr. James replied, “That is a stork. “Humph,” said Wells, “That’s not my idea of a stork.” Whereupon James said, “Perhaps not, but, it apparently was God’s idea.”
Hum, our idea about how certain things should be, or how they should go, don’t always line up with God’s ways. Sometimes He takes the “drastic” approach to get our attention and to “love” us back into a committed and covenant relationship with Him.
You see, whether we want “to be with” God or not…He wants “to be with us.” And He’ll do whatever it takes to make that option for us possible.
Ah, but that “drawing back” so very often is not received so well.
“But, God, why?” the Hebrew Children cried out. “Things were going so well. Why mess with things? What’s the deal? We’re Your Chosen Ones! We didn’t know there was a problem.”
Don’t we do the exact same thing when God reaches out to us in “tough love”?
But God had used His prophets and His Holy Word to get His People to repent and return to Him. Still they cried out,”What have we done? Don’t You love us? Where’s Your Commitment to us? Have You forgotten Your Covenant with us?”
Their idea, their understanding, of love and commitment and covenant was obviously different from that of God’s.
Ah, but I love God’s response to them concerning His promise “to be with them.”
In our passage today He says:
…For “I am” the Lord, your God…(the name God gave Himself so all people would know Him)
…I will hold you and help you…(God was their, and our, ALL in ALL)
…I will answer them, I, the God of Israel, will not forsake…(says it all doesn’t it)
…I will make rivers flow…(physically and spiritually)
…I will turn the desert…(into that promised land)
…I will set in the wasteland…(a means for my Chosen One’s well-being, and a means for their
…I will put in the desert…(He will be with them through anything and for all time)
…The Lord has done this…(no other god, no other man, no other nation…only God…credit due, Honor deserved and given)
As W. Glyn Evans said, “Since God has done the initiating; He must be responsible for the consequences.”
God had a lot of expectations of and for His People. He had put a process into motion and He would see it through. He would make a way out of their “exile” so they could take this “re-thinking and re-commiting time” to a new level…to a new beginning.
God wasn’t finished yet…not them and not with His Plan for all of His Children…and that means you and me. Thank You, Jesus!
God, their Heavenly Father, had promised “to be with them”. His promise of love and commitment and covenant was bigger than they, (or we), could ever have imagined.
The Holy One had done this. How, they would react to all He had done on their behalf, rested in their hands. Their Promised Land awaited them.
Personal Illustration Concluded:
I told you I knew, after that first date, that I’d marry Julie. I also told you that what “she” did with that commitment of my heart was her choice…totally and only her choice.
One night several weeks after that first date I proposed to Julie. And I waited for her answer. As I had hoped and prayed, her answer was, “Yes!” And life for the both of us has never been the same. Through all the highs and through all the lows, happy times and bad times, good and bad times we’ve made this journey of over 41 years together. And I wouldn’t have wanted to make it with anyone else. She’s the only one I wanted “to be with.”
God speaks to each of our hearts at one time or another. And then He, too, waits. He waits for our answer. He’s already made His commitment through the shed blood of Jesus Christ His Son. He has promised to always “to be with you…and me.”
What’s our, your answer, to Him?
Let us pray.