Wednesday, February 03, 2016

“Victory in the Wilderness”

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Victory in the Wilderness"
For the week of February 2, 2016
Immanuel-- God with us (The Trajectory of Intimacy)
In Daniel chapter 2, we find King Nebuchadnezzar troubled with a dream. Part of what troubled him was that he could not remember it. He asked his 'wise men' to recall the dream and interpret it. But his wise men answered by saying what the King was asking for, only God could give, and that He (God) does not dwell among men. Therefore, they inferred, King Nebuchadnezzar's request could not be granted even by God Himself. It is here they laid down the gauntlet to God. What a challenge! God heard, and demonstrated that the belief held by these men was both correct and incorrect. Truth and error were mixed together. The 'wise men' rightly understood that only God could reveal the dream and give the interpretation. But they lacked knowledge and awareness – indeed they did not know that God longs to dwell with men.

Through this strange set of events, God used Daniel to show that only He could reveal both the dream, and its interpretation. Surprisingly, God also used this situation to bring to light one of the fallacies of unbelievers: that God does not dwell with mankind. Through Daniel God proved that He indeed dwells among men.
In fact, His name is Immanuel – God with Us. God has always made it His business to dwell among men. Even when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, He wanted to dwell among them. That was one of His reasons for the earthly Sanctuary. The Lord said to Moses, "… let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). 

To demonstrate His presence in the sanctuary, God gave His Shekinah glory to shine right above the mercy seat, which covered the Ten Commandments in the most Holy Place of the tabernacle or 'Tent of Meeting.' Ellen White says, "In the holy of holies the great I AM took up His abode…. There, above the mercy seat, overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim, dwelt the Shekinah of His glory, the perpetual token of His presence" (That I May Know Him p. 95).
Furthermore, God was with them day and night, leading them, as seen in Exodus 12:21, 22--
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
Not only was God with the Hebrews as they wandered in the wilderness, but God dwelt among them after they became established as a nation in the Promised Land. Just read 1st and 2nd Kings, as well as 1st and 2nd Chronicles for evidence of that fact. But this 'closeness' through dwelling among the people was still too far away. From the foundation of the world, God purposed to come even closer still, and close the gap of intimacy. In the book of Isaiah we find this prophecy:
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isa 7:14. He did not want us to miss it, so He said, "I'll give you a sign." "This is how you'll know it's Me…" So although He was initially Spirit, He became flesh and blood, born of a woman, born under the law, like all of the sons of Adam, to be with us. (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3)
We know that Jesus' birth was the fulfillment of this prophecy, because we read in the Gospel of Matthew:
"But while he (Joseph) thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matt 1:20-23).

Jesus left the royal courts of heaven, and laid aside His (Shekinah) glory, and clothed His divinity with humanity that He might come into close connection with humanity, and by precept and example uplift and ennoble humanity, and restore in the human soul the lost image of God. (Temperance p. 40)
Immanuel is God manifested in the flesh, partaking of our nature for the sole purpose of our redemption and restoration in this divine rescue operation.  Ellen White elaborates,
"Emmanuel, God with us," this means everything to us. What a broad foundation does it lay for our faith? What a hope big with immortality does it place before the believing soul. God with us, in Christ Jesus, accompany us every step of the journey to heaven." (ML 290.2)
But not only did He want to be with us, one of us, but His intention from the beginning was to become one with us. "I in them, and Thou in Me, that we may be one" (John 17:21, 23).

The Holy Spirit was sent to be the means to fulfill this prophecy. Immanuel gave Him to us, as can be seen in John 14:16-- "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." And in 1 Corinthians 3:16 it says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is … "a guide in our perplexities, to soothe our sorrows, and shield us in temptation." O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (ML 290.2)
God with us means such closeness, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Agape- love of God [and Apostle John has said, "God is Agape-love"-- 1 John 4:8] which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). So we are in Him, and He is in us.

When we receive and understand this concept, then like David we can say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" Psalm 23:4. There is no need to live in fear and be overcome by Sin. God with us means that whatever difficulties we experience, He will love us still and neither leave nor forsake us! Oh may we remember this beautiful truth. Amen.
~Raul Diaz