NT Connect: Matthew 1:23
Weekly Reading: 1 Samuel 3-7
God With Us
In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines, so they took the Ark of the Covenant with them to Ebenezer, hoping to win the next battle. However, they were defeated again, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 6, after keeping the Ark for seven months with many dreadful consequences, the Philistines returned the Ark to the Israelites together with offerings of expensive gifts.
The Ark of the Covenant was the place of presence. While the Lord was present among his people in the exodus (Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22), he revealed this presence in the tabernacle for the benefit of his people. The Tabernacle was constructed so that the Lord would be among his people: “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8 NASB). But in an even more specific way, the Ark served as the place of the presence of God. As we read in Exodus 25:22, “There I will meet with you. . . on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you” (Exodus 25:22 NASB).
Here is a mystery. The eternal God who is not constrained by the existence of time, the infinite God who is not bound by the constraints of space, the transcendent God who dwells above and beyond all time and space, and the immense God who fills all time and space emptied himself and became manifest for their benefit among them. What a God we worship! He chose to stoop low and to humble himself for the sake of his wandering people in the wilderness.
More than this, he chose to humble himself for us in his Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:23 reveals that Jesus is God with us, Immanuel. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 NASB).
Thankfully, even today, our God is not far off in another place, but he is always near to us. The promise to the believer is that the Lord is near to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us (1 Corinthians 6:19), even as Jesus promised his presence (John 14:16). As God’s presence came upon the Ark in the Tabernacle, so now God’s people have become the Temple where he dwells by his Spirit. The most insignificant details of our life take on eternal significance when they are integrated with an awareness of God’s continual presence. In God’s presence, the world disappears as it is enveloped by, and permeated with, the holiness of God’s presence.