This Advent season we are taking a journey deep into this name, Immanuel—God is with us. To look at this word literally, we could say it means: The With Us God. He moves from the realm of eternity and infinity and steps across into the limitations of time and place. In the O.T. names of God we find insights into what it means to have God with us. Week 1 we looked at the name Yahweh Yireh—The God Who Provides. Last week we looked at another name for God: Yahweh-Nissi—The Lord Who Fights For Us. Let’s review for a moment what these names mean:
- Yahweh Yireh—The God Who Provides.
- Release from guilt and condemnation.
- Relief when life becomes too difficult to handle on our own.
- The Reason for your life—something that you can do only with His strength.
- Yahweh-Nissi—The God Who Fights For Us.
- Even When You Are Unaware Of His Presence.
- Equipping You With The Weapons To Win Those Battles.
- Staying In The Battle With You Until The Final Victory
This is the kind of With Us God who wants us to surrender to Him in Relationship. And today we look at another Old Testament Name: Yahweh-Shammah—The God Who Is There! This comes from Ezekiel 48:30-45 (The Message)
“These are the gates of the city. On the north side, which is 2,250 yards long (the gates of the city are named after the tribes of Israel), three gates: the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, the gate of Levi.“On the east side, measuring 2,250 yards, three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, the gate of Dan.
“On the south side, measuring 2,250 yards, three gates: the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, the gate of Zebulun.
“On the west side, measuring 2,250 yards, three gates: the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, the gate of Naphtali.
“The four sides of the city measure to a total of nearly six miles. “From now on the name of the city will be Yahweh-Shammah: “God-Is-There.”
This passage is about the power of hope. When you know the background of this passage you can literally see the power of hope drenched in these words. The people of Israel had been led into exile to Babylon. The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed and that magnificent Temple erected by Solomon now lay in ruins.
God sends Ezekiel to them with the word they needed most: Hope! God promises them that they will go home and that God will restore them. And beginning in chapter 40, Ezekiel shares with them the hope that only God can give when one is living their life in exile. Many of them left Jerusalem with this image permanently etched on their memories: the walls were destroyed, homes and businesses burned, and the Temple looted and broken in pieces. That image was burned into their memories. Try as they might, they could never get rid of that mental picture.
That mental picture of Jerusalem became their conviction that their life would never be more than broken, burned, looted, destroyed. Hope was lost and they could not see how things would ever be better. And in that moment, God delivers the message of His hope.
And nearly 600 years later, that message of hope, Yahweh-Shemmah–The God Who Is There—came in the form of a child.
Let me ask you, have you ever felt like these Israelites, that your life is broken, burned, looted and in ruins? Have you ever faced a moment when it seems to be a struggle to hope? The loss of hope for restoration, renewal, a better day, or just the loss of hope in general, just to survive another day, is debilitating and God understands this. And the message of Ezekiel to those exiles is the same message to those of us who are living in exile.
One Thanksgiving evening we baby sat 2 of our grandchildren, Ethan and Caroline, so that my daughter Leslie and her husband Michael could go see the movie “The Blind Side.” When they came in, Debbie and I knew we had to go see it, too. So we did. It’s the story of Michael Oher. Michael came from the poorest side of Memphis. He had little education, and even less encouragement, until the Sean and Leigh Ann Touhy took him in literally off the street one evening and brought him into their home. And an adventure into hope began to take place. In one scene, Leigh Ann Touhy took him back to the projects. Picture this white upper class woman driving a BMW in the projects. But Michael told her, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.” With help and encouragement, Michael graduates from a private Christian school, and is given a scholarship to play football at Ole Miss. Instead of a criminal record, he achieved a long list of honors. He had a very lucrative 7 year career in the NFL until injuries took their toll.
And it is all because one family decided not to turn their back on a kid literally living on the streets and gave him the one thing he never, ever had before: more than a room of his own and more than his very first bed to sleep in—they gave him hope. It began to change how Michael saw life.
If you can remember only 1 thing today, this is it: Hope Changes How We See Life. And When We Change How We See Life, It Changes How We Live Life. If all we see is what we don’t have as individuals and a church, then that dictates how we will live as individuals and as a church. All we will see is what’s wrong, what’s missing, and there’s no hope for the future.
Advent comes to us every year with not just the promise of hope, but the reality and truth of hope because God doesn’t send us an idea or a principle or nice warm fuzzy feelings. God has sent us His One and only Son. The Message of Christmas is more than, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” The message of Christmas is Yahweh-Shemmah–The God Who Is There!
As Michael promised Leigh Ann Touhy that he had her back covered, and as Michael Oher protected the blind side of quarterbacks, God has us covered. He protects us by giving us a never ending provision of hope. Hope is what keeps us going when we would rather give in and give up.
Are you living in a spiritual exile? What kind of image has been burned into your mind about your life? Is it that image of failure? You try and try to honor God but there is this sin, maybe 2 or 3, that keeps tripping you up and you just can get a handle on it. Is it relationships that never seem to work out? So, Failure is the image that is burned into your mind, and hope fades quickly.
Is it that image of Fear? When facing situations, you always manage to see the worst possible outcome, and you allow that focus to rob you of joy and you honestly believe there is nothing is going to change and you can do about it. Coward is the image that is burned into you mind and you resign any hope that life could be different.
Or is it that image of Despair? You look around and honesty see very little that is good. You cannot see how things can change and so you surrender that there is no future for you, your family or your church. So, Defeat is the image that is burned into you mind and you give up hope that anything will change. 3 things about the Hope that God provides us.
1. You Have God Living In You.
Gal. 2:20—Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is why the Christian calendar begins with Advent—The With Us God! It doesn’t help if we journey through Lent, remember Good Friday, celebrate Easter, commemorate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, or talk about the Kingdom of God if we are not living with the overwhelming assurance and conviction that God is more than with us, but actually living in us.
God Came To Be With Us Because He Wants To Live IN Us. Nurture this thought, embrace this thought, cling tightly to this thought, and say this thought out loud every day and all day: Christ Lives In Me! Life is not always easy and there will be times when life is too much for us to handle. That’s why we need more than God with us; we need God In Us!
Hope does not come from what WE can imagine or do. Hope Comes From Knowing That God Is IN You and that He will always give us the strength and courage to face every obstacle in our life.
2. You Have A World Needing You.
James 1:27—Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the needs of our world. It is easier to believe that since we don’t have enough to help everyone, we can’t help anyone. If all you do as disciples of Jesus is sit here on Sun. morning then it’s no wonder that your reserve of hope is gone.
The unique and wonderful characteristic about Hope is that it grows in us when we share it with others. Just like love, when we selfishly cling on to it and refuse to release it, hope dies. Hope Builds And Grows In Us As We Bring Hope To Others. Did you see how James formed his words? It’s not about the homeless and loveless coming to you. It’s about YOU reaching out to those whose well of hope has gone dry. Pour the water from your well into theirs.
Don’t worry about your water running out. For all the hope you pour into the lives of others, God replaces every drop, and then some. In the movie “The Blind Side”, when the Touhy’s gave Michael hope, the Touhy’s admit that they received much more. And this is what hope does—it multiplies over and over again. In one scene, one of Leigh Ann Touhy’s friends remarks, “You are really changing that boy’s life.” And her reply was, “No, he is changing our life.” That’s how hope works!
3. You Have A Home Waiting For You In Heaven.
Col. 1:28—The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory.
- When we worship, it’s the practice field for when we get into the real game of Worship in heaven.
- When we choose to honor Christ by helping others with food, shelter, clothes, water and most of all friendship, it’s the conditioning work-out when we get to heaven and raise all honor to the Lamb that was slain!
- When we reach out with love and compassion to be a friend to the least, the last, and the lost, it’s prepping us for that day when together we will all sit around the heavenly banquet table that God has prepared for us.
Everything In This Life Is A Dress Rehearsal For What Awaits Us In Heaven. If you don’t learn it here, you will not have the opportunity to learn it up there. Paul wrote in Col. 3:23-24—Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.
When hope seems gone, there is a word for you: Yawheh-Shammah—God is there! He will be found in that place your heart is thirty for, that place you are created for—to live in that relationship with God, and to live out that relationship in your world. God does not want you living in exile. Christmas reminds us that God is here and yearns to be in you, restoring you, reviving you, and encouraging you. Christmas is the time for hope—for you and for your world. Hope is not about waiting for the sweet by and by. Hope is about empowering you for living today to the max!
Here’s Your Next Steps:
- If you have been whining about your life, about other people. or the conditions in the world—Stop It! Know that there is hope for you; the same hope is for others; and the same hope is for our culture.
- Find someone this week who needs Hope, and find a way to give it to them. The only way you can know how to put Hope back into their life is to listen to their Story and get to know them.