(This is the final installment of my current message series, The With Us God)
Here are the names we have looked at thus far. Yahweh Yireh—The God Who Provides.Yahweh-Nissi—The Lord Who Fights For Us.Yahweh-Shammah—The God Who Is There! William Shakespeare wrote in his tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” a famous line: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would be as sweet.” His point was that a name did not change the essence of a thing or a person. There is nothing significant about a name. And to a degree he is right, but not always. Change the name of the skunk to honeysuckle and he will still stink. It doesn’t change its nature.
However, when it comes to Immanuel, the With Us God, the name is uniquely special in both meaning and power. These names of God from the Old Testament say something about God. And even more important, these names say something about relationship—our relationship with God. “What’s in a name?” Relationship is in these names! And on this Sunday before Christmas, we see this name: Yahweh-Shalom—God Is Peace! It comes from the story of Gideon in Judges 6:11-24 (NLT).
11] Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12] The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
13] “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” 14] Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
15] “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” 16] The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
17] Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. 18] Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.” He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”
19] Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree. 20] The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. 21] Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the Lord disappeared.
22] When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 23] “It is all right,” the Lord replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24] And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.
Let’s get the 1 thing you need to remember this morning: God Is Much Bigger Than Your Circumstances. The story of Gideon is the story of the oppression of the Israelites by the Midianites. And, It is the story of countless lives that live under emotional and spiritual oppression. Gideon is living a life of fear. Hiding from the Midianites, smallest member of the smallest clan, Gideon is found fearful, feeling weak and convinced he’s useless.
Then out of nowhere, this angel appears and says, “Mighty hero!” Not exactly what we would call a Mighty Hero. No skin-tight costume with a cape; no special clothes loaded with weapons and devices, and no unique ability that sets him apart from the rest of his world. Nope, not exactly our image of a hero. For heaven’s sake, he’s hiding from the enemies.
Now, if this is not bad enough, the angel says “The Lord is with you.” And listen to his response in verse 13: “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?” Maybe you know someone like Gideon, or maybe you understand Gideon because YOU are fearful, weak and convinced you’re useless.
And maybe, just maybe, some of you this morning are wondering the very same thing Gideon wondered. These words of Gideon are still being said today. If you aren’t hearing these cries, then you’re spiritually deaf. If the Lord is with me why does my spouse have Alzheimer’s? If the Lord is with me why did my child die? If the Lord is with me why did I lose my job? If the Lord is with me why is my teenager so rebellious? If the Lord is with me why do I have cancer? If the Lord is with me why does all this stuff keep happening to me?
When you find that life is just too much to bear, you wonder: If the Lord is with me, why? It’s a legitimate question and one that must be asked, otherwise we keep it inside us and it festers and we become cynical at best, or disillusioned at worst. The answer God gave Gideon is the answer he gave us 2000 years ago in the city of Bethlehem. Immanuel! With Us God!
When we are in pain, when we are afraid, when we are confused, Life forces the question: “If the Lord is with me, why has all this happened to me? And where are all the miracles I’ve heard others talk about?” There are 3 possible answers to this tough question:
1. He’s Not Here Because Doesn’t Care About Me.
The oppression of the Midianites made Gideon think God didn’t care. We think this, and much too often we believe this because we see God as Santa Claus—if we just believe hard enough then all of this stuff will just go away. And when it doesn’t, we either blame ourselves for NOT having enough faith, or we blame God for not caring for us.
When the weight of fear and worry crushes us, the Enemy whispers, “See, He doesn’t care about you.” Given enough heartache, given enough pain, any of us is subject to hearing that sinister whisper—more than hearing that whisper, we will entertain that thought—“He Really doesn’t care about me.” And given enough time, not only do we hear it, we believe it!
This just isn’t true. In the Garden of Gethsemane God was with Jesus. When He was beaten and whipped, God was with Him. When the spikes were driven into his hands, God was with Him. When the soldiers raised that cross up and the weight of His body rested on those nails and that pain wracked His body, God was there. Jesus never doubted this truth until…until the penalty of every sin was paid. Only at that point does Jesus say, “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
Not in the Garden, not at the trial, not during the scourging, not when the cross was placed on His shoulders, not when the nails were driven, not when He was raised on the Cross—but when the Penalty was paid—for the only moment in all eternity, God turned away from His Son. And Jesus cried out: “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” Don’t you think it broke the heart of The Father and The Holy Spirit to turn away from that part of them that had always been there? Of course it it–but they suffered that in order that we would not have to face that moment–IF we put our trust in Him and walk with Him for the rest of our lives.
But God came back to Him because He accepted the only sacrifice that once and for all times atones, covers over, and wipes away ever sin. Another answer to why all this stuff happens is this:
2. He’s Not Here Because He Isn’t With Me
Because they were beaten back and beaten down, Gideon thought it was because God wasn’t there. Maybe he realized that they had sinned against God, so God turned away from them. Maybe he thought that God simply forgot about His promises. I mean, it’s got to be a tough and time consuming job being God. Maybe He was so busy, He simply forgot about them and left them alone.
When We Place The Reality Of Circumstances Over The Truth Of The Kingdom, We Can Believe That, Too. The emphasis is on the Circumstances. When circumstances are good then it’s because God is with us. When circumstances are bad, God isn’t with us.
For decades, the “Name It And Claim It” group has been around. They believe and teach that with enough faith, your circumstances will always be good. And that simply isn’t true. Look at the story of Job. This is what God said about Job (Burbank Paraphrase)—“Have you seen my good buddy, Job? Man, there’s no one like Him. He’s always walking with me.” But Satan said, “Well, change his circumstances and he will change.” At first it didn’t work. Job maintained his integrity. But when his 3 Name It And Claim It friends showed up, it was then that Job got angry. Job isn’t patient, but He is faithful–He still longs to see God.
If your confidence that God is with you only when the circumstances are good, then your faith is shallow and insincere. Our Confidence In God Must Be Rooted In The Character Of God, not in what God will do for you. This is seeing God as the Cosmic Vending Machine and all you need is the right amount of coins.
A contemporary song done by Natalie Grant, More Than Anything has this chorus: “Help me want the Healer more than the healing. Help me want the Savior more than the saving. Help me want the Giver more than the giving. Oh Help me want you Jesus more than anything.” The message is clear—it’s about wanting God over anything that God can do. There is one more answer to these tough questions. It comes from the name: Yahweh Shalom.
3. He Is With Us Because This Is Where We Learn To Trust And Rest
In All This Painful Stuff, God Has A Plan And A Purpose That We Can Trust. This means we do not focus on the pain, but on the Presence. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:27—I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Peace in the worldly sense is the elimination of all the threats, and the absence of conflict. The worldly view of peace is that it happens when we get all we want, and then some more. Having more than enough treasures, more than enough food, more than enough shelter, more than enough stuff. The problem is, there is never enough. So God gives us something better: peace of mind and peace of heart.
1. Peace Because He Has A Plan—that plan is always about bring out your best—to reveal His Image in you.
2. Peace Because He Has A Purpose—to bring honor and glory to Him, not you.
3. Peace Because He Has You—always has you in His heart.
It is the inner peace that can only be found in a relationship with God, and on God’s terms. God’s terms are simple: Surrender. Surrender your pride, your will, and your desires. Surrender your inadequacies. Surrender your guilt and condemnation. Surrender you time, energy, abilities and resources. Surrender to grace.
When Gideon realized he had seen face to face an angel of God, he thought he was doomed. But when Gideon came face to face with God’s grace—and under that enormous tree, he named that place, Yahweh-Shalom—The Lord Is Peace. He named the place BEFORE the Midianites were defeated. Have you accepted the gift of God’s peace? We do not earn it and we can never deserve it. So it comes to us as a gift—bought and paid for on the Cross.
- Do you have a relationship, or do you just know about Him? It’s not about how much knowledge you have about the Bible. You can know all the Books of the Bible in order. Heck, I don’t know that. But I do know the person of Jesus. Do you?
- Renew You Commitment To The Relationship As Being More Important Than Anything Else. Jesus longs to be closer to us. It’s easy to drift, easy to take for granted, to assume. It’s not about us doing our best for Him, but allowing Him to do His best work IN us.