In Luke 1:28, the angel said to Mary – “Greetings, highly favored one! The Lord is with you.”
Take a look at Judges 6. The tiny Israelite army is about to be attacked by the mighty Midianites. God calls on a man named Gideon to lead Israel into the battle. Here’s their conversation:
Judges 6:11-16 – The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah, where Gideon was threshing wheat. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord turned to him and said…
– Wait – did you catch that? It’s no longer just an angel speaking to Gideon – the Lord Himself now turns to Gideon and says:
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
God was with Gideon when he was called upon to take the puny little Israelite army into battle against a much larger army that was far superior.
- Are you in the midst of a battle that God has called you to step into?
- One where you are clearly the weaker opponent?
- Your adversary stands before you,
- and there is no humanly way possible for you to win?
- You are not alone in the battle.
- Immanuel. God is with you.
Psalm 118:5-6 – In my distress, I cried to the Lord; He responded by setting me free. The Lord is with me! I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
The story of Immanuel (God is with us) found in Daniel 3 is quite possibly my most favorite in the whole Bible! God’s people are in bad shape. They have disobeyed Him for so long and in so many atrocious ways, He has allowed them to be attacked, defeated, and captured by Persia. The few remaining survivors are carried off to Persia as slaves, and some of the wise young Israelites are chosen to serve in the court of the Persian king, Nebuchadnezzar. But these Israelites refuse to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue.
Daniel 3:13-25. Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? If you do not worship it, you will be thrown into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and everything, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who threw them in, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Where is God in this story? This is critical: where is God in this story!?
- Is He up in heaven, looking down with concern?
- Is He down in Jerusalem, plotting His people’s return to the Promised Land from their captivity in Persia?
- Is he standing outside the fire, miraculously protecting them from the outside?
- No! No! No!
- God is right there, in the fire, with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
- God is standing there, in the heat and smoke and flames, with them!
In Isaiah 41:10, God commands us: Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am Your God. I will strengthen you and help you.
In Isaiah 43:2-3, God tells us this: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
When you pass through the flood, when you pass through the fire, where does God promise to be?
- Standing outside the flames, wishing you His best?
- Or faraway, up in heaven, deeply concerned for your welfare?
- NO! He says, “I WILL BE WITH YOU!”
God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – right there with them, in the heat and flames and smoke of Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. Have you ever been punished for doing the right thing? Have you ever stood up for your faith, and been persecuted for it?
God is not just faraway up in heaven, wishing you the best. God does not stand outside your pain and injustice. He is right there, in the flames, with you. He is standing right beside you in the heat and the smoke and the fire.