Ask A Pastor – January 27, 2016

By Rev. John Campbell,

United Presbyterian Church, Oakdale

The question of the month concerns Immanuel meaning “God is with us”. This name was to be given to a child born of Ahaz in the time of Isaiah. The prophet was giving a sign to the king of Judah as assurance that God was with his people. Yet in that day, the king chose to not follow God’s ways and Judah suffered the consequences.

Just the thought that “God is with us” is very comforting. We all face times of stress, times of facing the unknown, or of times of health/financial issues. Our God has promised through the Holy Spirit to come along side of us in our journey in this life.

Psalm 23 is one of the favorite passages in the Bible. The picture of the shepherd tending the sheep is comforting to people in cities as well as those in rural areas. There are probably many different ideas or pictures of what this Psalm is about. For me it is the idea that God is watching over my life as well as guiding me through the twists and turns of event that I am going through which brings me comfort. There is also assurance that God through Jesus cares for me.

There is another aspect of God being with us. It is the fact that Jesus, being God, came to this world as a baby, living life as a human, and then offering his life so that all may come into relationship with God. There is no way that we could obtain salvation except through the path of Jesus Christ. When we respond to God’s Spirit by confessing our need for salvation we receive the gift of grace that brings us into that holy relationship with our heavenly Father. We also are made part of the body of Christ, the Church.

It is through faith that we are accepted by God and made part of God’s people. Using the language of Psalm 23, we are made part of the sheep herd. Our heavenly shepherd then watches over us, providing places to receive nourishment and water, as well as protection. Our Immanuel cares for his sheep. Even to the point of seeking us out if we stray from the flock, as seen in the story of the Good Shepherd and the lost sheep in the Gospels.

Yes, God watches over us as individuals, yet it is important to realize that God’s intention is for a body of people that will be his witness over the entire world. The important fact is not the individual but the corporate body of believers, the Church. Just as the mother hen may watch over the individual chick, it is the whole brood that she seeks to protect in the time of danger. Remember that Jesus Christ is coming back for a bride, the whole body of people that have called upon his name.

Never forget: God is with us, beside us, and in us.

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