One does not have to study the Old Testament for long to discover God’s very unique relationship with the nation of Israel. The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) bears witness of not only the uniqueness of the relationship but also the intimacy of the relationship. Like no other nation on the face of the earth, the tribes of Israel actually heard the voice of God at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-17, Deuteronomy 4:32-35). Again, I say, God did not reveal Himself to any other nation as He did to the nation of Israel. Reminding them of this, Moses said, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). As amazing at that fact is, what’s even more amazing is that, as near as God was to the Children of Israel, He had plans to get even closer to His people, or if you would, to redefine the word “near.”
Of the promised Messiah, Isaiah wrote, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (meaning God is with us)” (Isaiah 7:14). Though God was near to His Old Testament people, in the cloud and the pillar of fire that protected them in the wilderness to His abiding presence in the Holy of Holies above the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, it was His plan to get nearer still.
In Jesus’ prayer found in John 17, He prayed these words to His Father, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity…” (John 17:22-23). Earlier that evening Jesus said to His disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20).
Of this amazing truth, that could only be revealed to man by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). Christ dwelling in our hearts? What a revelation, a revelation referred to time and time again in the New Testament. This is no longer God dwelling among His people, this I God living in His people. Paul would also write that, as believers, our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 16:9).
I often hear people wishing for God to show Himself as He did in the Old Testament. The truth of the matter is, we have something far greater than those in the Old Testament ever had, we have Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Do you see what I mean in saying that God has redefined near? Do you rejoice in this wondrous truth? We ought to be reveling in this truth each and every day, the Creator of the cosmos lives in us! We are the most privileged people on the planet! And, we ought to be living like it. Our actions and our words ought to contagious. God lives in us through the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20).