There are moments in life when those who have been strong let down their guard and are honest with themselves. Moments when “I’ll make the best of it” doesn’t cut it. Moments when you’re knocked down to your knees … failed, lost control, down for the count. You’re broken and, after years of patching cracks, you’re not sure you can be fixed anymore.
Several years ago, I came across this verse in the Bible … God’s people were in the middle of suffering, knocked down to their knees, and they cried out to God,
“If only You would tear the heavens open and come down!”
Anyone else been there? On your knees in your room because the weight of the world finally bent your back down. And you cry, “Where are you, Lord? It’s so hard down here! Can’t you just come down?”
One night in the 1940’s, the crushing weight of life brought my grandfather down to his knees. He knelt by the bed where his wife lay very ill, life hanging in the balance. My Papaw, Chester Archer, said, “God, if you will save my wife, I will live for you for the rest of my life…”
“If only You would come down …”
If we had an adequate sense of the authority and holiness of God, we would know these words are audacious. Bold. Desperate. Longing, begging for God Himself to literally come down to the human level and intervene for us. After Isaiah’s time, about 700 years passed while God stayed in His heaven, communicating through prophets and priests.
And then, in the year which divided all of human time into before and after, God actually did it – He tore open His heavens as surely as He would tear open the temple curtain, and He came down.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Dwell: to live as a resident, to hang around, to abide, to remain, to stay, to stick around.
The original Greek word for “dwelt” means “pitched His tent.”
In order to fully make Himself known to humans, God became like us and pitched His tent on our street. He moved in. And He stuck around. He became a resident. Side by side with us.
Right from His very beginning on Earth, He began His message: A baby in a hostile world, the most helpless and vulnerable creature, born in what was most likely a Bethlehem cave where sacrificial lambs were born. He moved in as an infant, proclaiming that weakness is strength, that the last are the first, that humility is king.He knew He would immediately become a target of hatred and murder. It’s interesting to me that, just as Jesus’ birth divided time, it also divided people. And just as God’s Word divides soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12), so did His Son (Matthew 10:34). Right away we see that His very existence began to separate instead of unite – some came to worship, while others came to kill. We acknowledge and worship Him … or we don’t. Accept or reject. No middle ground. Our hearts stay stuck in the Before (BC) or they move into the After (AD). Jesus’s life would tell us all we need to know, even if He had never spoken a word.
Jesus = God’s Word.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
Yes, on this winter night coming right up on Christmas,
it’s the word “dwelt” that I’m stuck on.
Because what kind of love is this? That the very Highest would come down to dwell with me (the very lowest)? That He would pitch a humble, vulnerable cloth tent over my head and share it with me?
Not afraid to get too close. Not waiting on me, but coming to me. Not put off by my messy life. My human heart.
“And they will call His name Emmanuel, which interpreted is ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)
GOD IS WITH ME in this temporary life tent. This is not our permanent arrangement … He has better plans for the future. But this God-filled tent? It’s plenty. I want Him in my heart and mind and home. I want Him dwelling with me, remaining with me. I want this for my loved ones above all else.
“Heaven and earth, all the emperors, kings, and princes of the world, could not raise a fit dwelling-place for God; yet, in a weak human soul that keeps His Word, He willingly resides.” — Martin Luther
…. And so my grandfather made his desperate and sincere bedside plea to the Most High. My Mamaw, Nancy Jane Archer, did recover, did regain full health. And at my Papaw’s invitation, God did indeed move in and dwell with him. Living with God changed Papaw. He stopped drinking away his paychecks every pay day. He became an outstanding husband, father, and church layperson. Two of his three sons saw the transformation and became pastors. He and Mamaw lived long lives serving God. He was a quiet, gentle, strong man who loved the outdoors … a jeweler, fixer, clock-maker, Cherokee story-teller. But most of all, a follower after God. Papaw Archer is the man my dad most respects. And that says a lot.
I will dwell in your tent forever and take refuge under your wings. (Psalm 61:4)
The thing is … God With Us isn’t some vague, nice thing to think about at Christmas. It is a radical truth that has the power to transform our lives. To turn us right-side-out. To change everything. If we can just understand …
…That what He wants from us begins in our heart, not in our actions.
…That our moments of humility and brokenness are our best opportunities to see clearly and to become more like Him.
…That God doesn’t customize our lives to fit our plans, but He will customize us to fit His very best plans.
… That real love doesn’t LOOK DOWN; no, it BENDS DOWN low.
Come. Dwell with me, Lord.
Wherever I live — a tent, a home, an apartment, a retirement facility, or a hospital room. Break the bread of Your Word with me every day, teaching me Your precepts and Your ways. Shine a lamp on any wrong thinking of mine. Give me the wisdom to look sorrow right in the eye without flinching. Coach me to be last. There’s still so much to learn and see. Beauty everywhere, mixed in with heart-breaking deception. New facets of love. The sacredness of the daily, the potential in the ordinary.
Please stay. You are a most honored, welcome guest every day.
And fill my tent with light for others to see.
“The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation.”A.W. Tozer
For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: “I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (II Corinthians 6:16)
“Remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” — Jesus (John 15:9-10)