As context to today’s passage, I think that it is good to read 2 Chronicles 14:1-6. King Asa is one of the kings who – after the Hebrew kingdom was divided after the reign of King Solomon – led Judah to follow God. He wasn’t perfect (which we can read about in chapter 16), but his reign had some merits (more, apparently, than some of the other kings of that nation).
At the start of 2 Chronicles 15, we find some wise words from Azariah, a prophet (or one who was carrying prophetic words from his father, who was a prophet):
The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
2 Chronicles 15:1-2 NIV
Note that this message wasn’t just for Asa the king. This message was also for “all Judah and Benjamin”. I believe that it applies to us, as well. In fact, if you want some good words to live by (maybe to put on a wall hanging, or its modern equivalent: wallpaper on your digital device), I think that this is good advice for most anyone, anytime.
Let’s take the words of Azariah in three parts:
- “The LORD is with you when you are with him.” – Now, there are different ways that God can be with us. God is omnipresent, and also exists independent of the universe that He created, so in a sense, He’s everywhere. This verse seems to be talking about God’s favor and blessing, though, which we should expect more when we are following closely along with God in our relationship with Him.
- “If you seek him, he will be found by you,…” – Jesus said a pretty similar thing in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-8; see also Luke 11:9-10).
- “…but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” – This is perhaps the part of the message that we don’t want to hear. We like to learn about salvation, and about God being with us (whether Jesus coming to earth as a baby, or the Holy Spirit guiding us), but we don’t like to hear that God might forsake someone who forsakes Him.
So, how does this work, with God being with His people when they are with Him, and God forsaking His people when they do the same?
First, I want to point out what it is not: We don’t somehow pay for God’s blessings by doing good things. The way I see it, God is not obligated to do anything for us. If we were to live a nearly-perfect life full of good deeds, but still choose to sin somewhere along the way, we would have fallen short of God’s glory (and, as Romans 3:23 reminds us, we were all in that same sticky situation, and need Jesus’ salvation to get out). Since we are sinners, we don’t deserve to be in God’s holiness, and making righteous choices is what we are supposed to be doing, anyway.
However, God does bless those who follow Him. We find that concept here, as well as in passages like Galatians 3:9 and James 1:25. I think that this is for at least a couple of reasons:
- For one thing, especially with regards to the people of ancient Israel and Judah (whom God had previously selected as His chosen people), His blessings served as a testimony to those from other nations who saw the correlation. Perhaps this was one means by which God would inform others (outside of the Israelites) that He was the true God, in contrast to other false gods that the nations around them worshipped. Today, those who are clearly following Jesus can testify to the blessings that God gives them, achieving the same goal of directing others to Him.
- Blessings from God are also a means by which He can reinforce choices that are best for us. Remember, God doesn’t need us. He is self-sufficient and whole by Himself. Still, He loves us, and wants what is best for us. In His wisdom, He knows that following Him and obeying His commandments is the best possible thing that we could do. Often, blessing those actions helps re-affirm His loving guidance.
As a result, if we are asking for God’s blessing on something that we (or others) are doing, let’s make sure that it is aligned with His instructions (as we find in the Bible), and His will (as we learn from His guidance). Let’s ask for God’s insight into what He would like us to be doing, and avoid asking Him to bless something that isn’t consistent with His will (especially something that is sinful).
Conversely, let us live lives that will honor and glorify God when He blesses us, as a testimony (and an invitation) to others. Perhaps they, too, will be interested in the blessings and joy of following Him, and try it out for themselves.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for July 11, 2021
- The Lookout, July 11, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.
3 thoughts on “When Should We Expect God to Be With Us?”
As I read your post, I thought it might have application in a sermon I am preparing. Our lead pastor might not be able to preach this coming Sunday, depending on the results of a Covid test he took. I told him I would start to prepare in case he gets a positive indicator. The passage that I am considering is connected to what you said above:
Psalm 73:23-28 (ESV)
“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”
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That’s a great passage. I know that I don’t read the Psalms enough, but I at least notice the number of times that they are referenced in studies from the rest of the Bible.
Also, having grown up in relatively smaller churches, I know what it’s like to be “on call” if a devotion or prayer is needed. I’m praying that your lead pastor is illness-free, though, even if he defers to you for the sermon this week.