God with Us

The guest speaker was pointing out bad prayer habits. One, he said, was asking God to be with us or another Christian. God is with believers all the time; He has promised never to leave us forsake us. So we don’t need to ask Him to be with us.

That made sense to me. So I tried to eliminate the phrase “be with” from my prayers. I’d get a little irritated when someone else said it. (Isn’t it sad how easily self-righteousness creeps in?)

Then a few days ago, I read Exodus 3 about God’s call to Moses. Moses had tried to help his brethren, the Israelites, forty years earlier. But his efforts had not been received, and he ended up fleeing for his life from Egypt. No wonder he didn’t jump at the chance to go back. His first objection to God’s call was, “Who am I?”

God answered, “I will be with you.” The ESV Study Bible‘s notes on this verse say:

Moses’ initial question is surely sensible, and God does not reprove him for asking it (v. 11). However, God does not answer Moses’ question in the way that he asks it, but instead says, “I will be with you,” indicating that his presence with Moses is essential to the call (v. 12). When the OT says that God is “with” someone, it stresses God’s power that enables a person to carry out his calling” (p. 148, emphasis mine).

The thought of God being with us in our calling was totally new to me, but this note brought it out in a way I hadn’t thought about it before. I recalled how God expressed this same promise to others when He called them: Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Gideon, Jeremiah, Mary, Paul, and others.

I’ve often thought of God’s presence with us in terms of fellowship, comfort, and help. One of my favorite verses in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And this passage from Exodus almost always brings me to tears. Israel had sinned in worshiping the golden calf, and God told Moses He would send the people on to the promised land, but He would not go with them (Exodus 33:1-3).

 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:12-16)

In another favorite passage, God promises to be with us when—not if, but when trouble comes:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

Matthew shares in the first chapter of his gospel that an angel visited Joseph and told him that his betrothed was to be the mother of the Messiah, the one promised all through the Old Testament. The angel quoted a prophecy: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). Though God has always been omniscient and omnipresent, He was going to be with His people in a special way through this promised child.

Then Matthew closed His book with that child grown, crucified, and risen again, promising His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Does that mean we don’t need to ask God to be with us or our loved ones? I’m still inclined to pray that God will help someone know or rest in His presence rather than just that he will be with them. But I am not going to fuss with anyone about the phrasing. As I studied this concept, I noticed that Paul closed many of his epistles with a phrase similar to Romans 15:33: “May the God of peace be with you all.” Did that mean God had not been with them, and Paul was praying that He would be? No, not in the context of all he had written before. I think he means it in the same sense as when he said “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings” in Philippians 3:8-11. Paul already knew Him. But He wanted to know Him better, to grow in his experience of Him. So when he says, “God be with you,” perhaps he is emphasizing that he hopes they know His presence in a fuller way.

The more I looked up passages about God being with us, the more I found—much more than will fit in one blog post. This would make for a rich study some day.

But as I considered them in light of our calling, I realized they are all bound up in our calling. When God calls us to Himself, He promises to take care of us. We have His fellowship, comfort, help, and whatever else we need.

Whatever God has called us to do—pick up and go to another location, teach our children at home, work in a busy office or store, or any other task—He has promised Himself. And with Him, we can do anything.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Hearth and Soul,
Scripture and a Snapshot, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)

24 thoughts on “God with Us

  1. I appreciate your take on this, Barbara. It’s been one of my pet peeve issues too. 🙂 I know God is always with us. Yet…it’s still a good thing to say. I appreciate you sharing these verses. This would definitely make a great study.

    • I was intrigued to realize that Paul often signed off with some form of the phrase “God be with you.” That made me a lot less fussy about people praying for the same.

      The more I looked up passages about God being with us, the more I found different applications. On one of my next treks through the Bible, I want to make a note of all the times God promises to be with people.

  2. I also love that Exodus passage. And it’s tempting to quibble over words in prayer, because our words do reveal our truest heart and our belief about God. I know for myself though, that I need to practice more grace for those who are untaught.

    • I agree, Michele. This incident happened several years ago, but it’s one that stayed in the back of my mind. We do want our prayers to be Scripturally based, but I’m much less likely now to split hairs. Prayer is something we grow in, just like everything else in the Christian life.

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  6. Barbara,
    You’ve made me pause about all the times I’ve asked God to be with believers. As you say, God is always with them, but maybe I need to pray that they would be receptive and drawn into His presence? God can be with us and we can be looking in the opposite direction. Thought provoking post this am! I foresee a study?!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

  7. Oh, Barbara…your first few paragraphs made me smile. Eliminating “be with” from our prayers makes good sense to me too. And the self-righteousness is something I must guard against too. You hit the nail right on the head there!

    Love your closing too – With Him we can do anything.

  8. Isn’t it funny how we latch on to a concept and it can take years to ‘undo’ it? I love what you’ve shared–we pray to ask God to be with people so they are equipped for their calling, so they feel His presence, and so we can do something tangible (sometimes our only option in the really sticky situation).

  9. Ha — yes, I too have heard it said (preached maybe?) that we don’t need to pray for God to be with anyone. And I too have felt that spark of annoyance when hearing it used after that. I like the points you made. And honestly, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how to pray for someone. I have found “be with so and so” creeping in to my prayers. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

  10. A super helpful post, Barbara. Appreciate your going to the Bible to see applications of the terms and phrases. And for having a gracious spirit that balances precision with intention.

  11. I think God is just thrilled when we call upon Him – and not too concerned if our words or concepts are correct or not! I do the best I can and then count on grace!!!!

  12. Loved your thoughts on this, Barbara, and I agree that it is super easy to get self-righteous about a concept we have learned.

    Although I know in my mind the Lord is always with me, sometimes I really need a manifestation of His presence. That’s what I’m going to pray for myself and my loved ones.

  13. Yes, I agree! Self-righteousness does creep in so very easily. I can’t believe I’ve actually chafed over the “be with” in someone’s prayer. Thank you for pointing that out and also that he is indeed always with us!

  14. “When Paul says, “God be with you,” perhaps he is emphasizing that he hopes they know His presence in a fuller way.” Yes! And God’s protection. Thanks for sharing, Barbara!

  15. I enjoyed reading these reflections. It is encouraging how this theme of God being with his people comes through the whole of the Bible, and I agree, especially when we sense God is calling us to something challenging it is reassuring to know that he is with us and we don’t have to do it alone.

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