I Will Be Their God
by Shawn Roberson
"Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." Exodus 6:7 (NASB)
God commanded mankind in the garden and after the Flood to be fruitful, spread out, and have dominion over the earth. The people refused to do as God commanded, so at Babel, God confused the languages, and caused mankind to be scattered across the face of the earth. Years later, God separated a people unto Himself. Of all the nations and peoples on earth, God chose one man to be the father of his people when He called Abraham out of his homeland. Abraham was told to leave his home and to go to a place God would show him. By faith, Abraham trusted God and obeyed.
God promised Abraham he would be the father of many descendants and that the world would be blessed through him. In Genesis 17:7, the foundational promise of God's covenant is given to Abraham when God says: "I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you." Not only would God separate this people unto Himself, He would be their God. He would be their Shield, Redeemer, Refuge, Protector, Savior, and Father. They would be a special people, chosen to reveal the ways of God to the nations around them, through God's word given to them. As insignificant as they were in the eyes of the world, God would establish them as His peculiar people.
In Exodus 6:7, as God prepared to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, He promised: "I will take you as My people, and I will be your God." The story of the children of Israel in Egypt became a case of possession. Pharaoh saw the people as belonging to him, as slaves. On the other hand, God claimed them as His own, based on His covenant with Abraham. They were to be released from captivity in Egypt because they belonged to God, not Pharaoh. They were to go out of that country and worship their God in the place He would show them.
After years of promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants, fulfillment came in a very tangible way. In Exodus 29:45 God made an amazing statement. He would not be their God from a distance, like an absentee landlord; God would actually dwell among His people. While on the mountain to receive the commandments of God, Moses was shown the plans for the tabernacle. A place of meeting and worship, this was to be the dwelling place of God, as promised in Exodus 29:45. When the tabernacle was completed and dedicated, a most wondrous thing happened. In Exodus 40:34, we read: "Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." The cloud, which had led the people out of Egypt, now settled among them. In a very visible form, the presence of God remained among His people. God had actually come to dwell with His people in a very special way.
After the cloud settled upon the tabernacle, the promise of God dwelling among His people continued. Leviticus 26:11-12, Deuteronomy 27:9, Deuteronomy 29:10-13, and 2 Samuel 7:24 all speak of the Lord being the God of His people. Interestingly, just as the first, visible fulfillment of the promise involved the tabernacle, the next occurrence of fulfillment is seen at the dedication of Solomon's temple. In 1 Kings 8:10-11, we read: "And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord." In both these instances, the presence of God with His people was the actual, close relationship of His dwelling in their presence. God's glory, although shrouded in the cloud, was visible to the Israelites as an assurance of His presence.
The next fulfillment of the promise actually outshone the two previously mentioned. The Holy Spirit, speaking through Matthew, referred to the Child to be born to Mary as Immanuel -- God with us. Could it actually be that God would be with His people in such a personal way? No longer shrouded by a cloud, would He now take on our form and live among His people as a living, breathing man? The answer can be found in John 1:14, where we read: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." God was now physically on earth. The true tabernacle, as the way to approach God, had come, and God was with His people. During His life on earth, Jesus Christ showed the image of His Father (Hebrews 1:3), because all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him (Colossians 2:9).
But, what of the Church today? How is God with us? With the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the true tabernacle/temple, as the way to approach God, was removed from the earth. Was God still with His people? 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 both speak of the fact that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Once again, as with the tabernacle in the wilderness, the temple in Israel, and Jesus on earth, the presence of God with His people is related to the temple. We are all "little temples". The Spirit of God dwells within each of us, who by faith, are the true children of Abraham. Thus, He empowers us to believe and live as God commands. He testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16); He helps us as we pray (Romans 8:26-27); and He enables us to call upon God as our Father.
One thing still remains: What is to come for the people of God? Has the promise now been finally fulfilled?
We read in Revelation 21:3: "And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with man, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God." No, the ultimate fulfillment of the promise is yet to come. With the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, God's true tabernacle will, once again, be among His people.
This is our hope. Christ has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us. He is, right now, at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf, and ruling over His kingdom. One day, we will be in the presence of God forevermore. We will see Him face to face, and we will not die. God will wipe away our tears; there will be no more pain; no more death; no more sin. The original relationship will have been restored. All glorified believers will be able to truly glorify God and enjoy Him forever.