Was a beacon to show the path
Through the darkness, storm, and wind
To give direction through nature’s wrath.
A simple flame of kerosene
A flicker ‘gainst blackest hue
A lantern light to fight the dark
Was all I needed to get through.
The lantern that hung from the back of the Chuck wagon saved many cattle drives. During the toughest times on the prairie, the lantern gave light as it swayed along with the wagon. It bounced along, piercing the darkness and giving direction to the men. Its a story older than the days of the cowboy.
The Israelites marched out from Egypt loaded down with plunder and arms. God led them away from the land of Goshen and right up to the edge of the desert at Etham. As a way to both display his character and his presence, the Lord “went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13.21) God was out infront of His people. Leading them to their next encampment, showing them His character, reminding them that He was there…IN FRONT,
When Pharaoh heard that his slave force had “fled” (more on this later), he and his officials were not happy. He ordered his chariot ready and took off after the fleeing slaves, catching up with them at Pi Hahiroth. (Exodus 14.9) The Israelites cried out to the Lord (more on this later too), wishing to go back to Egypt. God’s preposition then changed. Instead of being in FRONT, the Lord went BEHIND the people (Exodus 14.19-20), shielding them from the advancing Egyptian Chariots. Pharaoh was stuck in darkness, yet the way for the Hebrews was illuminated. God’s protection of His people, meant he stood BEHIND His people and BETWEEN them and their enemies.
Fourteen hundred years later, on another dark night, God wasn’t IN FRONT or BEHIND, but WITH. And in that darkness, “the true light, that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1.9) The darkness was pierced that night, not by a pillar of fire or an illuminating cloud, but a “light” sent from heaven to be WITH His people. His name was Immanuel meaning “God With Us”.(Matt. 1.23) It is a powerful prepositional change. WITH conjurs up images of suffering alongside, feeling the same pain, understanding this world the same way we do, and feeling both the highs and the lows of life. WITH means he filled his diapers, cried when hungry and hurt, celebrated birthdays, and learned to crawl, walk, and run. WITH means he worked, relaxed, worshiped, and suffered: Oh the power of WITH. And on this night, Christmas Eve, we celebrate “God WITH us” and how incredible a preposition is!
But “God WITH us” would change for the better 33 years later. His words, not mine. Jesus would tell his disciples: “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16.7) The Counselor is the Holy Spirit that Paul says “lives IN us”. (1 Cor. 3.16; 1 Cor. 6.19; 2 Tim. 1.14) The Spirit who lives IN us gives us comfort, courage, conviction, guidance, peace, and so much more. What the presence of God did BEFORE the Hebrews, BEHIND the Hebrews, AMONGST the Hebrews; what Jesus did WITH us, AMONGST us, and ALONGSIDE us; is now what the Holy Spirit does IN us. All because Jesus, God WITH us, went to a cross in our place (which is also a preposition), the Holy Spirit can dwell IN us.
The power of a Prepositional God.