What’s the difference between “I will be with you…” And “you are with me…”
In my last blog post (Scared), I told of a so-called “near-death experience” which I had in the hospital, not long after my neck injury. As I struggled to “hang on,” precious promises of Scripture flooded my mind. Many of these are statements about the faithfulness of God’s promised grace to his people. Others focus on the promise of forgiveness through Christ. The first and last quotations included that divine promise of God’s presence: “I will be with you.”
The promise of God’s presence is a theme which runs throughout Scripture. A phrase search on my Bible research software reports that the phrase “I will be with you” occurs in 11 biblical passages, 10 of which are in the Old Testament. The one time it is used in the New Testament, it is spoken by Jesus. In speaking of his earthly ministry, he states, “I am with you a little longer and then I am going to him who sent me.” These are comforting words but not a continuing promise. The words are the same but the sense is different.
A review of the 10 Old Testament usages is both encouraging and instructive.
Genesis 26.3 – The Lord speaks to Isaac: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, … and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.,”
Genesis 31:3 – Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and… I will be with you.”
Exodus 3:12 – The Lord speaks to Moses: He said, “But I will be with you,… you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Deuteronomy 31:23 – And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
Joshua 1:5 – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Joshua 3:7 – The Lord said to Joshua, “… as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
Joshua 7:12 – Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies.… I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.
Judges 6:16 – And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
1 Kings 11:38 – And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house…”
Isaiah 43:2 – 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.
Let me make some observations:
- The promise is given as a statement of fact. Based on God’s faithfulness, the statement becomes a promise.
- The promise is a personal promise, often spoken directly by God himself; other times, it is announced by a messenger.
- The promise is made in the context of serious threatened danger.
- The promise is accompanied by other words, which give courage and strengthen the resolve of the one addressed.
- The promise may be rescinded by lack of faith and disobedience.
- The promise gives assurance of God’s future care and protection by guaranteeing his personal and direct benevolent intervention.
- The promise is fulfilled when the recipient responds in faith and obedience.
In addition to these passages, there are 17 more which contained the words: “I am with you.” Because I suspect that most of you skimmed through the previous verses, I won’t burden you with 17 more passages. (If you that interested, email me and I will provide you with these.)
The intent of these verses is the same. They each promise God’s presence as a means to encourage both obedience and faith. Perhaps the best known of these are the words of Jesus: “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.”
To summarize, God promises to be with his people when we need special encouragement to obey and follow him. The promise is intended to stimulate our trust and obedience because of our personal relationship with him.
Now, consider again, this question: What’s the difference between “I will be with you…” and “you are with me…”?
My answer: the first statement is a promise of God to his people who need encouragement to faith and obedience. (That’s what we just confirmed above.)
The second statement, “you are with me…” Is declared by one who has both received and appropriated the promise. He has seized God’s promise and is acting on his faith. He believes that God is with him and is finding strength and encouragement even as he speaks.
In other words, David is walking through the valley of the shadow of death and declares that he is not afraid, because he realizes that God is with him. His words testify or boldly declare his confidence in his Lord. He knows that God is with him.
Looking back on your experience with God, I’m certain that there are times when you have felt the assurance of God’s presence. I know I have.
One such time occurred during my catastrophic accident. One moment I was cruising along on a road bike at 20 miles an hour the next I was flat on my back in a 5-foot deep ditch and surrounded by cattails. Uncertainties swirled around me. I had great concern for my immediate and distant future. In the darkness of that threat, I sensed the presence and purpose of God for me. I was not afraid because I knew that my Good Shepherd was with me. I thank and praise him for being with me. Even now, he continues to strengthen and build my faith.
How about you? Take a moment and consider how God has then been especially close to you in your times of need. Thank God for his mercy and faithfulness.