God’s Longing for Mankind

Norbert Lieth

God seeks us out, changes everything, and fills the void in our soul. He does everything necessary to live among people, to give them love and salvation—a meaningful life. Christmas means that Almighty God has consecrated Himself to you, because He loves you and wants to live with you forever.

Boris Becker once said, “For 18 years I’ve had the feeling that journalists never ask the right question. It was always about the outcome, never about the people.”

It’s different with God. As far as He’s concerned, it’s only about the people—never about their successes or what they were able to produce. That’s especially clear at Christmas.

God is holy. And every person should know that he or she is sacred to this God. Christmas is an expression of God’s longing to connect with people. God’s longing is most clearly shown in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son: the father waits every day for the son who turned his back on him, and rushes to meet him when he returns in repentance. A fitting heading for the story could be: “The Parable of the Father’s Longing.”

Many people have the wrong impression of God. They only see Him as the strict, serious ruler and less as the loving Father who is reaching out to us full of longing.

I once had to wait for someone in a mall. In one of the store windows, there was a display of shorts with various slogans printed on them. One read, “Life without nonsense makes no sense.”

The saying seemed pretty pointless to me. Basically, it’s saying that people are searching for the meaning of life, and when they don’t find it, all sorts of nonsense results.

All of life seems nonsensical until we recognize its true meaning and become absorbed in it. What is sense, and what is nonsense?

People are driven by existential questions: Why are we here? What was I created to do? Is the whole point of my life just to be born and eventually die? Is that all, maybe with a little joy, fear, worry, and pain in the middle? Did we just evolve from monkeys?

All of us have an unfulfilled longing within us, and nothing on earth can fill it.

One of the most famous paintings in the world is Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. It depicts God stretching out His finger toward the man’s limp hand. This touch awakens him to what God intended him to be.

We are created for God, to be His counterpart. He wants to fellowship and communicate with us, live among and with us, and work and walk with us.

None of us is the product of chance. God wanted each of us. The Creator has dedicated Himself to us, given Himself to us, and consecrated Himself to us.

We lose our meaning when we ignore God and atttempt to take the life He gave us into our own hands to govern it ourselves. Then the nonsense really gets going…

We can twist it anyway we’d like, but one thing is certain when we look at reality: “Sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34b). Sin is everything that bypasses God. And that’s precisely what is separating us from a full life with God. Sin removes us from our Creator, alienating us from Him.

That is the reason for all senselessness, greed, egoism, cruelty, and misery (up to and including death).

It’s been described something like this: In the beginning, God created man. Man was happy with God, but broke away from Him. Since then, he has had a void in his soul. Man is trying to fill this void with any number of things, but he must realize that things are only getting worse. Only God Himself can fill the void.

Thank God that He does, and that He doesn’t give up on us. God is the beginning and the end. God is a God of new beginnings; He repeatedly starts over. He repeatedly consecrates Himself to us. He repeatedly goes after us, looking for connection with us, seeking a point of contact.

In the Bible, we repeatedly see God’s longing to live among His people. For example, at the beginning of the Bible, He said to the ancient people of Israel: 

“And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that 

I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God” (Ex 29:43-46).

God had chosen a people to encounter mankind. He wanted to live among the people.

When we read about the aforementioned “tabernacle of the congregation” in the Bible, we find that God provided everything needed to dwell with His people. The Israelites then only needed to respond.

The people would be made holy by His glory. For example, God ordained that everything that touches His altar should be sacred to Him (Ex 29:37). This is a picture of Christmas: everyone who comes into contact with the God who reveals Himself at Christmas becomes holy to Him. God took care of everything, down to the last detail: anything that was needed for the redemption, reconciliation, purification, and anointing of those who came to Him (Ex 29; 31:1-11).

Where God sought to meet people, according to the Bible’s record, speaks volumes: in the middle of the desert, where it is hot during the day and very cold at night. Where it is barren, where scarcity prevails, where people are defenseless and at the mercy of their surroundings…that’s where God, whom the whole universe cannot grasp, wants to draw close to people.

While reading these chapters, I noticed something wonderful. God commands that a golden rim (a garland) should be placed all around when making the sacred implements for worship (such as a table or altar; Ex 25:11, 24-25; 30:3). This has a symbolic meaning. The edging ensured that nothing fell off during transport through the desert, or during priestly use if it slipped.

Maybe you’re in the desert right now. You’re inwardly and outwardly troubled. The heat is making your soul throb. For you, it has become night. Cold and darkness are afflicting you. But if God is allowed to take up residence in your life, He will see to it that you never fall away from His grace on your way through the desert. We rest in Him, and His grace surrounds us.

“Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even 

I will carry, and will deliver you” (Is 46:3-4).

What Is Christmas?

It is the fulfillment of God’s longing to dwell among men. He is driven by the love that He Himself embodies in His perfect person. The Bible describes the first Christmas with the mysterious words, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

As a child, I always wondered how all the pears actually get into the Kammer Williams brandy bottles. I discovered the answer later: the bottle is hung on a tree and a branch with a small fruit is stuck into it; this is how the pear grows in the bottle.

Christmas is God coming into the world. He became a man in His Son, Jesus Christ. One of the Jewish prophets announced this far in advance with the words: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Is 11:1).

This is Christmas: Jesus, who was with God and is God, became a man and lived among us. He, who lived in the desert in Israel, wants to be at home with everyone.

Yes, sin is the ruin of mankind. But with the coming of Jesus into the world, we learn that “This is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Tim 1:15).

That is the meaning of life: encountering the God who seeks us out, changes everything, and gives us full life. God fills the void in our soul. He does everything necessary to live among people, to give them love and salvation, and to give them a meaningful life.

A man who has since passed away confessed, “Today I’ve been free from drugs for 23 years. 

I don’t have to strive for recognition anymore, because I’m loved by Jesus. It was the best decision of my life. God has entrusted me with a wife and two children. Thank you, Jesus.”

That is the reflection of a meaningful life.

Christmas means that Almighty God has consecrated Himself to you, because He loves you and wants to live with you forever. Christmas means that God said “yes” to you. It doesn’t matter how valuable you feel or how heavily guilt is weighing on you.

Christmas means the unlimited pouring out of God’s love over the whole world through Jesus.

The African-American pastor S. M. Lockridge once described Jesus this way: “His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you.”

World history’s most important visitor came to us in Jesus. But very few seem to be home to open to Him.

“What’s the point of the candles’ light if your heart stays dark as night?”

Many Christians are familiar with this saying from Angelus Silesius: “If Christ were born in Bethlehem a thousand times and not in thee thyself: then art thou lost eternally.”

Whoever lets Jesus Christ into their life will rise to higher things: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim 1:14).

Christ in you means: riches of glory in your heart, here and now, through your faith. Christ in you means: expecting future glory and full life with God. Christ in you means: a good that is now hidden in your heart and can’t be dislodged by anything on earth.

Christmas in a Maximum Security Prison
A moving true story shows us what can happen when Jesus comes into our lives: 

One of the greatest and most dramatic transformations/miracles/ revivals in modern history has taken place inside the walls of a prison in Argentina. Olmos Prison is the largest prison in the nation, and is a maximum-security facility that houses about 3,000 inmates. 

Until a few years ago, the prison was in total chaos. Crime was rampant. Riots, murders, sexual abuse, extortion and male prostitution were commonplace. The prison was so out-of-control, that by default the authorities turned the daily running of the prison over to the mafia and drug dealers serving time there. These de facto leaders chose to reside on the fourth of five floors, which came to be known as the ‘elephant’s floor’ since all the ‘heavyweights’ lived there. 

Imagine what this place became when the worst inmates were given the run of it! Even a Church of Satan was established on the premises and animal sacrifices were offered regularly. Olmos—as the prison is commonly known—was so impregnable that pastors from the nearby towns had great difficulty getting inside its perimeter. 

Some inmates reported being tormented by demons which, according to reports, literally materialized in their cells. Satan was in control indeed.

Pastor Juan Zuccarelli writes of his experience serving in Olmos:

God showed me the potential of getting into Olmos Prison as an employee of the Penitentiary Service. But I was told that the process that would take many months. I applied, but my heart wasn’t in it. Surprise! Only one week later, I was accepted! But still there were some doubts in my heart.

On my first day at Olmos, I was being instructed by a man named Nestor Papa. I asked Nestor if there would be a problem if I talked about religion in the Unit. 

“What is your religion?” he asked. I answered, “I am a Protestant.” 

“So, you are a Protestant!” he said. “I hate Protestants. You will have a lot of problems with me!”

“Well, God thinks differently,” I answered. 

He looked hard at me and said, “For you, I am god. He persisted, “If you continue like this, you will be in a lot of trouble.” He really had a thing against Protestants. That was my first day at Olmos. Now, a few years later, he is a member of my church and a deacon in the church! 

At times, different music or theater groups came to the prison to perform. At those times, an officer would go through the prison shouting “Acto,” and the prisoners would come out. However, when there were church groups that would come out, the officer would call out “Culto,” and only about 10 Evangelical Christians would come out. However, on the day of our evangelistic campaign, the officer called out, “Acto y Culto,” and about 300 came out. However, there was one restriction: Inmates would not be allowed to leave until the meeting was over; the doors were locked. And, yes, when they saw us carrying the Bibles, some tried to leave.

After some music and singing, Luis Tessi gave a message, and about 100 of the 300 men made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ.

Confession is a sign of weakness among prisoners, and the weak are always attacked by other inmates. Thus new Christians repenting and confessing their sins are exposing themselves to real danger. For this reason, we decided to request that all of our new Christians be placed in a separate cell block. To everyone’s surprise, our petition requesting an evangelical cell block for Christians was granted!...

Having an exclusive cell block allowed the brothers to pray in peace, read, study their Bibles, fast, and even have all-night prayer meetings without being harassed or disturbed. This worked so well, we began to implement it in other parts of the prison…before long we had a block on each floor.

In the Bible, God prophesies for His people: “My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezek 37:27).

This prophecy is still yet to be fulfilled. It will be when God makes a new heaven and a new earth.

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3).

The Lord God will come to dwell among all nations. The Lord and Creator won’t abandon His longing until everything is fulfilled.

God has such a longing for His creation, and His love moves Him so strongly, that He does everything necessary to live with mankind. He brings them into His life.

That is Christmas.

Someone once said that “God Almighty bends His face to earth, becomes flesh and man, becomes like one of us…This isn’t the stuff of legends and fairy tales. That’s the immeasurable love of God for people.”

He wants to live among us. He consecrates Himself to us because we are sacred to Him. He gives life its full meaning.

The only thing we have to do is accept this gift.

Midnight Call - 12/2021

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