Friday, December 21, 2012

God on Earth (Gods Among Us)

"If his [David's] children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes."

"Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see
and be satisfied."

"He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law."

"I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me."

Yes!!! Finally, the Israelites have waited so long, ever since Genesis 3:15 (the Protogospel), "He [the Savior, one of Eve's offspring] shall bruise your [Satan's] head." It's about time!! They can finally bring on the pain to that grotesquely crooked, sin-fetishy snake that had tricked them into diving head-first into a world of pain, suffering, and death. They have waited ever since before the flood, before Abraham, and before Moses for this warlord Savior to be born!!! Now, it's time.

Well, at least, that's what many of the Jews and particularly the Zealots (who wanted to overthrow the Roman government) thought. And, can you really blame them? The Jews have been ostracized, enslaved, and killed off. Very few of them knew any safe place to call home let alone lived in a government that they could be proud of. And, as promised above, people are going to pay. God's wrath will finally come down on their enemies. With a leader who "will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth," someone who "will not be disgraced," with a face "like a flint," who will not be "put to shame," who beckons his enemies on, wanting a fight, the Jews are finally going to have their Kingdom of Heaven... here, on Earth.

This king whom they pictured was exactly like Thor screaming high into the heavens, ready for an adversary. He is a mighty warrior and die-hard fighter. He can overpower his enemies with just a whim and anyone would be fearless in battle if only they were led by him. In fact, he is a god and he has led many other gods into battle. His might is enough to make his enemies shutter and his strength should cause them to faint. He is "the picture of everything the ideal person ought to aspire to be... confident, daring, resourceful, and powerful. He is well-spoken, clever, and talented." Wait, that last sentence was a quote from BROKEN. And, it wasn't referring to God, and it wasn't referring to a good leader, preacher, teacher, or even a saint. It was referring to Satan (page 230).

There's something wrong here.

Isn't this who the Israelites wanted? Isn't this who they needed? Who else could redeem them? How else could they be able to defeat the world? What type of leader are they supposed to wait for? This can't be Satan. Fisk must be wrong. What else does he have to say? "It's not that heroes are bad ideas. It's that the kind of heroes we most admire are bad ideas." Great, now he's thrown all of our heroes out the window... "The humanity inside us sees in Satan exactly the kind of person each of us wishes we could be when the countless trials of life come barreling down: a winner. Each of us has a desire to change the world, to make it be the way we think it should be. We each want to find deep inside ourselves the will and power to refuse to let life be any other way.... From the first breath... our thoughts are about getting out of the hole and fixing whatever we find that needs to be fixed." And, now he's against fixing things?

Alright, I admit, I haven't been completely honest with you. Just like the calf-worshipers in the desert, the Jews and Zealots had missed a big part of the story. Whether it was by short-term memory loss, selective hearing, or just plain stupidity, these guys had once again forgot most of what God had said. They hadn't been completely honest with themselves. And, they were waiting for someone who doesn't exist.

They had forgotten that the Psalm above, the one punishing those who had forsaken God's law, finished by saying "But, I will not remove from him [those same people] my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant.... His offspring shall endure forever." This whole chapter is about the Lord's steadfast love and insists upon God's eternal promise to take care of His children, Israel. He loves them even though they betray Him. He loves them even though they do not recognize Him. He loves them even though they deserve His eternal wrath and condemnation. And, in this same covenant, God has promised to Israel, through the house and line (the offspring) of David, that a Savior will come. A Savior will be born to make their lives endure forever.

But, the Jews had forgotten. They had focused on the punishment instead of God's steadfast love. They missed the bigger picture. And, it only got worse when the Lord tried to explain things further. The other verses above are from some of the prophecies in Isaiah. They depict the Lord's Chosen Servant, the Savior, the Anointed One, the one the Jews had longed for.

Instead of realizing what these prophecies meant, their hearts were in the wrong place. They were still trying to bring Heaven to Earth. It is true, Isaiah 42 is about a man who "will not grow faint or be discouraged until he has established justice." But, it is also about a man who is God's servant, a man who "Will not cry aloud or [even] lift up his voice." It's about a man who will not even break a "bruised reed" or quench a "burning wick." Today we would say that this man, "wouldn't even hurt a fly." This same Savior will be the one to "establish justice." But, it was't in the way that they had expected. He established a far greater justice than any of us could have imagined. If it had only been in an Earthly way, He would have been Unworthy for His goal.

Isaiah 50 does talk about someone who will not be "disgraced," someone who will have a face like "flint," and the same someone will not be put to "shame." He does dare his "adversary" to draw near. Still, it is not in an Earthly way. The reason why this someone, this servant, this Savior, is so secure in his plan is because "The Lord God helps me." There is no one who would dare stand up against the Lord and live. This is where the servant's strength is found, this is where our Savior's strength is found, and it is secure not only because God is undefeatable but also because the Christ already knew that He has won.

He did not "win" in any Earthly manner. The world saw him as disgraced, soft, and shameful. But, we're still not looking beyond this world. In the reality of eternity, God (Jesus Christ) had been gracefully fulfilling his promise to David. This is how "his offspring shall endure forever." If Christ had only come to be an Earthly king, death would have won. Instead, Christ had remained flint-faced against His adversary (Satan). In the desert, He didn't even think of neglecting His purpose, reason, and calling to Earth in the first place. And, it wasn't in shame that he had endured the cross, but in honor and in joy.

The last thing many of the leaders of Israel had expected was to find the Savior on a cross. They must have missed close to the entirety of Isaiah 53. The Savior had to be wounded for our transgressions. "Many were astonished... his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance...He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief... he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.... He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth....

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him... His soul makes an offering for sin... The will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."

In the last place anyone would have thought to look, there He is, the mighty warrior, God's servant, up there, (we) nailed (him) to a tree. But, that's how it had to be. He had to die, to beat death, in order that He may keep His covenant and allow us to endure forever by granting us eternal life.

Jesus Christ, true God, true Man, was not what anyone had expected. But, He was who He had to be. He was not a bar-brawling, lord of thunder, and Earthly king. But, a faithful and loving, sacrificial lamb, the Heavenly king. He was not forced to give up God-hood out of rebellion to His Father as Thor was, but He chose to be Man for us. He did not make Himself the person Man wanted Him to be, but the person Man needed Him to be. He didn't come to be the Winner  of the world, but as the Savior of our souls. And, this week, just as we have done for many years and we will continue to do for many more years, we remember how He had come. It was not as a mighty god from the heavens, but as a babe dressed in rags, lying in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn.

Merry Christmas!!!!!
This has been part of the Gods Among Us Series

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