My brother is King
Hebrews 2: It’s logical that the savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death.
Once the awful persecution of the ancient Church ended, it turned its attention to formalizing the doctrines of Christianity. What beliefs are required to be “Christian” and what beliefs are outside of the boundaries of Christianity? Creeds were debated, created, and adjusted as Christians tried to better understand what was and what was not “Christian.” It’s no surprise that the main focus in all this was Jesus, himself. Who was he? What does it mean for him to be the “Son of God”? What does it mean for him to be the “Son of man”? Some people focused on his humanity and decided Jesus was a very good man who was picked by God to be the Savior of the world. Others focused on his divinity. They decided that Jesus appeared to be human, but was actually God dressed up in human flesh. Ultimately, the Church abandoned mathematics in favor of faith. It was concluded that Jesus was, at the same time 100% man and 100% God. Never mind that this adds up to 200% — we’d just believe that that’s how it is. Here we are, way down the road and so comfortable with this approach that we don’t think much about it. Today’s passage played a role in this understanding of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews describes one who was so human that he died a very human and real death for all. At the same time, he’s positioned in the loftiest of realms. For human beings, this is good news indeed, it’s great having one we call “brother” also be our Lord and Savior.
Take Away: Jesus is 100% man. He’s also 100% God. This God-man is the Savior of the world.
Intentionally or not, the disciples did the right thing
Matthew 17: His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face.
To some extent I don’t think the Church has ever fully grasped the Person of Jesus. It took hundreds of years for the doctrine of the Trinity to be established and it’s been “official” now for over 1600 years. Still, if you talk to some people they’re still back in the early years of Christian theology and not convinced at all that the Trinity doctrine has it right. When we think about the Person of Jesus there’s always a tug a war between “he’s God” and “he’s man.” In the pages of the Gospels we watch Jesus, the man. He grows weary and sleeps, he gets thirsty, and he bleeds. We also watch Jesus, the Lord. He forgives sins and tells his disciples that he and the Father are one. In this passage, as Jesus takes three disciples up on the mountain, the humanity of Jesus is overwhelmed by this divinity. The disciples see it as light that pours out of him. This isn’t the Jesus they ate supper with last light. This isn’t the Jesus who slept through the storm. This is God. Peter, James, and John don’t know what to say or do as they experience this Jesus. Still, maybe by instinct, they do the right thing: they fall flat on their faces in reverence and awe. Know what? This radiant-light-pouring-out-of-his-face Jesus is just as much Jesus as the hungry, sleepy, dying-on-the-cross Jesus. Falling down in worship before him is an excellent response.
Take Away: We may struggle with the person of Jesus, but worshiping him is always the right response.
What God expects of us
Micah 6: He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do.
This passage is one of the gems of the Old Testament. Micah asks the rhetorical question: “How can I…show proper respect to the high God?” He wonders if bigger offerings will do it: lots of rams and barrels of oil. He wonders if following the practice of the pagans and offering his child as a sacrifice will satisfy the Lord. Having asked the question he then states the answer. God has already made his desires for the human race abundantly clear. Micah says, “It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.” Micah’s insight into God’s purposes for people is breathtaking. Some have called this the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament. I do well to take this dusty old statement of God’s purpose for humanity and use it as a guide to my life. How am I doing on the “fair and just, compassionate and love” standard set here? Do I have a handle on not taking myself too seriously while taking God very seriously? There’s nothing in the Bible any more “contemporary” than this statement.
Take Away: Am I living up to the standard of the Lord?
Letting God be Lord
Jeremiah 10: Mere mortals can’t run their own lives.
Years ago there was a TV commercial in which a stressed homemaker rudely said to her well-meaning mother, “Mother please, I’d rather do it myself.” According to the ad, she needed to take a pill, and not just any pill: their pill. However, her desire to “do it herself” could never be fixed by her taking a pill. It’s a part of the human condition. Specifically, it’s what we say to our Creator. We’re made to live in fellowship with the Lord, to be partners with him in his purposes in our world. Instead, we turn our backs on God, insisting “I’d rather do it myself.” The result is, well, it’s what I see on the evening news every day. Pain and suffering, hating and killing: it’s all the result of our doing it ourselves. The fact is that as long as we make the most basic of mistakes: the exclusion of God from our lives, everything else is just putting band aids on life-threatening wounds. On the largest scale, the only hope of humanity is surrender to God. On the personal scale, it’s the same. Jeremiah says, “Men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life.” His solution is to do what God designed us to do in the first place: connect to God and let him be Lord of all that we are.
Take Away: We’re designed to live in fellowship with the Lord and nothing else will do.
Soaring like eagles
Isaiah 40: Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles.
Isaiah says that when everything else gives way that “God lasts.” He doesn’t lose interest and he doesn’t grow weary. Everything else can, and will, fail, either intentionally or unintentionally but God never fails. Beyond that, God’s people draw strength from him. We’re still human and because of that we face the frailties of humanity. Still, as we trust in the Lord and lean on him we find strength where it matters the most. The strength to soar like an eagle isn’t strength to win races or ball games. It isn’t strength to never fail in the events of life. It’s spiritual strength to live in a victorious relationship with our Creator even in the face of our humanity. When Isaiah talks about people who run and don’t get tired he’s talking about the race of life. The body wears out and begins to fall apart. Physically, we spend 25 years or so gaining strength and then 50 years giving back, little by little, what we’ve gained. Spiritually though, as we “wait upon God” we finish the race with all the vigor we had at the beginning of it because he renews us day by day. It’s a bit of a paradox, but very often the people we know who on the outside seem to have the least strength are the very ones who “soar like eagles” in spirit.
Take Away: The people of the Lord draw strength from him.
God of Creation
Isaiah 40: God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants.
In this passage Isaiah pictures for us the God of Creation. This is the God who “scooped up the ocean in his two hands” and measured out the mountains. This God calls the stars by name and sits high above the earth, so distant that the inhabitants of this world look like “mere ants.” The purpose of this passage isn’t to teach what I’ve heard called “worm theology” in which the human race is viewed as insignificant and worthless. After all, once those oceans are created and the mountains put in place, God turns his attention to making us, and when he finishes he’s pleased with the results. This portion of this passage isn’t about putting humanity in its place. Instead, it’s about lifting our Creator to his place! We aren’t talking about a tin god here; this is the God of the Universe, Maker of all. This King isn’t the ruler of some little country off in some forgotten part of the world. No king or idol holds a candle to this Creator-God. I can never fully comprehend him but I can worship him. This passage is a reminder of the greatness of God and a call to humbly bow before him.
Take Away: I can never fully comprehend him but I can worship him.