Who is God? What is He like? Since the days of Adam and Eve, few men in history have actually met with Him or heard His voice with clarity as they did. Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets would often be the first names to come to our mind. For centuries, the nation of Israel would be the premiere recipients of the LORD’s self-revelation. And though He gave it to them eagerly, they did not receive it readily. When He came to visit them at Sinai to give them the Law, virtually the entire nation shrunk back in fear. (Just for the record, I probably would have too!) Instead of opening their hearts in love towards their Redeemer and Deliverer from the hand of the Egyptians, they turned to idols.
An aspect of the incarnation that is not often considered by us common folk is the virgin birth of Jesus. In their gospel accounts, both Matthew and Luke affirm that Mary had no relation with a man prior to the birth of Jesus. Although there has been much theological material written to corroborate the gospel accounts in history and even in modern times, lesser amounts of material have been written on how our hearts should marvel at the miracle that actually took place. An astonishing display of the power of God took place in the womb of a young virgin from Judea over 2000 years ago. That is what I want to look at briefly today in this first post of my series on the incarnation of Jesus.
We’ve become so familiar with the story that we no longer feel the impact of what happened to Mary. The startling news begins in Luke’s gospel, when Mary was visited by an angel:
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…”
(Luke 1:35 NKJV)
As we approach yet another Advent and Christmas season, I wanted to write a series of posts to look at the birth of Jesus. I am convinced that there can never be enough pondering, thinking, meditating, and talking about the Son of God taking on flesh and being born into the world. Theologians call this event the Incarnation. My heart is to write short posts that aid in your meditation and keep your heart focused as the weeks progress. This series will be by no means comprehensive, but I do want to help you to gasp with fresh amazement and bring you into feeling the weight of the most extraordinary act any man has ever witnessed – God taking on flesh and being born into the world.
Imagine wandering off a hiking path to explore other parts of the woods. Unaware of how much time has passed, you suddenly realize nightfall is nearing. You’re stumbling around at dusk frantically looking for the trail markers, but fail to find them. You know that there are cliffs, ledges, and holes around that could easily claim your life with one wrong step. As the darkness closes in, you begin to wonder if you should have just gone elsewhere for a walk where there is an abundance of pavement and streetlights. As night sets in, so does fear. If only you would have listened to the park ranger’s warnings…
Though I don’t claim to be much of a storyteller, I think you’ll still be able to see the point I’m trying to make toward our lives as believers. It is so easy to let the firm cautions, warnings, and exhortations of Jesus become diluted in their potency and degrade into just ordinary words in red on the Bible page. I’m realizing that there are so many of His words that I quickly gloss over and just imagine that they will not bring me to account. The number of times Jesus says to “take heed”, “watch”, “beware” or “pay attention to” something is simply astonishing.
On the first Sunday of every October, over 175 nations are joining together in prayer for the city of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel, and all her inhabitants. Millions of intercessors and worshippers of Jesus from many ministries across our nation and across the world petition the Lord to bring His Word to pass regarding this troubled land and people group. Yesterday, the ministry I am a part of participated in praying for Israel and Jerusalem as part of the regular 24/7 prayer ministry here.
Israel is not a side-issue in God’s plan of redemption for the world. In fact, Israel is perhaps the central issue in that plan. God’s choice in electing Israel forms the entire context of God’s eternal purpose in Christ.
As believers in Jesus, standing with God’s purpose for Israel is critical. But we must not merely stand with a people group on the shaky ground of sentiment or because we believe in the legitimacy of Israel as a political entity. We must base our loyalty to Israel on our loyalty to Jesus and His cross.
As Art Katz says in perhaps his most important work, The Mystery of Israel and the Church:
The demanding mandate of the church to the Jew cannot be performed on the basis of natural...