Christmas celebrations are here, causing many (okay, me) to breathe a huge sigh of relief at the prospect of some R & R, after a hectic year. For Christians, the Christmas season is also an opportunity to remember Jesus Christ and the vulnerability that our mighty God displayed in that fascinating moment of space and time: the incarnation.
God’s methods are not the same as ours.
The incarnation has an untold number of benefits for believers, including affirming the fact that God’s methods are not the same as ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). God teaches us that strength is demonstrated in weakness. He demonstrates that the wisdom of the world is foolishness. It is a very strange thing indeed to have the mightiest being in the universe spend 33 years of his existence clothed in weak, human flesh.
But before we break out the crackers, sparklers, and mince pies, let’s take some time to reflect on how the might of God is displayed in this key moment that is critical to our salvation.
The Old Testament is peppered with prophecies about the coming Messiah. If you are following any kind of Bible reading plan, you should be in Isaiah by now. During Isaiah’s time, prophets were significant for their role in the lives of God’s people. Indeed, God told his people that he would put his words in the mouth of his chosen prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18). Those words either encouraged folks with blessings, or humbled them with warnings.
Israel Didn’t Trust their Mighty God
One of those prophets, Isaiah, prophesied under the rule of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah lived and reigned during the 8th century up until the beginning of the 7th century B.C. Hezekiah certainly benefited from having David as a forefather. But he wasn’t too shabby himself. In fact, he was an exceptional king, doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 18:3,5).
Hezekiah’s trouble came, though, when he got flustered by the Assyrians, leading to an alliance with Egypt. This alliance caused Israel to depart from the Lord’s ways—yet again. The method Hezekiah chose to fight off Sennacherib is, unfortunately, another example in a long list of the Israelites spurning God in favour of more palpably powerful options.
The content of Isaiah’s prophecies concerned threats from Israel’s enemies, like the Assyrians. He also prophesied about events that would take place in the New Testament era. Isaiah 9:1-7 outlines a dire situation becoming a hopeful one, all because of the birth of a child (Isaiah 9:6).
Isaiah outlines a dire situation becoming a hopeful one, all because of the birth of a child.
The prophet issued his warnings to the Israelites, fulfilling his duty to the people and the Lord. If he were a false prophet, Israel would have no reason to fear him (Deuteronomy 18:22). But Isaiah was nothing of the sort. He was faithful and had a reverential fear of the Lord (Isaiah 6:5). Yet, this didn’t move Israel. For God’s chosen people, it made no difference if it was a block of mute wood (Isaiah 44:19) or forming a diplomatic alliance with a foreign nation. They routinely overlooked God, seeking alternate solutions to their problems. Israel seemed to only turn to God at the 11th hour, when all other options had been painfully exhausted.
“To Us a Child Is Born”
So Isaiah undoubtedly brought the people a blessing when he declared the imminent arrival of an extraordinary person. Isaiah assigns the coming Messiah a four-fold name: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
The ‘Mighty God’ chose to show himself to us as a frail, mewling infant.
What is so striking about the incarnation of Jesus Christ is that the one who governs reality deigned to enter our limited understanding of reality. God’s desire to relate with us, to make himself known to us, is strong and tangible. The Mighty God chose to show himself to us as a frail, mewling infant.
The humility of Jesus’ coming must have sounded strange to the ears of the Israelites, whose brains were most likely addled with visions of Egyptian and Babylonian strength. They most likely reckoned that the coming Messiah would be powerful enough to crush all their enemies. But the person Isaiah described isn’t even good looking (Isaiah 53:2)!
We’re Weak, But Jesus is Mighty
There are some parallels in this for us today. Voddie Baucham tartly describes our generation’s conception of Jesus as a “European metrosexual with the hair of a shampoo model and hands that hadn’t seen a hard day’s work.” In short, our vision of the Saviour might be slightly skewed.
I’m not saying we should denigrate Christ, nor drag his name in the mud in a bid to demonstrate some warped kind of humility. What I am saying is that, like the Israelites, we might need to readjust our understanding of power. God, in his infinitely abundant wisdom, gave us and the Israelites a Lord and Saviour who doesn’t meet any of our expectations.
There are many things I cannot do without God.
As our “Mighty God,” the Son incarnate has dominion over everything. Including our main enemies: sin, Satan, and death. His power means that he is utterly dependable. What is even more compelling about Jesus’ identity as the “Mighty God” is that his power totally covers all our weaknesses. Yes, weaknesses. I don’t know about you, but I am weak. Not quite at the point of bragging about my weaknesses like Paul did (2 Corinthians 11:30). But, yeah, I grudgingly admit that there are many things I cannot do without God.