My husband informed me this week that a new book was available with the same title and similar theme as the new one I’ve just barely begun to write. With slight disappointment I said facetiously, “Well, thank the Lord, that’s just another book I don’t have to write!” I guess I took too long to get the job done and God gave it to someone else. My youngest daughter did not fall for my pity party and said matter-of-factly, “Well maybe you just need a new title.”
Have you ever had expectations of something happening, and then it totally does not turn out the way you were thinking, or the way you planned? So you scratch the idea and come up with something you think might work better.
Well, it occurred to me that nearly 2000 years ago the same thing happened. People were waiting for a King to rule and reign… and he didn’t show up quite like people expected. The King of Israel arrived as a gentle and humble baby, born in a cave-like shelter. It was unthinkable for a king to be born in a cave. Why not a palace with royal parents? God could have arrived as anything! It made no sense. For the Israelites, it seemed impossible to believe their King came as a baby.
The God-man came as a baby?
Looking at the history of religion in various cultures, many people have worshipped terrifying gods of power – all in attempts to avoid catastrophes of rage. The Greek, Aztec, Mayan gods – just to name a few, were religions formed from cultures that lead people to believe to appease their gods they had to offer up their most valuable possession, life. This became the origin of human sacrifice and the ritual of bearing intense physical pain. The Mayans even believed in extra-terrestrial beings that came to earth, made man in its image, and will return someday.
It is amazing to read how other cultures and religions have acknowledged there were gods that they feared who provided – food, fertility, water, and sun. In addition there was an acknowledgement of right from wrong, an understanding of some sort of need for the remission of their sins, so much so that they had a concept of sacrifice. Some religions have included in their faith experiencing alien encounters, which very likely could have been angels.
In their minds these foreign gods created intensifying fear – for people to sacrifice their own sons and daughters to appease the anger of their gods.
Then we take a look at Christianity… What is it about the nature of God, Yahweh, the God of Israel that He would desire to reveal himself as a baby? As God had planned, this baby was born supernaturally and given the name Jesus. God lives his life on earth as a man – fully deity, yet fully man. Jesus proclaimed to us, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:4) Jesus came to fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah, “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1)
I have experienced the gentleness of God in different seasons of my life. When I was a young mother with three children under the age of 4, there were so many difficult demanding days, yet God would send someone to help, cheer, call, or pray. There was one verse that I hung onto from Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” God knew the demands I had (still do!) as a mom… and offered me grace and patience. There were many things I didn’t do perfectly, but I was so blessed to be able to stay home with my children. And now, to see God’s answer my prayer to work from home – God gently pushed me out the door of my comfortable plans to share and speak about my faith. God was so patient with me for 15 years when I was “slow of heart to believe” (the very verse God used to gently confront me).
Observing this God-man’s life through the New Testament, people were drawn to him and he cared for their need. This unexpected King speaks with all men who will listen and receive. He provides food for the poor, heals the sick, frees the adulterer of harsh judgment, shares a kiss with his betrayer, comforts the thief in his last breath, and raises the dead to life. He tells us, “I am gentle and humble of heart… come to me, learn of me, you who are weary and heavy hearted, and you will find rest.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
As seen through Jesus’ life, God has a deep love for the hurting and the needy. His mercy extends to those who fear him. (Luke 1:50). God had a plan even after Jesus departed to send His Spirit, the Comforter – a Helper to be with us. (A Comforter? A Helper? What other god sends a comforter and helper?)
I believe, as with Mary, a special anointing is given to those who suffer for his Name’s sake. At the peak of Jesus’ pain and suffering on the cross, he compassionately cared about his mother, asking the disciple John to see to her needs. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was told through a prophecy at Jesus’ birth “a sword would pierce her own soul too” (Luke 2:33) She witnessed this verse fulfilled before her eyes and within her own heart of witnessing his brutal death. As a mother… it all became clear: “Behold the Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world.”
In Jesus’ life, from his birth to his death, we see God’s grace is reaching out to us. God’s humble and gentle spirit does not lack strength; his humility is not timidity. Great strength of restraint was exemplified as Jesus remained silent (no defense was spoken), willingly submitting himself – to pay the final sacrifice for sins for all mankind.
Our God is planning to return for us and establish his kingdom. In the meantime, in our unstable economy and uncertain future, we can find great comfort in remembering our God rules with gentle strength; someday he will fulfill his Word, “the government will be on his shoulders, and of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Rejoice always; there is no other god like our God who rules and reigns with a heart of humility, gentleness, and compassion for the needy, and a desire commune with sinners. “While we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ,” (with the help of his Holy Spirit, let us celebrate his goodness, and honor his Name by living upright and godly lives in this present age by reflecting his nature – a heart of humility and gentleness. (Titus 2:11-13).