March 9, 2015

Behold your (Incarnate) God!

A little over two weeks ago, I echoed the prophet Isaiah’s call to “Behold your God” (Isaiah 40.9, ESV) … particularly in His incomparability (vv.12-31). I hope the vision of God that we saw in that sermon is still rattling around in some hearts and minds … and doing good! But as I prepared for the opportunity I had to preach (and further expand upon) Isaiah 40 this past weekend at First Baptist Church, Huber Heights … I was reminded that, for us New Testament believers, one of the chief ways in which we must behold our God is in the face of His Son! Jesus is “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” and who has “explained Him [God] to us” (John 1.18). “In these last days” God “has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1.1, emphasis added).

This is one of the most profound truths in the Bible – the incarnation of Christ! God becoming fully man without leaving behind any of His deity! And this man, Jesus, being fully God without sacrificing anything that is essential to human nature!

And so, even as we read an Old Testament passage like Isaiah 40, we cannot adequately behold our God without beholding Him in His incarnate Son! For instance, the incarnation is what makes final perfect sense out of the forgiveness of sins that is announced in verse 2. How can a just God take away the sins of death-deserving sinners? “The blood of bulls and goats” was no final solution, says Hebrews 10! But if God has become man, and has been “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4) … well then He, the God-man, can be our substitute! He can be our lamb – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29, emphasis added). It is the incarnation that makes it so!

Furthermore, the incarnation also brought to full and final fruition the coming of the Lord to redeem His people, which is described in Isaiah 40.3-5! It is through the coming of Jesus that “the glory of the LORD” was fully and finally revealed!

And the incarnation is all the more amazing to us when we consider, in Isaiah 40.6-8, that “all flesh is grass” which withers and dies! And by taking on our humanity, and eventually bearing our sins in it, this is the flesh which Jesus took upon Himself! In His humanity, Christ became a member of those nations that are “like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales” (v.15). In His humanity Jesus became one of those inhabitants of earth who are “like grasshoppers” in comparison to the scale of His own deity!

And finally, brothers and sisters, it is the incarnation that gives full and final shape to the encouragement to “wait for the Lord” in Isaiah 40.31! We wait for His various deliverances here and now, of course! But ultimately, we are waiting for His bodily return from heaven! “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1.7) … because when He returns, “this Jesus … will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1.11). He will return – just as He left – as one of us!

Here is the incarnation of Christ! Fully divine … yet fully human; and with nail-prints in His hands and feet! And, brothers and sisters, this is the most fantastic thing in the world!

We said a couple of Sundays ago that, because “God is spirit”, He does not have a body; and that we cannot rightly describe Him, even, as having a certain size, or taking up a certain space! In His divine essence, God is so utterly different from us! But when He comes “with the clouds” we will “see His face” (Revelation 22.4). His face? How? Because “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1.14); because Jesus was “made like His brethren in all things” (Hebrews 2.17); because “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2.9)!

And so, brothers and sisters, I say to you in closing: fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12.2). “Consider Jesus” (Hebrews 3.1). Gaze upon Jesus. Get to know Jesus. Understand Jesus. Be amazed at Jesus.  Behold Jesus … and behold your God!

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