Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon. -Psalm 31:24
“And I will cause hostility between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15—it’s the first sign of Israel’s waiting game for a Messiah’s rescue. God sets the stage with a promise of a Satan-crushing Savior, a descendent of man to smush the serpent’s head in retaliation for the stain of sin that has plagued the Earth and its inhabitants since. In the same moment that hope was lost for humanity with the fall of man, God matches failure with promise—the hope of Jesus, a Messiah King to do what we couldn’t: rid the world of sin and the deadly punishment it brings. And the promises kept on coming.
“I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! Like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.” Genesis 22:15-18
The promise of inheritance and descendants continues through God’s covenant with Abraham, and the waiting game for the Messiah continues. A descendant that ALL of the Earth will be blessed through—how huge is that! As the verse above mentioned, God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but stops Abraham before the deed is done, thankfully. The willingness of both the father (Abraham) and the son (Isaac) is astounding—willingly and obediently, they were willing to kill/die for God’s will, even when it made zero sense to them. When they did not understand, they chose God. Do you see the foreshadowing here? Abraham and Isaac are representative of God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son of God, in the sacrificing process of sending Jesus the Messiah to Earth to save sinners (us) who would reject Him as a hoax. Though they perhaps did not know it, God was demonstrating what was to come through Abraham and Isaac’s willingness to sacrifice and through providing a scapegoat for that sacrifice. The promise of the Savior continued.
Then, we have Jacob, who, let’s be real, doesn’t always get the best rep. for basically stealing his father’s blessing and birthright away from his brother Esau (aka—the hairy hunter man from the Bible that sold his birthright to Jacob for some soup. I know, hunger can do crazy things. Read the full story in Genesis 25-28). But later in his life, Jacob’s faith becomes something noteworthy (if you’re interested in Jacob, check out Hebrews 11:21 and John 1:51). His role in the Messiah’s coming is seen most clearly through his prophecy of the Kingdom of Judah:
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, as a lion who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” –Genesis 49:10-12
Pretty powerful words, right? The Cliff Notes version of that passage is essentially that Judah (God’s people) is going to reign over all people, which, as you can imagine, is a pretty big deal. And it was good timing for Israel to be reminded of God’s provisions, because 400 years of exodus in Egypt were on the horizon for God’s people, and it would not be a time where hope was abundantly obvious. But, in usual God-fashion, God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian captivity through the vessel of Moses, whom he also gave “the Law” to (i.e. the ten commandments). Although the Law was received with excitement and good intentions, the Israelites could not uphold the Law perfectly, and soon needed a sacrificial system to be put into place to deal with their sin before God. Once again, the need of a scapegoat, the need of something to satisfy the punishment for sin is clearly echoed again throughout the Israelites journey and heritage. The wait went on, but not without more promise reminders.
A man named Balaam, who was considered to be a pagan prophet and a practice of sorcery even prophesied Jesus’s coming. Take a look:
“The oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, and crush the through the forehead of Moab, tear down all the sons of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir, it enemies, also shall be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly. One from Jacob shall have dominion, and shall destroy the remnant from the city.” –Numbers 24:16-19
YEUH. How awesome is that? If you were Israel, would you not be pumped!? I definitely would. Even through pagan lips, God is channeling hope into his people that He has not forgotten them and the promise he made to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even Moses refers to himself as somewhat of an early version of the later-to-come Messiah in Deuteronomy 18:15: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” And so, the hope is extended. The wait for Jesus, continued.
Later on down the road, though (and I’m skipping a huge chunk of the Bible btw), Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah King did come, just as God promised at each step of the way. God delivered. He came through and was coming through even when nothing made sense–perhaps more so, when nothing made sense. Jesus, himself, didn’t even make sense to most–he wasn’t a strong military leader ready to rip the heads off the Romans and redeem the Jews history of oppression. He definitely didn’t sit pretty at the Pharisee socials, and he wasn’t exactly from an uppity family (carpenter–aka, lower working class–aka, not Messiah material). The Jews never really made sense of Him, as, in their eyes, he didn’t do Messiah-fulfilling duties: 1) Be a strong military leader 2) Raise up an army and 3) Establish God’s Kingdom forever. Jesus didn’t exactly make much sense to the people he came for–and yet, God’s hand was most powerfully in place on humanity through the “nonsense” of Jesus, His own son, His own entity. The ones that accepted Christ were the very ones that didn’t snuggle up so closely to their “religious” agendas and molds of who Jesus was supposed to be, and simply entered into relationship with who Jesus actually was. Crazy idea, right? To let go of our sensical perceptions and to embrace reality that doesn’t always make sense… Who would do that? Well, my name is Alex, and I’ll be the first one in line to the “Nothing Makes Sense” Club sign up. Furthermore, I sometimes think the less we know, the closer to Him we are. Maybe “knowledge” and “sense” are replaced with a more powerful measurement: relationship. Relationship with someone that doesn’t belong to our sensical thoughts and models, yet makes enough sense to convince us to throw our lives into Him.
Where am I going with this–not sure that I know. But, lately, I’ve been painfully reminded that the places God is most expected to be seen are the same places that are, more often than not, showing cloudy skies. And with Christmas and the ridiculous distractions the season throws at us directing us away from God (sad, right?), I think it’s important to be reminded of God’s history of deliverance— deliverance from what seems like nonsense. When our country’s leadership is embarrassingly corrupt, when religion is our futile attempt at organizing a box-less God, when people forget they’re makeup and purpose, when there is no desire for more: God delivers. He hasn’t just delivered–He delivers. Christmas is a celebration of the historical past, yes–but I would argue that it’s more so a celebration of the spiritual present. God’s promises are not over. Jesus did not fail to achieve the same Messianic duties Jews accuse Him of shirking.
1) Military Leader: Jesus might not have been a military leader of the physical sort, but did He not fight a spiritual battle that we are all incapable of fighting? Did he not kick sin in the nuts and smush Satan’s serpent head by sacrificing His perfect self for his murderers salvation? Christ fought a battle that we are incapable of fighting and earned his badge as military leader through victory of spiritual war–a victory we get to partake in now btw.
2) Raise Up an Army: No, Jesus was not out in Jerusalem trying to sign Jews up for a Messianic draft. In fact, he was somewhat of a pacifist right? The whole turn the other cheek bit doesn’t exactly echo war cries for Jewish freedom. But did he not establish an army? Because I’m pretty sure Christ started a worldwide Navy Seals program through the utilization of His Spirit via his disciples. Yeah, Christianity was started by His example, and His army grew over the entire Earth. And while we pretty much suck and doing what He told us to nowadays, we are still here. And called to the same cause.
3) Establish God’s Kingdom Forever: Soooo, where is it? Jesus even talked about this kingdom all the time during his ministry, but it never really was obvious what exactly He was talking about. Until He left. And then sheesh… things started happening. This weird Spirit made its home in the hearts of those who opened the door to Him, and the power of God became available for the entire Earth. His Kingdom became available on Earth–His presence became something accessible. Something that we could live in and through at ALL points of life. And nothing can take it away from us. We can’t ever screw up bad enough to lose Him… There is no forbidden fruit that separates us from Life. We have a way to live according to how God has called us via His Spirit: He lives through us so we don’t have to rely on our screw-up historical trends. His Kingdom. His presence. It’s available.
He freaking brought it with Jesus. What an incredible celebration! Go dance and jump up and down! Because a Savior walked this Earth and died for us. But there’s still more–His life goes on. His promise lives on through His Spirit and through His Kingdom. And when we lose sight of the fact that He is still delivering– we misunderstand Him. We cannot settle for an image of God. We cannot settle for any limitations we set for Him. He doesn’t belong in the confines of our minds. He doesn’t belong in the hot seat of our pathetic, limited logic, as if we know anything anyway. And tonight, I’m praying that… after 2000 plus years…. we choose relationship over our control-freak need to box in the ways God works. Because I’m tired, tired of participating in pretending to have a grip of what’s on God’s horizon. The closer we get to God, the further away everything else becomes. The more relationship we have, the more assurance of deliverance we have… and yet the confines of our minds become less and less of a home for our God’s to-do list.
I think about Israel’s waiting game for the Messiah–and at times, I feel like we are all in a similar waiting game, despite the fact that the Messiah has already come and done His thing. It’s my impression that we are waiting for God to fit our expectations… and, quite frankly, our expectations are not qualified housing for God to take up residence in. There is no expectation that’s big enough for Him. There is no idea, or lofty concept that will give you access to the details of God. I don’t think we’ll even fathom those details when we stand at His face. The only hope we have for understanding more of God and what He does for us (and thus, ourselves) is entering into a relationship with Him. After all, is that not the difference between Christianity and Judaism–the opportunity for direct relationship with our God? When we miss that, when we choose to keep God at an arm’s length with our thought processes, we reject His borderless relationship parameters and embrace our high and mighty ideas as God himself.
“I hate all this silly religion–but you, God, I trust.” There it is. I hope this excerpt from The Message‘s Psalm 31 is all of our prayer. It’s less about how we explain God and how we set up this religion of Christianity… and more about who God actually is, a concept we will never wrap our fingers around. As Christmas approaches, my prayer is that His ongoing deliverance (affirmed through Jesus’s incredible resurrection life) gives all of us hope for God to work in the nonsense of this place we live in. We have NO HOPE (yeah, say it 87462874 times until it sinks in) apart from that deliverance– because nonsense is what we make of God when we limit Him with history, religion, politics, our lives, etc. Growing closer to God means shedding the concept that we know anything apart from Him, because let’s be real– we’re only fooling ourselves by thinking we’ve got a hold on things. The world makes no sense 99% of the time. It’s not a secret. But in relationship, nonsense is made clear through God’s characteristics and intricate nature, of which I don’t have the slightest idea of… even when I think I do.
The promise of Messiah is the only thing that gave the Israelites hope of deliverance from a pretty oppressed and murky history. And when nothing except that promise made sense, God still delivered according to what He promised His people. This Christmas season, I’m praying for an uprising of God’s people to embrace the promise He gives today through His Spirit–the promise of relationship, the promise of kingdom entrance NOW into the presence of Himself. And, I guess in a weird kind of way, the waiting game is one that we still have to participate in, although not passively. If we become livers of God’s presence, this world will look differently. And why not the Christmas season as a starting point? Let’s all be pawns of God’s deliverance by living out its ongoing nature through engaged relationship with Him.
Maybe I’m the most confused human on Earth. Maybe I’ve had entirely too much coffee (valid argument). Maybe I’m just a weirdo that really likes Airstreams and questioning the way things are. All are valid statements to make. But, across the board, I don’t feel like we’re doing the whole following Christ thing the way the apostles and disciples showed us in Scripture. I think it’s time we take a gypsy ride into the unknown of relationship with God. I’m down for pointing the Airstream straight into the arms of our Savior who invites us in as children. Forward on? I think yes. Because He dang delivered. And He hasn’t stopped. Our hope continues with His promises.