Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus

WARNING:
This post will be long, but if you take the time to read through it and let it soak into you, I believe it will be worth it.

When we celebrate the Christmas story, there is a reality deeper than the quaint images of sheep in a stable and swaddling clothes in a manger. It’s the reality of the incarnation – that God, the Creator, the infinitely eternal Dreamer of Genesis 1, freely chose to become one of His creation. The Creator created Himself into a fragile body of flesh, and in doing so He proved Himself worthy of the highest exaltation.

To catch the wonder of this, we have to back up…. waaaay up.

HIGH

.     “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…
.        when the morning stars sang together
.         and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
.     Or who shut in the sea with doors
.         when it burst out from the womb,
.     when I made clouds its garment
.         and thick darkness its swaddling band,
.     and prescribed limits for it
.         and set bars and doors,
.     and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
.         and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
.     Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
.         and caused the dawn to know its place…?
.     Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
.        or walked in the recesses of the deep?
.     Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
.         or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”
.                    Job 38:4-17

In Job 38, God puts Job’s life in perspective by giving him a glimpse of what it’s like to be GOD, the eternal, sovereign Creator. He remembers the day when He created the universe out of nothing. He controls all the forces of nature like a puppet master. He is sovereign over it all.

Low

Psalm 113 shows the first step in the humility of God:

.     “The LORD is high above all nations;
.         His glory is above the heavens.
.     Who is like the LORD our God,
.         Who is enthroned on high,
.     Who humbles Himself to behold
.         The things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
.                    Psalm 113:4-6 NASB

God has to humble Himself to even LOOK at the things He has created! The universe itself is so far beneath Him that it’s as if He has to bend over and squint to even see it.

But He does.

He bends down to look

.     at the universe…

.          at the Milky Way…

.               at our solar system…

.                    at Earth…

.                         at each nation…

.                              at each individual human heart.

The fact that He would even acknowledge your existence, the speck within a speck within a speck within a speck, is huge. It takes fathomless humility to even know your name.

Take three minutes and watch this video.

 

lower

Then came the incarnation. The Word made flesh. God not only looks at and interacts with Earth from His distant throne… He chose to step off His throne above the edge of the universe and become one of us.

Breakable, squishy, ugly-bags-of-mostly-water, time-locked, skin-locked, needy, temporary, finite little humanity.

In my opinion, no passage in Scripture captures this descent as well as Philippians 2:5-11.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8

It begins with Jesus in the form of God. In Greek, this word for “form” doesn’t mean appearance or shape. It means His very essence, His very nature. At His core, to His DNA, Jesus WAS God. He had equality with God; not that He was equivalent to God, but He was equal to God. From the beginning, Jesus = God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
John 1:1-3

Yet, He didn’t choose to grasp tightly onto His status as God. He willingly let go of His position and rights as God. In the NIV, “something to be grasped” is translated “something to be used to his own advantage”. He had every right to simply rest on His own divinity, but He chose to forsake His own rights and empty Himself.

So He was born in the likeness of men… in human form. He who was in the form of God took on human form. God-nature took on human-nature. Deity became humanity. The infinite became finite.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
John 1:14

This is a staggering descent. It’s literally immeasurable. If you or I became an ant, it would be a huge downgrade, but it would be theoretically possible to measure the differences between a human and an ant. God is so completely Other that it is impossible to measure just how different He is. For God to become human is an infinite descent.

In being born, Jesus had to first be in the womb of Mary for 9 months. GOD was once the size of a grapefruit… and an apple… and a paperclip… and microscopic. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the Son of God was conceived as a single cell.

God was once a single-celled organism. Fully God, fully human… microscopic in the womb of a young woman.

lower

Of course, the most powerful men on Earth started as only one cell. Jesus went lower even than that.

He took the form of a servant.

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”
Matthew 20:28

He could have come as a great human king, and even that would have been infinitely beneath Him! Instead, He chose to be born in the most humble of ways– to a poor couple from a disreputable town, largely uncelebrated in a stable, then worked as an unassuming carpenter until He was released into ministry… when He set the example by washing His disciples’ feet.

.     “For he grew up before him like a young plant,
.         and like a root out of dry ground;
.     he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
.         and no beauty that we should desire him.
.                   Isaiah 53:2

But then…

lowest.

He came lower still.

He became obedient to the point of death.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

The Author of life… died. More than that, He didn’t peacefully pass away quietly, but He was executed in the most gruesome form of torture ever devised.

The Author of life, clothed in light, who from the dawn of creation has had ceaseless adoration rising around His throne…

…died on a tree, naked, with blood and spit dripping down His body, with angry insults and blasphemies clamouring around Him.

.     He was despised and rejected by men,
.         a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
.     and as one from whom men hide their faces
.         he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
.     Surely he has borne our griefs
.         and carried our sorrows;
.     yet we esteemed him stricken,
.         smitten by God, and afflicted.
.                   Isaiah 53:3-4

Despised and rejected.

Despised by the ones He knew and loved so deeply.

Rejected by the very ones He came so infinitely low to rescue.

This is the crux of the incarnation. This is Jesus, the King of Glory, at His lowest.

The ultimate, deepest humility.

BUT.

H I G H E S T

Philippians 2 turns a sharp 180° on one word–

“THEREFORE.”

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

As quickly as Jesus came so low, He shoots up again to be “highly exalted”. There’s something unique about this exaltation, though. It’s not just the glory He had with the Father before the incarnation; this is exaltation as a human. This is the promise of His future exaltation as the Son of David, the prophesied Davidic King of the earth. One Day (capitalisation intended) He will be publicly and fully recognised as the sovereign authority of the planet, when He returns and establishes His Kingdom from Jerusalem.

Don’t miss this– the Davidic King has to be actually human. Jesus didn’t just temporarily put on a human costume and shed it when He ascended. He became permanently, irrevocably human forever. In heaven now, He has a glorified human body, similar to the glorified human bodies believers will have one day. When He sits on the throne in Jerusalem forever, He will do so as a human King: a literal, physical descendent of David.

What stunning humility.

To me, the most fascinating part of this Philippians 2 passage is in the THEREFORE. He is exalted because He was obedient to the point of death. His extravagant humility which led Him all the way to the cross is directly why He is worthy to rule as King.

This THEREFORE is all over Scripture.

.     “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
.         and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
.     because he poured out his soul to death
.         and was numbered with the transgressors…”
.                   Isaiah 53:12

.     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
.         and to open its seals,
.     for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God…”
.                   Revelation 5:9

He is worthy to open the scroll, release the plans of God, and rule the earth because He was slain.

Because of His great humility, He has proven His worthiness.

This is a King we can fully trust– the one who came so low for us. He has proven His love.

This is how we can trust that He won’t be a cruel or selfish or distant dictator. He has withstood every test and temptation. He has proven His love, humility, and commitment to us by His birth, life, and death. And God has vindicated and affirmed Him by His resurrection.

When we look at the baby in a manger, we can see the God who came so, so low to demonstrate His love by taking on flesh and dying on a tree, and the coming King who proved His trustworthiness to rule.

To me, that is breathtakingly beautiful.

God, You became a man
You took on flesh
You’re so beautiful

“One Found Worthy” by Justin Rizzo

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What I’m Praying: Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates

Continuing my semi-regular/whenever-I-get-around-to-it series on What I’m Praying: the past few weeks, I’ve been singing through Psalm 24:7-10. A couple of months ago I was praying this chapter from a different angle, focussing mostly on verse 1, “The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,” and the reign of the King of glory in supersession of the kings of the earth, in conjunction with Psalm 2:6’s proclamation “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” While I was singing that, a part of me kept getting distracted by this theme of opening the gates in Psalm 24:7-10.

Lift up your heads, O gates!

    And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?

    The Lord, strong and mighty,

    the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!

    And lift them up, O ancient doors,

    that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

    The Lord of hosts,

    he is the King of glory!
(Psalm 24:7-10)

One of my favourite things about studying the Bible is getting a little bit familiar with the whole story so when I read a passage, my brain can automatically fill in imagery from other passages and I get a bigger picture of what’s happening. So when I read this passage, I immediately think of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem when He returns to earth and comes to claim His throne.

I’m not going to cite all the references for this, but here’s the scenario in my head: Jesus has come in the clouds at the 7th trumpet and “raptured” the saints, then marched through the land setting captives free (mostly unsaved Jews who were being persecuted by the antichrist) and releasing the final bowl judgments of Revelation 15-16. (Isaiah 63:1-6, Revelation 19:11-16, Habakkuk 3:3-16) He comes to the eastern gate of Jerusalem with an army of resurrected saints behind Him, at which point the remaining Jewish leaders in Jerusalem actually recognise who He is and welcome Him in as King. That’s the moment that Psalm 24 finds us in.

So as I’ve been singing this in my sets, I’ve been meditating on the glory of Jesus as the conquering King, and also on the prophecy that Israel WILL welcome Him as King.

Jesus Himself prophesied that He would not return to Jerusalem until its leaders recognised and welcomed Him. Every time I read it, I can feel the yearning in Jesus’ heart for His people to know Him:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
(Matthew 23:37-39)

This same longing in Jesus’ heart is so clear also in Zechariah:

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.
(Zechariah 2:10-12)

That phrase “and you shall know” gets me every time. “At last, you’ll believe. At last, you’ll accept Me.”

Later, Zechariah prophesies of the repentance that will grip Israel when they see Jesus on that Day:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
(Zechariah 12:10)

That Day when Israel–and specifically Jerusalem, the Holy City, the City of the Great King– finally, FINALLY accepts Him as their own Messiah is so near and dear to Jesus’ heart. Every time I sing these verses I feel my heart get so tender and I end up just prophesying over Jerusalem and praying for them to recieve their Messiah.

Jerusalem, open up your gates, and welcome your King! Who is this King of glory? Who is this warrior coming up with bloodstained garments? He is YHWH, your Messiah, the Son of David. Welcome Him as a firstborn son. Weep over the wounds in His hands and feet. He’s here to establish His kingdom and fulfill every promise. Invite Him in.

Jesus, thank You for Your faithfulness to all of Your promises. Come quickly and establish Your kingdom from Jerusalem. Save Your people Israel. Let them know You. Even now, would You bring many Jewish people to repentance. Remove the veil from their hearts and let them see You as You are– their King, their Messiah, their God. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and do everything You want to do.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they [Israel] may be saved.
(Romans 10:1)

Rapid Fire Prayer Topic

At the end of every set, everyone in the room lines up at the mic to pray short “rapid fire” prayers on a certain topic, usually related to something happening within the ministry. Right now, our topic is:

For Revive Texas to get $290,000 to pay for all the volunteers’ meals during the 50 days of outreach.

Every day for 50 days, tens of thousands of believers across DFW are going to gather at ten host churches to get equipped and fellowship together, and from there they will go out to the streets to share the gospel. Revive Texas plans to feed everyone at these host locations every day, but they need financial breakthrough to make that happen. We’ve been praying that God would in a moment put it on someone’s heart to write a check for $290,000!

God, provide for Revive Texas. You’ve been so faithful to meet every need thus far– do it again! Break in and give us this $290,000 for the meals.

What I’m Reading: One King

Last week, I started a series called What I’m Praying. This week, I’m starting a series called What I’m Reading to share with you some of the things that have caught my attention in the past few weeks. Also, it will help me actually read more. I was a mad voracious reader growing up, and I’d love to fall back into that rhythm. Plus, I don’t have textbooks anymore, so if I want to continue filling my mind with quality writing, I have to go find it and make time to actually read it.

one-king

Right now, I’m reading One King by Samuel Whitefield. I’m only four chapters in, because I’m trying to really process the material and track with it in my own Bible.

One King addresses questions of God’s promises for the people of Israel, and shows how those promises are directly related to the current and historical controversies over Israel. It explores why Israel has been the centre of such controversy and violence for millenia, and how the Church is to relate to ethnic and national Israel today. Most importantly, it shows how Jesus alone can bring the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny, and He will do this in fullness at His second coming when He rules from Jerusalem as King forever.

As soon as I started seeing this book promoted online, I knew I had to read it. I bought it on my visit to Kansas City last month, but only this past week have I started seriously diving into it. Samuel Whitefield was one of my favourite instructors at IHOPU, and he has a deep understanding, both academically and practically, of issues related to Israel.

one-king-3-promises

Genesis 12: land, descendents, nations.

Right now, I’m almost finished with Part I of the book, which is titled “The Basis of the Gospel–Abraham’s Promise”. Understanding God’s Genesis 12 covenant with Abraham and its three components is foundational to understanding the big picture of the entire Gospel. These three key promises are thus:

“1) Abraham will have descendents who will become a righteous nation, 2) those descendants will permanantly inherit a land, and 3) the nations will receive blessing and salvation through the process.”
Samuel Whitefield, “One King,” p 12, emphasis mine

These three promises are geniusly interwoven in such a way that they can each be fully fulfilled only when ALL are fully fulfilled, and only Jesus can make that happen. Naturally, Satan reeeeally doesn’t want that to happen. And thus, the stage is set for the greatest drama ever known: the saga of world redemption through the story of a chosen people and their Messiah.

I’m super excited to read the rest of this book, and I’ll be sure to share an update on my thoughts after I have done so.

If you’re interested in studying more about Israel, check out One King on Samuel Whitefield’s website. I also highly suggest Parts I & II of the “Covenenant and Controversy” documentary series, which Samuel Whitefield contributed to. Both films are available to stream for free at covenantandcontrovery.com.