Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

December 14 2018
December 14 2018
By

During last Sunday’s message I asked if you found it odd to be going through the Book of Job during Advent.  After all, the speeches of God in Job 38-41 strongly emphasize divine transcendence—that the Lord, the Creator, is vastly “beyond us,” even shrouded in mystery.

God drives home the point that Job’s knowledge and abilities are miniscule compared with the magnificent reach of divine sovereignty.  He does this with a barrage of questions:  Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (38:4).  Can you send forth lightning bolts?  Can you number the clouds?  Do you give the horse his might?  Job, “Have you an arm like God, and can you thun­der with a voice like his?” (40:9).  In response, Job covers his mouth (40:4); he realizes he has spoken “words without knowledge” (38:2).  The picture we get is of a God who is far above and beyond us.

And yet, Christmas focuses on divine immanence—the fact that the Lord has come near:  “Immanuel, God with us” (Matt 1:23).  The incarnation is all about God getting “up close and personal” with us.  So to be looking at Job may seem very much “off topic” this season.

But if it feels that way to you, let me offer a caution:  don’t think of immanence and transcendence as being at odds with each other; the two are friends, best of friends!  And we mustn’t separate what God has joined together.  It would be a sloppy caricature to portray God as either transcendent or immanent, either beyond us or near to us.

Christmas is deeply wonderful precisely because God’s up-close-and-personal appearance in our lost world makes it possible for us to be accepted forever in the presence of His Holiness, full of joyful awe!  I’ll put it differently:  the incarnation is not about God denying his majesty in order to become lowly instead.  The whole idea of his condescension is to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and bring us home—so we can be accepted in his pure and radiant presence.

You see, God takes radical, self-humbling measures (Phil 2:6-8) to save us from our guilt due to sin (Matt 1:21) SO THAT we can have the joy of praising his transcendent-and-immanent excellence forever.  And that’s enough to make one sing:  Glory to God in the highest!


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