He could have kept a distance, withholding his immanence from the shepherd tending a flock. But, there he was: appearing in a fire that burned, yet did not consume its bushy host. God himself had come. And the shepherd, unable to behold such glory, hid his face while God continued,
“’I’ve seen the afflictions and heard the groaning of my people. I know their suffering andI have come down to deliver them out of Egyptian oppression and lead them into a broad land flowing with milk and honey.’”
He could have delivered the once-enslaved Israelites from afar. But, there he was: appearing each evening as a flaming fire and each day as a cloud to lead them into the land of promise. God himself had come.
He could have kept a distance, harboring resentment toward the false shepherds. For centuries Israel’s kings aligned with foreign powers. Her prophets promised vain things. Her priests profaned holy things. And, God called out,
“I will gather the remnant of my flock. I will bring them back to the fold. I will search for my sheep and will seek them out. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak. I myself will come.”
He could have delivered sin-enslaved humanity from afar. But, there he was: appearing via divine messenger to shepherds tending a flock. The shepherds were struck with fear, unable to behold such glory – a radiance previously seen only by priests, patriarchs, Adam, and Eve. The news was certainly good: God himself had come.
There he was, embodied in human form. There he was, living among the very ones he came to save, both Jew and Gentile. There he was, gathering the scattered sheep, binding their wounds and breaking their chains. There he was, beaten and bloodied and bolted to a splintery cross. There he was, risen, then ascended into the heavenlies. God himself had come.
He could keep a distance, sealing his new covenant from afar. But, here he is: indwelling us with his very own Spirit. God himself is come.
He could keep a distance, harboring resentment toward the false shepherds. For centuries pastors and preachers have advanced false gospels and abused congregants. Parishioners, lulled by culture or capitalism, have been carnal. But there he is, calling out “Behold, I am coming soon!”
Yes, Jesus, the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”…
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”
Verse references: Genesis 1-2; 15; Exodus 3; Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 34; Luke 2, 15; Revelation 20; “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” a hymn by Charles Wesley