Sunday, December 10, 2023

Mighty God, Outstretched Arm

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
- Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)

Today, on this second Sunday of Advent we light the candle of Jesus as our Mighty God.

When we hear the word Mighty, many images spring to mind. The word is equated with someone who is strong, victorious in battle, a warrior, a powerful ruler, a commanding presence, a hero.

When describing God’s might—both in present action and chronicled events--one Old Testament phrase is repeated over and over: “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (i.e. Deuteronomy 26:7-9).

The phrase connotes God’s sovereign participation the lives of His creation, along with His continual displays of power and strength. Sometimes God’s outstretched arm comes in judgement, other times it is in deliverance. Acknowledging this Might is a remembering of God’s justice and greatness, lovingkindness and provision.

If you read the Gospels, we can clearly see how grow-up Jesus displayed God’s power through miracles of physical healing, forgiving sins, transforming circumstances, teaching with authority, and raising the dead to life. But how do we get from a little baby to a Mighty God?

The Lord’s might was widely known throughout the lands of the Old Testament. Even those who worshiped their own gods knew that something was different about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was all about preserving His people, and had a reputation for saving Israel out of some seriously horrible situations. Furthermore, His motives seems to not depend of His people’s faithfulness.

From the time sin entered the Garden of Eden, God was setting into motion a Mighty plan to save His people. No one looking at the story from the outside could have expected the Mighty God of Israel to flip the definition of strength on its head by sending His son—and as a baby. Yet, that is what He did:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

And in doing so, Jesus showed the world that sacrifice was not a weak giving-in, but the most mighty act of all. As a member of the Trinity, Jesus contained within His being the Mighty power Israel was used to seeing from God the Father. But as a human (born as a baby), Jesus outstretched His arms to show that His “power was made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 12:9).

I don’t know about you, but I tend to resonate more with the superhero stories where the hero is relatable. I know they will understand the context of the issue needing to be overcome, and at the same time, I know they will have what it takes to get the job done.
Jesus not only understands the assignment, He alone is mighty to save.

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