From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Three, Day Two
A child was always at the heart of the biblical covenant. Already in the garden of Eden God promised that Eve's offspring would crush the head of the serpent, who beguiled her. Later God made a covenant with Abraham, promising that Sarah would bear him a child who would be the first of countless descendents. Then Isaiah spoke of a child who would be born of a virgin and be given the name "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." The New Testament tells of the fulfillment of that promise, and Jesus presents children as the model for his followers to emulate. The only way to enter the kingdom is with the humility and trust of little children.
Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:4 - 7
Praying the Name
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
In a loud voice she [Elizabeth] exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!" Luke 1:42
Praise God: For keeping his promise to his people.
Offer Thanks: That God's ways are so much higher than ours.
Confess: Your tendency to rely more on yourself than you do on God.
Ask God: For the grace to depend on him like children depend on their father and mother.
One of the reasons I find the gospel so convincing is that it's nothing I would have dreamed up. Think about it. God became human, a little baby who had to be fed, burped, and bathed. God allowed himself to get the flu, to be teased, to stub his toe like any other little kid. To be thought the illegitimate son of a teenage mother. To have for his main defense against an irate king a human father without an ounce of political pull. And that's just the beginning.
What if I had been God? Would I have devised an all-loving strategy to woo my people back to myself, developing a plan that would require weakness, humility, and dependency on the part of my child? I doubt it. My strategy would probably have involved more power than love because power seems less risky.
From a distance of two thousand years, it can be difficult to comprehend how shocking the incarnation was and still is. It's true that the Jewish people had been awaiting a child who would become Israel's deliverer, ushering in a golden age in which God's people would finally come out on top. No more oppression. No more bondage. Little wonder that every woman wanted to be that child's mother. But even in her wildest dreams, no Jewish woman would have thought that would have meant cradling God in her arms. God's gracious plan was beyond anything his people could have imagined.
The apostle Paul speaks of Christ's crucifixion as "the foolishness of God." But surely God's foolishness began when he allowed his Son to be born in a stable and laid in a manger. In fact, the life of Jesus was nothing but divine foolishness at work, trumping human wisdom and exposing it as folly.
Jesus puts it to his disciples like this: "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3 - 4). Like everything else he demanded of his disciples, Jesus lived the pattern before he asked it of them. But what does it mean to become like little children? Most children don't have much money. They don't have a lot of power. They often lack wisdom. And they aren't afraid to ask for help. Hasn't Jesus already made it plain? If you want to be big in God's kingdom, become small in this world. If you want to save your life, be willing to lose it.
Today, God is calling you to become like a little child, asking you to follow him with humility and trust. Decide to embrace his "foolishseeming" plan for your life, confident that his strength will be perfected through your weakness. Guard against self-reliance and self-promotion. Try to find ways to humble yourself, committing yourself to following Christ in childlike trust and obedience.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.