In my corner of the world, people have unquestioning obedience to authority drilled into them from birth. Those like me, who ask too many questions, soon find themselves in trouble. In this society, monuments to the past are more valuable Continue reading
Pain is an inescapable element of human experience. From birth, when the blood of a father is curdled from the mother’s cries of pain, all Continue reading
How can the Holy Spirit be Divine and yet be content to work in obscurity? From hovering over the waters at creation to filling Bezalel with creative skill, He seems leery of the spotlight and instead, content to turn it on Jesus and the Father. It is because He spurns the fanfare and accolades associated with kingly power that we doubt His Divinity. How could we not doubt when the Bible is filled with odes to the Father and Jesus but only punctuated with terse references where the Holy Spirit is concerned?
Perhaps it is time we realised that our stampeding for the spotlight has less to do with effectiveness than it has to do with pride. Pride is always befuddled by humility and can only either belittle it or reject it as false. Yet the Holy Spirit challenges our belief that the essence of life lies in the spotlight. The Holy Spirit sends a portfolio and testimonials instead of a curriculum vitae because He seeks to attract by inspiring awe and not bedazzle us.
His apparent shyness is shared by the Father and Jesus too. Have you read the rousing hymns of praise sung about Jesus by the Father in Hebrews 1? Do you remember the glorious parables of the Father’s love breathed by Jesus in the gospels? They never tire of heaping praise on each other because of the love that swirls through the very core of their essence. God truly is love, not so much in an overbearing sentimental sense but in a commitment to serve others. True humility can never flourish in bashfulness because it can only thrive in a heart so confident that it sees no need to bask in the limelight.
Satan approached Jesus in the wilderness to tempt Him to prove His Divinity by grasping the limelight (turn stones into bread and jump from the temple) but Jesus chose to prove it by holding to a loving trust in the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father (He spoke of Him incessantly) and refused to steal the limelight from Him. It is this stubborn confidence in His relationship with the Father and the resultant contentment that gave strong evidence of Jesus’ identity.
The Father too, couldn’t restrain Himself from heaping praise on Jesus at His baptism but could restrain Himself from intervening on Calvary. As sinners jeered at Jesus on the cross, challenging Him to prove Himself by saving Himself, the Father didn’t distract them by attacking them. All eyes were to be on Jesus. Is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit doesn’t spend time attracting attention to Himself?
How different would our lives be if we proved ourselves not by claims or fanfare but by positive results? What strife we would avoid and how sweet our relationships would be, if we were so confident in our identities that we would be content to point attention to others.
Malachi’s book ends with a promise to send Elijah and four hundred years later, a man dressed like Elijah announces the arrival of the Kingdom of God to an Israel groaning under the iron weight of Rome. Surely, the appropriate response would be to arm themselves for war but this “Elijah” calls for a change of mind, namely, repentance. This surprise ought not be so because John the Baptist does little more than echo the cry of the prophets before Him: Repent!
Matthew points his audience to Isaiah 40, a poem calling for God’s people to prepare for the kingdom of God. God calls Jesus His Son just as He referred to Israel as His Son in the book that regales us with the tale of a nation forged by God – Exodus.Just as Israel went through the water into the wilderness, Jesus goes through the water into the wilderness. Satan, as usual, is on hand to tempt Him but Jesus rebuffs him, drawing lessons from texts dealing with Israel’s failures in the desert.
Jesus is a weird King. Instead of rescuing John the Baptist and reclaiming Jerusalem, He heads off to the despised North, preaching the same message as John: repent in preparation for the kingdom. While a king would be expected to recruit the cream of the Jews as his cabinet, Jesus recruits fishermen and reaches out to heathens.
Isaiah 40 explains his weirdness. The poem tells of a God with a perspective much wider than ours. While we are only interested in the Kingdom for our selfish reasons, God is building a Kingdom beyond our wildest dreams. God sees far more than we do and so cannot be confined to our expectations. The kingdom of heaven is here today and as it was in Matthew’s time, the key to joining it is a change of mind – Repent.