An interesting biblical story in 2 Samuel features King David on centre stage. He is reflecting on how he has brought the Ark of the Covenant home, united the Hebrew tribes, eliminated local fiefdoms, and gained the respect of foreign rulers. As he is considering all his accomplishments he realizes that he should now do something appropriate for Yahweh (God) so David declares his intention to build him a house (temple).
Yahweh is ‘taken by surprise’ and tells David that he never asked for a house in the first place. And anyway, Yahweh reminds David, he is nothing like the other Gods. He doesn’t live in houses built by human hands because he is – you know, God – and he lives everywhere.
David doesn’t listen well to Yahweh’s logic so his single minded response is something like, Okay, then it’s agreed! I’ll build you the greatest temple in the world. You’re welcome!
Even though David doesn’t understand, God nevertheless takes time to explain a fuller plan. He will take this house idea to a whole new, eternal level by constructing a massive and figurative House in the future, rooted in David’s family. It’s a prediction about Jesus and the people of God.
David thanks God for his goodness but of course he doesn’t see that there is a long and unthinkable journey ahead. David can be forgiven for not seeing the whole plan because it was too large and employed peaceful weapons that did not make human sense.
Of course David isn’t alone. Even with hindsight we don’t comprehend how amazing the Story is either. Yahweh, the God of all things, elected to become like us. He even began the journey of life like we do by being pushed through a birth canal into the cold air of a manger, having his umbilical cord cut, and falling into the hands of sinful human beings.
Would I do it that way if I was God? Nuh-uh.
In the first place, I wouldn’t do it in the first place.
In the second place, I would make sure I had some guarantees. I’d want to be safe (with a good exit plan), comfortable (comfy transportation, delicious middle-eastern food), a marketing plan (so everyone would agree with me), and I would want to see some quick results.
In other words, I would have chosen the quickest, safest, easiest path but God chose a long, dangerous, difficult path. It seemed circuitous and insignificant but here we are now, left with a story and an example that is deeper and fuller than anything Brian could create.
In 1530 Martin Luther wrote the following in a sermon about the Nativity:
If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners.
Cool, eh? He came and lived like me, “…to be a comfort to me” so that, “Now I can come to him.”
It’s said that we live in a post-truth world. I don’t know if that is the case but at the same time it is obvious that our political and even religious leaders can live in a hazy culture of power-grabbing, immorality, selfishness, half-truths and lies. They can’t help but fix and break and fix and break again.
Wealth, politics, power don’t have the ability to make the world better or even to fulfill us. Look around – we are surrounded right now by a world proving the emptiness of those things.
Jesus’ life is a different example, showing that it is the circuitous, insignificant paths that influence the world for good. Humility, truth, purity, sacrifice, and love are all long range and quiet in their essence but in God’s wisdom, they are world-changing and me-changing ways.
Jesus’ life of ‘insignificance’ shows us how significant his way of living can be.
However they are also deadly ways – even Jesus was killed for living counter to how the world does business. In his trial before Pilate he brought to light two divergent kingdoms: one of lies, greed, aggression; the other of truth, sacrifice, and peace. The ‘principalities and powers’ misunderstand and hate those who don’t share their infatuations.
That might be discouraging for us at times but it’s still true that God has a circuitous plan to save the world.
And anyway, Jesus people don’t take our direction from those we see around us. Our example is Jesus, the Son of God, who began his insignificant journey by being born in a middle eastern manger.
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By the way …
Today is my older, smarter sister’s birthday! Turns out it happens on the same date every year. Anyway, happy birthday Sanny, and I was only kidding about the older and smarter part 🙂