The Unsurprising Incarnation

I continue to be amazed by the humility of God in the storyline of Scripture. God persistently comes low to engage his creatures. His chosen vehicles of self-disclosure are always understandable and meaningful to humanity. Whether he is walking in the garden with Adam and Eve, wrestling with Jacob in human form, or having a conversation with Moses face to face, God’s revelatory activity is marked by condescension.

This is not surprising as humility is fundamental to the life of the Triune community. It is the warp and woof, the lifeblood, indeed, the cardinal principal that orders the life of God. God the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally humble in their engagement with one another. Every exchange among the three persons is executed with a posture of humility. God’s life is a dance of three persons striving to outdo one another in honor. When the Triune God engages the world we would expect to see the same thing, and we do.

The manner of revelatory activity in the Old Testament prepares the reader for a humble Christ. The larger canonical context leads us to read the incarnation as “normative” divine activity. In many ways, the incarnation is the logical next step in the Triune God’s self-disclosure. Don’t misunderstand me, the incarnation is astonishing and overwhelming. My point is that incarnation should not be considered “abnormal” activity for the humble Creator. It is consistent with who God is and how he has revealed himself throughout redemptive history.

The incarnation serves to reinforce and deepen our understanding of the humility of God. It serves as a link to all past revelation and yet is a clear and drastic move forward in God’s self-disclosure. God the Son permanently takes to himself humanity. The life of God can never be the same! The more God shows us himself the more overwhelmed we become by the depth of his humility.

The humility of the incarnation prepares the way for the humility of the cross. N.T. Wright captures the trajectory of the thought we have been tracing as he talks about the cross. God does not show us something new about himself, He simply continues to show us who He is.

“God became on the cross what God always was. I may have it in me, in ability and desire, to climb Mount Everest; but until I actually go into training and do it it remains latent. You may have it in you to be a brilliant concert pianist; but until you get down to practice and performance, all that brilliance remains latent. God always was the God of love—generous, spontaneous, free and cheerful self-giving love; but until God, if we dare put it like this, gets down to practice and performance, that love at its deepest level remains latent. On the cross God performs the score composed before the foundation of the world. On the cross God at last scales the highest peaks. It isn’t just that the cross reveals God’s love in its most striking way. It reveals it because it enacts it. It becomes part of, indeed the most central part of, the personal history of God…And now, to all eternity, the cross remains at the heart of God, stands as the truest symbol of God, offers the most exact and precise exposition of God.” [1]

[1] N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 56-57.

The Biblical Theme of Light

Light is a significant theme throughout Scripture. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation it communicates significant things about God, salvation, and his people. The following is a summary of some of the ways that light is talked about in the Bible.

The Themes of Light

1. God and Light

  • He is light (Ps 27:1, Is 60:19-20, Mic 7:8, 1 Jn 1:5, Rev 21:23, 22:5).
  • He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16, Job 38:19).
  • He cloaks himself in light (Ps 104:2).
  • His presence is light (Ps 36:9, Ps 90:8).
  • His face shines light (Ps 4:6, 44:3, 89:15, 118:27).
  • He is the Creator of light (Gen 1:3, Is 45:7, 2 Cor 4:6).
  • He is the Provider of light (Ps 18:28, 36:9, 43:3).   

2. Jesus and Light

  • He is the promised light (Is 9:2, Matt 4:16, Lk 2:32).
  • He is the Light of the World (Jn 1:5, 9, 3:19 8:12, 9:5, 1 Jn 2:8, Rev 21:23).
  • His presence radiates light (Matt 17:1-9, Acts 9:3, 22:6).
  • He gives light and life to men (Lk 1:79, Jn 1:4).

3. The People of God and Light

  • Israel was called to be a light to the nations (Is 42:6, 49:6, 60:3).
  • The church is the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16, Eph 5:8, Phil 2:15).
  • We are sons of light (Matt 16:8, Eph 5:8, 1 Thess 5:5).
  • We are the saints in light (Col 1:12).
  • We are called into his marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9).
  • We bear the fruit of light (Eph 5:9).
  • We wear the armor of light (Rom 13:12).
  • We carry the message of light (Acts 26:23, 2 Cor 4:4-6).

4. The Ways of God and Light

  • Light is equated with salvation (Ps 27:1, Is 60:1, Acts 26:18, 23).
  • Light is a synonym of truth (Ps. 43:3, 119:105, 130, 1 Jn 1:7).
  • Light is likened to righteousness (Ps 112:4, Ecc 2:13, Is 58:8, 10).
  • Light is equated with holiness (Is 5:20).
  • Light is used in reference to judgment (Is 10:17, Hos 6:5).

The Biblical Function of Light

  • Light provides guidance (Ps 119:105, Prov 4:18).
  • Light exposes evil and sin (Ps 90:8, Eph 5:13-14).
  • Light dispels darkness (Gen 1:3, Ps 18:28).
  • Light communicates safety (Ps 56:13, 1 Jn 1:7).
  • Light brings comfort (Ps 78:14, 139:12).
  • Light invites enjoyment (Eccl 11:7).
  • Light communicates things about God (James 1:17).
  • Light is used to describe salvation (2 Cor 4:4-6, Eph 5:13-14, 1 Jn 1:7).
  • Light is used as a garment (Rom 13:12, 2 Cor 11:14).

 The Biblical Storyline of Light

The Dawn and the Dusk

In the first two verses of Scripture we are introduced to the theme of darkness. In the third verse we are introduced to the theme of light. God conquers the darkness by commanding light into existence. This sets the stage for the entire storyline of Scripture. God is in the business of dispelling the darkness through his light. The light of creation, however, is much like the dusk for it is not long before the night wins the day.

The Dark Night

Though light wins the day at the beginning of creation it is not long before darkness starts making inroads on God’s new creation. Adam and Eve are invited to join with the dark one and walk in the ways of darkness. With their sin they plunge the world into a spiritual darkness. This battle of light and darkness carries through the entire redemptive story.

The God of light inserts himself again and again into this dark world to provide salvation to those will come into his light. He is the God of the burning bush (Ex 3:1-6), the provider of light when all has gone dark (Ex 10:23), the pillar of fire that lights the way (Ex 13:21, Neh 9:12, 19, Ps 78:14, 105:39). He is the God that shines his face upon his people in their wilderness wanderings, in their worship, and in their pain (Num 6:25, Ps 4:6, 44:3, 89:15, 118:27). He promised that one day he would eclipse the sun with his own brilliant light and bring an end to night forever (Is 9:2, 60:19-20).

 The New Morning

The Old Testament told of the day when the “sun of righteousness” would “rise with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). The bright star that the Magi followed signaled a new day. With the incarnation of Christ the light had come in ways never before imagined (Jn 3:19). The light of the world was living among men. His every word and deed was like a sun beam on this dark soil. Good Friday was the darkest and yet brightest of days. Here the light of the world blinded humanity with his sacrificial love and generosity. The brilliance of this light was only magnified on the third day when he ravaged death and walked out of the tomb.

After his exaltation he welcomed all men to know fellowship in his light (1 Jn 1:1-9). He transformed people of darkness into people of light (Eph 5:13-14). This new community was called to be mediators of his light to the rest of the world (Matt 5:14-16). The true light promised he would return once again and that his coming would be the final demise of darkness. When he comes there will be no more night. He will reside with his people, retire the sun, and be our light for eternity (Rev 21:23, 22:5).