Riffs, doodles & odes

About God’s words & our words #3

Today I’m continuing a series of posts. About transitive verbs.

Last January, I began daydreaming about words – a strange habit, I know. But as my mind wandered and meandered, I noticed how many transitive verbs begin with the prefix en-: verbs like ‘enter’ and ‘enjoy’, even ‘ensconce’ and ‘enkindle’.

A verb-al series

Later, I realised how many of these transitive verbs describe how God works in the lives of his people. This was too good a discovery to ignore! So I scoured the dictionary for more beginning with en-. Altogether, I collected thirty transitive verbs. And this is another post in the series. (You can read the first post in the series HERE.)

Rather than break up the text with lots of Bible verses, I’ve highlighted words with links to Scripture so that you can keep me accountable. I do my best to use God’s Word correctly, but don’t just take my word for it. Check that I do!


Today’s transitive verb

Today’s post is brought to you by the transitive verb, enter. It’s the first of five verbs that reveal what God has done for the sake of his people, through his Son, Jesus.

Each of the five verbs expresses an essential element in the earthly history of Jesus – his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. So, it looks like I’ll be doing a mini-series within a series!

God’s dangerous presence

The Bible makes it clear that, in Jesus, God came to dwell with his people in a new way. In fact, it was radically different from Old Testament times. In those days, God’s awesome and glorious presence not only terrified people, it was also potentially deadly.

When God led the Israelite slave nation out of Pharaoh’s Egypt, he went with them. But they could neither look on him nor stand in his holy presence. So, he sent visual signs to reassure them: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Later, in the desert God manifested his presence on Mount Sinai through cloud and fire and smoke, more than once. And when Israel’s leader, Moses, asked for a heartening glimpse of his glory, God tucked him into the cleft of a rock before his glory passed by. It was the only way Moses would survive it.

Later still, God dwelt among the Israelites within the tabernacle, and much later again, within the temple in Jerusalem. Whether tabernacle or temple, Israel’s great God was enthroned (but invisible) between the golden cherubim atop the atonement cover of the ark of the covenant, within the inner room – the Most Holy Place.

Just once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place. No one else was permitted. Ever. And he would enter only after he had completed a series of elaborate purification rites. In particular, he was to burn incense in order to conceal the cover of the ark of the covenant with smoke – to protect him from death.

Enter – to come or go in, make an entrance, be admitted, penetrate or pierce, join, become involved in

So, imagine how difficult it was for the people of Israel to think of their holy and awesome God in any other way. And yet, in Jesus, God entered our world in a physical human form that people could touch, see and hear.

In an astounding reversal – and through a birth as miraculous as it was unfathomable – God the Son came to us in a tiny, naked baby’s body. Neither terrifying nor deadly. And yet, this infant was fully God* and fully human. (*His disciples did get glimpses of his terrifying God-ness: see Matt. 14:25-27; Matt. 17:1-8; Luke 8:22-25.)

From eternity, God planned to come and dwell with his people. He intended all along to enter this world in the flesh – in Jesus – to be with his people, and to bring them to himself. And so he joined us.

Quite an entrance

Given that Jesus’ birth was unprecedented and without parallel, it’s perhaps surprising that the four gospel accounts of it are so compressed. God the Son came and entered our world, but the gospel writers give us a collection of visions, news snippets and cameo appearances.

Even when we piece them all together, we don’t have all the details. Matthew’s account is short and sketchy. Luke’s is longer, but not exhaustive. John’s is poetic, mind-bending and brief, while Mark’s account gives us nothing at all.

Nonetheless, Matthew and Luke leave us in no doubt about this unique, never-to-be-repeated event. When Jesus came, he made quite an entrance.

Signs & angels aplenty

Matthew tells us that at Jesus’ birth a special star rose into the night sky – a remarkable phenomenon visible to stargazers in far-off lands. This singular star guided the Magi as they travelled from the east to seek out and worship the “king of the Jews”, whose birth it signified.

Matthew and Luke report a flurry of angelic activity, both before and after Jesus’ birth. First, the angel Gabriel visited an elderly priest, Zechariah, then a young virgin, Mary, to announce the impending arrival of God’s Messiah.

Another angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Mary’s faithful husband-to-be, Joseph. He told Joseph not to hesitate, but to make Mary his wife and welcome the son she carried, for he was from God.

Bringing great news
Photo by Pearl | Lightstock.com

Next, an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds minding their sheep out in the paddocks around Bethlehem. These men quaked in their sandals as he spoke, for the glory of the Lord radiated and shimmered around him. Somewhat optimistically, the angel told them not to be afraid. Too late!

Then the angel revealed that he had come to announce great news – the birth of a Saviour, God’s promised Messiah. He instructed the shepherds to go and search for him. Enter from stage left a great company of the heavenly host, who joined the angel in full voice, giving praise and glory to God.

I feel for those shepherds. It must have been so hard to process all that supernatural activity and dazzling glory with their finite human brains. No wonder they were terrified!

The humble, the outcast & the foreigner

It’s worth pausing here, to think about the kinds of people who first heard the news of Jesus’ birth. They weren’t important or impressive.

They were humble people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary. And they were outcasts – shepherds, who existed on the fringes of society. (The Jewish rabbis of the day regarded shepherds as a disreputable bunch, unfit even to bear witness in court.)

God’s angels did not go to the influential and powerful. Even King Herod was kept in the dark. Only the outcasts were told where and how to find God’s Messiah, wrapped up tight and lying in a feed trough.

And it was only a posse of foreign wise men who noticed the special star and reckoned that something momentous was going on. Like the shepherds, they became witnesses to Jesus’ birth. But it was only they who set out to follow the star, so that they might pay homage to the One whose star it was.

Entering our plight

And surely this is the point. Jesus pierced the divide created by sin between God and all people, to enter our plight – to join us in the mess of our broken, fallen humanity. He is God the Son, and yet he came among us to identify with ordinary sinners.

And as he put himself in our sandals, Jesus scrambled all our neat categories and filled our minds with questions. He came as Immanuel, ‘God with us’, and yet he was a man. He came as God’s long-promised anointed king – his Messiah – and yet he existed before the world began. In fact, he has always existed. Frankly, it’s astounding!

Glory & humility

So, is it any wonder then, that an army of angels and a radiant stellar sphere got in on the act when Jesus made his entrance? Weren’t lustrous messengers and miraculous lights just the thing to herald his coming? Even essential?

Jesus is truly God – eternal, immortal, all-powerful, glorious God. And yet, for our sakes he entered human existence humbly, in the form of a vulnerable baby, and made himself nothing. He made himself our servant.

He set aside his breathtaking and overwhelming glory, for us. And he did it while we were his enemies, while we were dead in our sins, lost and without hope. Jesus – God the Son – came without condition or reservation, to involve himself in our broken human lives and teach us the truth about God. To save us from sin and death.

Jesus entered our world to reconcile us to God, so that whoever trusts in him may enter the kingdom of heaven and enjoy eternal life with him. Praise God for this wonderful gift!

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

John 1:9-12

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