urprise! It’s Christmas morning and here we are in Romans 8, the most surprising of all places. Advent has focused my thoughts on the birth of a Holy Baby, Jesus, the Son of God so it was a surprise to read these familiar words in a whole new way because of what “God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” — ?? Sinful flesh…us?? It took a beat for my heart to realize this IS just how far God went “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” In order to do that, God filled that Advent cradle with Himself “in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin” with the power to buy back our likeness to sin so we might “not walk according to the flesh.” There’s an old story of a European ruler who would sneak away and walk among his people incognito. It drove his security people nuts but his response was “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.”
God chose to begin His walk among us on that first Christmas morning disguised as an ordinary baby, living and growing up in ordinary ways…walking among us incognito…until in His perfect timing He could reveal the surprise likeness of God “in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Exodus 32:7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; RSV
It’s easy to see how obvious the idolatry of THOSE people is. How in the world could they miss that the golden calf looked just like the idol the Egyptians worshipped? These are the same people who’d repeatedly sworn to Moses that whatever God told them to do, they would do. These are the people who knew they were to serve God on this mountain. These are the people who were willing to settle for making the Glory of God into their own image.
Imagine the heartbreak Moses must have felt as he began his journey down the mountain after being told by the Lord “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” Therein lies the lesson of how waiting, suspicion and impatience can so easily become the sin that corrupts the mind first and then the heart. This golden calf was made from the willing offering of the people’s treasure. Their treasure was what they chose to worship as the god that brought them out of Egypt even though only one day before that idol hadn’t even existed.
The challenge of my mind and heart as a descendant of THOSE people, who’s inherited this sad and shameful moment as part of my history, is to find the thread that connects those truths to the truth of the Sovereign and Eternal Glory of God revealed in Jesus for believers today. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[as a sin offering] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8
“Fallen people are capable of great sacrifices,
but not out of love for God.”