Leadership in the Ordinary

johnhowardmempegasusbridgeOn the D-Day landing and the taking of Pegasus Bridge, led by John Howard:

“There is an excellent museum and a bust commemorating John Howard, the leader of the assault on the bridge which captured its objective in just 30 minutes, with only one casualty (Lt Den Brotheridge). His memoirs are very interesting. His command unit, made up of three gliders, rehearsed the landing for almost a year. In the event, it all ran like clockwork and he had to do very little leading in the thick of it. But his testimony is that real leadership was in getting his troops ready, not necessarily in leading them over the top. Over the period of training they got bored, distracted and leadership meant keeping them going even when they didn’t feel like it and keeping fixed on the objective.

We tend to reduce leadership down to amazing moments of skill, courage and persuasion. But in fact, Leadership 101 is just as much – if not more – about the ordinary. It’s about keeping people going in the routine and ordinariness of life, with their eyes firmly fixed on the objective. We tend not to exalt such ordinary leaders as much as the gung-ho valiant warriors, but it’s every bit a part of leadership.”

Adrian Reynolds

Immanuel

wonderful“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:21)

On this final day before Christmas, Christmas Eve, I wanted to focus on what is one of the most important names, and one of my favorite names in Scripture, Immanuel. This name was given to Ahaz as an assurance of God’s presence, and it is an assurance of God’s presence for us as well.

God’s promise to be with his people, to be their God, is as old as Genesis, and will stretch to the end of time, as we will see in Revelation. In fact, this promise is at the heart of all that God wants to do, as we will see throughout the Bible.

God’s presence with his people began in the garden, when God had close fellowship with Adam and Eve. That fellowship was broken by sin, so God established a covenant with his people. The heart of covenant in Genesis 17 is that God would be our God, and we would be his people.

The promise of God’s presence continued in the instructions for the tabernacle, when God promised to dwell among his people (Ex. 29:45). God’s presence was one of the blessing of obedience in the giving of the law. “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12).

God’s people sinned against him greatly in the time of the prophets, so God withdrew his presence from his people, as illustrated in Ezekiel 11. Through the prophets, God looks forward to the future when his dwelling place will be restored among his people (Ezek. 37:27-28; Zech. 2:10).

Paul understood that through the Holy Spirit, God can now dwell with his church corporately, and in believers individually. He quotes Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 37 to communicate that God’s dwelling place is now with us personally. He dwells with every believer and the church in a close and intimate way.

The final goal will be our greatest joy – God’s dwelling with man! And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3). The coming of Jesus, Immanuel, assures us that God will fulfill his promise. Rejoice in God’s presence with you today, or ask him to be with you now, if you have never humbled yourself before God.

 

Jesus

wonderfulAnd behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:31)

The name Jesus was given to both parents, Joseph (Matt. 1:21) and Mary (Luke 1:31), by the angel of God, who took his instructions from God. The Father named the Son. The Father had a specific purpose in this name.

In both Matthew and Luke, we have instructions as to why the child was to be named Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel, the angel states to Joseph that Mary “will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Where did this name come from?

According to commentators, Jesus “is the oldest name containing the divine name Yahweh, and means ‘Yahweh is help’ or ‘Yahweh is salvation.’” You see this name pop up frequently in the Old Testament as Joshua, which is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus. This name is from God, and God assigned it to his son to signify that Jesus’ work will bring about salvation for his people. As Joshua was the type of the one who would lead his people from slavery to freedom, so Jesus is the fulfillment of that type.

We also need to consider what the angel states in Luke, which gives us a different perspective from Matthew. Luke tells us what the angel said in verses 32-33: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

The angel declares to Mary not what Jesus will accomplish, as he does to Joseph, but who Jesus is. He will be of the same nature as God the Father – his Son. He will reign over all, the ultimate and final heir to the throne of David. His reign will be the reign of God, because God can only reign forever. Jesus will in fact be God. Luke gives us a theological interpretation of the person of Christ, like Paul in Phil. 2:9.

The name Jesus not only describes what Jesus does in providing salvation, but also who he is and why he is able to provide salvation. Jesus is God himself, worthy of praise because he is able to accomplish salvation. As we approach Christmas in just two days, praise the name of Jesus for who he is and what he has accomplished!

Suffering Servant

wonderful“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Christmas usually is full of happy, joyous, sweet thoughts about a little baby born in a manger. It’s all goodness and light. Seldom do we think about the ugly side of Jesus’ coming to earth and the suffering he experienced. We don’t often hear about the slaughter of the innocent babies by Herod in Bethlehem. That’s because we don’t think about sin at Christmas, but that is why Jesus came to earth.

Isaiah gives us many prophecies concerning Jesus: Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor, the root of Jesse. Isaiah also gives us, particularly Isaiah 52:13-53:12, an image of a suffering servant. In these two chapters we see a picturesque retelling of Jesus’ suffering and its purpose.

Jesus didn’t come as an attractive person, like a celebrity today (53:2). In fact, when he came he was despised. People didn’t look up to him, they looked down at him (53:3). He knew grief and sorrow intimately, because he knew our sin, he bore our griefs. God put on him all of our sins (53:6).

He suffered greatly, but not for anything that he had done. He had done no violence, nor was any deceit found in his mouth (53:9). He lived a perfect, sinless life on this earth. Yet he was despised for it.

The most amazing part of Isaiah’s prophecy is that it was part of God’s plan to crush Jesus. God wanted his own son to suffer. This was in order to make an offering for our guilt, to make many righteous by his sacrifice for us (53:10-12). That should cause amazement and wonder in our hearts and minds. It certainly did in the one who wrote this Appalachian song. Consider these words and wonder yourself at what Jesus did for you and me!

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.

For poor on’ry people like you and like I…

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Root of Jesse

wonderful“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)

A couple years ago, our neighbor cut down the tree that stood between her driveway and our yard. It was one of those liquid amber trees that produces the meatball shaped seeds. The stump was left between our two yards, and it started to produce shoots from the stump and from the roots. I had to kill the shoots, because they were growing in my yard.

That is the picture that Isaiah has in mind as he writes this prophecy. God’s line of kings will be cut down like that tree, because of disobedience to what God requires. Things will turn from bad to worse for God’s people and their kings: “the time will come when all signs of life in the Davidic monarchy will have disappeared, like a tree cut to the stump, but there remains a secret vitality” (Alec Motyer).

Isaiah writes just that in 6:13: “And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump” (Isaiah 6:13). This will be a result of the sins of God’s people. Like Ahaz in chapter 7, God’s people will stop believing in God. But all hope will not be lost.

Someone will come from this stump. What is amazing is that it will not be a king like David, it will be another David. When a shoot comes from the stump of Jesse, from the family of Jesse, it must be another, better David. “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5).

David was a great king, but a greater David, Jesus, was prophesied to come later. God would cut down his tree, on purpose, for their sin. But in the chopping down of the tree, he had a plan to raise up another from the stump who would succeed where his people failed. The fruit that comes is you and I, when we trust in Jesus as King and Savior.

Lord

wonderful“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

The name Lord is spoken frequently in Christian and non-Christian circles. We say Praise the Lord. We have the Lord of the Rings, the Lord of the Flies, and Lord Voldemort, but do we really acknowledge and live out what it means that Jesus is Lord? How should the two verses above and the meaning of the title Lord cause us to worship Jesus better this Christmas?

A Lord by definition has power and authority. Consider Philippians 2:10 and what one commentator writes: “Wherever Jesus’ name (and character) has authority, he will be worshiped. Since he is authoritative everywhere, as the next phrase indicates, he will be worshiped everywhere.” Jesus is worshipped as Lord because he has conquered all and rules over all. He rules over every spiritual being in heaven, all human beings on earth, and dead persons under earth. Everywhere there is someone to rule, Jesus the Lord rules them.

Jesus rules because he has triumphed. Jesus was born a baby in order to live a sinless life, die a substitutionary death, be raised and ascend to heaven because he triumphed over sin and death. Now he sits at God the Father’s right hand, ruling and reigning. This triumph calls for our submission.

The language of Philippians 2:10-11 is that of triumph. The bending of the knee was a posture of submission, as was confessing Jesus Christ is Lord. The hymn, therefore, speaks to Jesus as the conqueror of all (see also 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). Everyone will one day acknowledge Jesus’ rightful position as Lord. Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10)? God calls for allegiance from our hearts and with our mouths, so worship him with heart and mouth today!