muscular man's back

muscular man's back

Photo by WALID CHARAFI on Unsplash

What kind of leader do we need today?  A mighty man with a big mouth or a mild man with a bold VP? Ha! A full month after our election, we are still asking that question, even though no more uncounted ballots are popping up.

Actually, our need depends on what the future holds. One year ago, who would have predicted the COVID pandemic? If we had known, perhaps we would have prioritized wisdom as the number one qualification for office. The Wonderful Counselor from last week’s post would have been the perfect leader for 2020.

But if the coming year brings global conflict or the threat of world warfare, we would need someone who understands and competently wields power. A bold leader who rises to the challenge like Winston Churchill did in the early days of World War II. We long for a qualified leader in terrible times, someone we can trust with the power it will take.

The Conqueror, is how our preacher titled this week’s sermon. Let’s examine the particular leadership qualifications of such a person, as laid out in Isaiah’s prophecy:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

We need a Mighty One, to be our Champion (apparently that’s what the Hebrew word Gavor means). The Philistine giant Goliath earned the title Champion, due to his incomparable height and strength. But we need a Champion who is not only strong, but good.

Only God himself is qualified. El Gavor is his name.

Why We Need Him

You and I may not be comfortable with all this talk about fighting. It might sound a little too hawkish for our heavily armed nuclear age, when the next conflict could be our last. Maybe we don’t need him yet.

Actually, the first call for this Holy Warrior came in the earliest days of our humanity. No sooner had Adam and Eve turned rebel, than the promise was made of a deliverer. Listen to the aggressive terms of engagement between the serpent and this coming one:

The LORD God said to the serpent…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

The word “bruise” is also translated “crush.” I know what it’s like to use that kind of energy towards snakes or scorpions. It’s no time to try diplomacy or other peaceful solutions!

We need our Mighty God as we face the triple threat of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are deadly enemies that will take us down. We must not try to bargain with them. The preacher defined each one briefly:

  • the world–the collective agreement of the human race to oppose God (not the media or the “other” political party or the “culture wars”) (John 16:33)
  • the flesh–the “double agent” that lives inside us and weakens our internal defenses against sinful urges (Romans 6:22)
  • the devil–Satan who has a contract out on us, and stalks us like a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8; Hebrews 2:14-15)

Finally, we need our Mighty God against the final enemy that faces us all, against whom there is no defense: Death.

How He Qualifies

This is a pretty tall order. Who could possibly qualify? That very question is asked with great angst and fear in the book of Revelation.

John, the apostle, writes what he sees in the visions that were given him. He sees the One seated on the throne, holding a scroll that is sealed. He hears the voice of a mighty angel thundering this question: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Revelation 5:2b

And when no one is able, John begins to wail. But his despair is interrupted:

And one of the elders said to me,

“Weep no more;

behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,

so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Revelation 5:5

This is bona fide qualification–the real thing–not the kind of arrogant banter we expect from prize fighters to politicians. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is Jesus himself. But he didn’t first make his appearance as a Lion, but as a lamb.

How could a lamb possibly overcome these four dreadful enemies: not just the world, the flesh, and the devil, but death itself?

How He Conquered

Jesus didn’t come as Goliath, tall and loud and brandishing a sword so large no one else could lift it. He came as David, trusting God and carrying a slingshot.

He came in weakness, becoming as small as an ovum in Mary’s womb. Born in the usual bloody squalling way. Learning to crawl, toddle, babble and speak.

He came in poverty, born in a stable to a poor family, who had traveled for census, but could only find lodging in a stable. Who later dedicated him at the temple with the offering of the poor: two turtle doves.

He came in powerlessness, raised not in a noble’s home, but a carpenter’s. Learning and plying his trade in the obscure village of Nazareth.

He came in scandal, his untimely birth casting a shadow on Mary’s prenuptial virginity and Joseph’s foolishness in marrying her nonetheless.

In short, Jesus laid aside the Power of God in order to accomplish the Work of God. He had to be made like us, living the life we failed to live without divine help, and dying the death we deserved to die without divine rescue.

He conquered by his blood.

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How then are we to live in the victory Christ has won? Here’s how the preacher said it:

Because our King has conquered, we may face anything with a fearless and joyful confidence.

Indomitable–impossible to defeat–is the word we need. We might be weak. Poor. Powerless. Despised. But we are to stand firm in the triumph of Jesus, our Conquering King!

Happy Advent!