Summary: First in three-part series on Jesus, the Son
Jesus Son of David
It was a typical Sunday morning. We had finished the morning worship service and I was greeting those in attendance as they were leaving. At the end of the line was a mother with her young son in tow. Nothing out of the ordinary until she began to share a conversation she had with her son during the worship service – a conversation about me. A conversation that began with his asking the question, “Mommy, is that Jesus standing up there?” I smiled, patted him on the head, and said, “Well, bless his little heart. And tell me mom, what did you tell him?” She said, “I told him, “Yes honey, that’s Jesus.” “Oh No! No!” I replied. “Please don’t tell him that.” “Why not,” she replied, “Don’t you know that you’re the only Jesus he knows!”
And with that statement, at that moment in the early stages of my ministry, a little boy taught me a profound lesson about the human struggle of understanding the divine.
Although I shuttered at the thought of being a role model of the divine for anyone, the more I thought about it, the more his mother’s answer made sense.
As I have participated over the years in my own human struggle to understand the divine, it has occurred to me that the Biblical history of man’s relationship with God is in many ways a chronicle of the human struggle of understanding the divine.
And the specific events that make up the whole of that Biblical history are accounts of God’s attempts to convey his will to his people, and the struggles of his people trying to understand that will for their lives.
The human struggle of understanding the divine.
The same struggle that each of us face every day as we try to understand the will of God for our lives.
The same struggle we as a church face every day as we try to understand God’s will for ministry.
The scriptures call it discernment. The Old Testament Hebrew word for discernment means the ability to make the right choice. The New Testament Greek word means to examine and interpret.
Thus, discernment becomes the human struggle to examine and interpret God’s will in such a way that enables us to make the right choices in how we live our lives.
Just as the Biblical account bears witness to this human struggle of discernment, it also provides us with some insight into how the people of God have tried to do it.
And I would suggest to you today that the most common methodology employed by God’s people in their human struggle of understanding the divine is comparing the unknown to the known.
Finding and using common, understandable points of reference, with which we can compare the unknown to the known, as a means of helping us to examine and interpret God’s will for our lives.
In particular, the common practice of assigning names, descriptions, traits, or characteristics to the unknown of the divine, that has a known human counterpart – a real life comparison – a point of reference.
For instance, something as simple as a name became a connecting point for people living in the Old Testament era, in their struggle to understand the nature of God.
God was not just God. God was:
Jehovah – The Lord: The people of the time understood the concept of lord because it was a common title of power and authority – often the absolute power and authority one person had over others.
From that common image of God as Lord, there evolved the image of:
Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord, our provider.
The one with the power and authority to take care of them.
We see this reflected in the writings of the Psalms, in particular, our Psalm text for today.
O Lord, my provider, you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord, our shield.
The one with the power and authority to protect and defend.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord of peace:
The one with the power and authority to maintain order and stability. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
As the Old Testament drama of divine discernment journeys forward, we are introduced to the El names:
El Shaddi: The god of the mountains – God almighty – the I Am of the New Testament.
El Elyon: The exalted one – worthy of praise and worship.
El Olam: The god of eternity – Again an understanding of the nature of