NOW IN FLESH APPEARING
By Tony Puentes
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14).
2000 years ago, Joseph and Mary held a baby in their arms. What did they see in that poor, little helpless form? As the world swirled in an almost violent chaos around them, as the population of the town of Bethlehem ballooned for the census, time must have seemed to have stood still. Gazing into eyes that could barely open, and when they did, they could only focus, we now know, only 8, 10 inches in front of his face. The hand, the fingers of which could not even grasp all the way around Joseph's smallest finger. A mouth, that could only make the most rudimentary expressions of physical need. Lungs taking only quick, shallow draughts of the air, filled with the particles and scents of a stable. What horse was made to surrender his space to this family's invasion? What cow, his trough to be the baby's bassinet? What frailty did they behold? This was, how did the angel put it, "Immanuel ... God with us"? "God with us?" The All-powerful, Omnipotent God of the universe, in a package weighing only 7-8 pounds? The One who now can hardly survive moment by moment without his mother's crucial attentions? This is the One whose gaze discerns the entire, vast universe? The One whose hand could grasp the world like a marble, and send it spinning with a flick of his thumb? The One whose mouth, needing no air whatsoever, by the sheer force of its expression, spoke the universe into the being? Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Here lay the Word of The Genesis. The word from which every creature ... suddenly occurred? And when a lifeless form lay on the earth, having just been scooped up from that very earth, the One draws from within Himself the Air of Life, blows into the nostrils of that inanimate form, and fills body with life, and imparts a soul to that life, this is "God with us?"
Our text says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Did Joseph see, realize he was holding the very Word of God? That is, that which was from all eternity? That he was holding the whole of Scripture, the Testament that was about to be called "Old", and that a "New" one was about to be written? That the New Covenant was nascent in his arms? Did Joseph fully plumb the meaning of the Word given to him by that angel, in that wild mysterious dream, that Word in a name, "'Jesus,' for He shall save His people from their sins?" That he held the all the commands of God? The threatenings of God, the wrath of God? The precious promises of God; "Remember the Word unto thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope." Ps. 119.49 That here in his arms lay the prophecies scattered up and down the Scriptures, prophecies realized, but more yet to come? What was going through Joseph's mind? What could have been his response to all these incomprehensible questions?
He must surely have realized that as much as he was entrusted to labor at his craft to provide the earthly necessities and comforts of this Word, that he must submit to this Word, even this very day; be guided by this Word, and live out this Word in his own life, given to him by the very One who lay in his arms.
That upon this very Word hangs mountains of profitable matter, mountains of heavenly matter. Much choice matter in just a small space. It was said of Caesar that he had greater care of his books than of his royal robes, for swimming through the waters to escape his enemies once, he carried his books in his hands above the waters, but lost his robes. But what are Caesar's books to God's Book, the little Book Joseph held in his arms, and what we hold in our hands even today? Surely the Word of the Lord is very precious and sweet to all those souls who make conscious effort of trembling at it, as Joseph must have at many points, and we also should tremble when we hold it. Martin Luther said he could not live in paradise without the Word, but with the Word he could live in hell itself. But, O, how joyous was Joseph to hold the very Word of God in his hands. How happy are we that are born in such a time where the Lord pours forth His Spirit, not as drips like the Old Testament, but as showers and torrents, a veritable deluge, of gifts and graces, in just a Word, the Words of light and life unto eternal bliss, the Word of Christ. The Word - the Christ.
Joseph cradled the Word against his own breast, and his belief transcended his flesh to place that Word into his heart. "I have kept thy Word in my heart..." Ps. 119.11 It concerns us to get this Word into our heart, that is presented to our eyes. Our hearts are never in so good a state, so safe a state, so sweet a state, so happy a state, so gospel a state as when we are in a trembling state, at the Word of God, now in flesh appeared, glory manifest, The will of God displayed. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
What mystery! The Word, has now in flesh appeared!
Who should tremble at such an awesome, fearsome, wonderful Word? May not also reprobates and devils tremble at the Word? Did not Belshazzar tremble at the handwriting? Did not Felix tremble at the Word preached by Paul? And is it not said that the devils believe and tremble?
They may tremble, but they do not tremble at the offense committed against the Holy Word, the Commandments of God as sincere believers do. "We have trespassed against our God, let us make a covenant with our God according to the counsel of my Lord of those that tremble at the commandments of God." Shecaniah in Ezra 10.3. The commandments revealing their sin, they tremble who before were hardened in their practice of marrying with the Canaanites; but we hear nothing, we find nothing of this in Belshazzar, or Felix, or the devils, they never mend their ways. But Paul trembles and cries out, "Lord, what will Thou have me do?" And the jailer trembles and cries out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The tax collector, "Lord be merciful to me the sinner!" David, "Against thee and thee only have I sinned!" The trembling of the wicked, though, drives them further and further from the Word of the Lord. Look at Pharaoh. Surely the plagues one after another kicked his heart to racing. Yet he would not heed the Word of God delivered by Moses. Saul who under his trembling runs to a witch, but gracious trembling draw the soul nearer and nearer to God as you see in Jehoshaphat who feared and set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. The godly tremble and mourn and tremble. Their trembling hearts are broken hearts, and their broken hearts are trembling hearts. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" by the very Word they would hold in their hands. They behold the Word in their hands and tremble! They look upon their sin and tremble and mourn. The wicked tremble, but under all their trembling their hearts are as dry and hard as rocks, harder than the very rocks, for even they can be made to break forth into praise, if we will not. Pharaoh trembled but yet was hardened, the devils tremble but yet are hardened. If one penitent, sorrow-engorged tear could purchase heaven, and it does if in truth and veracity, Hell cannot afford that tear. Repenting, trembling tears are precious. Gregory said they are the fat of the sacrifice; Basil, that they are the medicine of the soul; Bernard, they are the wine of angels. But these are only to be found among those precious souls who make conscious effort of trembling at God's Word, and who enjoy that choice tenderness of heart that is in this form held in Joseph's hands, now ours, and in our hearts as well. The tears of joy now come, and drip down upon that Word as costly fragrance broken from alabaster.
Hearts of wicked men only may tremble upon the account of some punishment, and the judgment to come. A criminal trembles before the judge under the sense of his doom, but a child of God trembles under the sense of God's goodness and kindness to him. "And shall fear the Lord because of His goodness." Hos. 3.7. Or as some sense it, they shall fear the Lord because of His goodness. The Hebrew is "they shall fear to the Lord," that is trembling they shall make haste to him, as frightened children to their mother's skirts. Look ... as holy trembling and gladness are consistent together, Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. (Ps. 2.11), and as a holy fear and joy are consistent together, you see in those women who went from Christ's tomb with fear and great joy, "they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. (Matt. 28.8). This seems strange composition of two contrary passions, but frequently found in the best hearts so a holy love and trembling are consistent together. A child whose heart is full of love to his father, when looks upon him as offended or grieved, he trembles; not unlike that poor woman in Mk. 5.33, But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. who, fearing that she had offended Christ in approaching Him, came trembling but yet with a heart full of love to Christ. So here when a child of God fixes one eye upon the holiness and justice of God, he trembles, and when at the same time he fixes his other eye upon the patience, the goodness, the graciousness and readiness of God to forgive as a father, he loves and joys; but now all the trembling of the wicked are from apprehensions of wrath to come and from a token of hell in their consciences on this side of hell.
The dew of heaven has richly fallen among many, and yet, like Gideon's fleece, they are dry when all the regions about them are wet. And is it not so with many in these days who sit under the gospel, dripping as it were, and who have the labors of many famous and faithful men of God put every day in their hands? And yet how are their souls like the barren sands of a desert, upon which falls neither dew or rain? This is and must be lamentable. If the books of the law chanced to fall upon the ground, the Jews' custom was to proclaim a fast in grief. O, friends, what cause have we to fast and mourn when we see the Word handled, preached, printed, offered, to fall upon the ground and to be trampled upon this day by atheists, liberals, cults, and the vainglorious, and even, horrors, the church!? The Jews had a law which enjoined them to take up any paper which they saw lying on the ground, lest the Word of God be written in the paper and ignorantly trodden under foot. Though we are free from such superstitious things, yet we ought to be very careful that the last tittle of the Word, the least truth revealed in the Word be trodden under foot either by ourselves or by others, considering its excellency and usefulness as a guide, a light to lead us through the wilderness of the world to the heavenly Canaan. "When thou goest it shall lead thee, when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee, when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." Prov. 6.23. That is, according to the rabbinical interpreters, when in your passage through this world, when you sleep it shall keep you, when you lie down in the grave and when you awake it shall talk with you, when you are awakened at the glorious resurrection.
This Word is recommended to three sorts of persons:
Our trembling at God's Word and a tender heart are two great and weighty points.
Two very noble and necessary points, which all should labor to know and understand who would be blessed here and happy hereafter,
Two seasonable and suitable points to the days and times we live, which abound with all sorts of sins and which are attended with the sorest of spiritual judgments, such as blindness, hardness, insensibleness, sickness.
Two important points that have singular other points wrapped up in the womb of them, and that are dependent upon them, ready to burst forth at the slightest provocation.
Two points that are not every day handled in the pulpit, nor sent unto the press.
O come let us adore Him, the Word, Christ the Lord