The holy city had become a wilderness, Jerusalem but a desolation. The once holy and beautiful house of praise had been burned by fire. The pleasant places were in ruins (Isa. 64:10-11). And so the cry went up.
Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence–as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil–to make Your name known to Your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at Your presence!
(Isaiah 64:1-2 ESV)
Rend the heavens and come down!
They were looking for a big entrance. An epic arrival. Cue the trumpets! Array an angelic army! And, with guns blazing, rescue us O Lord!
Should God look down from heaven, His holy and beautiful habitation (63:15), and decide to intervene, the collective imagination was that it would happen with the skies being torn open, the mountains trembling, the sea fleeing as it had during Moses’ great deliverance. The waters might go red, the sun might grow dark, and God’s visible manifestation that He had left His throne to intervene in the affairs of man might again be seen in a pillar of fire by night and a tower of cloud by day. When God would come everybody would know, and the nations would tremble.
What wasn’t expected was that, while God would one day rend the heavens, His initial rescue mission would be birthed–literally–through the womb of a virgin. Far from splitting the skies, His entrance was, to say the least, understated. Other than an angelic announcement to some shepherds in a field at night, there were no mountains shaking, no waters churning, no heavens rending. Just a baby crying.
And as I sit back and chew afresh on how we’d expect God to enter our realm versus how He actually determined to visit His creation, awe is re-kindled.
Coming not as a warrior, but as a Good Shepherd. Brandishing not a sword to engage His enemies, but willing to bear a cross that our enemy, the devil, might be defeated. Targeting not physical chains of bondage with physical weapons of warfare, instead destroying the bondage of sin by offering Himself once for all as the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice for the debt of slavery we could never pay.
To be sure, there is coming a day when the heavens will be torn from top to bottom, and the glory will be manifest. That day when the Son of Man, the One called Faithful and True, on whom the name is written, “King of kings and Lord of lords,” will return in might and power (Rev. 19:11-16). When justice will rule the day and an accounting will be demanded.
In the mean time, the heavens stay intact (though we don’t know for how much longer) as His people carry the good news of His salvation to all who will receive it and believe it. The skies remain whole as His Spirit moves to rescue and redeem souls often imperceptibly. And heaven comes down as the kingdom is quietly established.
All by His amazing grace. Only for His everlasting glory.