“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and he said:
‘Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant- and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human! What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.’” -2 Samuel 7:18-22
We live in an age where humanity is supreme. Science boasts of our power over nature; the arts display our unique creativity. Every day, news of new records, new inventions, new physical and intellectual feats proclaim mankind’s limitless potential for progress. We live in a modern-day Babel, where secular humanism has told us that we can do anything.
These deeply-ingrained beliefs are what keep humanity striving towards bigger and better. Yet they are also at the root of the frustration, disappointment, and nihilism that pervade Western culture. Our society is simultaneously obsessed with the pursuit of utopia and constantly let down by our inability to attain it. Deep down, we all know that something is wrong with the world as we know it— with the suffering, division, corruption, and dysfunction that stain our daily lives. And yet, we continue to uphold faith in humanity for a solution.
Throughout the Old Testament, David demonstrates a very different view of humanity. While he was king of God’s chosen people, David understood that to be human is not a state of greatness but a state of frailty. His prayer in 2 Samuel 7 is one of incredible humility, as he acknowledges that all of his success in leadership was because of God’s sovereign power on his behalf. He is reverent before the Lord, who has provided abundantly for David, “a mere human.”
In Psalm 16:1-2, David upholds his view of humanity’s insufficiency in light of God’s divinity: “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’”
I wonder what the world would look like if we all lived with this view of humanity— if we dropped any pretense of limitless potential or power and recognized our fragility instead. I’d wager that reconciliation and peace would abound. Generosity would overtake selfishness; love would replace hate. Why? Because in weakness, we are forced to look outside of ourselves for a solution to brokenness. In weakness, we are driven to dependence on Jehovah for all restoration.
The Nativity is a story of God’s provision for our brokenness. Amazingly, it tells of God— the One wholly outside of mankind’s fragility— entering into humanity and becoming like us. The incarnation is a paradox of utter Goodness and Power becoming frail flesh, and thus, Jesus is the perfect solution to the world’s deepest pains. His death and resurrection sealed all promises of restoration, and the Holy Spirit is at work building a Kingdom far greater than any Babel we could construct.
In Jesus, we see that the solution to earthly division and dysfunction is grace— the unmerited, free, and abundant favor of God. When we accept His free gift of salvation by believing in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, we are made right with God; when we extend this grace to those around us, we are made right with one another. The only barrier to grace— the reason the Gospel is so hard for the world to accept— is that it is premised on man’s inability to solve the world’s problems. To accept grace is to implicate oneself as part of the problem, to accept utter inadequacy before God and others.
As David proclaims in the passage above, there is so much freedom in accepting grace. Acknowledging our inherent frailty may sting at first, but it is a necessary precursor to receiving abundant life in Christ— life that is far better without the delusion of self-sufficiency. Relying on God’s sufficiency releases us from the endless cycles of false hope, disappointment, and disillusionment that come from elevating ourselves as the solution to the world’s issues.
While we must acknowledge our inability to fix our own brokenness, God’s grace has allowed humanity to become a part of His solution. For when we accept God’s grace, part of the abundant life that He offers is a call to participate in the building of His Kingdom. We cannot solve the world’s problems in and of ourselves, but God empowers us to take part in His divine solution by participating in the Great Commission. We may be mere humans, but in God’s grace we are humans equipped by His Spirit to do eternal work.
This Advent, may we be reminded of our inherent weakness, insufficiency, and inadequacy. May we acknowledge our humble status before God and rejoice at His grace— grace which led Him to enter into human frailty as an infant to save us from ourselves. Let us praise Him for being wholly outside of our brokenness and intimately familiar with our pains. Finally, let us thank Him for allowing us to take part in the restorative work of building His Kingdom.
Ana Yee ’21 is a junior in Kirkland House studying the History of Science.