Worth the Wait - Advent Readings and Devotion for December 4

           

           Mountains are important places in the narrative of salvation history. Sinai was the mountain where God‚Äôs people arrived soon after their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 19:1-2). God‚Äôs glory, like a cloud, covered the mountain (Exodus 19:9, 16-19). His Presence there illumined the face of Moses and struck fear into the hearts of the people (Exodus 34:29-30). From Sinai, God issued the law when Moses went up on the Mountain (Exodus 19:20). It was on the mountainside that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders had a feast with God (Exodus 24:11). God instituted the Sinai Covenant with the Children of Israel as they were encamped around the great mountain.


            Mount Moriah, later Mount Zion (Jerusalem), was the place where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It was also the very spot where David purchased a threshing floor as the place where God‚Äôs Temple would be built (2 Samuel 24:18-25, 2 Chronicles 3:1). Later, Solomon would complete God‚Äôs house on Zion. It was on a hill of Mount Zion that Jesus was crucified. Indeed, mountains play a major role in the Scriptures.

            In our readings for today, Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah will accomplish amazing things ‚Äúon this mountain‚Äù (Zion). In our Gospel reading, we find Jesus going up on a mountain, just like Moses. From the vantage point of Jesus‚Äô ministry to the great crowd of people, we can look back and see that what Isaiah proclaimed some eight centuries before was becoming a reality. As Jesus feeds the people beside the water, Psalm 23 also comes into view. In an instant the fog lifts and we can see it clearly. Jesus is the Shepherd who feeds us beside the quiet waters.

Isaiah 25:6-10

            On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine‚Äîthe best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that  covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people‚Äôs disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‚ÄúSurely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.‚Äù 10 The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain‚Ķ

Matthew 15:29-37

            Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‚ÄúI have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.‚Äù 33 His disciples answered, ‚ÄúWhere could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?‚Äù 34 ‚ÄúHow many loaves do you have?‚Äù Jesus asked. ‚ÄúSeven,‚Äù they replied, ‚Äúand a few small fish.‚Äù 35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Psalm 23:1-6


            The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name‚Äôs sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

            Isaiah predicted that on the mountain, the Messiah would feed the people with the best food and drink. Jesus went up on the mountain and fed the people miraculous, supernatural food! Thousands were served with seven loaves and a few fish. The Psalmist says that the Shepherd will ‚Äúprepare a table‚Äù.

            Isaiah prophesied that on that mountain, the Messiah would take away the shroud of death. From the beginning of creation, the wages of sin has been death. (Genesis 2:17). Sin is the inherited domain of every human being, for we were born into the curse of sin (Romans 5:15-17), and all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). The Promised One, on the mountain, would swallow up death forever and take away all sorrow and shame. On that same mountain, Jesus would carry a cross, and defeat death by His own death. The Psalmist declares that even though we traverse the valley death, we need not fear, for the Shepherd‚Äôs rod and staff bring comfort. Because of Jesus‚Äô sacrifice, the sheep can know God‚Äô Sabbath rest as they lie down in verdant grasslands alongside peaceful waters ‚Äì and their soul is refreshed.

 
            Isaiah foretells that the people will one day declare that this Promised One is their God. This trustworthy One will save them. He will bring about their salvation and the people will rejoice. Isaiah asserts that upon this mountain God‚Äôs hand will rest. In essence, the covenant established there will be kept by God as His perpetual Presence gives testimony. As Jesus feeds the people with seven loaves and a few small fish, seven baskets of leftovers are recovered. Seven is the number that symbolizes the covenant. The New Covenant established by Jesus would provide nourishment for His people in bounteous supply! In keeping with God‚Äôs generous culinary provisions, the psalmist tells us that his cup is overflowing!

            As the Psalmist concludes, He claims that he will dwell in the House of the Lord forever. But this temple where he will reside eternally is not on any earthly mountain. The writer of Hebrews declares, ‚Äúyou have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant‚Ķ‚Äù (Hebrews 12:22-24).  Revelation 19:9 tells us that, like on Sinai, and the mountain by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus fed the crowds, on the Heavenly Mount Zion there will also be a feast. ‚ÄúBlessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper‚Ķ‚Äù

             Given the amazing Scriptural events that transpire on mountains, there is no greater ‚Äúmountaintop‚Äù experience than arriving at the Heavenly Mount Zion! Our view will be incomparable. And the food will be Divine!

            

Anchor Baptist Church
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