Worth the Wait - Advent Readings and Devotion for December 5
Thu, 12/05/2013 - 7:41am Dr. Carl Peters
Location, location, location‚Ä¶
Almost everyone searching for a place to build or buy a home has considered the location. In fact, the three fold evocation of this word underscores the overriding value of the ‚Äúwhere‚Äù factor. Is it close to work? Is it in a good school district? Is it in a good neighborhood? These questions, among others, are considered most often, and they are all based on location. In our readings for today, we see how the question of location applies to the building of our lives. As you study these passages, look for this theme.
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. 2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. 3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. 5 He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust. 6 Feet trample it down‚Äîthe feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.
In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the capitol city was Jerusalem. It was a strong city for many reasons. Great walls surrounded the city with secured gates. In a day when foreign invaders were always looming, having the security of walls, gates and guards cannot be minimized. But, what made Jerusalem strong was not the walls or warriors, but the favor, power and Presence of God. Verse one says that, ‚ÄúGod makes salvation its walls and ramparts.‚Äù Protection was afforded the righteous and faithful nation. Indeed, ‚Äúblessed is the nation whose God is the Lord‚Äù (Psalm 33:12). His peace was also known by those who entrusted themselves to the One who was their ‚Äúrefuge and strength‚Äù (Psalm 46:1).
The Psalmist implores the people to trust continually in the Lord because He is the everlasting Rock. Building on a high place, and upon a solid foundation was absolutely important for the longevity of a city. This is especially true when we realize that God is the ‚ÄúRock‚Äù! Notice how God responds to humankind. Those who are convinced of their own sufficiency ‚Äì He humbles. Like those building the tower of Babel discovered (Genesis 11:1-9), God does not tolerate anything less than dependence on Him ‚Äì to ‚Äúlean on the everlasting arms.‚Äù For the arrogant, and those convinced that they do not need to listen to God, their city will be decimated. The choice seems clear. Build on the Rock ‚Äì with righteousness and faithfulness. Or, build on self and one‚Äôs own righteousness and pride. Location, location, location‚Ä¶
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.
Furthering the exposition of this theme, the Psalmist admonishes the giving of thanks to the Lord for who He is (good), and what He offers (His enduring love). God‚Äôs unchanging character provides a dependable platform on which to place one‚Äôs trust. Humans are fickle and unfaithful and are not worthy of such trust. Given a choice, in whom should we invest our faith, hope and trust? Entering the gates of the righteous, associated with the gate of the Sanctuary, suggests close proximity to the Presence of God. Entering this gate leads one ever closer to God. The prerequisite for entering this gate is righteousness.
In the past, God has answered the prayer of the Psalmist. Remembering God‚Äôs saving acts on behalf of His people leads to thanksgiving and worship. God provides protection (refuge), and, has become salvation (redemption). Verses 25 and 26 are connections to the One who would indeed become the savior all men ‚Äì especially those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). On Palm Sunday, the people chanted verse 26, ‚ÄúBlessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord‚Ä¶‚Äù to Jesus as He moved toward the gates of Jerusalem. As the Light of the world moved into the Holy City He would indeed bring the Light of life into the dead and dark hearts of men.
In Christ, God was taking up residence with men. Moving from the Heavenly Jerusalem to the earthly one would have eternal significance for humanity. Jesus became the gate of the righteous. Paul wrote, ‚Äú‚Ä¶you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God‚Äîthat is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption(1 Corinthians 1:30). It is through Jesus and His righteousness, offered to us, that we have access to the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Holy of holies in the Heavenly temple. Our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Only Jesus‚Äô righteousness, given to us, will suffice. Clothed in His righteousness, we have access to the Father! Hebrews 10:19-22 states, ‚ÄúTherefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith‚Ä¶‚Äù Location, location, location‚Ä¶
Matthew 7:21, 24-27
21 ‚ÄúNot everyone who says to me, ‚ÄòLord, Lord,‚Äô will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 24 ‚ÄúTherefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.‚Äù
Jesus offers a stern warning for us. God‚Äôs Kingdom ‚Äì His great walled city of refuge and righteousness ‚Äì is not available to those who merely claim allegiance to the Lord. Only those who do the will of the Lord will enter the gates. And what is the will of the Lord? To trust in the Lord so as to be transformed by Him. In this, the hearer becomes the doer of the Word (James 1:22). Jesus returns to the theme of house building. Trusting Christ and receiving His righteousness is necessary for constructing your house on the Rock! Scripture teaches us that Jesus is the sure foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), the Corner Stone (Ephesians 2:20), and the source of Spiritual sustenance ‚Äì as the rock that issued forth water in the Exodus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Building on the Rock provides security, regardless of the severity of the storm. Sadly, those who hear but do not respond in obedience will build in vain. For the torrent will tear asunder their self-made shanty.
In 70 AD, the great city of Jerusalem, after failing to hear and do the will of God, was utterly destroyed, along with the Temple. Why? This was the Holy City of God. When Jesus had come some forty years earlier, He was rejected. They heard Jesus, but were not transformed by Him. They continued to build on the old foundation and not the Rock ‚Äì Jesus. Great was the fall of that city!
The question for us is clear. Where will we build? The most important consideration should be, ‚ÄúLocation, location, location‚Ä¶‚Äù