Worth the Wait: Advent Scriptures and Devotion for December 7
Fri, 12/06/2013 - 10:37pm Dr. Carl Peters
Our preparations continue with good news to those who under God‚Äôs righteous judgment for their infidelity to Him. Isaiah‚Äôs prophecies bring into focus the destruction of Jerusalem, the demolishing of the Temple and the dispersion of the people. In 586 BC, the Babylonians would indeed destroy the Holy City. Defeated, humiliated and carried off into foreign lands, God‚Äôs people would long for God to send the Promised One to deliver them from their bondage. In that day, they would return to and rebuild Jerusalem. Just as Isaiah predicted their predicament, in turn, He also speaks of their restoration‚Ä¶
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‚ÄúThis is the way, walk in it,‚Äù when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, 24 and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25 And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.
Imagine the pain of losing a war, seeing your homeland decimated, and being dragged back to your victorious enemies‚Äô country where you will dwell under severe oppression. Psalm 137 reveals the depth of sorrow experienced by those retained in Babylon. By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, ‚ÄúSing us one of the songs of Zion!‚Äù 4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?‚Äù God‚Äôs people longed to go home.
In our reading for today, Isaiah prophecies that these devastating days of dispersion will conclude. God will hear the sorrowful songs and the pained prayers of His people. Once again, Isaiah declares, a remnant will dwell in Jerusalem. The ‚ÄúTeacher‚Äù will come and show you the ‚ÄúWay‚Äù. The wasteland will become fruitful again. The nights will be like day, and the days will be brilliant, even seven times brighter than before. In effect, what was dead will come back to life. In that day, the day of the Lord, wounds will be healed and brokenness will be repaired. God‚Äôs judgments will conclude with restoration and healing.
Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. 2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.6 The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.
Songs of praise are an appropriate response for those who are returning to Jerusalem. God‚Äôs deliverance has come as He gathers the remnant of Israel. God‚Äôs omnipotent and powerful hand is like that of a gifted physician. He salves the sore places, binding up the wounds and healing hearts torn asunder as a result of unfaithfulness and sin. God‚Äôs grace is given as he lifts up the repentant and humble. Those who stand in defiance, however, He will bury in their depths of their own depravity.
Matthew 9:35‚Äì10:1, 5-8
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‚ÄúThe harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.‚Äù 1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, ‚ÄúGo nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‚ÄòThe kingdom of heaven is at hand.‚Äô 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
Isaiah prophesied that the ‚ÄúTeacher‚Äù would come at the time that the Kingdom would be restored. It is no coincidence that Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages ‚Äúteaching‚Äù them. Isaiah spoke of the healing that would come in the day of the Lord. Again, there is no serendipitous happenstance that Jesus, the ‚ÄúTeacher,‚Äù arrives ‚Äúhealing every disease and every affliction‚Äù! Isaiah spoke of the barren land becoming fertile again. Jesus says, ‚ÄúThe harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.‚Äù Jesus commends His followers to pray that God will send out laborers to gather in the harvest. But, Jesus is not speaking about agriculture. He is speaking of harvesting souls. Isaiah spoke of the restoration of Israel ‚Äì a reuniting of the twelve tribes. Jesus calls unto Himself twelve disciples and sends them out to bring healing to the ‚Äúlost house of Israel.‚Äù The message they were to proclaim coincided with Isaiah‚Äôs prophecy ‚Äì only greater. The Kingdom they were to proclaim was the Kingdom of Heaven.
Just as Isaiah spoke to those weeping under the righteous judgment of God, He may as well have been speaking to all of humanity. Romans 3:23 declares that, ‚Äú‚Ä¶all have sinned and fallen short of God‚Äôs glory.‚Äù Paul went on to write in Romans 6:23, ‚Äúthe wages of sin is death‚Ä¶.‚Äù We have all gone into the foreign country ‚Äì a dispersion of our own making. We desperately need to hear the ‚ÄúTeacher‚Äù who will not just tell us the way to healing and restoration, He will lead us ‚Äì for He is the Way (John 14:6).
Mark 10:17 records a man coming to Jesus asking exactly the right question. ‚ÄúTeacher, what must I do to have eternal life?‚Äù In Jesus, the Teacher had come. In the twelve disciples we see the remnant of Israel being reconstituted. And because of the Passion of Jesus ‚Äì healing and restoration are made possible.
Prayer ‚Äì Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son ‚Äì the Teacher ‚Äì to us. May we listen to His instruction and follow His example. For He is the Way that leads to eternal life, healing and renewal. May we offer you our songs of praise, for you are most worthy. Amen.