A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.
It’s hard to believe it is already the first week of Advent, but here we are. Most of the Protestant churches I know don’t use the common lectionary in their services, but it is nice sometimes to understand what the common lectionary is and its value to the church as a whole. We got away from it partly because of the desire to break all ties to the Catholic Church, but in doing so, we sometimes throw the baby out with the bath. One of the good things about the common lectionary is its attempt to walk through the entire Bible over a three year period using scriptures from the different sections of the Old Testament, Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles each week.
This year is Year B in the common lectionary and the scriptures for December 2nd came from Isaiah, Psalms, Mark, and 1 Corinthians. They fit with the Advent season and I’d like us to look at a couple of them today as we think about Advent as we look at the past and future as it concerns Jesus, the Christ.
Isaiah 64 says, “64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence--as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
Seven hundred years before God came to live with us, Isaiah prayed that God would open the heavens and come down to us. His words remind me of the experience the Israelites had at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses had them gather there to meet God. God invited them, but they were too afraid to climb the mountain and meet with him. Instead, they petitioned Moses to meet God in their place. They were afraid God would kill them if they ascended into the smoke and fire that covered the mountain. The Israelites in their fear lost an opportunity to meet with God one-on-one, despite his personal invitation to them.
Now Isaiah prays to have that relationship again, “...tear open the heavens and come down...make your name known to your adversaries...no one has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him…” Isaiah recognizes the difference between the God we serve and the gods others worship. You see, the pantheon of gods others worship demand service for themselves. They demand payment. They demand everything with nothing in return. But our God gives. He pours out his grace and mercy and love. Isaiah rightly proclaims that God works for those who wait for him. When we enter into a personal covenant with him, he fulfills his part of the covenant, often when we fail to meet our part.
God came and did incredible things for the Israelites and Isaiah acknowledges his sovereignty. But Isaiah also expected God to come again. And he did. God gave up his divine attributes for a time and became one of us, but without sin. He was born of a virgin, without the inherited seed of Adam’s legacy of sin. He gave up heaven to live among us for a time and show us his love for us. He became one of us to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He lived with us to understand our life and to banish all thought that he did not understand our plight. He does because he suffered what we suffer. He experienced what we experience. He was fully and completely man while he was fully and completely God.
God came down to be with us.
Isaiah looked to the past at God’s incredible work for those who dared to wait for him. He looked to the future anticipating God’s coming again in the form of man, the Christ, the Messiah, the Liberator. Then we see God, the Man speaking in Mark 13. 13:24 "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
The one Isaiah spoke of speaks. He came. He demonstrated God’s love in the flesh. Jesus, the Messiah lived among us and did things only God could do. His acts of healing, feeding, calming the storms, raising the dead were not the most incredible miracles, though. When he pronounced, “Your sins are forgiven,” and they were, those were the most incredible miracles that took place by his hand. Only God can forgive. Only he can make hearts pure. But Jesus did it. Jesus forgave, and it stuck!
In these verses in Mark, Jesus tells of the signs of his return. He knows his time for walking with feet of flesh through the sands of this earth are limited. He knows he will soon be crucified, buried, risen, and return to heaven’s throne room. He knows that at the Father’s call, judgment day will come and time will cease. Everyone will answer for their life and be call to account for their actions and beliefs. He knows, too, that he will return to take away those who believe in him for salvation will return to heaven with him one day.
When asked when all this will take place, Jesus gives the answer we read in Mark. He doesn’t know the exact day or time. But he knows the signs and the signs are all around us today. All we need to do is look at the headlines of the newspapers. All we need to do is read the latest tweet or facebook rant. All we need to do is watch CNN or Fox News. The signs are everywhere. Jesus is coming and it won’t be long. Can I predict how long? Now, but I believe it will be sooner than most people think and I believe many will be caught unprepared.
Paradise, California is a tragic story in the news today. Wildfires swept through and destroyed the town of 47,000 people. Hundreds lost their lives to the inferno that caught them. Understand that every loss of life is tragic. But I have supported enough humanitarian efforts across the globe to know that not all, but some of those who perished did so because they were not prepared to flee the raging fires. Some wanted to gather just a few more things. Some thought they could contain the blaze around their home or business. Some decided the fire would not be powerful enough to reach them. Some thought the construction of their home was such they were safe. They were unprepared for the inferno that took everything, including their lives.
The signs were all around them. The warnings blasted across every media imaginable. It took little intelligence to understand the danger they were in. But it’s the same with Jesus’ return. All the information is available. It doesn’t take much imagination or interpretation. You don’t need a PhD in theology to understand the signs of his coming. His words are really clear. He’s coming and he’s coming soon.
Advent. We look back at history and know a man named Jesus changed the world. The questions that determines my eternal destiny and yours are do you believe this man who changed the world is God incarnate? Is he the one who provides the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins? Do I believe in him for eternal life? Will I follow him and enjoy his legacy of peace and an eternity with him?
This Advent season, let those questions shape your Christmas. Make Jesus the reason you celebrate. Make relationships with him and others the focus of your efforts instead of the presents and decorations and feasts. Let Jesus guide your actions instead of the advertisements for the latest fads. Remember he is coming again and it is closer than you think.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.