August 5, 2015

God does what He says He will do

Isaiah 9:1–10:19, Luke 3:1–38, Job 3:1–16

Cities and even entire countries have prepared for the visit of a dignitary or head of state only to have the visit cancelled at the last minute. On a smaller scale, I’ve prepared for a relative or friend to stay in my home only to be disappointed when their plans changed and they didn’t come.

Today’s reading is about God announced a visit. He uses a prophet to announce that He Himself will come to earth in human flesh. Through Isaiah the prophet, God said . . .

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7)

This should have produced nation-wide preparations. God’s people should have been excitedly cleaning their homes and hearts, exploring ideas about peace and righteousness, and looking for signs of His coming. A few did, but even as this was announced, Isaiah also wrote of the rampant sin in their lives. He also told them several times how patient God was with them . . .

“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 10:1–4) God was patient, but they didn’t prepare.

Finally when the time was ready, Luke remembered God’s words to Isaiah. He said, “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”’ ” (Luke 3:4–6)

The announcement had been made many centuries earlier, even back in Eden, as well as six hundred years ago in Isaiah and by the other prophets. David’s psalms also continually refer to the greater King who would come. However, by the time He arrived, they still had not prepared. Most of them totally missed it.

They missed it again when God proclaimed it at His baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21–22) They were blind, unprepared, and oblivious.

Then there is Job. We are so much like this man. He was struck down physically and had lost almost everything. This seems to justify his complaint: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night—let thick darkness seize it! Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it.” (Job 3:2–7)

His complaints were not groundless, yet who has not made a similar groaning over much less loss. So often we gripe over loss of comfort or prosperity and miss the good God is doing. We become taken up with this life and its treasures, missing the good news about the greatest treasure. It is proclaimed but unheard. It is heard, but unheeded. God said it would happen and they did not believe Him. Are we any better?

I ignored Jesus for the first thirty years of my life, turning a deaf ear to the gospel as I muddled through the Bible looking for the keys to peace and joy. Only by the grace of God were my eyes opened to the reality of His persistent love; in all this His anger was not turned away and His hand was stretched out still. His Holy Spirit granted understanding of who He is and why He came; that all flesh might see the salvation of God.

Instead of regretting the day I was born like Job did, or instead of constantly counting my losses, this Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace became those things to me. Because of Him, my lips can utter a joyful cry!
Not only that, He said He will come again. He has proven His promised so I can eagerly prepare for the day He returns!

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