Advent: A Prophet Greater than Jonah

Advent Reading: Jonah 4:2 (underlined below)

Promise Made | When God called Amos to prophesy that Assyria would come against Israel, He also called Jonah to preach revival in Assyria’s chief city, Nineveh [1]. Jonah – an Israelite – did not go easily. In fact, he jumped on a boat to flee. When his plans shipwrecked, however, he ended up in stormy waters and desperately cried to God for salvation – for although he knew that he was guilty, he also knew that God was a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love[2]. God answered by sending a fish to swallow him and, after three days in its belly, delivering him to preach in Nineveh – where the people repented and returned to God.

Promise Kept | About 700 years later, some leaders asked Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you” [3]. Jesus answered, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” [4]. In fulfillment, Jesus died on the cross, stayed in the grave for three days, and rose again to reign in heaven.

Promise Meant | A person can no more survive in the belly of a great fish than that they can live again after three days in the grave. Yet, this was the point – God would do the extraordinary on behalf of His people. God delivered Jonah when he prayed (although his own disobedience had put him in harm’s way) and He saved the Ninevites when they repented (although their own evil deeds had set them against Him). Today, when we cry to Him, we receive even greater mercy because we have the blood and resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate sign of God’s grace.

Prayer | Lord, No matter what we’ve done, you hear our cries we turn to you in repentance. Therefore, help us to live in your mercy and grace, as we throw off our guilty consciences that have been sprinkled by Christ’s blood [5]. Amen.

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What are the non-advent readings for today? Hosea 6-8.

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Footnotes

[1] See Amos 6:14; Jonah 1:1-2.  |  [2] Jonah 4:2 ESV  |  [3] Matt. 12:38 ESV  |
[4] Matt. 12:39-40 ESV  |  [5] See Heb. 10:19-39.

Advent – Preparing a People for the Lord

Advent Reading: John 3:30

Promise Made | As the Old Testament prophetic period was closing, God called Israel to anticipate His coming victory (“the day of the Lord”): “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” [1]. Thus, His judgment would be preceded by His mercy – preached by Elijah.

Promise Kept | Before the birth of John the Baptist, an angel said concerning him: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit … and he will go before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children … to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” [2]. Then, throughout his preaching and baptizing ministry, John recognized that some people would be tempted to think that he was the promised Messiah. Thus, he repeatedly said things like – “I am not the light”, “I am not the Christ”, “I am not the Prophet”, “I am not worthy to untie the shoes of the Messiah” [3]. Instead, as he explained, he was only the forerunner [4]. Therefore, when he met Jesus, he proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” [5].

Promise Meant | There remains a final fulfillment of the promise, however, because the final day of the Lord is yet to come [6]. Therefore, like John the Baptist, we are called to testify about the return of Christ. In the ways that we speak about him and represent ourselves to others, we must be faithful to the truth and say things like John said – “We are not the light; Christ alone is the light”, “We cannot save anyone; Christ alone can save.” In everything we do and say, we must point to him, not ourselves.

Prayer | Lord, Today, in your great mercy, you are calling all people to repent and turn their hearts to you. Yet, we confess that oftentimes we get too caught up in our daily affairs and, as a result, we forget that we are called to be a part of extending your present call of mercy to all people. Forgive us, therefore, and cause us to repeat the words of John: He must increase, but I must decrease[7]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mal. 4:4-6 ESV  |  [2] Luke 1:15-17 ESV  |  [3] See Jn. 1:8, 20, 21, 27 ESV (not exact quotations). Note: Although John also said that he was not Elijah, he meant in a real, physical sense – which is correct. Rather, as Luke mentioned, he came in the spirit and power of Elijah.  | [4] Jn. 3:28-30 ESV  |  [5] Jn. 1:29 ESV  |  [6] In Revelation, there are two witnesses that make one last call to repent and prepare for the coming, final judgment. One of these is almost certainly the final Elijah because he has “the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall,” just as the first Elijah did (Rev. 11:3-12).  |  [7] Jn. 3:30 ESV

Advent: A Prophet Greater than Moses

Advent Reading: Acts 3:17-22

Promise Made | While God was with Moses on Mount Sinai and inscribing the law on stone tablets for the benefit of His people, they were busy making idols. It had been less than two months since they had praised God for delivering them from Egypt: “Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” [1]. Yet, while Moses was with God, they grew impatient and followed Aaron’s call to worship: “These [idols] are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” [2]. When Moses came down, he witnessed their absurdity: “You have sinned a great sin” [3]. Knowing God’s mercy, he continued, “I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement” [4]. Then he begged God: “Forgive their sin – but if not, please blot me out” [5]. But God refused his offer. Instead, He spoke through Moses: “God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you” [6].  

Promise Kept | Jesus is that prophet. He is the ultimate mediator whose offer to be blotted out was accepted by God. As Peter preached, What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent, therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers’[7].

Promise Meant | Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses was a shadow; Jesus is the reality. Through Moses, God gave the law on tablets of stone; through Jesus, God gave the law on hearts of flesh in the Spirit. Moses met with God; Jesus is God. Moses offered his life; Jesus gave his life. Thus, “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses” [8]. He – not Moses – is the promised prophet.

Prayer | Lord, We are like the Israelites – we praise you and then, shortly thereafter, forget about you. Yet, today, as we prepare Christmas, we give you thanks for Jesus, whose life was blotted out so that we would not be. We repent, therefore, and embrace these times of refreshing in your presence. Amen.

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Footnotes[1] Ex. 15:11 ESV  |  [2] Ex. 32:4 ESV  |  [3] Ex. 32:30 ESV  |  [4] Ex. 32:30 ESV  |  [5] Ex. 32:31 ESV  |  [6] Deut. 18:15 ESV  |  [7] Acts 3:17-21 ESV  |  [8] Heb. 3:3 ESV

Advent – A King Who Chose Poverty

Advent Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2 (underlined below)

Promise Made | During the decline of Israel, the Lord called Isaiah to prophesy about the coming Messiah, saying, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [1].

Promise Kept | In his first public act of ministry, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and spoke those words from the scroll of Isaiah. Every eye was fixed on him. Then he said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [2]. In other words, “The time is fulfilled. I am the one being spoken of. My ministry is the arrival of the long-awaited kingdom of healing and salvation and freedom from oppression. God is now revealing himself as king to save and deliver and help like he never has before” [3].

Promise Meant | Yet, Jesus did not use mere words to proclaim good news to the poor and oppressed. He used his life. In heaven, the King of kings intentionally decided to come as a pauper, not a prince. Rather than choosing a wealthy family to be his own, he chose Mary and Joseph – a couple so poor that they could afford only a poor man’s sacrifice at the temple (pigeons in lieu of a lamb) [4]. Jesus did not embrace poverty and oppression, however, as a clever means to rationalize his otherwise undesirable circumstances; he embraced those values because they said something about his kingdom. His life was a testimony that God’s kingdom was not about money, power, status or celebrity; rather, it was about the riches of knowing God and the freedom of being found in Christ [5].

Prayer | Lord, In the incarnation, Jesus moved from immeasurable wealth to voluntary poverty and – ultimately – to absolute destitution on the cross [6]. And he did this for our salvation. Yet, we confess that we oftentimes seek comfort and ease without thinking too much about what our choices say about your kingdom. Forgive us and incline our hearts away from the riches of this world. Help us make different choices about how we live so that our lives – not just our words – testify to the riches of knowing you and the joy of being in your presence. Amen.

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FAQs
What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kings 18:1-8 + 2 Chron. 29:1-2 + 2 Kings 17:1-6
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Footnotes:  [1] Is. 61:1-2 ESV   |  [2] Lk. 4:18-19 ESV  |  [3] John Piper, “The Importance of the Kingdom Today.” 28 January 1990.  |  [4] See Luke 2:22-24 (Under the law, the regular sacrifice was a lamb. If a person could not afford a lamb, however, they could offer two turtledoves or two pigeons. See Leviticus 12:8). Mary and Joseph offered two turtledoves or pigeons.  |  [5] See Phil. 3.  |  [6] See 2 Cor. 8:9.

Advent – A King Riding on a Donkey

Advent Reading: Zech. 9:9 (underlined below)

Promise Made | As we have seen [1], God promised that the Messiah would come as a king in the line of David. Yet, Zechariah prophesied that he would not come on a stallion – as most kings did – rather, he would come on a donkey: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey [2].

Promise Kept | As Passover was approaching, Jesus sent two disciples to fetch a donkey: “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me” [3]. After His disciples found the animals, Jesus mounted them and rode into Jerusalem. As the crowd gathered around Him, they spread out their cloaks and palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [4]

Promise Meant | By coming on a donkey, not a stallion, Jesus showed us the joy of God’s kingdom. His people were to “rejoice greatly” because, under the reign of Jesus, His people would be happy since He would not be like other rulers they knew – Nero (aloof) or Caligula (cruel, extravagant, selfish and sexually perverse). Instead, when Jesus came, the people shouted hosannas, the slave girls prophesied, the blind received sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the lepers were cleansed, and the dead were raised to life. By riding on a donkey – an animal of peace, not war – Jesus ushered in the peace of the kingdom of God [5]. By his blood, Jesus brought peace between God and humanity and between Israel and the nations [6].

Prayer | Lord, You could have sent Jesus as a Machiavellian dictator – to be feared rather than loved. Instead, you humbly and peacefully came on a donkey, as a lamb led to the slaughter. Thank you for establishing your kingdom of joy and peace so that we could stand in your presence. Thank you for choosing love and humility as the very essence of your character and cause us to walk in the truth of who you are. Amen.

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FAQs

What is the non-advent reading for today? Is. 12:1-6 & Is. 17
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Footnotes
[1] 843 Acres, Advent: The Messiah Would Have a Particular Lineage (Part 2: A Throne). 3 Dec. 2010.  |  [2] Zechariah 9:9 ESV  |  [3] Matthew 21:2 ESV  |  [4] John 12:13  |  [5] See Zechariah 9:10  |  [6] See Ephesians 2:11-22, Colossians 1:15-23
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