Anticipating Advent: White as Snow

Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
from Isaiah 1

In Isaiah’s vision given by the Lord we are given a picture of Israel’s rebellion and corruption right from the beginning which brings God’s judgment, declaring that his people were like Sodom and Gomorrah.  All the sacrifices and religious ritual were empty practices.

Then God’s mercy is revealed. Lets talk about this , says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, if you are willing and obedient.

Scarlet is a very vibrant color.  As an artist, I very seldom use this color for that reason.
In Ohio, where I was born and raised, we had a great deal of fog.  Driving in the fog was very difficult.  One time I just followed the scarlet tail lights of a semi.  They were visible through the fog.  Israel’s sins were clearly visible to God through their attempt to fog God off with their pious practices.
God is a God of mercy and love and grace: I will make your sins as white as snow.  God didn’t reveal how this would happen until it is declared in the vision in Isaiah 53.  There we see one who is stricken by God, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.  The punishment that brought us the white snow of peace was upon him.
This vision is, of course, of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
~Pastor Jack Matheis

 

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Anticipating Advent: So None Can Boast

Micah 5:2 –

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Stories about people who lived at the time of Jesus’ birth have always fascinated me. One of the reasons I loved Max Lucado’s book God Came Near is because it starts with wondering about what a Bethlehem innkeeper may have said or thought the morning after Jesus was born in the stable. It always surprises me that such a momentous event as the birth of the long-promise Messiah was just … missed – missed by so many people who were right there.

For some reason, as soon as I was approached about the Advent writings for this year, the town of Bethlehem and the above prophecy about it were the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it’s because I know the verse notes that Bethlehem was so small. Maybe it’s because I have been feeling “small” and hang onto the fact that God uses “small” to do His work.

Probably, it was because I needed to read John Piper’s comments about why Jesus was born in Bethlehem:

“God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast, “He chose the comfort of my inn!” God chose a manger so that no wood worker could boast, “He chose the craftsmanship of my bed!” He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast, “The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice!” And he chose you and me, freely and unconditionally, to stop the mouth of all human boasting.”

It’s true that God honored Bethlehem by using it. It’s true that an insignificant town got to play a part in changing history. And it’s true that God chose that small, unimportant town not to make it “feel” important, but to show that His actions really were all about His MERCY. And it worked! Because of the way God worked this miracle, the people of Bethlehem not only didn’t claim fame, most of them missed the event altogether. None could boast.

And so it is with us. Any significance God chooses to work through us is His business for His glory. So that none can boast.

~Tricia Hitchcock

Changed Forever

The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

1 Corinthians 15:52- 55

 

As we sing through Handel’s Messiah each year, this piece above all others, gives me the shivers. The good shivers. I hear the piercing trumpet, and then the bass begins to sing the powerful words. We – the dead, the corrupt, the mortal, broken and sinful – will be changed.

 

I can identify with Isaiah, in chapter six, when he sees the Lord, high and exalted, being worshiped by the angels. His response is along the lines of, “Woe to me! I’m doomed! I am unclean, and I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” But with a coal from the altar, his guilt is removed and his sin atoned for.

 

He is changed.

 

I know the word “corruptible” in the verses speaks of our mortality, but doesn’t it also speak of our sinfulness? Our susceptibility to corruption from within and without? I feel it every day. Yet, comes the promise – We shall be changed. Transformed.

 

Yes, please.

~Julie Garrett