Advent and the Prophets

I have been studying the prophets this month which also happens to be the advent season. The season for Christians of waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. It is a season of hope and expectation that comes out of lament and distress. Lament and distress at the way things are in the world and in our hearts. But hope and expectation at the light which has come into the darkness. In studying the prophets during this season I have seen so many things that relate to the advent season. There is judgement upon wickedness and the hope of ultimate restoration. There is the lament of living in a broken world and the increasing darkness. And there are specific promises and prophecies fulfilled in the very details of the birth, life and death of Jesus. However if we are to understand all of these things we need to fit them within the overarching story of the advent season and of the prophets. Both are really telling the same story of a God unlike any other and his relentless love for a sinful people. 

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
— Micah 7:18–20

This story centers on the person of Jesus. The only way to understand this passage in Micah, and the overwhelming passages of God's judgement throughout the prophets upon his people and indeed the whole world because of their sinfulness is Jesus. Because in Jesus these two strands of judgement and salvation come together. They come together in the judgement of Jesus for the salvation of his people. How does God "tread our iniquities underfoot"?  “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Who is this he? According to the New Testament, this he is none other than Jesus. Coming upon a man who was confused by reading this passage, a member of the early church taught him its meaning. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

Jesus accomplishes this by bearing the wrath and anger of God against our sin, in our place. He did this by dying the death we should have died on the cross (Romans 3:21-26). This is free and available to anyone and everyone who is trusting in Jesus and him alone. Leaning not on their on goodness to have a right relationship with God, but leaning on Jesus and his death to have a right relationship with God. And because of this Jesus, our great rescuer, God has "cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19) never ever ever to see the light again. If you are trusting in Jesus, your sins, your transgressions against the Lord and his law, are gone forever. They will never be brought up from the depths to accuse you. 

Now, that is good news. That is news to awaken us from our deep sorrow and lament to great joy. But, thats not all.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
— Zephaniah 3:16–17

God has done all this in Jesus for his people so that he can be free to show his great delight in them. To rejoice over them with singing and shouts of gladness. Because of Jesus, dear Christian, you are not simply tolerated but passionately and exuberantly loved. You are rejoiced over as the object of his special love. Just as a child delights to run down the stairs on Christmas morning to see their presents, so our God runs in delight to see you. To love you.

If you are lamenting this advent season at the brokenness of our world and its injustices; lamenting at your own brokenness, sins and mistakes; and lamenting at what seems to be the silence of God in the midst of all these things, take courage and experience hope in the midst of your lament. Take courage and look away from the brokenness to the coming one who will right all wrongs. Take courage and lay aside your sin. Repent of it. Turn from it and run into the arms of Jesus who delights to take you in his arms and sing over you. Take courage and join me this advent season in reading the prophets and heeding their message by looking to Jesus, the rescuing one.