Worth the Wait: Advent Scriptures and Devotion for December 12

            As we move to day 12 of our preparations, we are confronted with some interesting questions. In a world that holds to no absolute truth, how do we know what is true? From what source do we learn absolute truth? Does what we believe to be true really make a difference in our lives? Our Scriptural focus will answer these questions and more.

Psalm 1:1-6

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who mediates on his law day and night.  3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither‚Äîwhatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
            Psalm 1:1-2 confronts our questions head on. To be ‚Äúblessed‚Äù of God means more than a superficial happiness. This adjective indicates that God‚Äôs favor and grace are upon the one who is ‚Äúblessed.‚Äù This is directly related to the covenant relationship offered by God to humankind. Through the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 22:17-18), God would offer His ‚Äúblessing‚Äù to all nations. Covenants, as we have discussed, create a family relationship. After the fall of man, God‚Äôs prescription for a restored relationship with Him was through a series of covenants. Covenants have two components ‚Äì the Word of the covenant (the covenant expectations), and the Sign of the covenant (the ratifying sacrifice of communal meal). Keeping the Word of the covenant brought blessings. Failure to keep the Word or expectations of the covenant brought ‚Äúcurses‚Äù (Deuteronomy 11:26). In the context of Psalm 1, the ‚Äúblessed‚Äù individual avoids the council of the wicked (unfaithfulness), and dedicates Himself to keeping the Law of God, that is, the Word of the covenant. Notice the regression involved in living unfaithfully. Walkingin the way of the wicked degrades into standingwith sinners, which devolves completely into sitting with the mockers. This is a dreadful position of opposition to the righteous! Those who wish to be faithful to the Word of the Covenant must understand the expectations of it. Psalm 1:2 tells us this is accomplished by taking delight in continually meditating on the Law (Word of the Covenant) of God.

            Psalm 1:3-6 reveals the result of living faithfully (blessings), and unfaithfully (curses). The person who is right with God (righteous), has a constant source of life (John 15:4). Like a tree near the stream, he or she derives spiritual life from faithfulness to the covenant relationship. What results from this close proximity to the source of life? The one bound to the truth of God‚Äôs Word prospers in all that he does. His leaf does not wither, and in due season he will bear fruit.

            To the contrary, the unfaithful one will be blown away as chaff. Chaff is the useless leftover after the good grain has been extracted (John 15:1-2). Those found outside the covenant relationship with God will fall away in the judgment and not be found in the assembly of the righteous (Revelation 5:13-14).

            According to Psalm 1, what we believe to be the truth, and what animates our actions makes all the difference! God‚Äôs Word is the source of truth (John 14:6). And whether we live ‚Äúin the Word‚Äù or not is a matter of eternal life and death!

Isaiah 48:17-19

            This is what the Lord says‚Äîyour Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‚ÄúI am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.‚Äù

            Isaiah 48:17-19 gives us some historical perspective to work with in dealing with our questions. Verse 17 spells out unambiguously who is the source of Truth. The Lord, the Holy One, the Redeemer of Israel, the Lord God is the one who teaches the Truth and directs the actions of His people. And it should be no surprise that learning and following these truths will be in our best interest! Pertaining to this, John 3:2 is revealing. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus at night. Frankly, he was in the dark, searching for the Truth. He came to Jesus, who we learn in John 1:4, 9 and 8:12 is the, ‚Äúlight of the world.‚Äù And in John 14:6 we discover that He is the, ‚ÄúTruth.‚Äù Nicodemus describes Jesus in a fascinating way relating directly to Isaiah 48. He says, ‚ÄúRabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.‚Äù Clearly, it is Jesus who is the Lord, the Holy One (Mark 1:24), the Redeemer (Romans 3:24), and the Lord God (John 20:28). It is Jesus who teaches us the Truth because He is the embodiment of the Truth. It is Jesus who directs us in the way we should go, because He is the ‚ÄúWay‚Äù (John 14:6)! And it should not be missed that Jesus has credibility unknown to any other man, for only Jesus lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15). He speaks from the perspective of perfection. His outlook is not only from a godly worldview, but from a view of the world known only to God! He speaks credibly and with authority, because He is from God and He is God (John 1:1, 18).

            Verse 18 and 19 suggests that a historical review is in order. The ‚ÄúIf only‚Äù statement here demonstrates the failure of God‚Äôs people to learn God‚Äôs commands and follow the Truth. A quick perusal of Israel‚Äôs history reveals a plethora of examples when their unfaithfulness led to God‚Äôs curse falling on them. From the ‚ÄúGolden Calf‚Äù to the ‚ÄúGiants in the Land‚Äù to the temple being destroyed twice, God‚Äôs judgment is sure on those who do not keep the Word of the covenant. As we saw earlier, living out the Truth brings blessings. Denying the truth and living unfaithfully results in disaster. ‚ÄúIf only‚Äù they had followed the teaching of the Lord and lived out His Truth, then they would have known peace, prosperity and their children would have persevered in the covenant. Harkening back to the covenant with Abraham, their progeny would have been as numerous as the sand. Sadly, as the people of God disregarded the Word of God, they received God‚Äôs curse and deferred God‚Äôs blessing!

            Isaiah 48:17-19 answers our questions very clearly. The Lord Jesus is the teacher of the Truth for He is the Truth, and learning and living this Truth will lead to peace, well-being and children who are ‚Äúblessed‚Äù (Refer to Psalm 1:1).

Matthew 11:16-19

            ‚ÄúTo what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17 ‚Äú‚ÄòWe played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.‚Äô 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‚ÄòHe has a demon.‚Äô 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‚ÄòHere is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.‚Äô But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.‚Äù

            Our Gospel Reading from Matthew 11:16-19 provides a striking parallel with the world today. Jesus comes up with an analogy to describe the current generation. He characterizes them as little children who are bickering back and forth. No matter what some people believe or want to do, others will not go along. Instead, they will offer mockery and scorn. This seems to be an example of subjectivism and general displeasure that sounds strangely like our culture. Criticism is the order of the day. John is criticized for not eating or drinking (John was an ascetic who had probably taken the Nazarite Vow), and Jesus was criticized for eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors. Whether the Truth comes in the form of a somber tone of repentance, or a joyful celebration of grace, many will sit back and mock! How similar this is to our day. Rather than welcoming the truth, the truth is denied! Christmas trees are now called holiday trees! Nativity scenes are being removed from town squares. Traditional beliefs are mocked as arcane and out of touch. The truth is being turned upside down. As those who are "In Chirst," we must remain grounded and committed to the Word of God - both Jesus and the written word.

            Matthew 11:16-19 gives us the image of what we were warned about in Psalm 1 and Isaiah 48. If the Word of Truth is denied, then judgment is not far behind. This should serve as a stern warning for our culture, and a strong reminder stirring us to faithfulness.

            What should we do in response? Realize that Jesus is the source of Truth. Meditate on His teachings which are the expectations or the Word of the New Covenant. Will this make a difference in our lives? It will make all of the difference in the world. We will continue on the straight and narrow path rather than walk, stand and then sit with the mockers! If we learn and live in the Truth, we will know peace, we will prosper (bear fruit), and our children will be blessed!

As we continue through these days of introspection and discovery, ask God to refine your worldview into one based exclusively on the Word of God. It really is the only Way to find the Truth!

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)

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