Today is Thursday, the 15th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.
May the peace of Christ be with you always!
Ten days until Christmas!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law. (Psalms 119:55 ESV)
Lord our God, open our ears and our hearts so that we hear you speaking and can follow the voice that cries out to us. May we be a people who prepare the way for you. Grant each of us strength to give up everything at the right moment and to realize, “The way to my heart should be leveled too. It should be straight and level all around me and in the whole world.” The light is now shining for us in Jesus Christ, and through him we want to find strength and help, to the glory of your name. Through hearing his voice we will find help. Help will be very near to us, and the mighty hand of the Lord Jesus will be over us in every need. For this he came. We can believe in his help, and we long for it. Hear the inmost longing of each one of us, and make us part of your people so that we may keep hope in our hearts and serve you on earth. Praise to your name, O Father in heaven, that you have put us on earth and that we can draw strength from the One who fights and is victorious, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain." Isaiah 40:3–4, RSV
Today I am grateful:
- that we can be that voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord
- for the light that shines for us in Jesus Christ
- for hope
- for the salvation of the Lord
- for unlimited access to the Father, by the blood of Christ
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD. (Psalms 31:24 NRSV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 NRSV)
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:26 NRSV)
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:19-25 NRSV)
What is hope? One definition is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” In that sense, “hope” is a noun. We have hope in Christ, an expectation for things to come. John Piper wrote a whole book on how our hope is in “future grace.” The writer of Hebrews, in a different passage, says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for” (11:1)
What are we hoping for? Obviously, there are many levels of hope. Many people are “hoping” they get a certain thing for Christmas. I’ll confess . . . I’ve got one of those. It’s not a big thing, but there is a thing that I really hope I’ll get on Christmas morning. Some of us are hoping for deeper things. I have some of those, too. I’m really hoping S will be Covid-free by Christmas. I’m hoping C will get over this bronchitis-almost-pneumonia that she has. (I suppose that’s sort of a back-handed prayer request, there.)
But ultimately, I am hoping, and all followers of Christ should share this hope, for the fullness of my salvation to be realized. And for that, we wait on the Lord. We are admonished to be strong and take courage in that. We are encouraged to wait quietly for the Lord. We can also know that having to wait can result in the heart being made sick (Proverbs 13:12). It’s true. We get weary of waiting.
Imagine how Jesus’s disciples felt, as well as Paul, when He did not return in a couple of years. It has been pointed out to me that we should read everything that Paul wrote with the perspective that he really, really thought that Jesus was going to come back in his lifetime, if not in two years or so.
And still we wait. Two thousand plus years later. It is easy to lose heart; it is easy to lose hope. In general, the world at large probably thinks we are fools.
What does it mean to wait or hope “quietly?” (Lamentations 3:26) The Hebrew word in that verse is dumam, which means “quietly wait,” or “still.” I’m no Hebrew expert (far from it, as I don’t really know but a few Hebrew words), but I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and say that it is my opinion that in waiting quietly for the salvation of our Lord, we should be in obedience to Philippians 2:14ff.
To wait quietly for the Lord means not to do nothing. I don’t think it means to sit still. We can be active while waiting. However, I do think it means we should “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” There are different words used for “disputing,” in different versions. NIV and NLT say “arguing,” as does the NRSV.
What else can we do while waiting, while living in hope?
We can take full advantage of our most intimate access into the presence of the Father! When Jesus died, at the very moment He gave up His life, this happened:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.
(Matthew 27:51 NRSV)
This also happened, but I’m not about to go there, this morning. Also, I have never, ever heard this verse treated in a sermon. Heh.
The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.
(Matthew 27:52-53 NRSV)
Oddly enough, these two verses in Matthew seem to be the only place this is mentioned. But I digress.
The temple veil was torn, indicating full access to the Holy of Holies. This is the “sanctuary” spoken of in Hebrews 10. The ESV calls it “the holy places.” The NLT says “Most Holy Place.” And I really like the way Peterson puts it in The Message.
So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.
(Hebrews 10:19 MSG)
I fully believe that too many of us stop at the front porch, so to speak. We are satisfied with the mere hope of forgiveness, and never go any further into the Christian life, the walk in the Kingdom.
I’ll us an analogy that will be poor, but most analogies are. There’s a beautiful spot in Fort Worth called “Botanical Gardens.” It is a large area, full of winding paths on which to walk. The comparison for people who stop at forgiveness would be like having a full admission ticket into Botanical Gardens, but stopping at the front gate, being satisfied with whatever one could see from there.
The veil was torn! Access to the Holy of Holies, to the most intimate presence of God Almighty, was granted for all who believe in the work of Christ! “Do not be satisfied to merely stand on the porch. It is not sufficient to cherish the hope that your sins are forgiven. Let us enter within the veil, let us in spirit press on to greater nearness to our God. Let us make our abode in His holy presence.” (Andrew Murray, The Blood of Christ, quoted in Power in Prayer) To quote C.S. Lewis, “We are far too easily pleased.”
We can be satisfied by calling out to our Father from a distance, from the front porch, or we can walk right up to Him, into that Holy Place, and speak with Him intimately, in person.
“Let us draw near to God; let us pray for ourselves and for one another. Let the Holy Place become our permanent dwelling so that everywhere we go we carry about with us the presence of God. Let this be the fountain of life for us, which grows from strength to strength and from glory to glory.” (Murray)
Father, I thank You for the removal of the veil in the Temple, for the access provided, by Jesus Christ, into the Most Holy Place. I pray that Your Spirit would draw us in from the “front porch,” and make us to be dissatisfied with anything other than close-up fellowship with You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.
Help our prayers to have power, to be effectual. Help us to know the hope that we have in You, the hope of eternal salvation, the hope of life, from this day forward, in Your kingdom. We cannot accomplish these things on our own, Lord. Without Jesus, we can do nothing, at least nothing of any value. But part of our problem, too, is in what we value, I suppose.
So help us to value the right things. I pray that I would worship only You, in Christ, by the Spirit. We worship You in Trinity, the Eternal Three-in-One. This mystery, we do not fully comprehend, and all comparisons are utterly inadequate. Yet, I believe it to be so. And I will worship You in that perspective, in total awe and wonder. May I never become so accustomed to this that I lose the wonder of You.
Let us draw near to You, Lord. Let us, in our prayers, walk right up to You and speak face-to-face, as Moses did.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
(St. Teresa of Avila)
Grace and peace, friends.