A Montrose Church Advent Devotional by Pastor Rick
Third Sunday of Advent: Shout for Joy... Rejoice and Exult
Today's reading: Zephaniah 3:14-20
John Owen, a seventeenth century theologian, wrote, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you" (johnowen.org). There doesn't seem to be this kind of talk much these days among cultured people, though the Scripture is filled with the reality of this truth. Sin is not our friend, and the sooner we let it go to God the better off we will be.
Ancient Israel was constantly attracted to a lifestyle of destruction and demise. They just couldn't keep their eyes on God. The attraction to live outside the will and call of God was their Achilles heel, and although they couldn't seem to get victory over this Achilles heel, we ought not judge them too harshly because this seems to be the problem with the entire human race.
Unlike humans, God hates sin because sin is our greatest threat. Whenever it wins in a person's life, that person loses. God is not about pain and suffering caused by sin. God is about healing and forgiveness and restoration. Therefore, God will do whatever it takes to deliver a people from their Achilles heel. His actions are about renewal and life, so God will judge sin in the lives of people whom He loves so very much. The judgement is not for the sake of the judgment; the judgment is for the sake of waking people up, helping them to see the reality in which they find themselves, and then, upon the awakening, pour His grace and mercy and love into their story.
This is why Advent is a time of reflection and memory. It is designed to quicken the life of God is us, to help us remember from whence we come, and to invite God to make things right in our hearts. How does God do this act of amazing grace? He gets right down in the stuff of life with us. He comes right to where we are, and does what it takes to get us out of the mess and to set us right. He births Himself in history and lives in such a profound and different way that He ends up on a cross, giving His own life for the life of His creation.
Zephaniah tells us, "The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst" (v. 15, 17). In Jesus, "in your midst," becomes fleshed out so that we say of Jesus that He is "Immanuel...God with us" (Matthew 1:23).