I don’t like to be in the wrong. It feels terrible. When my wife points out something I did wrong, inwardly I immediately start thinking of ways to respond to justify my actions. Sound familiar? Today we learn about the right way to handle it when we are confronted about being wrong.
In part 1 of this series on the lectionary readings for the First Sunday of Advent 2019, we learned that there is hope in dark times. In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, life was grim in the city of Jerusalem, as the armies of Babylon held the city in siege, slowly choking it to death. We read in Jeremiah 33 of the prophecy of a new day, of hope for a savior to come from David’s line. And in Luke 1, about 600 years later, we read about a poor peasant girl, Mary, astounded at the news from an angel that she was going to have a son who will be on the throne of David! And he would have a kingdom that will never end. What does it mean?
To get some perspective, let’s turn to the second reading: Psalm 25:1-10.
With all this talk of David, it is quite fitting to read a Psalm written by King David himself, talking about repentance for sins, trust in God, and a plea to God to teach David God’s ways. This is a psalm that shows us David’s honesty and humility. David is aware of his own sins, and he calls out to God for repentance. He wants God to act in mercy.
The attitudes and actions that David describes are ones that the king and people in Jeremiah’s day should have been practicing but didn’t. God is rightly very upset with his people in Jeremiah’s day because they turned away from him. But look how David describes God: “Truth…great mercy and love…you are good, O Lord…Good and upright…all the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful.”
David, like Jeremiah, had plenty of times in his life when he could look around and feel like his world was falling apart. Read the life of David sometime in the biblical books of 1st and 2nd Samuel. It’s basically a historical thriller. David knew well what it was like to have his life threatened. And many times in his poetry, what we call psalms, David writes things like “Where are you God? Why are you taking so long to rescue me?” And yet here is David reminding the people of who God is. David went through so much hardship in his life he could have easily turned bitter toward God, but in Psalm 25 we see David calling us to dwell on God’s love and mercy and faithfulness.
Therefore David tells the people to hope in God, to be humble, to obey. With this kind of teaching, and with an example like David leading them, you’d think that his descendants would follow David’s lead, so there would be a Davidic king on the throne in Jerusalem for a long, long time.
But even David’s own son Solomon turned away, in part. Right after Solomon, the nation had a civil war and split in two, north and south. The kings in the north, which became known as the Kingdom of Israel with a new capital city, almost to a man turned away from God. The kings in the south, which became known as the Kingdom of Judah, which was the tribe David was from, still ruled from the capital of Jerusalem where the temple was. Those kings were a mixed bag, some good, some bad. But by Jeremiah’s time, there had been a string of evil kings in the south, kings who turned away from God. God, through his prophets like Jeremiah, tried to call them to repentance, but they still turned away.
So David’s reminder in Psalm 25 was needed badly then, and we need it today too. We need repentance, to turn to God. Do you need to repent of anything? Ask God’s Spirit to examine you, to see if there is anything you need to confess to him or to others. Advent is about preparing ourselves spiritually for the coming of the King, being ready for his return, and God calls to being the readying process through the act of repentance. Take some time to repent to God, and ask him for the strength to obey him, just as David teaches in Psalm 25.
And perhaps that’s what the Apostle Paul had in mind in our third reading, which we will look at in the next post.
2 thoughts on “The surprising value of repentance [First Sunday of Advent, part 2]”
I think the hardest ones to get the attention of repentance is those who are 90% there. We forget we are yet sinners. We know the rules, we know what needs to be done…yet…here we are. Thanks for the encouragement in pushing forward.