Tag Archives: david

Being faithful in the waiting [First Sunday of Advent, part 3]

5 Dec
Photo by Jonsung Lee on Unsplash

Thus far the readings for the First Sunday of Advent have begun with a prophecy from 600 BC that God would send a new king to Israel, and that the people needed to get ready for that king by practicing repentance.  We looked at Luke 1, which describes Jesus as the fulfillment of that prophecy.  As we move from the Old Testament readings to the two New Testament readings, we’re going to encounter more prophecy, once again looking to the future.  The next reading is Thessalonians 3:9-13.

From the time of David who wrote Psalm 25, which we studied in part 2, we’re moving forward in history 1000 years to 50 AD.  One of the earliest followers of Jesus is a guy named Paul, and he is writing to the Christians in Thessalonica.  Thessalonica was the largest city in what was then called Macedonia.  It is still today a bustling town, a favorite of tourists, and in the middle of the city is an archaeological site with ancient ruins. Today it is called Thessaloniki, Greece. If you want, you can read about Paul’s first visit there in Acts 17.

At the time Paul visited, scholars estimate 200,000 people lived there, because Thessalonica was located in a favorable position on one of the main highways in the Empire, the Egnatian Way, and it was a port on the Aegean Sea.  Because of its large population and prime location, of course Paul would want to share the good news of Jesus there.  As was his practice, he went to a Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica and preached about Jesus. Many people started believing in Jesus. That made the staunch Jews mad, and Paul and Silas had to flee, but a church was started.  Though Paul moved on, his thoughts and prayers were still with the church in Thessalonica, and in the following weeks and months, he wonders how they are getting along. 

We read in 1 Thessalonians 3:6 that his assistant, Timothy, visited Paul, reporting good news about the Thessalonian Christians’ steadfast faith and love, that they longed to see Paul again.  Paul knows he won’t be headed back to Thessalonica anytime soon, so instead of a visit, he writes them a letter, hoping to keep investing in their lives. 

In this section of that letter, Paul says he was encouraged by their faith, since they are standing firm in the Lord.  Paul is overflowing with thanks for them.  And in verse 12 he prays to God that God would make their love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.  He prays that they will be blameless and holy in the presence of God.  That’s a very similar prayer to what David prayed in Psalm 25!  Hmmm…maybe there is a reason these passages were selected to be read on the same day?

Then in verse 13, Paul mentions the return of Jesus.  Actually in this letter of 1st Thessalonians, you can scan through the end of each of the five chapters and you will notice that the return of Jesus is mentioned each time.  When Paul wrote, he didn’t include chapters and verses.  They were added       much later.  But by seeing this repeated mention of Jesus’ return, of Jesus’ coming again, we can see that it was a major theme for Paul.  Paul is asking the Christians in Thessalonica, and by extension he is asking us, “Will we be blameless when Jesus returns?”  Unlike the Davidic kings who turned away from the Lord, Paul calls Christians to remain faithful and blameless before the Lord while we are waiting for his return.  And when will Jesus return? 

That brings us to the fourth reading, Luke 21:25-36.

Advent is a season when we remember Jesus’ first coming, his birth, so that we might prepare ourselves for his second coming.  But when will that happen?  Jesus talks about this in Luke 21:25. 

In this passage, Jesus is in his final days.  He has arrived in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover to great fanfare.  On what we call Palm Sunday, the crowds wanted to make him king. Many Israelites saw Jesus as the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jeremiah. But they were mistaken about Jesus’ Kingdom.  They wanted a ruler like David who would wage war against the enemy and give Israel independence.  But Jesus was not that kind of King.  His Kingdom, Jesus said, was not of this world, though it would make a great impact on the world! 

And so here in Luke 21 Jesus and his disciples are at the temple in Jerusalem, and the disciples are commenting about the beauty of the temple.  Their beloved church building.  The temple was the center of Jewish life and faith.  And Jesus says in verse 6, “you know, this temple is going to be destroyed.” 

The disciples are aghast.  What is he talking about?  When would this happen?  They want to know details!  How will they be able to tell?  Jesus goes on in verse 8-24, giving them two levels of prophetic teaching. 

First the near level.  In verses 12-19 he talks about the persecution the disciples will go through, and that actually took place only a few short months after Jesus said it.  You can read about it in Acts 3-4.

Then the medium range level.  I verses 8-10, and 20-24, he talks about a time when Jerusalem would once again be attacked, just as it was in Jeremiah’s day.  This time, not the Babylonians, but it was the Romans in 70AD who destroyed the city. Before we move too quickly past this, I think we need to just pause and think about how astounding this is. Jesus in 33 AD prophesies that the temple would be destroyed.  And it happened!  Let’s just pause and think about how amazing that is.  Jesus says that a major catastrophic event will happen, and he gives some fairly specific detail about how this event will occur, and 40 years later it happens?  That is Jesus.  He can tell the future like that. That means we can trust in him when he gives the next level of prophecy too.

Next Jesus says there will be third, future, level of prophecy.  That is what we are focusing on today.  Look at verses 25-36.

There will be various signs for sure, and then he will come again!  As he said many other times, we don’t know the day, time or hour.  His coming will be like a thief in the night, like a lightning strike, surprising.  So we should practice humility about signs.  We should be very guarded about our confidence in our ability to interpret signs of the times. What does it mean, then, to be ready for his return?  Jesus will teach us in the next post in the series, as we continue study Luke 21:25-36.

The surprising value of repentance [First Sunday of Advent 2019, part 2]

4 Dec

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

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.