category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 5

Thursday,  December 2

Malachi 3:5–12; Psalm 85; Hosea 6:1–6; I Thessalonians1:2–10

Do we live in opposition to God’s purposes or prepare the way for them?

Let us explore these two different ways of living portrayed in today’s Scripture readings. In Malachi 3:5–12, the Israelites are put on trial for withholding wages, oppressing the vulnerable, and not rendering to God what is God’s. This is but a brief selection of Israel’s transgressions, yet what they all have in common is that the sinning Israelites unjustly sought their own gain. By oppressing and denying justice and wages to others—particularly vulnerable groups such as widows, orphans, and foreigners—those for whom God had commanded the Israelites to provide (see Exodus 22:21–23) were destitute. Not only did these sinning Israelites harm others; they also did not view their relationship with God as important enough to offer their tithes to God. Rather, they sought to keep their wealth to themselves. Because the Israelites were not living according to the principles God gave to them, they were living in opposition to God.

Yet, Luke shifts the focus from sinful humanity to the goodness of God. God has a history of rescuing God’s people from those who oppose God. Perhaps the clearest example of God’s deliverance of Israel are the Exodus narratives. God’s rescue is less about rejoicing in the downfall of enemies and more about God
leading us to love and serve God without fear
(Luke 1:74–75). This leads Zechariah to prophesy about John the Baptist’s role, stating that John will prepare the way for the Lord and reveal God’s mercy, forgiveness, and peace to God’s people. John fulfills this role by “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3 NIV).

Paul prepares the way for God’s love as well. Paul describes how he has been imprisoned for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. This, however, did not stop Paul from continuing to share the love of God and the atoning work brought about by Christ through the cross and resurrection. Rather, Paul rejoiced that not only could he share the gospel in prison, but others were also emboldened to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ because Paul had been imprisoned.

Paul’s purity of heart, sharing of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness with everyone, and finding peace while suffering hardship is a stark contrast to the many sinful lifestyles of the Israelites (see Malachi 3:5–12). Rather than seeking our own advantage at the expense of others’ well-being, God calls us to shine the light of God’s love and forgiveness, even if it means that we suffer loss or imprisonment.

What will we choose: a life centered around building ourselves up and seeking personal security like the sinful Israelites? Or will we live a life centered around pouring out ourselves pro Deo et humanitate (for God and humanity) as did John and Paul?

Matthew Barger
School of Divinity Student

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