Expectation! Advent Sunday

Bible study on the lectionary readings for Sunday, December 3 – Advent Sunday

MONDAY, Nov 27: Isaiah 64:1–9

Expectation of a new encounter with the Love of the Father, the Way of Jesus and the Life of the Spirit.

An appeal to God “to come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways”, who are like clay being shaped by the hand of the potter.

1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!

  • An appeal to God to “make His name known”. His name and His nature is the same idea in Hebrew thought. So in our secular and largely unbelieving culture, we can take this as the basis of a biblical prayer for God to make known again His love, His justice – and His holiness.

**3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.

  • Reflects Isa. 30:18: Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.
  • Waiting for God is active, attentive and expectant, not a passive kind of waiting.

5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember Your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?

  • Prophetic in a future sense. When Israel and Judah continued to forget God’s ways and abandon the framework of the covenant, first the northern kingdom of Israel fell, followed a century and a half later by the fall of Jerusalem, the loss of the holy city and the exile to Babylonia and Egypt of a now dispersed holy nation.

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean…

  • Ceremonially unclean
    …and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
    we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you…

  • At difficult times the response the Lord looks for is urgent, fervent repentant prayer 2 Chron 7:14

…for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to our sins.

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

  • Recalls Isaiah 29:16 and the relationship of the potter to the clay that is being formed. The clay is not to attempt to define the pot that is made Isaiah 45:9.

9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray,
for we are all your people.

  • There is a promise that the Lord will turn from His anger Isaiah 54:7–8.
  • The appeal to the Lord to “act on behalf of those who wait for Him” and “come to the help of those who…do right, who remember your ways” is the theme of hope, the confident expectation based on the Lord’s covenant mercy.

Application

This passage is an appeal to the Lord to presence Himself again which honestly sets out attitudes of faithlessness which have invoked the Lord’s anger. It ends with a forthright appeal based on submission – like clay in the potter’s hand.

  • They have failed to keep alive the memories of what the Lord has done among them;
  • They have continued to sin against His ways, even while seeing the Lord come to the help of righteous people;
  • Their prayer life, and their whole relationship with the Lord, has collapsed

These are common failings, for us now as well as then. They are all causes of faith malaise – and without faith we cannot please the Lord Hebrews 11:6.

Discussion starters

  1. Should we celebrate good things the Lord has done, answered prayers, delivered situations more often e.g. by sharing testimony stories as part of worship?

  2. What is Advent about? See verses 2 and 4 and 7 and comments.

 

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