Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday, December 2, 2018. Advent 1, Year C.
Theme: Advent ABCD: Anticipate – the coming of the kingdom
INTRODUCTION The Lord Himself will become righteousness for us, offering us a
Psalm 25:1-10 – Anticipation founded on confidence in God’s goodness. A preface to the theme of looking forward to God’s kingdom coming in full.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 — The Lord to become our righteousness, foretold.
Luke 21:25-36 — Anticipation of final redemption in end-times turmoil. Believers are to recognise the signs of the Son of Man coming again, in joy and trust
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 — Be blameless and holy in anticipating the Lord’s return. Live in expectation of the imminent return of Christ Jesus with His heavenly retinue.
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Psalm 25:1-10 – Anticipation founded on confidence in God’s goodness
A preface to the theme of looking forward to God’s kingdom coming in full
1-2 In You, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in You; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
“I trust in You… shame” – honour and its opposite, shame, were emphasised in Jewish culture and the psalms make frequent mention of trust in the Lord as the way to avoid being shamed, Ps. 22:5, 31:1, 69:6, 71:1 etc.
3 No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
“Hopes in You… shame” – hope, unlike the weaker, aspirational English meaning, is a solid confidence in God’s good purpose, Ps. 33:22, 130:5. Hope, which is trusting in God’s covenant goodwill, answers the threat of shame.
4-6 Show me Your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Saviour, and my hope is in You all day long. Remember, Lord, Your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
“Your ways… paths… truth… great mercy and love” – language recalling God’s covenant with His people. The Lord has promised to return again, at which time His Way will be fully established.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to Your love remember me, for You, Lord, are good.
8-10 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant.
“Good and upright” – because God is perfectly good and upright, He must extend mercy to humble, i.e. repentant, believers while not allowing the guilty and rebellious to escape judgment.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 – The Lord to become our righteousness, foretold
Anticipation of an ancient promise to be fulfilled in a radical new relationship
14 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfil the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“The days are coming” – looking forward from Babylonian conquest to a time of restoration, but also to a future time beyond that. The discussion of sheep and shepherds becoming visible again, Jer. 33:12-13, leads naturally into the prophecy of the Shepherd and Saviour of David’s line to come, in what we know as the first coming of Jesus and we anticipate as the second coming of the
15 “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; He will do what is just and right in the land.
“Righteous branch ” – the language is very similar to Jer. 25:5-6.
16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.”
“Judah will be saved and Jerusalem…” – The Messiah’s coming will be transformational. Jerusalem – the holy community – will be so changed that it will be called by the same name as its Saviour, “The Lord our righteousness” (Yahweh
“Live in safety” – this prophecy was given while the Babylonians were breaking down the walls of Jerusalem and removing people and property.
17-18 For this is what the Lord says: “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.”
“David will never fail” – meaning, the covenant with David (and other covenants), will not fail even in the judgment coming on Jerusalem.
IN PRACTICE In the ABCD of Advent, we start with Anticipation, not of Jesus being born at Bethlehem (that happened!) but of a potentially terrifying time when Jesus as the heavenly host will come again. How will we be counted on that Day of the Lord? Righteous or unrighteous? Jeremiah was prophesying in the first instance about his own people, symbolised by Judah and Jerusalem being saved by the ‘righteous branch’ of David’s line, the Anointed One or Messiah. We know the Messiah with the Greek title Christ (anointed one) Jesus. Like many prophecies, this extends over more than one time and happening. Jesus will come again at an unknown future time – which we are to hold as an immediate prospect, not a distant one. However, the heart of the Gospel is in this Old Testament verse about the Lord who becomes our righteousness. The keeping of the Law was a hard path, but now Jeremiah foretells how the Lord will Himself become righteousness for sinful man. Our heartfelt response to Jesus, acknowledging Him as Saviour and giving Him the say-so of our lives is our release from judgment, not our good works. This is hard to grasp in a world whose values are so much about earned merit. At times in its history the Church has been muddled about this, where the priority of Scripture has been weak, but Jesus’ teaching that He is the gate for the sheep and believing in Him is the one requirement, is crystal clear through the NT.
PRAYER Lord, help me to be crystal clear about what You have done for me in a way that I could not possibly have earned or merited; and help me to be clear in sharing this saving truth with others.
Luke 21:25-36 — Anticipation of final redemption in end-times turmoil
Believers are to recognise the signs of the Son of Man coming again, in joy and trust
25-27 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
“There will be signs” – Jesus’ focus is now on the end times, an allusion to Joel 2:30-31, also quoted by Luke (writer of Acts) in Acts 2:20. The prophets expected arresting celestial signs at the end of age, Isaiah 13:9-10; Jeremiah 4:23,28; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10.
“They will see” – the second coming of the Son of Man will be a visible return accompanied by turmoil of the elements, and many people will be distressed, not knowing what is happening.
28 “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your
“When these things… take place” – in the turmoil, believers are to look up in joy and trust, knowing that these are signs of the deliverance of Jesus’ followers in the final redemption, 1 Cor. 15:53; Romans 8:23.
29-31 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig-tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
“Look at the fig-tree” – leaves appear and change appearance, heralding the seasons. “When you see these things” – signs will show the kingdom coming fully.
32-33 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“This generation” – Jesus was not setting a time for the present age to end. He continually emphasised a time scale between His being present with His disciples, and His return, Luke 21:9,12,24.
34-36 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to
“Will close on you suddenly” – but not unannounced, for those that will hear. For those who are not ready, “that day” is judgment closing against them. The point of the discourse is to be ready and alert for Christ’s return at any time.
“Suddenly… it will come on all those… on the whole earth” – the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem would follow in AD 70 but Jesus teaches that the coming Day of the Lord will be a crisis encounter for everyone, not just the Jews.
IN PRACTICE Jesus taught about the end times, and His language conveyed a sense of urgency and expectancy, even if He also set out the kind of eternal time scale that no calendar can represent. As believers, we are to live in constant expectation of His sudden return, although the teaching gives us the kind of warning we should expect – being watchful and observant, as country people are about weather and seasons and threats to their livestock. A for Anticipation gets us thinking about where we stand with the Lord, should He return – now! The “suddenly” He speaks of will show last-minute decisions to be false decisions. Our anticipation is about being real about what will happen and positioned to welcome Jesus’ return rather than fear it.
QUESTION How would you explain in your own words to someone who doesn’t believe in God, that there’s a day of judgment coming, but they can turn to Jesus who has made a way for them.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 — Be blameless and holy in anticipating the Lord’s return.
Live in expectation of the imminent return of Christ Jesus with His heavenly retinue.
9-10 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
“Thank God… for you” – the church in Thessalonica had been through a testing time, which Paul had experienced himself, in strong local opposition and rough treatment in Philippi, 1 Thess. 2:2,14-16; 1 Thess. 3:7. Testing is part of Christian life and opposition experienced as persecution is to be expected as carriers of the Gospel, Paul has already made clear, 1 Thess 3:3-4. However, he is greatly concerned for this church of believers new in their faith.
“Supply what is lacking” – the mission team’s teaching was cut short when they had to leave suddenly, 1 Thess 2:17. Part of the purpose of the letter is to make good the shortfall.
11-12 Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
“May our God… may the Lord… may He strengthen” – Paul’s lifestyle of prayer is such that he breaks into prayer in his letter. In this prayer he is in effect asking God, but in the manner of making a declaration in faith, in agreement with God’s purposes.
13 May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.
“When our Lord Jesus comes” – in Paul’s mind is the Second Coming which he will discuss more fully later in the letter, 1 Thess. 4:1-5:22. “With all His holy ones” – used of Christian believers, often translated ‘saints’, in many passages in the NT e.g. Romans 1:7. Could also refer to the angels who will accompany the Second Coming.
IN PRACTICE The church calendar and its seasons was an idea that arose many centuries after Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. However, A for Anticipation in the ABCD of Advent was something that Paul lived out and taught. “When our Lord Jesus comes” is a clear statement of anticipation, the sense of keeping the house clean and tidy for the important visitor expected to drop in at any time. To personalise it, we see the ‘house’ as our lives, so that ‘clean and tidy’ is about keeping short accounts with God in confessing sin and tidying up our wrong priorities.
QUESTION In the words of v. 13, will you be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father – if Jesus comes again now? Reflecting on the Old Testament and Gospel readings and notes, how do you know assuredly that you are counted blameless?
PRAYER Lord, show me what in me is getting in the way of the coming of the kingdom in its fullness? What is me needs to be put out of my life, put right with You, put in a better place spiritually or forgiven in my relationships with others? Amen.
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Scriptures to read in preparation for Sunday, October 28
Theme: God and His purposes are good, all the time
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 – Job’s encounter with God opens his eyes. He repents of his earlier poor understanding of God and His ways.
Jeremiah 31:7-9 – Distraught Israel is promised a new relationship with God. The remnant, exiled people without rights in a foreign land, will return rejoicing.
Mark 10:46-52 – Blind Bartimaeus implores Jesus to heal him. A man without physical sight sees Jesus and His kingdom purpose more clearly than the disciples.
Hebrews 7:23-28 – priests could sacrifice for sins, but only Jesus can save completely. Jewish Christians brought up under priesthood are taught about Jesus’ unique position as the only intermediary we ever need.
Also: Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 – Job’s encounter with God opens his eyes
He repents of his earlier poor understanding of God and His ways
1-2 Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
“I know…” Job has realised two things from what the Lord has said to all of them, in His summing-up speech: (1) how unlike God he is, and (2) the message that God is both loving and all-powerful.
3 “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures My plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
“You asked…You said” – Job quotes, with humility, what God had said at the beginning of His first speech. He is seeing God in a new way.
“Things I did not understand” – Job has spoken about God with accuracy and integrity, even if his understanding was now shown to have been limited. His friends had not, and their spokesman Eliphaz, Job 4:12-16, 42:7, had implied that his advice came from prophetic insight. God affirmed Job but not Eliphaz and his friends in their superficial doctrine about God who they clearly did not know.
5 “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.
“My eyes have seen you” – a deep encounter with God. Up until now, Job had not seen God, Job 23:8, but now, like Isaiah, He had known God’s close presence and holiness, a massive leap in his relationship with God
6 “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
“I despise myself…I repent…” – Job is saying that he recognises the ignorance behind his words earlier and he repents of having such a weak understanding of God; not as his friends had urged, of moral issues.
10-11 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
“The Lord restored… him” – The last words we heard from Job are repentance (v.6). Now we hear of Job’s restoration and the extent to which God blessed him. The two are linked.
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.
13-15 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
“He had…” – wealth was counted in head of livestock as much if not more than possession of silver. The tally is twice the number of animals, but not children – Job already had seven sons and three daughters waiting for him in heaven.
16-17 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
“Full of years” – ripe old age, like Abraham and Isaac, Gen. 25:8; 35:29, being a sign of God’s blessing.
Who was Job?
Job’s friends seem to have come from the Edom or south Euphrates region. If Job is an abbreviation of Jobab, he was
Jeremiah 31:7-9 – Distraught Israel is promised a new relationship with God.
The remnant, exiled people without rights in a foreign land, will return rejoicing
God promises Israel that “I will be … God … , and they shall be my people,” Jer. 31:1-14 and in a number of other places in Jeremiah
7 This is what the Lord says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’
“The foremost” – because they are God’s elect. “Lord, save…” – the Hebrew for this word is the basis of Hosanna, the cries of people outside Jerusalem at the triumphal entry (Palm Sunday), Matt. 21:9.
“The remnant” – those who have survived exile, to be called back.
8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return.
“North… and from the ends of the earth” – Assyria and Babylon and the remoter parts of the then known world. A regathering with all included. About 50,000 returned between 538-536 BC.
9 They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is My firstborn son.
“Weeping… they will pray” – with joy and praise, verse 7 above
For further study, see Ps. 125:5-6, Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 23:1-3, Isaiah 49:10, Isaiah 40:3-4.
“Ephraim is My firstborn” – meaning first in rank and priority, Exod. 4:22. David, eighth son of Jesse, is referred to in this way, Psalm 89:27 and Jesus is called the firstborn over all creation, Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:5. The prophets referred to Ephraim and Judah as a shorthand for the nation of Israel.
IN PRACTICE Job made mistakes in his attitude to God whole he suffered, and the nation of Israel made mistakes in their attitude to God, rejecting the appeals of the prophets and suffering the calamities of two successive deportations, first the northern kingdom and then the fall of Judah and Jerusalem. However, Job was honest in his attempts to challenge God, while his counsellors gave him theological-sounding statements but without demonstrating that they actually knew God who they were claiming to honour. Job got right with God, admitting that his relationship was more knowledge than
QUESTION Are you giving God a faithful one morning a week but sensing that He wants something different – your heart? Who do you know who could help you in praying this kind of prayer?
Mark 10:46-52 – Blind Bartimaeus implores Jesus to heal him
A man without physical sight sees Jesus and His kingdom purpose more clearly than the disciples
46-47 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Jericho” – the new city built by Herod the Great, to the south of the site of the ancient and abandoned one.
“By the roadside begging” – on the pilgrim route to Jerusalem, where Jesus and those with Him were going.
“Bartimaeus” – Son of Impurity, a derisory name reflecting Jewish tradition that blindness resulted from sin, John 9:1-3.
“Jesus, Son of David” – prepares the hearer or reader for the “Hosanna” shouts of the crowd at Jerusalem, Jer. 31:7 and note, above.
“Mercy” – undeserved kindness, which Scripture repeatedly ascribes to God. Bartimaeus, blind in one sense, is seeing something clearly – Jesus is the Messiah but also personifies God’s merciful character in bringing the kingdom to poor, maimed and blind people like him. This was Jesus’ own understanding, Luke 4:18-19.
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Many rebuked him” – regarding him of no status and no account, as they had earlier with children, and doing what He had taught was wrong then, Mark 10:13-14.
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“What do you want…” – Jesus’ ‘unnecessary’ question drew out the blind man’s faith as he then spoke out his expectation. Jesus gives the blind man what he asks for in faith. There is a parallel with the spiritual blindness and slow learning of James and John earlier, to whom he put the same question – probably Mark’s intention.
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
“Your faith has healed you” – this time without touch unlike the previous occasion when a blind man was healed, Mark 8:22-26.
For further study on faith and healing (
IN PRACTICE God’s higher purpose becomes, with Jesus, the realisation of His kingdom purpose and order. True personal faith in Jesus, who he is and what He stands for, is a connection with His rule and order which overturns the devil’s predatory activities. In this case the blind man’s humble acclamation of who Jesus is – Son of David, the embodiment of God’s mercy without condition – leads to an astounding healing miracle. At the same time the disciples, who in another way were somewhat blind to who Jesus was and what his earthly life was about, start to see their world through God’s eyes.
We, too, are short-sighted, seeing our world with us at the centre and a lack of distant perspective. God has a higher purpose and an eternal timescale and wants us to join Him in it, even if it continually challenges our limited understanding.
QUESTION Does God do these kinds of signs and wonders today? How could we put aside doubts to reach higher in asking Jesus to heal, deliver or save – all the same thing to Him?
Hebrews 7:23-28 – priests could sacrifice for sins, but only Jesus can save completely
Jewish Christians brought up under priesthood are taught about Jesus’ unique position as the only intermediary we ever need
23-25 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.
“Permanent priesthood” – the language is that of something which cannot be changed. Now people will (1) never be without a priest to represent them to God, and (2) one who lives forever and therefore saves forever, (3) in a way which is now fully effective, unlike the old order of priests, expanded in Heb. 10:1-4;10-14.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
“Holy, blameless, pure, set apart” – contrasting the high priesthood of Jesus, who had no sin nature, with the morality of the Levitical priesthood which by comparison was weak, earthly and with the flaws of unredeemed human nature.
27 Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself.
“He does not need to offer sacrifices” – from a different starting point, Jesus represents a completely different order of priesthood “unlike the other high priests” who sacrificed only animals, an imperfect substitute. Our high priest offered Himself.
28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
“The oath… after the law” – a verse which echoes Heb. 5:1-3 and sums up the whole discussion of Heb. 5:1-10; 7:1-28 of Christ’s appointment from perfect (complete) qualification, to a far superior high priesthood that the Levitical priesthood could never achieve. The oath refers to Psalm 110:4, a declaration of God’s promise of an eternal priest, over and above the earlier giving of the law and establishment of temporal priests and high priests.
IN PRACTICE Jews who were now part of the Christian church, worshipping God through their own relationship with Him enabled both by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, thought they had a problem. For some years after the Resurrection, in fact up to the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Levitical priesthood and temple sacrifice system continued. This is what they had been brought up with. It was important to them. But now they have become aware, as 1 Peter 2:9, Rev 1:6 teaches, that believers are their own priesthood with royal privileges, as sons and daughters of the king! The writer of Hebrews seeks to explain this transition in terms these Jewish believers could relate to. But there’s a message for all of us. The only priestly intermediary any of us
QUESTION If you know Jesus, and are part of this new royal priesthood, how confident are you about representing before God someone with a need who has asked you to pray for them?
PRAYER Father God, so many things that we think we see clearly have a greater purpose or different timescale or way of working out
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