It is the first Monday of Advent, the second day of the season. We begin our scripture journey this morning with a corporate cry for mercy. The people of God are pouring out their souls to God for Jersusalem. They have experienced seige and oppression, violence and destruction.
In all of this, they sense the judgment of God and fear God's abandonment.
So, in their journey back to renewed faith and hope, they remind God, and thus, remind themselves, of God's covenant, mercy, and love for them.
It is a plaintve cry, set in an historical context other than our own. Yet, it is a common emotion and touches a common human experience.
In days of trouble and sorrow, we wonder where stand with God.
As you move through this ancient hymn prayer, find those thoughts and phrases that express the deep feelings of your heart for yourself and others. Then, pray them to God.
Psalm 79 (NRSV)
Plea for Mercy for Jerusalem
A Psalm of Asaph.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the air for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those around us.
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.
Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins,
for your name’s sake.
Why should the nations say,
"Where is their God?"
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes.
Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power preserve those doomed to die.
Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbors
the taunts with which they taunted you, O Lord!
Then we your people, the flock of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
The Word of the LORD comes from Micah as if to answer the doubts of any who feel left behind by God. He speaks of the days to come. He moves from the psalmist's rather parachial and exclusive concept of God's love and covenant to a larger and more inclusive call for the nations to come.
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord," is how the peoples of the earth shall respond to the inner prompting of the prophetic voice speaking to their souls.
Micah 4:1-5 (NRSV)
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
and many nations shall come and say
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.
The prophetic Day when nations shall no longer make war comes because God has spoken it, but is also a divine response to those who walk in the name of the Lord.
We live in an age of Advent.
Let us walk in the name of the Lord and embrace the hope of a day of peace and justice.
Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:
Great and amazing are your deeds,
Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations!
Lord, who will not fear
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your judgments have been revealed.
After this I looked, and the temple of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, robed in pure bright linen, with golden sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever; and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were ended.
God is up to something. It is something that, ultimately God can do. But God can use us to accomplish much of it. Then, what we cannot do, by His power and might, He will finish.
We celebrate Advent by beginning with the end in mind.