December 2016 | Advent Week 1

"But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this."

Isaiah 9:1-7


God's people were in need of rescue and He gave them a promise.
A promise to cling to, to hope on, and to rest in.

Honestly, it seems weak, doesn't it?
Somewhere, through time, the idea of a promise has lost it's value, it's lost it's worth to us. There aren't many promises that people hold to anymore so it's no wonder our skepticism rises when we hear that God made a promise.
"Big deal.", we think.

But it is a big deal. A very big one.
One count puts God's promises from scripture to be near 3000. Bible scholars vary in the amount of Old Testament promises to have been fulfilled by Jesus, but some put the number near 300. Regardless of the exact count, making promises, and keeping them, is a big deal to God. God never breaks His promises.

Even in the midst of slavery, war, exile, and famine, God made promises to His people of their future rescue. No matter the conditions that they found themselves in, His people could always rest in the truth that one day He would rescue them.
The catch is, it wasn't how they expected.
God's rescue of His people focused more on rescuing them from the darkness of sin than it did the circumstances they found themselves in. While God wasn't apathetic to their plight, He knew that the sin His people battled against was far more damaging to them than slave driver's whip, the starvation they faced, or even the enemy soldier bearing down on them.

God's promises were that He would rescue His people from their sin so that they could be back in a relationship with Him and the darkness which separated them from Him would be destroyed by the light of the coming Messiah.

This was the promise His people were to rest in. This was the promise they were to hope for.
This is the same promise we are to hope for and to rest in, except we are on the other side of this promise. We know that Jesus has come. We know that He has made a way for us to be back in relationship with God, and we know He is coming again.

This is the promise that our brothers and sisters in Kenya are hoping in, even in the midst of their struggles. One of the most amazing things to see in a place full of disease, poverty, death, and crime, is men and women, boys and girls, who love Jesus with all of their hearts and are full of the joy that they have resting in God's promises. Despite what they face daily, they trust in a God who loves them and who has drawn them near to Him. The bright light of this truth pushes back the darkness that often surrounds them.

When we consider our current anticipation of Christ's return, we can then understand the Israelites and their anticipation of Christ's first coming.

This Advent season, think on the anticipation of God's people in ages past. Their longing, their zeal, their pleading hearts wrung out as they waited on their God.
What must that have felt like to wait for such a promise?

Probably a lot like what it does to feel it right now.

We have such a hope to cling to.
We have such a promise to expect.
We have a God who never fails to keep His promises.

“Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.”
— Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, A Hymn by Charles Wesley