Sunday, December 08, 2013

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord or Suffer the Consequences

Every Advent we listen to the story of John the Baptist. This year, as I make my way through the Old Testament prophets, I heard the prophesy of Malachi, 

Malachi 3:1-7
New King James Version (NKJV)
The Coming Messenger 
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner’s fire
And like launderers’ soap.
He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord
An offering in righteousness.
“Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
Will be pleasant to the Lord,
As in the days of old,
As in former years.
And I will come near you for judgment;
I will be a swift witness
Against sorcerers,
Against adulterers,
Against perjurers,
Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans,
And against those who turn away an alien—
Because they do not fear Me,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Yet from the days of your fathers
You have gone away from My ordinances
And have not kept them.
Return to Me, and I will return to you,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“But you said,
‘In what way shall we return?’
John echoes Malachi in the last two verses of today's Gospel reading with some words we would prefer to ignore (verse 12),
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:11-12 (NRSV)
Jesus is never reluctant to throw out a little fear of the Lord.

Caught up in Advent hope and anticipation we all too often forget that the One for whom we are awaiting is not exactly Santa Claus. For that reason, and because we love him more than Santa, Advent should also be a time of repentance and turning back from our foolish ways for,
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." Psalm 110:10 (KJV)
And it is a time for remembering His wisdom,
 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28 New KJV)
Fear (of the power) and love (that he would be born to die for me) bound together might describe how I feel today as I reflect on how many of God's commandments I rejected this past week.
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,With the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6

While I try my hardest to prepare in myself the Way, I understand that it is a task so monumental that I cannot possibly succeed on the strength of my will.

I need a Saviour to make straight the crooked highways of my heart.

I (trembling) can hardly wait.

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