“Advent Vespers” – December 9: A Heart for the Lost and Perishing

advent_vespers

Today’s readings:

Psalms:  25, 9, 15; Old Testament: Amos 7:1-9;  New Testament: Rev. 1:1-8;  Gospel:  Matt. 22:23-33

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[Apologies that I’ve not posted these “Advent Vespers” entries each day.  Some days in the past week my reflections on the day’s readings were so focused on personal situations as to not be suitable for blogging.]

This is the first year in several where I’ve been following the Anglican Daily Lectionary readings during Advent.  In other recent years I had reasons why I chose to continue with a different Bible study focus instead of following the liturgical calendar.  As a result, it’s been some years, perhaps 4, since I last read through Amos in its entirety.  Maybe for that reason, I’ve found each day’s passages from Amos to be deeply striking and hitting me afresh, as if I were reading these passages for the first time.  Or perhaps it’s just that the Holy Spirit is really wanting to grab my attention in this book.  He’s certainly succeeding in doing just that!

I think what’s impressed me most strongly so far, as I’ve alluded to in several of these previous “Advent Vespers” entries, is the “lostness of the lost,” if I can put it that way – the reminder that for those without Christ, the Day of the Lord is a terrible and terrifying prospect, a Day that will bring gloom and destruction, not joy.   After nearly 4o years as a confessing Christian, it’s sometimes hard to remember what it means to not know Christ, to not have the hope of salvation.  That’s quite a shocking admission given that I am living and ministering in a country that is 99% non-Christian and where millions have never had the chance to even hear the truth of Jesus.  I *should* be deeply aware of the “lostness of the lost” and the terrible prospect of judgment that awaits them, it’s what motivated me to come to this country. Nonetheless, the Lord has been convicting me the past few days of how I’ve hardened my heart to the desperate plight and peril of my friends, neighbors and colleagues, and lost that sense of urgency at the need.

Amos had no such hard heart.  Even though he was called upon by the Lord to speak forth terrible proclamations of the Lord’s judgment, he did not take glee in the downfall and destruction of those against whom the Lord’s anger burned.  Instead, we read twice today of his intercession before the Lord on behalf of those on whom the Lord was declaring judgment:

This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said, “O Lord God, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” 6 The Lord relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord God. (Amos 7:4-6, ESV)

Amos followed the example of Abraham (Gen 18:22-32) and Moses (Exodus 32:12-14), among others, in pleading with God to relent from His judgment.   Moses, in fact, was willing that he should perish (have God blot his name out of His book) if it would satisfy God’s wrath and allow Him to forgive His people for their idolatry in worshiping the golden calf.  (Exodus 32:32).

The reading in Revelation 1 reminds us today that we don’t have to pay such a price or offer God our lives or our own salvation in exchange for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus has already given His life:

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.

There IS freedom from and forgiveness for our sins through the blood of Christ.  The price has been paid!

This Advent, as we reflect on and rejoice in the hope of Christ’s coming again in glory, may we be stirred up to remember the need of all those without Christ, to intercede boldly with God on their behalf, as Amos interceded for the people of Israel in his day.  May we take to heart the words and the promises of many of the verses in today’s readings from the Psalms:

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:8-9, ESV)

Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. (Psalm 25:12-15, ESV)

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10, ESV)

God teaches, leads and instructs the humble.  He rescues those who seek Him and put their trust in Him.

  • Pray for humility in our own hearts and lives today, a teachable spirit, a delight in being led by the Lord.
  • Cry out to God for those you love who do not now hope in Christ, that they might humble themselves and seek Him that they might be saved.
  • Rejoice that you know Christ and trust in His name and have been freed from your sins, and can look forward in hope to the Day of His return!

***

Advent Worship:

This is not a very obviously “adventy” song, perhaps, but it is a wonderful worship song that I’ve been playing a lot the past few days in such deep thankfulness that there are those who shared the Name of Christ with me, and told me of His grace, inviting me to follow Him.  Hallelujah, He has lifted my darkness and freed me from slavery to sin!

Graham Kendrick & Darlene Zschech:  “That Name” (from the 2013 album Worship Duets)

Lyrics (from Graham Kendrick’s website).  [Guitar Chords also available]

That Name

If it was not for that Name
If it was not for the Name I love
If no one had told me
If no one had had showed me
About the Name

If it was not for this love
If it was not for the love of God
If he had not loved me
Long before I knew Him
If not for love

Jesus, Name I call on
Rock I stand on
Jesus, God and Saviour
King forever
In my joy and sorrow
Today, tomorrow
Jesus, Jesus
Name above all Names

If it was not for the cross
If it was not for the rugged cross
Who would pay so dearly
To forgive so freely
At the cross

Who would light my darkness
Who would lift my sadness
Who would pay so dearly
Jesus, Jesus

Who would reach to save me
While my sin enslaved me
Trade His own blood for me
Jesus, Jesus

Jesus, Rock that breaks me
Jesus, heals, remakes me
Jesus, friend and brother
Jesus, Jesus

Jesus never fails me
Never will forsake me
Out of death has raised me
Jesus, Jesus

If it was not for this grace
If it was not for the grace of God
Who would bear my sorrow
Give me back tomorrow
If it was not for that Name

Graham Kendrick & Darlene Zschech
© 2013 Thankyou Music

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