As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.
A reading from the Prophet Zephaniah
Sing, daughter of Zion! Shout, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem. Yahweh has taken away your judgments. He has thrown out your enemy. The King of Israel, Yahweh, is in the midst of you. You will not be afraid anymore. In that day,, it will be said to Jerusalem, “Don’t be afraid, Zion. Don’t let your hands be weak.” Yahweh, your God is in the midst of you, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. I will remove those who grieve about the appointed feasts from you. They are a burden and a reproach to you. Behold, at that time I will deal with all those who afflict you, and I will save those who are lame, and gather those who were driven away. I will give them praise and honor, whose shame ha been in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, and at that time I will gather you; for I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says Yahweh.
— Zephaniah 3:14-20 (WEB)
As I was reading this passage that reveals our gracious and compassionate Father God, several other passages that say the same thing came to my mind:
Ezekiel 37:21-28 (WEB)
Say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, now with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, in which they have sinned, an will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my ordinances, and observe my statues, and do them. They shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob my servant, in which your fathers lived; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, forever: and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tent also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. The nations shall know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in their midst forevermore.
Psalm 126 (WEB)
When Yahweh brought back those who returned to Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.
They they said among the nations, “Yahweh has done great things for them.”
Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are glad.
Restore our fortunes again, Yahweh, like the streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves.
Isaiah 35 (WEB)
The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
It will blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. Lebanon’s glory Lebanon will be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They will see Yahweh’s glory, the excellence of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Tell those who have a fearful heart, “Be strong. Don’t be afraid. Behold, your God will come with vengeance, God’s retribution. He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame man will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing; for waters will break out in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water. Grass with reeds and rushes will be in the habitation of jackals, where they lay.
A highway will be there, a road, and it will be called The Holy Way.
The unclean shall not pass over it, but it will be for those who walk in the Way. Wicked fools will not go there.
No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous animal go up on it. They will not be found there; but the redeemed will walk there.
The Yahweh’s ransomed ones will return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Luke 15:20-24 (WEB)
“He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate.”
Revelation 21:3-7 (WEB)
I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling place is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away from them every tear form their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.”
He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things news.” He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.”
This theme of our Father God–who desires us, though we have sinned and fallen short; who redeems us, though we neither deserve it nor can repay Him for the sacrifice freely given; who adopts us, though we were orphans–weaves itself throughout the scriptures and gives testimony to who He is. He loves us with an unconditional love, and the longing in His heart is that we will turn our faces toward Him that He might receive us into His arms, His kingdom, His family, His abundant life. It is only because of His grace that we are saved, for we could never work hard enough or be worthy to receive His salvation – His adoption. But He is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth (Psalm 86:15).
Father God is rejoicing over us with singing, and in His joy, we are able to sing with Him, shout, be glad, and rejoice with all our heart for He loves us, and we are His children!