Advent Week 2: Patience
Scripture, in its most intriguing portions, often introduces an obscure character, gives him or her something profound to say or do, only to let that person mysteriously vanish from the text verses later.
Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35) was one such shady figure, known only by his righteousness, devotion and apparent long-suffering for Israel’s consolation. Imagine him as a gray-bearded saint full of the Spirit, groaning continually in the temple, waiting for Messiah. Perhaps he’d stand post on the steps, looking out over the horizon, looking for a sign.
He certainly wasn’t alone in his waiting. Countless others – the people of God from old – shared his anxious anticipation, and we can also sympathize. Most of us know the feeling well – desire builds when offered something spectacular, the prospects of some grand fortune, the opportunity to embark on some adventurous expedition, or the potential satisfaction of some unrequited love (for me it was college). Each new kernel of hope, the feeling swells in your heart. The uneasiness expands in your stomach. You know this feeling and Israel lived on the edge of their seats and in that reality, always looking out over the horizon.
The Prophets were to blame. Their continual reminders, their fanning the flame was necessary but agonizing. Certainly, we might think that the gods and goddesses of neighboring tribes could have consoled Israel. But how great was Israel’s need – sins too many to atone with burnt sacrifices, oppression too heavy from violent enemies, shame too penetrating and peace so out of reach. Israel needed a Messiah, so they waited while the Prophets poked and prodded.
To those who longed to be righteous, Jeremiah thundered:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this
is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.
The children of God rose in agreement….
To the oppressed who cried out for justice, Malachi encouraged:
And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and 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 fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. MALACHI 2:173:5
The children of God held their breath….
To those who needed freedom from shame, Zephaniah offered:
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the LORD. ZEPHANIAH 3:1420
The children of God let out a hopeful cry….
To all who waited for peace and security, Micah submitted:
Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. MICAH 5:15
The children of God waited and waited, only to eventually rise again in agreement, hold their breath, and let out a hopeful cry. This continued for years.
This is the unsettling spirit of Advent, expectant waiting and preparation for the coming Christ, the consolation of God’s people. Take some time to reflect personally on the bitterness and the sweetness of waiting.
This is patience…