It’s impossible to read the prophets and miss the words of judgment. The prophets warn us against God’s coming judgment against oppression, violence, idolatry and sin. Yet to read the prophets is also to read of hope.
The prophets navigated troubled waters. Israel and Judah were leaves tossed on the sea of international conflict. Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt all battled for domination. God’s people were constantly torn between two options: read the political winds correctly and make expedient alliances, or trust in the God who had always seen them through. There was also internal strife. Though there were periods of revival, Israel and Judah often seemed faithless more than they were faithful. They abandoned God for idols. They oppressed the poor. They forgot the law or twisted it to their own advantage. And when the prophets cried out for the people to return to the Lord, the people hardened their hearts and rejected the messengers.
And still the prophets testified to hope.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
I don’t know how much the prophets understood of God’s plan. Even the disciples didn’t anticipate the cross. Reading the prophets is like picking up pieces of a puzzle–the images are clear, but the pieces only make sense as part of the whole. They saw through a glass darkly, yet hope shone through. Isaiah looked for a promised child. A child whose name is Everlasting Father. A child whose government and peace would have no end. A child who would reign in justice and righteousness forever, because without justice there is no hope.
It’s easy for us to say, “Oh, it’s Jesus! Who else could it be?” Isaiah didn’t have the benefit of history, but he believed God’s promise. He looked forward to a day when Israel would be secure, ruled by a righteous ruler who somehow was God himself. I don’t think he knew how it would all happen, but he believed that it would. And that hope was enough.
Advent is a season of hope. In Advent we celebrate Christ’s coming and look forward to his return, for we also live in uncertain times. Nations still battle for power. Our news is still filled with violence and war. We live in a nation that embraces immorality, oppression, violence, and idolatry. Yet we hold on to hope. Christ’s return is sure and his victory is already won. We don’t how it will all happen, but we believe that it will. Sin will meet it’s final judgment, and our brokenness will find healing in him. This Advent season, let us light the flame of hope in our hearts. Celebrate Christ’s coming. Anticipate his return. And wait in hope, for this hope will not let us down.
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