Saturday after Rorate coeli, The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Scripture: Isaiah 46-48 (NKJV)
46:1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops; Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded, a burden to the weary beast.
2 They stoop, they bow down together; They could not deliver the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity.
3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb:
4 “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
5 “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?
6 “They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship.
7 “They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it and set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble.
8 “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors.
9 “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’
11 “Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.
12 “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness:
13 “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory.
47:1 “Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called tender and delicate.
2 “Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, take off the skirt, uncover the thigh, pass through the rivers.
3 “Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man.”
4 As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.
5 “Sit in silence, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; For you shall no longer be called the Lady of Kingdoms.
6 “I was angry with My people; I have profaned My inheritance, and given them into your hand. You showed them no mercy; On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.
7 “And you said, ‘I shall be a lady forever,’ so that you did not take these things to heart, nor remember the latter end of them.
8 “Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children’;
9 “But these two things shall come to you In a moment, in one day: The loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness because of the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments.
10 “For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’
11 “Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, which you shall not know.
12 “Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth—perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you will prevail.
13 “You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you.
14 “Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; They shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; It shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!
15 “Thus shall they be to you with whom you have labored, your merchants from your youth; They shall wander each one to his quarter. No one shall save you.
48:1 “Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth or in righteousness;
2 “For they call themselves after the holy city, and lean on the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is His name:
3 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
4 “Because I knew that you were obstinate, and your neck was an iron sinew, and your brow bronze,
5 “Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my carved image and my molded image have commanded them.’
6 “You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them.
7 “They are created now and not from the beginning; And before this day you have not heard them, lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them.’
8 “Surely you did not hear, surely you did not know; Surely from long ago your ear was not opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb.
9 “For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off.
10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.
13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.
14 “All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; He shall do His pleasure on Babylon, and His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15 “I, even I, have spoken; Yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper.
16 “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”
17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.
18 “Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
19 “Your descendants also would have been like the sand, and the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me.”
20 Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! With a voice of singing, declare, proclaim this, utter it to the end of the earth; Say, “The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob!”
21 And they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.
22 “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
“The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob” (48:20).
The season of Advent closes as we celebrate the Eve of Christ’s nativity. The prophet Isaiah taught us to see the captivity of Judea in Babylon as a picture of our captivity to sin, so that we might also see Judea’s restoration as a picture of our salvation. God is true to His Word. Though He punishes sinners, He promises to have mercy upon all who repent of their sins and believe in His Name. As God proved true by causing a remnant of the Judeans to return to Jerusalem, so His Word is true which promises the forgiveness of sins, perfect righteousness, and the blessedness of innocence to all who believe the Gospel. This good news creates new hearts in us. Faith in the forgiveness of sins causes joy to flow from our hearts as waters flowed from the rock in the wilderness.
This is not so for the wicked, however. “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked” (48:22). All who pass by the manger of the Christ child with disdain or discomfort cannot receive His blessing. Running from Christ, they remain under God’s wrath, for unbelief cannot possess the peace the angel choirs proclaim to the shepherds in the Bethlehem fields. Today, and in the days to come, let us contemplate the great gifts won for us in the Incarnation. Let us put away our sins through repentance so that we may joyfully and happily take up the gifts won for us by the Incarnate Word, Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gracious Lord, keep us always in true repentance and faith, so that we may daily contemplate the gifts given in the Incarnation. Amen.