Thursday after Gaudete, The Third Sunday in Advent
Scripture: Isaiah 26:1-21 (NKJV)
1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. 3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength. 5 For He brings down those who dwell on high, the lofty city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He brings it down to the dust. 6 The foot shall tread it down—the feet of the poor and the steps of the needy.”
7 The way of the just is uprightness; O Most Upright, You weigh the path of the just. 8 Yes, in the way of Your judgments, O Lord, we have waited for You; The desire of our soul is for Your name and for the remembrance of You. 9 With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. 10 Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.
11 Lord, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see. But they will see and be ashamed for their envy of people; Yes, the fire of Your enemies shall devour them. 12 Lord, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us. 13 O Lord our God, masters besides You have had dominion over us; But by You only we make mention of Your name. 14 They are dead, they will not live; They are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish. 15 You have increased the nation, O Lord, You have increased the nation; You are glorified; You have expanded all the borders of the land. 16 Lord, in trouble they have visited You, they poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them.
17 As a woman with child is in pain and cries out in her pangs, when she draws near the time of her delivery, so have we been in Your sight, O Lord. 18 We have been with child, we have been in pain; We have, as it were, brought forth wind; We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth, nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen. 19 Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. 21 For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; The earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.
Armenian teaching says that either you make a decision for God and are saved, or don’t make a decision for God and are damned. It’s up to you. Calvinism teaches that God made a decision to save some, and God made a decision to damn others. This would mean that God has already determined your eternal destination, so you better hope you were picked for Heaven. The Scriptures teach neither of these things.
The Scriptures teach that God earnestly desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He sent His Son to die for the sins of the whole world, not just for believers. He calls men into the Pastoral Office to preach repentance and forgiveness. Like the Prophet Isaiah in today’s reading, our pastors direct us to “trust in the Lord” for our salvation, not in ourselves. If you are saved, God gets all the credit. All praise be to God for His graciousness and mercy. What about those who refuse God’s mercy in Jesus and are damned? The Scriptures place the blame solely on the person themselves as being “stiff-necked people” who “always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). Though God desired to save them, they “were not willing” (Matt. 22:37).
The Prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s grateful people will praise Him for their deliverance, “O Lord our God, masters besides You have had dominion over us; but by You only we make mention of Your name.” “The desire of our soul is for Your name and for the remembrance of You.”
We pray: Heavenly Father, give us ears to hear Your Word and trust in Your salvation—provided by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amen.