- Isaiah 11:1–10
- Matthew 3:1-12)
Advent is a time to purify us and await the coming of the Lord. It offers the church the opportunity to remind of Christ’s coming and prepare in faith.
In today’s text, Isaiah lost all hope for the present kingship, but he performed the prophetic role over people and announced God’s blessing of the king when Israel needed a new kind of king, one filled with the Spirit. God’s Spirit will provide a righteous and just ruler to bring peace and knowledge of God to the world. God has a plan to establish his kingdom with peace and justice.
The nation could not walk with God if they were out of fellowship with him. People had become so worldly when they were spiritually blind. However, God will fulfill his promises to David and his descendants and establish his kingdom of righteousness and fairness. The wise king would be empowered with the Spirit and protect the poor from the wicked and establish justice through his message. The new age established by the new king would bring righteousness which is the main theme for Isaiah.
As in Isaiah 11, nothing harmful will take place on the Lord’s holy mountain where God resides. Just as water fills the sea, the land will be filled with people who know and honour the Lord. Jesus Christ, filled with the divine Spirit, came to minister to the poor and outcast of society, and to give his wisdom and peace to the world. Through Jesus, God’s people will come back home, and the knowledge of God will gradually flow through the world. The goal of letting the world know of Jesus has not yet been completed, but his church, the body of Christ, continues the mission of proclamation, and his followers show his love to the world.
God is showing his sovereign control of all world history, preparing the way for a Saviour to come who will offer salvation to everyone who will rely on him. God will prepare the new age and send a new king for people. May we express our joy for what God is doing in our lives today and worship the child king whom God sent to give us salvation.
In today’s gospel reading, John demands that we get ready for Jesus. God prepared Jesus’ way through John the Baptizer. In Matthew 3, the story is turned from the events of Jesus’ birth to his adult life. John the Baptizer prepared the hearts of the people for the coming Messiah through the message of repentance.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” “Repent” was the first word of the ministry of both John and Jesus. However, John refuses to baptise the Pharisees and Sadducees because they have not borne fruit worthy of repentance. Every tree must bear good fruit, according to John, or it will be thrown onto the fire. Israel has often been pruned by God, and the pruning has even meant exile. However, God had never abandoned his people, creating it anew through even suffering. God will raise up his people again. Just as “faith” without deeds is not faith, “repentance” without its fruit is not authentic.
The phrase kingdom of heaven (v. 2) is found thirty-three times in Matthew. Matthew also uses the phrase “kingdom of God” a few times. Matthew preferred “kingdom of heaven,” while the other Gospel writers preferred “kingdom of God.” However, both expressions are interchangeable. Matthew reflected his writing for a Jewish audience. For centuries before Jesus’ day, the Jewish prohibited the pronunciation of the name Yahweh, so “kingdom of heaven” means the home of God, which refers to God himself. John referred to the kingdom of heaven as being “at hand” because Jesus’ earthly presence was about to present the kingdom to Israel and the world.
John the Baptizer was not so much calling individuals to eternal salvation as he was calling the nation or bigger community to turn from its sins and back to God so the kingdom might come to the nation. The Bible informs us that Christ’s reign will last, and this earth has never yet experienced such peace and righteousness, and it never will until Christ reigns as ruling king.
People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Even Jesus comes to be baptised by John from Galilee to Jordan. With humility, John understands his place before the Lord and knows that Jesus is more powerful. He explains the differences of baptism between the two and says, “The Messiah-King to come will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The fire here clearly refers to judgment.
When God chooses to move in people, there is an enthusiasm or conviction that spreads through the hearts of many people. People cannot make it by themselves. This can only be explained by the work of the Holy Spirit. May we be motivated sincerely by the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord faithfully.
John’s baptism signified a person’s willingness to turn from his or her sins and from the false belief. John announced Israel was in a spiritual crisis and about to be judged, and people responded with the sincerity of their repentance by submitting to baptism. John was the forerunner calling people to a repentance made possible by Jesus. The climax of John’s powerful ministry was to point to Christ.
What or when is the peak of our service? Our works, efforts, and processes are all significant, but the climax of our ministry needs to be related to the Lord. This is pointing to Jesus with our words and deeds, working for the kingdom of God to be expanded on this earth, and looking at and following Jesus.
God prepares us for what he has planned for people and the world. May we prepare Jesus’ way and submit to God’s leading and timing. Jesus calls and trains us to join him in kingdom work. He has power over sickness and demons. May we appreciate God’s peace and trust His righteousness that he offers in Christ. May we also resolve to be truthful in both word and deed, despite circumstances and pressures to compromise.
God’s reign is a “now” experience, but it is also a “not yet” hope. As we live toward God’s reign in experience and hope, the glory and praise belong not to us but to God since God is at work in us. May we bear the fruit of righteousness that glorifies God.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)