December 2, 2020, 5:00 AM

You did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.

Isaiah 64:3-4

This thought–memory from Isaiah is revealing: Israel in Babylon, reminiscing on what they had - - Who they had. Isaiah was, of course, long dead off the scene by the time the Babylonian Captivity came down on the people of God. So, he is “seeing” something far off in the distance of the historical horizon. “Seeing” Israel languishing in Exile.

As they sit there in a strange land, they remember what it was like at the foot of Mount Sinai, post-Egyptian “exile.” They thought they had seen it all in Egypt. God’s mighty works, and outstretched arm, gathering them in and delivering them out – out through the parted waters of the Red Sea, on dry land.

And yet, they hadn’t seen it all. The perilous times were still yonder. God came down at Sinai. Revealed in the shaking of the heavens and the earth. Confirmation that the only God was their God. A God to deliver his people to the Promised Land. The euphoria of them moment!

But of course, this jubilation soon turned into forty years of wilderness wandering. Bodies dropped in the desert sand— never coming close to seeing the fulfilment of the promise of the Promised Land. Grumbling. Groaning. Golden Calf.

The exiles in Babylon feel the weight of the wilderness generation heavy-ness—

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” (64:6-7).

This makes me think of the initial Christian experience. Specifically, coming to Christ in new birth. When the Faith becomes real. The blinders are miraculously pulled back from the eyes of the heart, and the beauty of the Gospel comes to the fore, unfiltered by previous besetting unbelief. But then life arrives back with a huff. Sin, though nailed to the Cross of Jesus in Faith, yet still rears its ugly head time to time. Often. Loved ones die. Relationships still bite the dust. Bad people do bad things. Good people do bad things. Hopelessness reigns. Jesus saves? The excitement burned off with the hot noon-day sun. Being Christian is spiritual bait and switch. Show the Glory, then leave me in the dust.

An Advent heart doesn’t quite get to the end of that dead-end cul-de-sac.
“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (64:8).

Those are our Advent words. In the midst of our own modern Exile. The same God who rolled back the waters of the Red Sea was the same God who rolled back the waters of the Jordan River, opening-up the Promised Land. The same God, who in Christ, died on the Cross and shook the earth by his resurrection, is the same God who will come as he went, shaking the earth once more.

He promised.

We believe.

We wait.

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