We invite you to return every day during Advent for this devotional series
Listen to today’s accompanying audio track:
Thus Saith The Lord of Hosts
“The Lord , whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple,
even the messenger of the Covenant, whom you delight in;
He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Theologians call it “theodicy” (Greek theos “god” + dike “justice”): the question of how to explain a just and loving God in the light of all the evil and suffering in our world. This strikes us especially in the season of Advent as we see the homeless and hungry, the battered children, cancer patients, and the incessant hatred and cruelty among nations. Who has never asked: “Where is God?” “Why doesn’t God do something?”
It was no different in the days of the prophet Malachi when many people thought God blind to world events. Listen to their tortured question raised in the verse immediately preceding today’s text: “Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17). Where is the God of justice, they are asking. Why doesn’t He do something?
The same question people asked in Malachi’s day was asked in the days of Handel and Jennens. It is one of the questions that prompted them to write Messiah. Where is the God of judgment? Quick comes the prophet’s reply: “The Lord whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple”. It is striking that Malachi calls the Lord “the messenger of the Covenant”. Messiah comes to keep all the covenants God has made with His people. We may think the Lord slow sometimes in keeping His word, but He will never fail us.
In later centuries the Apostle Peter wrote to suffering Christians who wondered if Messiah would ever come again: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
There is both assurance and warning in the Lord’s promise that He is coming again. Traditionally, that is why the color of Advent has been purple, which is also the color of Lent: this is a time for repentance, changing directions. We believe that Jesus is coming again “to judge the living and the dead” (Nicene Creed).
The modern Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in an Advent sermon in 1928, spoke of the need to be ready for Messiah’s return:
It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God…
Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love.
Yesterday’s music ended with the promise that “the desire of all nations shall come”. Now the music transitions to the sobering announcement that the Lord the nations comes to bring justice. The minor mode of the music line invites serious, sober reflection. The music ends with the customary prophetic signature: “saith the Lord of host.” Count on it!
- What do you sense that God might be saying to you in today’s Scripture text and music from Messiah?
- What do you want to say to God?
- Now take a few moments to be still in God’s presence.