Advent Devotion for November 30
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “God’s plan continues to unfold.”
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 17:19-22
19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. 20 As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” 22 When God had finished speaking, he left Abraham.
SCRIPTURE: Romans 9:6-9
6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. 9 For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
SOME THOUGHTS: Right about now you may be wondering, “What does all this have to do with Advent? Abraham, Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac… Advent is about Christmas and we are lost in Old Testament genealogies!” What we are endeavoring to do is to show how all the details of Scripture are intertwined and tell the wondrous workings of our God that lead up to the birth of the Savior, but also that our confidence, trust, and knowledge of our Lord would increase in the process. May we have a deeper grasp of the significance of the Nativity than ever before. Now, back to our story – HIStory. God promised a Redeemer through the seed of the woman which we’ve traced to Abram. Here we see that the line of the blessing of God continues through Isaac, the son of miraculous promise, not through Abraham’s “improvised” son, Ishmael. (In this action we are advised not to improvise on God’s plans!) Many Muslims believe that the names were switched and that the “only son” who was offered on the altar by Abraham was Ishmael, not Isaac. Scriptures are clear that it was otherwise. Isaac is the promised line of blessing. The conflict between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac continues to this day. Our covenant making God made a promise to Abraham, and he believed God and acted on his belief. When Sarah and Abraham had this conflict, activated by Ishmael’s laughing at Isaac, I wonder if they had any idea of the ramifications of what would happen over the next three or four millennia? I wonder how many of our simple, ordinary day-to-day encounters may have great significance years from now. God is in the details. Pay attention. He keeps his promises. Don’t improvise!
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we are all too often prone to hold you to promises you never made and to ignore the promises you did make. Most days of our lives are very ordinary. Once in a while, a “significant” event happens, but not usually. We tend to think of ordinary as unimportant, or not all that significant. We assume “mundane” and that your promises aren’t in the world of “mundane.” Help us Father, to treat every part of our day as a significant gift. Your promises are true and applicable whether we are sharpening a pencil or doing open-heart surgery. As we patiently await the nativity of our Lord, may we rest in the truth of your promises, the ones you made…and keep us from improvising! In Jesus’ name, Amen. — Daniel Sharp, 2016