Thursday in the Third Week of Advent

(If this day occurs after December 16, please refer to that date in the

list of devotions.)

Isaiah 33:1-24

The Blessings of Baptism, Even If by Fire

Isaiah 33 picks up were Isaiah 32 left off.  It begins with the destruction and desolation of Assyria.  (Assyria is not named but that is who we think verse one refers to.)  But Assyria simply stands for that which oppresses God’s people, and we should remember that we wrestle not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The cry of verse two is the cry of every believer’s heart: “O Lord be gracious to us; we wait for you.  Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.”  Thereupon is a description of the waste of the land because of the Assyrian onslaught that Israel and Judah experienced: “The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away.”

Is this not a description of our souls when we have been away from the Lord, when we have allowed the enemy to wreak havoc upon ourselves, when we have been careless with our hearts, falling before temptation such that sin no longer bothers us?  This is a sad state of affairs, but I fear it is the place where too many of us stand in relation to the Lord of glory.  Yet, if we will hear again the words our Lord first preached when he walked among us, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” we can experience again our Lord’s cleansing and forgiveness.  “`Now I will arise,’ says the Lord, ‘Now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted.  You conceive chaff; and you give birth to stubble.’”  Is this not a fitting picture of ourselves apart from the Lord, powerless and falling before every temptation?

In this state, the Christian knows that God is not fooled, and He will not be mocked.  “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”  We ask because we know that our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).  But it is this fire, as painful as it is, that burns away our dross, and cleanses us of our sins.  Thus, when John the Baptist described the One who was to come after him, he said that He would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).  Repentance is not easy work, neither is taking up the cross and following Him.  But we look to the city beyond the horizon and to the One who calls us: “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.”  No longer shall we fear that which troubles us today, and we will wonder at the defeat of our enemy.  “The Lord is our king; he will save us.”  And “the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.”

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