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The First Sunday in Advent, December 3, 2023

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The First Sunday in Advent, December 3, 2023

Who comprehends the Lord’s pardon?  Struck by its incomprehensibility, we are left with Nicodemus’ question, “How can these things be?” (Jn. 3:9).  “Seek me,” says the Lord… “Call on me,” says the Lord… “Forsake your ways… return to me,” says the Lord… the unflaggingly faithful Lord calls his people to him, not to receive judgment and punishment, but to receive compassion and pardon.   Indeed, who can understand it?

The Lord himself reassures us in our inability to comprehend his faithfulness.  He announces, “My ways are not your ways…” “My thoughts are not your thoughts…” (vs. 9).  Nothing in this sin-broken creation prepares us for the Lord’s mercy.  No relationship on earth exudes love and faithfulness like our Lord’s claim upon his people.  That divine mercy and compassion are too good to be true.

Our skepticism convinces us that the Lord’s faithfulness simply exceeds our capacity to trust it.  “Surely,” we think, “there must be a catch… The Lord cannot simply up and forgive sins, can he?”  So, in our skepticism, we fall into one or the other of the two traps that Satan sets around the Lord’s faithfulness.   The first trap convinces us that our skepticism is true.  God does not simply up and forgive sins.  No, he does not.  We must add some work of our own:  sorrow, repentance, amendment of life… whatever the trap contains.  The second trap convinces us that it is certainly true:  God does indeed up and forgive sins.  In fact, since that forgiveness stands over our entire lives, there is no need even to admit to our sinfulness.  We say to ourselves, “I like to sin; God likes to forgive; it’s a match made in heaven.”

Not so fast, God does indeed simply up and forgive.  His pardon is so exceedingly abundant, it’s incomprehensible.  This pardon… this compassion… this love from God is (as Paul preaches) only available in Jesus Christ.  Not in that “something” you must add… not in your assumption of pardon… only… only in Jesus Christ!

Table Talk:  Discuss the two traps and how you have succumbed to them.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, keep your Word Jesus Christ plentifully available to me that in him I would not only be pardoned but be kept from the traps Satan has laid for me.  Amen

Isaiah 55:6-9

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call upon him while he is near;

7 let the wicked forsake his way,

and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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