Speaking the Language of God

Third Sunday of Advent


Zephaniah 3:14-20
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

In chapters 13-23, Isaiah announces God’s intentions to the peoples surrounding Israel. The reading for Tuesday the 11th is interesting for its difference. In that day, there shall be several towns in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan [i.e., Hebrew] and swearing loyalty to the Lord of Hosts; one shall be called Town of Heres [destruction]JSB That last line is rendered in several translations as City of the Sun because many old manuscripts have that word.

Even as God’s chosen people are being hauled away by conquerors, God promised that Egypt and Assyria will be speaking Hebrew as friends, and as friends with the whole world.

In today’s reading, Zephaniah speaks of the final salvation of the chosen people. But notice we find this message in the last seven verses in the small book. Reading the preceding 46 verses gives us a picture of a world ready for destruction, and this message was delivered to Josiah, one of the few good kings in Judah (there were none in Israel). Somehow, God will turn the world around.

The reading in Malachi last Thursday gives us a final victory, but not without pain. No; I, Yahweh, do not change; and you have not ceased to be children of Jacob! Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have evaded my statutes and not observed them. Return to me and I will return to you, says Yahweh SabaothNJB It is well to note that Malachi gave those words to the people after the return from Babylon.

Today’s reading in Luke nearly copies Malachi. John the Baptizer spoke bluntly: return to God. If you have done so, then there are actions you will want to take. The man who has two shirts must share with the man who has none, and the man who has food must do the samePhillips John went on in response to the tax collectors and soldiers: You must not demand more than you are entitled to. Don’t bully people, don’t bring false charges, and be content with your payPhillips

Looking back at my own life as a public school teacher (high school) I can see times when I failed to be content with my pay—every other day—and my discipline in the classroom sometimes descended into bullying. I will not claim to be free of handing out false charges, but I tried to stay clean on that count. John would not be happy with me. I’ll find out about God later.

One reading for next Wednesday comes from Luke 7:18-30. John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the promised Messiah. Jesus’ answer? Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poorNIV

The reading from Isaiah for the same Wednesday; 35:3-7. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy; for water will gush in the desert and streams in the wastelands, the parched ground will become a marsh and the thirsty land springs of water; the lairs where the jackals used to live will become plots of reed and papyrusNJB You might think Jesus knew his Bible, or Tanakh in his case.

Peter gets the last word from next Tuesday’s reading; So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the othersMSG


Read my earlier comments on this theme here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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