The past affects the present

During the season of Advent we have an eager expectation for the future.  We anticipate Christ’s return.  Yet, we see that his return will be one of judgment. Isaiah 64 anticipates the Lord coming in earth-shaking, water-boiling, heaven-rending judgment. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. 4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. 5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. 8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:1-8).

How can anyone look forward to this without trembling in terror?

“How then can we be saved?” Isaiah cries, as he sees the future judgment of the Lord.  Standing before him with the filthy rags of our sinfulness is going to be devastating.  Notice that it is God who has bound us to waste away because of our sins (v. 7).

As Isaiah describes our sinfulness we cannot help but see the trajectory of our lives ... one that would begin and end with God turning His face away from us.  Nothing we or any other person could do would change our situation. “How then, can we be saved?” becomes our cry, too … not a cry of utter despair, but one of repentance.  We despair in finding salvation in ourselves and look now only to God who is coming to judge us.
If you ever watched the movie “Back to the Future,” you realize how much the past affects the present. Things that happened in the past always have an impact on the future, either in a positive or negative way.  The unwritten rule in the “Back to the Future” movies was that meddling in time was a big “no-no” because it could cause a chain reaction of undetermined events that might change a whole person’s situation in life or even cost someone their life.  This rule, of course, was always broken.

But our God, who is not bound by time and who loves us, would not stand by and do nothing about our situation.  He had the power and strength to act.  So He intervened in history at just the right time and in just the right place.  He didn’t come to give us a pep talk or help us see our full potential.  He entered into history personally to change our situation forever.  Life would be lost.  His life would be given for your salvation.  Your future would be changed forever.  Trusting in Him, we now have hope for that earth-shaking return of our God and Savior.  Any change in us, we now see, is His doing.  Our lives and our eternity are the work of His power and strength, even in the death of His Son and the miracle of faith that believes it.

Because of His past coming in grace, this Advent we can once again go back to the future of his coming judgment with hope.  Now, instead of heading toward an angry judge we anticipate God as our Father and Redeemer.


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