Advent Week 2: Restoration

James Tissot. The Flight of the Prisoners, c. 1896-1902, Jewish Museum, New York, NY. From Wikimedia Commons

I will deal with all your oppressors at that time.
And I will save the lame and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.

(Zephaniah 3:19-20)

Both John the Baptist and Jesus announced that the “Kingdom of God” was “at hand.” In the minds of their listeners, that meant God would soon kick the Romans out and create a new government, and a reign of justice and peace would begin. For people of Jesus’s day, the Kingdom was not an airy-fairy afterlife. It was about a revolution. The material conditions of people’s lives would change.

Their belief in this promise was based on history. They had seen it happen! Their ancestors had been exiles in Babylon for fifty years, but by a miracle of international politics, they were freed and allowed to return home and rebuild their city and their temple.

But the miracle wasn’t complete. They were still waiting for God to finish. After all, the prophet Zephaniah had said, “I will deal with your oppressors at that time, and I will save the lame and gather the outcast.” They remembered the scripture above (which is one of the Revised Common Lectionary readings for this Sunday).

So when John showed up talking about the coming kingdom, people were ready for a change. They weren’t looking to go to heaven; they were looking for heaven to come to earth.

Prayer: Sovereign God, we are still waiting for your coming kingdom. Hurry to heal us. Amen.

—Rev. Dr. David Barnhart, Jr.