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God shows his love

Editor's Note

About the author: Elia Mrakovich started as ZPC's director of next generation ministries this spring. He and his wife Erin have one son, Rowan.

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Main Idea: God shows his love by maintaining the best parts of who we are and nurturing the rest of us into life giving beings.

Take a moment to read Zephaniah 3:14-20 and write down one or two ideas that seem to be repeated within the reading.

I was greatly encouraged reading today’s scripture, to the point of joy. It is clear to see that redemption, protection, and love are key to what God is communicating through Zephaniah. If you have time I encourage you to read all of Zephaniah (It’s a short book!). This prophecy, this poem, this message is written during the reign of one of the few very good kings of Israel; his name is Josiah.

Josiah, the boy king, was given the throne at the age of 8. While he was 16, he began to pursue God. Josiah wondered who God was and where he had gone. During the previous 85 or so years the Israelites had been serving idols–often worshiping Baal or the Asherah poles. Two different kings had encouraged this lifestyle. Josiah, however, eventually destroyed all the idols, and renewed the nation’s covenant with God.

Painfully this was ineffective, Josiah would go on to die in a battle caused only by his pride, and the nation would descend once again into turmoil until Babylon came and exiled the people of Israel.

What a great devotional on love, right?! While it may not seem that way at first, Zephaniah balances two major ideas: justice and love. The justice of God’s wrath brought to the enemies of Israel and the cultural leaders of Israel at the time is aggressive and without mercy. The love of God seen in the latter portion of the book is offered to “the remnant of Israel” or those that despite the culture did not turn from God, but continued to live with integrity and grace. This remnant will not be condemned because of the nation’s failure, and will not be saved because of the kings’ reforms. They will be save through the ferocious love that God has for the people that yearn to be free of the oppressors in this world.

Zephaniah goes onto to describe the Messiah, the one who comes to live among us, to be apart of life with us, our sufferings, our joys, the savior who would sing songs with us and recite poetry alongside us. The God, the Divine, Emmanuel, who would not condemn his people but instead purify them, and participate with them. God does not save the whole of us, he prunes the dead parts and nourishes the living, he accentuates the life giving parts of us and replicates those characteristics into every area of our lives.

Activity:

Take 5 minutes to write down a few things about yourself that adds life to you or those around you. Next, spend a few minutes thanking God that he takes complete joy in (potentially) our only life giving trait and seeks to nurture that remnant into the whole of our being.

Prayer:

Father,

We know that you are a just king, one who seeks to make right the whole of creation. We praise you that you are not willing to give up on us, but instead love us and strive to make us right with you. Thank you for your Son Jesus, our mighty Savior. We ask that we would continue to raise up a generation who would honor you, and seek your purifying fire.

Amen.

Posted by Elia Mrakovich with

Guiding my feet into the way of peace

Editor's Note

About the author: Sally Bias has been attending ZPC for 21 years. She has served on staff at ZPC since 2003. She has three children: Carly, who is a sophomore at IU; Celia, who is a senior in high school; and Carter, who is in 8th grade (and Peyton, who is 8 or 48 in dog years).

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: LUKE 1:67-80

This year for Advent, we have been looking at themes of hope, joy, peace, and (next week) love. As I was reading the scripture for today, I recognized all of these themes throughout Zechariah's prophecy. In yesterday's devotional, Kira did a great job giving an overview of what's going on in the beginning of Luke chapter 1.

So now that John the Baptist has been born, Zechariah looks forward at his son's life and how it will impact generations to come. He also prophecies about a savior coming from the house of David. There are so many hopeful, joyful, and peaceful things about this scripture. I remember the pregnancies and births of each of my 3 children and can only imagine the hopefulness and joy Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth must have felt at the promise of a son long past when they thought it was possible. 

I wonder what Zechariah and Elizabeth thought their son's life would be like? They must have been committed to God's plan for John – that he would be the profit of the most high. Their son probably was a source of great hope, joy, and even peace for both Zechariah and Elizabeth. But did they know what preparing the way for the Lord would actually look like? Were they aware of how John would spend his days? (Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4) Or did they know how their son would die? (Herod sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:10-12) There doesn't seem to be much hope, joy, or peace in these particular verses.

When they considered the whole of their child's life and death, did they have a sense of peace knowing what Zechariah had prophesied? That their child would walk before the Lord giving knowledge of salvation, baptizing people in Jesus' name, giving light to those sitting in darkness, and guiding feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:76-79)? 

I like to tell myself that I would be able to have peace if I were a profit and knew ahead of time what was coming. But I've come to the realization that simply knowing what's to come does not give me peace about it. For example, when I know I need to have a difficult conversation with a family member or friend, I don't have a sense of peace knowing that it's coming. When I remember that God holds me in the palm of his hand and he sent his son, the Prince of Peace, so that I may have a relationship with him, this makes it easier to do what needs to be done regardless of the cost or even the outcome.

And this gives me peace.

Prayer:

Father God,

Thank you for the ways your remind us you are with us and how much you love us. Please help this knowledge impact everything about us. 

Amen.

Posted by Sally Bias with

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