Day 352: December 18, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Isaiah 40:1-11
1 “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” 3 A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. 4 Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. 6 A voice was saying, “Cry out!” Another said, “What should I cry out?” “All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.” 9 Zion, herald of good news, go up on a high mountain. Jerusalem, herald of good news, raise your voice loudly. Raise it, do not be afraid! Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. 11 He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever. —Isaiah 40:8

Hope Set High
by Derek Webster, Missions Mobilization Minister, Brentwood Campus

I used to play water polo. One of our workouts was to jump into the diving pool (which meant no one could touch bottom), and our coaches would give us folding chairs to hold above our heads as we treaded water.

Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. At 40 minutes, I thought I’d drown. I was desperate for the weight to be lifted. I wanted to drop the chair and watch it sink to the bottom. But I was a water polo player and this is what it meant to train in that sport.

Finally, at 45 minutes, our coach would blow his whistle, we’d take the chair to the side of the pool, and lift our tired bodies out of the water.

Hearing that whistle was the greatest sound we could hear. But knowing the whistle would blow soon kept me working at it. I trusted my coaches to make it stop, and I trusted them that the monotony of treading water under duress would be worthwhile in my training.

It’s amazing what hope can do for perseverance.

As we approach Christmas, we celebrate hope. In this passage, hope is brought front and center—like a beacon of light in the dark. It’s the anticipation that one day the spiritual whistle will blow and all of the suffering, alienation, and captivity will be over. And Isaiah says that unlike the promises of people, the word of the Lord is forever.

In other words, God keeps His word.

We have the benefit of being on the opposite side of the cross. The listeners of this passage would have been waiting and believing on the Messiah to come. We wait and believe on the Messiah who has come. We benefit from God fulfilling His promises in the person of Jesus.

But dear friends, I’d also gently remind us that He’s coming again. He who puts hope in our hearts today will one day blow the final whistle and this life will be over. The weights will come off. Our world will be lifted.

Christmas is the reminder of the gift of Jesus to the world. It’s also the reminder of the power of hope to the world. This is a hope that has come and is coming. So we all can raise our voices this season and proclaim, “Maranatha!” The Lord has come and is coming again.

Reflection Questions

  1. Which weights of this world are pressing down on you?
  2. How can you encourage and proclaim hope today?
  3. How has God already “blown the whistle” in your life? How can that encourage you in the future?

About the Author

Derek Webster

Derek Webster is the Missions Mobilization Minister at Brentwood Baptist Church. He regularly teaches all over the world on cultural engagement and strategy. He, his wife Melissa, and their three sons served for 10 years with the International Mission Board in Western Europe. Prior to that, they served for 10 years in full-time ministry on the West Coast. Derek’s hobbies include music, sports, and reading.