By Tim Marsh, Pastor
First Baptist Church, Laurens
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8, NRSV)
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11, NRSV)
Words. Words come cheaply these days. We scribble, scratch, jot, text, tweet, and type. We abbreviate, create acronyms, and toss about words like balloons.
However, in the days of Isaiah, words were jewels. Parchment was rare. Few wrote. Fewer could afford to write. And, few could read. Yet all could hear. Words crafted in just the right rhythm, with choice, poignant, timeless and timely words would accompany their audience for a lifetime.
I once heard a pastor say while expressing appreciation for the church music, “No one ever left church humming the sermon!” How true! Yet, the words of the prophets were written with such care that those who heard remembered them. They memorized them upon hearing. More than that, they internalized them.
The people of Israel witnessed calamity upon calamity as their beloved Jerusalem laid in ruins, including its Temple to their God.
These words provided hope that God would act on their behalf to restore their land.
They promised peace, that God’s rule would mean the end of war, conflict and chaos.
They proclaimed joy. Not only would God do something in the future, he would accompany them on the journey, giving reason to celebrate. He would demonstrate his steadfast love with his presence in their midst, becoming a part of their lives.
Lastly, he would illuminate a dark world with the truth of his character and purpose in saving this world – through himself. And when the LORD made a promise – when He gave his priceless, carefully crafted words – the people knew that they would be fulfilled.
After all they had witnessed this in Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and David. They knew God’s promises would be fulfilled in God’s time. Observing Advent is to live daily in a fallen world as part of a community that is convinced that the promises of the LORD in scripture will come to pass to redeem creation and bring salvation. It is living with hope, when the world promises no hope. It is living with love, even in a context of competition and conflict.
It is living with joy, even when circumstances warrant sadness or anger. It is living with peace in a world of war. We have words that remind us of such. Even more so, at Advent we remember the Word who became flesh and embodied hope, love, joy and peace for us.
Tim Marsh has been pastor at FBC Laurens since September 2022. He is graduate of Samford University, Beeson Divinity School (M.Div.), Duke Divinity School. He is also in the process of completing the Doctor of Ministry at the Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity. Tim was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rutherfordton, NC, before coming to Laurens. He is a native of Birmingham.