Advent: Monday of First Week


  • Morning Prayers
    • Isaiah 3
    • Mark 1:1-20
    • Psalms 144-146
  • Evening Prayers
    • Isaiah 4
    • Revelation 6
    • Psalms 144-146


Isaiah’s Talk of Purifying Judgment

"Zedekiah and the People Carried Captive" (1873)
“Zedekiah and the People Carried Captive” from The Story of the Bible: Told in simple language adapted to all ages, but especially to the young (1873)

THE FIRST WEEK of Advent begins with language of Israel’s judgment in terms that end up sounding like the Lamb opening the six seals in the book of Revelation (Isa 4:1; Rev 6). And that’s fitting, because the babe of Christmas morning is on the day of the LORD the Almighty Lamb. The focus in Isaiah’s earliest chapters is judgment falling upon Judah and Jerusalem, judgment sure and relentless. Instead of looking and smelling like rich whore city on Zion, she’ll end up ravaged and stinking like a guttersnipe (Isa 3:16-26). Nonetheless, Isaiah doesn’t preach chapter after chapter of only doom and disaster that ends in exile. He keeps suggesting a hopeful outcome from this purifying judgment that devastates adulterous Jerusalem.1E.g., Isa 1:18-19, 26-27; 2:2-4. For example, he pauses the drum beat of judgment to speak of the end result of that work:

But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel. All who remain in Zion will be a holy people— those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living. The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment. Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain. (Isa 4:2–6)

Our Need of Purification

Where do the people of God stand today with regard to the Lord’s demand for justice? He blesses only “those who are poor and realize their need for him, … who hunger and thirst for justice, … are merciful, … whose hearts a pure, … who work for peace”; in the end, “the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matt 5:3-10). I am thinking that in these days, in more and more places, the people who show that fruitful spirit that we see in the Beatitudes will also be “those who are persecuted for doing right” (Matt 5:10)—and often by those who think themselves to be among the people of God, even as they cast aspersions on anyone who seeks the Lord with a whole heart, mourns over wickedness, thirsts for justice, and works for peace. But the Lord’s promise is sure:

God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. (Matt 5:11–12)

A Prayer for Purification

Bernard of Clairvaux
(AD 1090–1153)

Come, Lord Jesus,
take away scandals from your kingdom, which is my soul,
and reign therein, you who alone have the right.
For avarice comes to claim a throne within me;
haughtiness and self-assertion would rule over me;
pride would be my king;
luxury says, “I will reign”;
ambition, detraction, envy, and anger struggle within me for mastery.
Come, then, O Lord, and disperse these enemies in your power,
and reign in me, for you yourself are my King and my God,
who gives salvation to your chosen ones.

Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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