Advent Day 19


Isaiah 9:18 · 2 Pet. 2:10b-16

Psalm 50

1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,
    God shines forth.
3 Our God comes
    and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
    and around him a tempest rages.
4 He summons the heavens above,
    and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    for he is a God of justice.

7 “Listen, my people, and I will speak;
    I will testify against you, Israel:
    I am God, your God.
8 I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
    or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
    or drink the blood of goats?

14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
    fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

16 But to the wicked person, God says:

“What right have you to recite my laws
    or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction
    and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
    you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil
    and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You sit and testify against your brother
    and slander your own mother’s son.
21 When you did these things and I kept silent,
    you thought I was exactly like you.
But I now arraign you
    and set my accusations before you.

22 “Consider this, you who forget God,
    or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you:
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
    and to the blameless[d] I will show my salvation.”


Matthew 3:1-12

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.



What does God want from us? Do you ever feel the challenge of trying to live each day in relationship and communion with an omnipotent, invisible being who is always in the right? As American Christians, we often pride and define ourselves based on our “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. But what does this relationship actually look like? What do we want out of this relationship? What does God want out of it?

In Psalm 50, we hear God expressing his hurt and frustration with the empty gestures of sacrifice from His People. Think about this with the metaphor of marriage: a husband may dutifully buy flowers for his wife on their anniversary, but if he does not communicate with her and share her burdens daily, these gestures will feel empty. They may even feel insulting—a paltry performance of love that has none of the intent behind it that makes such gestures meaningful in the first place.

God reminds His People of the obvious in this passage: “Every animal of the forest is Mine”. He is weary and disappointed by the empty gestures of sacrifice—receiving flowers but not receiving hearts. But God doesn’t expect His People to read his mind: He tells them what He wants:


Sacrifice a thank offering to God,

and pay your vows to the Most high.


First, God asks us to be thankful—gratitude is the sacrificial offering He craves. While we are all familiar with the idea of “counting your blessings”, ask God to cultivate a heart of gratitude in you. Ask Him to open your eyes—which our optimizing, materialist culture helps to shut—to see with truth and clarity how He loves you and cares for you on a daily basis. This is a prayer He is longing to answer.

Call on Me in a day of trouble;

I will rescue you and you will honor Me.


Sometimes we feel that only certain levels of “trouble” warrant calling on God. Finding a partner, looking for a job–but the little, petty troubles of daily life are also opportunities for us to call to God. God invites us to cultivate radical dependence on Him. His Word promises that He will rescue us—even when that doesn’t necessarily look like what we expect. But more importantly, calling on God is honoring Him. Christ’s sacrifice for us means we don’t have to pretend to be self-sufficient or perfect. We have a Father who wants us to call on Him with every trouble we face. Knowing that in itself begins to create the heart of gratitude He desires from us. Thanks and radical dependence are what God longs for from us.

-Carla Neuss



What prayers of gratitude can you pray to God?

What are the needs and troubles in your life for which only God can save you? How are you in need of His rescue?

Jon Ziegler