Week 1 of Advent: Preparation
The lyrics of a popular, secular Christmas song says, “You better watch out, you better not pout, you better not cry, I’m tellin’ you why – Santa Clause is coming to town.” We need to watch out and be ready, because Jesus is coming to town. We often look at preparation as the process of getting ready for something. But the prophet Ezekiel, gives us something a little bit different to think about as we prepare for the coming of Christ. In Ezekiel 38:7, he wrote:
“Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them.
In the prophecy against Gog, the people are told to be ready. Back in the book of Exodus when God used Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, they were told to be ready. We always need to be ready for when God is ready to move in our lives. Being ready means we’ve already made the necessary preparations. Exodus 12:11 says, “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste.” The idea was to be ready to go the moment Pharaoh told them to leave. Being ready even before God is ready to act demonstrates faith that God will do what He says He will do.
Sometimes God gives us direction and we get excited and start planning and getting ready – but then it feels like we just got ready to sit and wait. God’s timing doesn’t always match our timing, so once we’re ready, we need to keep ready. That means we keep everything ready that’s needed for what God is asking us to do – no matter how long God takes before He acts. Staying ready means we keep on believing God by faith and waiting on Him.
If the Israelites had gotten everything ready to leave but after the first plague Pharaoh didn’t let them leave and they quit believing in what God said and just sat back enjoying their meal, kicked off their shoes and relaxed, then by the time they got everything ready again, Pharaoh could have changed his mind and not let them leave. Or perhaps all the Egyptians would have had time to become angry over losing all their first born children and came in to massacre the Israelites.
God wasn’t just giving Pharaoh a hard time or paying him back for his cruelties to the Israelites. He was also teaching the Israelites about who He was and His power. It should have been a lesson to prepare them to trust Him in the dessert and to know He would lead them into the Promised Land. But as we know, they only had to get to the Red Sea before they began to doubt God. Perhaps this is why Ezekiel also said to be a guard.
Be a Guard
A guard protects. He stands between the vulnerable and danger. He warns of coming danger. A guard fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. He protects the assets. The guard stays diligent – always looking out for any possible danger. He doesn’t sleep through the night. He doesn’t sit around playing cards or scrolling social media. He’s guarding what is most valuable to him.
Guarding your heart
This isn’t about protecting yourself from someone hurting you. Solomon was talking about your spiritual heart in Proverbs 4:23-27. He thought that guarding your heart was more important than anything else. He wrote:
Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly, and don’t let your lips talk deviously. Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.
Guarding your heart is important because if you’ve not first protected it from temptation, then you will not be able to guard your mouth, eyes, or feet. Why? Jeremiah 17:9 tell us, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable.” The heart will make us believe that what our mouth, eyes, and feet want to do is ok. It will come up with all kinds of excuses until we rationalize why it would not be wrong to do whatever we are being tempted to do. So we must guard our heart and we do that through memorizing Scripture, studying God’s Word, and spending time praying – without ceasing. If we do not guard our hearts, we will not be able to guard anything else.
Guard the host assembled about you
Ezekiel also said we are to guard the host assembled around us – that’s your family. Your spouse, your children. If you are a married man, God has called you to be a spiritual leader in your home and part of that responsibility is guarding your wife and children. Not only in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual sense. You guard them by praying for them, by being a Godly role model for them, teaching them God’s Word through family devotions, training them in the ways of God, taking them to church, and teach them how to love God with all their hearts, minds, and soul. Are you guarding the host assembled about you?
How ready are you?
Before Jesus’ birth the Israelites’ Advent was preparing expectantly for the coming Messiah. But when He came, they had no idea that He walked among them. They created in their own minds what the Messiah would be – a King who would overthrow their oppressors. They were not expecting a baby born low income parents who would lay Him in a manger.
Today, our Advent is the second coming of Jesus. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul wrote, “For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” We will not know before hand when He will come again, so we must be on guard and always ready. We need to have the expectancy that He could come again in any moment and live so that we would not ever be ashamed if He returned and caught us doing something we shouldn’t. And we need to live with the urgency that if He came right now, how many people would not be ready? What are we doing to help others be ready?
Be Ready and Be on Guard
As we are preparing our hearts for Christmas, take time alone with the Holy Spirit and ask Him how ready you are for the second coming of Christ. How ready are you for God to do the next thing in your life? How well are you guarding your heart, your spouse and children? What do you need to do to be ready, keep ready, and to guard the host assembled around you?
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