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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 64:1–9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. (NRSV)

This text from Isaiah leapt off the page at me—a very human lament that communicates a bone-deep yearning for God’s presence; a need for God to boldly prove his loving steadfastness to his children; a call for a display that would prove beyond a doubt that God protects those that follow him and shuns the enemy with decisive action. Sound familiar? Is this not a twenty-first century plea?

Then, Isaiah switches tacks and piously acknowledges the just and benevolent nature of God. God is steadfast to the faithful and rewards their belief.

Then, like a child who can’t admit his wrongdoing, Isaiah cries over God’s abandonment. God’s willful distance from his people led to their transgressions. Apart from God, they forgot the commandments, succumbed to sin and were lost. Their good deeds were hollow. Today, mankind still employs that flawed reasoning and we blame God and others for our misfortune. Frequently, we are self-absorbed.

Isaiah’s lament is both vulnerable and so characteristically human; he doesn’t hold the people accountable for their forlorn state.

Finally, like a child after the tantrum has passed, Isaiah, in supplication, calls out to God to remember his children, his creation, and to gather them to him, despite their sins. Nowadays, faithful people regularly wrestle with the same weaknesses and find their way back to God. Hallelujah!

God of Mercy, guide me in my daily struggle to remain faithful to you and to act selflessly. Open me to your guidance and internal nudging, so when I get off track, I can find my footing and move forward. Thank you for creating the beautiful, fragile world and help and inspire me to love it and others as purely as you love me. Amen.

Written by Holly O’ Mara, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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