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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 65:1–12

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the Lord; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions.

Thus says the Lord: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me.

But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny; I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my sight, and chose what I did not delight in. (NRSV)

Imagine God as a vibrant adult eager to be sought out and called upon. “Hey, here I am! Hey, look at me. I’m over here! Hey, listen to me. I can teach you how to change your life for the better! Hey, I would be delighted if you engaged with me!” Waving arms, being persistent, yet at one point in provocation and frustration saying, “OK, have it your way. Don’t pay me any mind. But you will experience consequences for your bad choices.”

The people of Israel had gotten it all wrong. They were full of themselves, following their own agendas, which were evil in God’s sight. Instead of listening to God for guidance and surrendering to God’s direction, they engaged in empty acts of “holiness”: burning incense on bricks, sitting inside tombs, eating pork and strange broth, staying up all night in hidden places, making sacrifices in gardens. God responds, “But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword.”

Some have simplistically depicted the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath. But in this same chapter of Isaiah, God promises that his faithful servants will be blessed abundantly: filled with food and drink, with rejoicing and gladness of heart. The God we know in both the Old and New Testaments is a God of steadfast love who desires nothing more than that we are in loving relationship with God and one another, becoming who God created us to be. Sometimes we only learn righteousness through tough love.

Gracious and angry God,forgive me whenever I go my own way and ignore you. Lead me to true life. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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