I prepared the following for evening prayer, but it snowed that night and I found it rather difficult to drive and having damaged two cars traveling to St. Georges in the snow in the past, I am loath to do it again. Fr. Marc filled in for me and did a wonderful job, so let me now offer my reflection that I would have shared then as a blog before Christmas. The readings are as follows if you would like to look at them ahead of time.
Psalm 116-117 Isaiah 59 Luke 17:20-37
I want to offer a short overview of Isaiah and then focus on how powerful our God really is. Verses 1-8 cover the sins committed by the people that deprive them of God’s favor. In Chapter 58 the Israelites seem to be a Holy people. They fast and seek after God’s wisdom, but Isaiah calls them out saying that they are hypocrites. Now in Chapter 59, any one of these listed sins would be enough to separate them from God, but Isaiah points them all out, because you can’t just take care of one, because that still leaves the others. When we look to clean up our own lives, we probably have to tackle one problem at a time, but we need to deal with them all at some point. One bad habit often leads to another, so it may take awhile to undo all the damage we have done to ourselves.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
The Israelites had suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, but they could not blame God, saying that he was not powerful enough. The fault lay with the Israelites who failed to follow God’s laws.
Non-believers will say that God is not able to help his people, but Christians will recognize that God is able to do a great many things. While he no longer parts the Red Sea, it does not mean that he is out of the miracle business. God does hear and I believe that he hears our prayers.
Numbers 11:23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” ● God is just as able to help today as he was back then. ● God's power has not lessened in any way. ● His reach and where he can affect things has not lessened in any way. ● He can cause change anywhere on the planet or in the entire universe.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
His attitude on prayer has not changed. He is as ready to answer prayer now as he was then. God does not need a hearing aid. He hears us perfectly. If you think that he grows tired of hearing our prayers, consider this:
Luke 18:1-3 The Parable of the Persistent Widow 1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.
3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
If you know the story, you know this corrupt judge gave into the widows demands. So how much more will a God that loves us do for us. If our prayers are not answered, maybe it is because we gave up too soon on praying or that our ears are the ones that became heavy and aren't really listening. Maybe he is telling us no or not now in our prayers? We have to be sensitive to his voice.
I know that there were times in the past when I prayed for release from certain temptations and grew weary of praying. But then this verse resonates with me and encourages me to persevere.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
If we throw in the towel, there is a way to separate ourselves from God and that is sin.
Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
We can pray all that we want, but let us not pretend that we can hide anything from God. He knows what we will pray before we say it. He knows what we are thinking even if we do not say it. God save us from ourselves!
Isaiah 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.
We need to be 100% honest with God. We actually don’t have a choice in this matter. You may delude yourself into thinking that you can get something by God, but we can’t. He is more shrewd than the shrewdest lawyer and more insightful than the most insightful psychologist.
Isaiah 59:4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
We know that many approach the law with their own motives. It is hard for a person, apart from God, to be selfless. By our nature we are selfish. We have to learn what it means to be civilized. But even being civilized does not mean that we are self-less. When a soldier, police-officer, or fire-fighter performs their duty for the greater good, they are being self-less.
When someone in the medical field works with the most contagious, like with COVID-19, that is being self-less. When a parent forgoes something essential, so their child can benefit, that is self-less. We have to approach God in the same way. There is no debating with God. He has a plan for each of us. We can either get on board or the train will just leave without us.
So what have you done this Advent season? Please continue to be in prayer. Like our psalm for today we can say that we love the Lord! Amen?
Psalm 116:12-14 12 What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Likewise, let us end looking once more at the end of the passage from Isaiah.
Isaiah 59:20 20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.
Christmas is imminent. It may have already passed by the time you read this. We celebrate the coming of Jesus and his birth. But he has already been born, so in reality we look forward to his coming again. We need to be preparing ourselves for that day.
Isaiah 59:21 21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”
Let us not thwart the Holy Spirit this Holy season. Remember Christmas is coming, but it is not a holiday, it is a Holy Day. Let his words never depart from our mouths. Amen?