Thursday, October 22, 2015, 9:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “A Believer’s Prayer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 64 (NASB). Prayer for Justice (vv. 1-3) Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence— As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil— To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence. In context, God’s people were unfaithful to their Lord, and they rebelled against him, and they grieved his Holy Spirit, so he became their enemy, and he fought against them. His people then remembered the days of old when God had delivered Israel out of slavery to Egypt, and how he had miraculously led them through the depths of the river, and how they had escaped the enemy’s grasp. So, they called on God to look down from heaven and to see their misery. They asked God what happened to his zeal for them, and his love, grace and mercy to them which God’s people had experienced in their previous deliverance. They even blamed God for allowing them to sin, it would appear, perhaps because he did not stop them. I believe they responded in pride, as well, feeling as though God was treating them just like they thought he should treat their enemies. So, they called on him to return to them, and to no longer forsake them, and to not give them over to their enemies (Is. 63). Here they are calling on God to show himself mighty and powerful in the face of their enemies, so that their enemies might know who God is, and that they might fear him. No One Like Him (vv. 4-5a) For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. To me, this whole discourse in Isaiah 63-64 is progressive. In other words, when God chastises and rebukes us for our sin, we don’t always respond immediately with repentance. Sometimes we have to work through our emotions until we get to the point to where we bow the knee in humility and in repentance, and to where we finally yield the control of our lives over to God, and we trust him with our lives and with our circumstances, instead of us insisting on going our own way, thinking we know what is best for us. We might, for instance, feel as though we have gotten a raw deal, or we might resent the instrument of God’s divine correction against us, thinking we are somehow superior. We might begin to question God’s sovereignty over our lives, or we might draw on past experience and wonder why he does not act like he did before, or like we thought he did before. We might, as well, be confused by his discipline and correction if we have bought into lies concerning his divine character and will for our lives. We may have been told that God requires nothing of us in the way of repentance and obedience, and that, in fact, he smiles on us and he is delighted in us, even when we are steeped in sin. We might have accepted a lie that God does not judge our sin, now that we are under grace, and that, in fact, he can’t even see our sin, but scripture says differently. And, so, we think God’s servants and messengers are being harsh or legalistic if they confront us with our sins of rebellion, and if they call us to repent and to obey our Lord in walking in his righteousness. As well, we might be under the illusion that God is perfectly ok with us dealing with sin our own way, in our own timing, and that he does not harp on sin or demand surrender and obedience. So, we might begin by questioning God’s justice, doubting his sovereignty, blaming him for our sin, feeling we got a raw deal, feeling prideful, as though we don’t deserve what we got, and wondering what happened to his grace and compassion. We might move from that to looking at others and what they are doing, and thinking God should come after them, and even calling upon God to judge our enemies, or our perceived enemies. We might deflect the attention from ourselves on to others who we feel are much more deserving of God’s judgment, and we might hope they would listen to God’s voice, and that they would see that he is God. Yet, in the process of all this emotional sorting out of our feelings, we might find our fingers pointing back at ourselves, and we might hear God’s gentle voice whispering to us that it is us who needs to hear this. We are the ones who do not honor him as holy. And, then we remember that God acts on behalf of those who wait for him, i.e. for those who put their trust in him, who believe in his promises, and who respect and honor his commands. They suddenly remember that scriptures teach that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, that we lie and do not live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6). We may recall that Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn. 14:23). We might recall as well Jesus’ words when he said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15:7). The thing is, if we are abiding in him, and his words in us, we aren’t going to ask for what will fulfill our selfish desires, but we will be asking according to his will and purposes. If we want God to listen to our prayers, and to answer them, we need to be listening to him, and we need to delight in doing what pleases him, and we must be walking in his ways. Confession of Sin (vv. 5b-7) Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities. Now God’s people, who had rebelled against him, seem to have worked through all of their initial emotional responses to God’s judgment upon them, and they appear to have worked through all of those confusing questions and thoughts and initial reactions, so that now they seem to be thinking more clearly. Now we get to the meat of the matter, the confession of the sin, and to honesty in admitting their sin as God sees it instead of deflecting, or feeling offended, and being defensive, perhaps. Now they can begin to deal with the sin, and to put it behind them, so that they can move forward in God’s grace and mercy, walking now according to the Spirit, and no longer conducting their lives after the flesh. Part of the admission of sin was owning to the severity of the sin in that they had continued in it for a long time. This is essential, when sin addiction is present, that the one sinning honestly acknowledges the addiction, and that it has been going on a very long time, instead of making every time they sin out to be isolated incidents which they feel can easily be rectified by a mere feeling of sorrow, and perhaps even an acknowledgement of the sin, though sometimes those living in sin addiction will admit only to part, but not to the whole, for they are still holding on and are unwilling to let go of it all. When sin addiction is not dealt with at its root, it will continue, because the sinner thinks that a mere confession thus brings forgiveness, and that is the end of the story, but it isn’t. If we don’t get to the heart of the issue, and deal with what it is that keeps leading us back into sin, we will continue spinning our wheels and repeating the same cycle over and over again. Scripture teaches that we need to throw off every hindrance or obstruction to victory over sin, and the sin which so easily entangles (traps, ensnares) us, so we can run with perseverance the race God has marked out for us (Heb. 12:1). Sometimes those living with sin addictions, or even those who may sin, but not habitually, may have difficulty, at times, or most of the time, with acknowledging the severity of their sin. They might use words such as “messed up,” or they may minimize the sin to make it sound much less severe than what it is, or use the excuse that they are sinners, and thus they will still sin, or they may claim that God’s grace covers it all, or claim that God is ok with them dealing with the sin in their own way according to their own timing. So, for true repentance to take place, we have to own up to the sin, call it what it is, make no allowances or excuses for it, and accept whatever discipline must take place as necessary to get us back on track, i.e. there might need be a time of rehab involved where we have to work through these issues and put off the sins which ensnare us and replace our sinful habits with the things of God (See: Eph. 4-5; Ro. 8:12-14). Prayer for Mercy (vv. 8-12) But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord, Nor remember iniquity forever; Behold, look now, all of us are Your people. Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, Where our fathers praised You, Has been burned by fire; And all our precious things have become a ruin. Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O Lord? Will You keep silent and afflict us beyond measure? If we want God to heal us, and to deliver us out of bondage to sin, we must willingly turn from our sin, in the power and working of the Spirit within us, and we must submit our lives into his hands, listen when he speaks to us, and obey what he says to do. We certainly can pray for mercy, but we should never cut short the process of what God is trying to do in our lives through his divine correction and discipline. If we are in too big a hurry for God to deliver us from the pain, when his discipline is meant for our good, we might circumvent what is necessary for us to be delivered. And, thus we may continue in the sin which so easily entangles, and we never want to do that! Let God do his work in your heart! A Believer’s Prayer / An Original Work / July 31, 2012 With my whole heart, Lord, I pray to be Yours, And Yours always. Lead me in Your truth today. May I love You, and obey. Lead me in Your righteousness. When I sin, may I confess; Bow before You when I pray; Live for You and You always. Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend. Life with You will never end. You are with me through each day, Giving love and peace always. You will ne’er abandon me. From my sin You set me free. You died on that cruel tree, So I’d live eternally. Soon You’re coming back for me; From this world to set me free; Live with You eternally. Oh, what joy that brings to me. I will walk with You in white; A pure bride, I’ve been made right By the blood of Jesus Christ; Pardoned by His sacrifice.