December 31, 7th Day of Christmas
Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9
Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
How the mountains would quake in your presence!
2 As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
3 When you came down long ago,
you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
And oh, how the mountains quaked!
4 For since the world began, no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
who works for those who wait for him!
5 You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved?
6 We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
7 Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy.
Therefore, you have turned away from us
and turned us over[c] to our sins.
8 And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.
9 Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
Please don’t remember our sins forever.
Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.
Israel is in turmoil. And they wonder why God seems far away when the people have been engaged in sin and rebellion? Surprised? The people were in difficult times, not unlike our day. Their relationship to God is estranged, not unlike our day. Israel has been at war with a frequent enemy and distant relative, the Edomites, descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. Rejection of God does not bode well for people or nations.
Notice the overall structure of this pericope: 1) God is acknowledged as Creator; 2) the people have fallen away from God; 3) the people repent of their sin; and 4) the people desire restoration with the Lord. Isaiah’s concern is that the people would reflect a reverence for the Lord which was not happening, not unlike our day. The prophet, in talking with the Lord, begins this passage by declaring “when you [God] came down long ago.” To what is he referring? Creation. “Since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you.” (Paul much later quotes this same verse in I Cor. 1:9.)
The world of Isaiah had dismissed God as irrelevant, not unlike our day. The transparency of Isaiah’s confession before the Lord is powerful . . . “we are not godly, we are constant sinners, we are all infected and impure with sin, our sins sweep us away, no one calls on your name . . .” again, not unlike our day. “Infected” seems like the perfect word to describe the days of Isaiah and the days of our own world. We live in a culture with a rampant, pandemic sin infection which has but One cure. As the people of Israel in Isaiah’s day, our society is in need of genuine repentance. Our problems are spiritual in nature and remain unperceived in a secular world. The passage concludes with this strong word of hope . . . in spite of our gross, continued failures, you are our Father, God. You made us. As your children, Lord, forgive our sins. . .
If you reread the passage, you’ll notice at the beginning a longing for God to again “come down.” We are a people deeply infected by sin. In these unsettling times, a great deal of repentance and healing needs to take place in every person as we await the Savior’s return. This passage of Scripture concludes with “Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.” Yes, we are all made in the image of God. Today, let us live as his children.
“O Come, Let Us Adore Him” Voctave
O Son of God and Son of man, Thou wast incarnate, didst suffer, rise, ascend for my sake; Thy departure was not a token of separation but a pledge of return; Thy Word, promises, and sacraments show thy death until thou come again. Grant that I may, with all diligence, walk in a manner worthy of my status as a child of Thine. May I live with a repentant heart, humble soul, Spirit-quickened mind, and a quiet spirit until that great day when all will see Thee face to face. In the Savior’s name. Amen.
―adapted Daniel Sharp
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