Do We Really Want God to Return?

Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9

Key Verse(s): All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Observation: Isaiah prays to God asking for God to tear open the heavens and perform incredible acts of natural disaster in order to cause all the nations to be shaken. In Isaiah’s view there isn’t anyone who is righteous. Everyone has been swept up in the sinfulness of the day and filthy acts of deprivation are called righteous. Isaiah squarely places the blame on those who know that God is God but yet refuse to rouse or stir themselves up to take hold of God and live according to God’s ways. They know what is right but continue to sin (v. 5). As the prayer continues, Isaiah’s attitude toward his fellow human beings changes. Instead of calling for God’s judgment, Isaiah asks God to remember that we are all God’s people. We are all the work of God’s hands. Isaiah asks God to have mercy, to not remember their sins, but rather reshape them as a potter shapes and reshapes clay.

Analysis: If you are like me, you find yourself from time to time praying the first part of this prayer. At times it is easy to get caught up in the reality of our times and become frustrated, overwhelmed, and discouraged by the acts of depravity all around us. As more and more prominent people from celebrities to politicians are accused and confess acts of sexual assault, we find ourselves asking God to tear open the heavens and pronounce judgment on these evil doers. As more and more acts of violence are perpetuated on the basis of nationalism, racism, and religious intolerance, we find ourselves giving up on humanity altogether. However, like Isaiah, we are reminded of the graciousness of God. God comes not to condemn but to save. As we begin the season of Advent with this reading from Isaiah, we are reminded why Jesus comes as a little baby in a manger. Knowing what we know about the eternal nature of our God and God’s intention to create and sustain life, we can read Isaiah’s prayer with an eye toward Jesus. The sexual assaults and other acts of violence cannot change the fact that God is our Father and that Jesus has come to free us from ourselves. Oh that we would rouse ourselves and take hold of God so that we would turn from our unrighteous and sinful ways.

Prayer: God of life, love, and liberty, we give you thanks for the opportunity to turn from our sins and embrace your will for our lives. We give you thanks for the time you have given us to prepare for Jesus’ coming both during this Advent season and the Day of Judgment that is to come. Free us from ourselves so that we will be ready when Jesus returns. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.

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