Sunday November 27 – Isaiah 64:1-9
During Advent and Christmas, we’re putting a hold on the Romans series and following the lectionary – in particular the Isaiah passages. This coming Sunday the reading is Isaiah 64:1-9, which follows with some of my comments. This isn’t the sermon (yet), just my preliminary thoughts.
1-3 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
Israel pleads with God to make his presence unmistakeably clear as He did at Sinai – the presence that makes nations tremble and mountains quake. Pretty awesome language. Does Isaiah want this for himself – or does he want this awesome presence in order to intimidate or smash an enemy, say, Babylon?
4-5a From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.
Isaiah ponders what kind of God he’s asking for, but there’s a turning point here. This is a God who acts for those who WAIT for him, who meets (presumably without immediately toasting them with His glory) him who works righteousness with joy, who remembers God in all his ways. It almost seems like this gives Isaiah pause to consider whether he himself is the kind of guy God meets and works for. As Isaiah calls out for God, he turns to thinking about himself and his condition – which is none too good.
5b-6 Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
So much for the “righteous” calling down His wrath on the unRighteous! What Isaiah sees when he ponders himself is an uncleanness that makes him unfit for God. We don’t use this kind of language much in the mainline churches.
7 – There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
But now comes another turning point – that turns around the idea of the “hand”. We melt in the hand of our iniquities, yet note below:
8 – But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
We melt in the hand of our iniquities, yet we are even so the work of our Father’s hand.
So Isaiah moves from calling down wrath, fire and brimstone to calling God Father. The way to that transition is through the valley of humility, recognizing ourselves for who we really are.
THANK YOU for those who prayed for a decent sermon last week. It truly helped, as I had some sudden inspiration around Friday which turned the message into something much more powerful than I had been thinking. So, please pray for this poor preacher again this week.