Thursday after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Isaiah 63:7-19 (NKJV)
63:7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.
8 For He said, “Surely they are My people, children who will not lie.” So He became their Savior.
9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them all the days of old.
10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them.
11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: “Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,
12 “Who led them by the right hand of Moses, with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
13 “Who led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they might not stumble?”
14 As a beast goes down into the valley, and the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest, so You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name.
15 Look down from heaven, and see from Your habitation, holy and glorious. Where are Your zeal and Your strength, the yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained?
16 Doubtless You are our Father, though Abraham was ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.
17 O LORD, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? Return for Your servants’ sake, the tribes of Your inheritance.
18 Your holy people have possessed it but a little while; Our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary.
19 We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled, those who were never called by Your name.
Verse 17 is a great key to understanding the will and ways of God when we, though Christians, sometimes resist His Word. Here the complaint is not one of, “Really, Lord, admit that our sin and wandering is Your fault,” but, “O Lord, do not give us what we have demonstrated that we wanted! Do not let us keep wandering; do not facilitate our staying away from You, because we are too weak to come back!” It is another instance of what Luther termed the “theology of the cross.” it is in such instances where God seems hidden at best, or at worst that He is afflicting us Himself, that we must learn to see that He is specifically working to destroy any false self-sufficiency, unbelief, misbelief, “and other great shame and vice,” so that we confess that only He can restore us and keep us.
Such is the realization of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses, how in all of our affliction He was afflicted, how Jesus is not a High Priest Who is untouched by our infirmities, but One Who was like us in every way, except that He endured all things without ever having sinned. This is the sort of realization they were supposed to come to at Corinth in 1 Cor. 11:27-31; they did not suffer and die because “that’s what God wants,” but because He had to use the conditions they brought upon themselves through their sin to awaken them unto repentance.
We pray: Grant, O Father, the true humility that sees that Your will is always best, not being discouraged by cross and trial, but directed ever away from any thought of my own strength and toward the strength that is only by Your Son and His sacrifice for my salvation. Amen.