Emmitsburg Council of Churches


A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 64:1-12

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence. 64:2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 64:3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 64:4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 64:5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 64:7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 64:9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. 64:10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 64:11 Our holy and beautiful house, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. 64:12 After all this, will you restrain yourself, O LORD? Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely?

Do You Really Desire for God to Return?

From Isaiah 64:1 we hear these words of a prayer of the prophet on behalf of the wayward nation of Israel around the time late 6th century B.C. "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down," the prophet prays. He is praying that the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, would come down to his people as he did years before when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert toward the promise land.

Israel's desert experience was looked back upon as a golden time when God lead his people in safety through the wilderness. God went before them as a pillar of light and following behind them as a protective fire. Indeed, the God of Israel from those early days was an all consuming fire. He could be a God of wrath and vengeance, but also the God who was jealous for his people's devotion.

However, during Isaiah's day -- things had gone bad in Israel -- so bad, in fact, that now the people as a whole longed for the presence of God. Even an angry God Almighty–one whose breath would burn like brimstone or whose nostrils would flare like a war horse. Such a God of power and fear would now be a welcomed presence because things had become foul in the land. There was corruption from the highest levels of the government. There were kings surrounded by false prophets who only told them happy news and things that were partially true or even to go to war when such action was unwarranted, unwise or even unjust. There was extortion and false court hearings where innocent men and women were being convicted while criminals who could bribe or influence there judge's opinion would go free without punishment. The prophet's often rail about injustice and bribery and many other evils that are also common in our day.

And so the prophet Isaiah, speaking on behalf of the common people and as a spokes person for God cries for the powerful, righteous and all-seeing God of Israel to "rend the heavens and come down" into the midst of the wayward nation. We can just imagine the crowds crying out, "Something has to be done about the situation around here, why not just wipe out all the evil doers and let the poor folk rise up and take power!"

But actually, the prayer petition doesn't exactly go like that--although it is a temptation for us to wish that GOD would wipe out all the evil people from the face of the earth – so that just "us good people" would be left – and , it is true that Isaiah goes on to say, "You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you and your ways" (Isa. 64:5).

If God would just get down here and straighten out the evil people, then we'd be able to patch things up and hold things in good order and everyone would be happy . . . . Do you really think we could do that?!! Probably not. No, I don't think so either!

Isaiah goes on to pray: "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth" (Isa. 64:6).

This means–like, we are untouchable, unapproachable because we are not pure–none of us. We are all dirty in God's sight. And we had better not even hope to come anywhere near to God–who is utterly pure, righteous and holy. We would not dare to approach Almighty God -- lest we be destroyed. Even the most righteous amongst us is not worthy to be in God's presence.

But the bottom line for Isaiah, is that, Isaiah, ultimately speaking on behalf of the people–is pleading for God to come down. What is hoped for and desired is that God would return to Israel to lead them and to be their forward and rear guard once again. The desire for the languishing nation is that God would return to the midst of his people and reclaim them for God's-self. This is an ambitious prayer!

Perhaps you can relate Isaiah's ancient plea to your own life or situation. "O that the Holy One, even the unapproachable Holy God would return to me! O That somehow, even beyond the unfulfillable demands of God's law and regardless of my unclean condition–God, in his infinite love and mercy, would still choose to come and dwell with me -- ‘Rend the heavens and come down!' Break into my life situation Lord. For I am miserable without you being active in my life . . . have mercy upon me."

What a prayer!!! Have you ever prayed like this? This takes courage. I mean, praying with sincerity that Almighty God would come into your life–this is scary stuff!@!@!

"‘O that you would tear open (rend) the heavens and come down'–Once again dear God. Return to your people. Return to Me. Return into the midst of your gathered people. Come into the midst of this shattered family of ours. Come into the midst of this difficult marriage we have. Come into the midst of my parents who fight every night. Come into the midst of my teenage son who is drinking or our daughter who seems lost to us. Please Almighty God, come into the midst of our brokenness and teach us once again your ways. We confess our sinfulness to you."

If you have ever prayed so honestly like this before God then you have entered into the same kind of prayer life as Isaiah had as he prayed for the nation of Israel long ago. This is a good and godly practice that we ought to work at maturing into. Transparent living before God. Transparent praying about who we really are or about the family we live in or about the nation we are citizens of!

We can put it all out there before God. And the Good News is: God Listens! Such prayers invoke a response from the living God. This is what makes faith vital and alive!!!

I think that God is more likely to hear and answer your prayers if you approach God with such sincerity and honesty. Not shallow prayers nor vague petitions . . . not even being selfish, like dear God, please give me a new car, a nice house and a beautiful spouse.

But more like, just put it out there: "HELP!! My life's a wreck Lord!"

This is the kind of practical openness that God hears. This I KNOW because I have some experience in this department! Getting down on your knees (I really mean, get physically on your knees!!) and making a sincere confession before God will bring results in your life and in the life of your family or whatever the situation is. Don't get too supernatural about this – it could be that you will be directed to make some "adjustments" in your own department. Indeed, you may find yourself becoming the target of God's wrath – not that God delights in our punishment, but that God loves us enough to want us to change our own behaviors or demeanor.

To add an additional level of understanding, Isaiah includes an acknowledgment that he understands "the differential of position." "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are the work of your hand" (Isa. 64:8)

In other words, "God you made us, you know exactly what we're made out of. You know exactly what our weaknesses and strengths are. You know just how to break us to smithereens if you wanted to. But more importantly, when we have messed up – You know exactly how to put us (and others whom we may have hurt) back together again!! You know exactly how to gather up all of the little fragments of the person you made us to be and you can remake us in your likeness. Show us, once again, how to love and live for you.

Here is the hope of our Isaiah lesson. God is a god who cares about What and Who he has made. He is our Eternal parent. Whether you think of God as Father or Mother, whichever image works best. God is a loving and caring one who wishes for us to be happy in this life. Sure, we may long for eternity when all will be perfection. But it all begins right here–right now!!!

Our earthly life is the shaping time for becoming true children of God. Jesus is our highest example of love. So everything we do and everything we think ought to offer some reflection on what we know about God's love as exemplified in the life of Jesus. You and I do well to consider that we are children of God–we may be good or bad. But true children seek to emulate their parents' example and listen.

May we choose to emulate Christ, God's one and only Son our Lord.

Let us pray,

Lord Jesus, come down from your heavenly throne. Return to us your wayward people. Cleanse us from our sins and bind us up. Remove from us every harmful way and attitude. Heal up our wounded hearts and give us the fullness of your love for all–including ourselves.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon