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“Stir up your power, O Lord, and come…” we prayed. That’s a dangerous prayer to pray. When the Lord ‘stirs up His POWER’ He can be dangerous Lord.
• He is, after all, the Lord who, by His POWER, commanded the formless void, “let there be…” “and it was so.”
• This is the Lord, who, by His POWER, commanded the demons, “shut up, be gone” “And it was so.”
• This is the Lord, who by His POWER, whispered a Word to the stormy sea, “be still…” “And it was so.”
• And this is the Lord, who by His POWER, called to the dead, “Lazarus, come out!” “And it was so.”
Do we know what we’re doing when we pray as we have done, “Stir up your POWER, O Lord, and come…”? Are we at all prepared in the event that He answers our prayer?
POWER can be a dangerous thing. In the Greek of the New Testament, the word for POWER is “dunamis,” the word that we get ‘dynamite’ from. On this 1st Sunday in Advent, we prayed, “Light the fuse of your dynamite, O Lord, and come…”
We’re asking Him to “cause an explosion,” to “blow something up,” to “make something happen.”
Because there’s a lot of trouble in this world. Bombs, beheadings, violence, riots, gangs, abortions, abuse, disasters and diseases. “Stir up your power O Lord, and come…”
“There are forces at work against Your people, O Lord. We do our best to stand against them and remain true to our baptism, but they are persistent and they wear us down, drop by drop, advertisement by advertisement, court case by court case, and temptation by temptation. Speak your WORD against our adversaries and protect us and deliver us and save us. Because we are WEAK but You are STRONG. “Stir up your power O Lord, and come.”
That’s a dangerous prayer to pray. But it’s really no more dangerous than the prayer that we heard the prophet Isaiah pray on this 1st Sunday in Advent. “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 among 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.”
There was a lot of trouble in Isaiah’s day too. And Isaiah prayed for the Lord to stir up His power and come down. The way He used to, in the good old days,
• when He flooded the world and all the wicked perished,
• when He divided the sea and drown the enemy,
• when He shook the mountain and the all the people trembled,
• when He sent lightening from heaven to start a fire.
“Rend the heavens and come down, O Lord…” Start a fire, boil some water, shake the mountains. Establish your justice. Crush the evildoer.
Sounds good doesn’t it? Wouldn’t that be nice? But I tell you, it’s a dangerous prayer to pray.
There is an old saying, ‘be careful what you pray for. You just may get it.’ What’s wrong with this world is not just ‘out there,’ it’s also ‘in here.’ The selfishness and greed, the envy and lust, the appetite for more that is never satisfied, the willingness to get what we want without regard to whom it hurts, or kills. It’s all as alive in us as it is in them. We may dress it up and camouflage it, disguise it, even to ourselves. But God sees it and it’s all the same to Him. Sin is sin. Evil is evil. Wrong is wrong. Guilty is guilty.
“Stir up your power, O Lord, and come…” “Rend the heavens and come down…” Like a said, dangerous prayers to pray.
It’s almost as if Isaiah catches himself, and realizes the implications of what he’s praying for. If God were to REND THE HEAVENS AND COME DOWN and execute His justice on the evildoer, and clean up the mess in this world OF HIS, and set things right again, that would mean that we would not survive either. We also would be roasted in the fire and boiled in the water and the mountain would fall on us too.
It’s down right striking just how drastically the prophet changes his tone about half way through his prayer. He goes from calling upon God to SHOW HIMSELF and execute His JUSTICE against evil… to a hushed and humble, penitential confession of the sin.
Suddenly, he’s not speaking to God about ‘THEM’ any more. Suddenly, he’s talking about “US.”
“Behold, you were angry, and WE sinned.”
When You discipline US, as a loving father disciplines his dear children, rather than turning from our sin “we sinned” all the more. And over time, our hearts became harder and harder.
“In OUR sins we have been a long time.”
This is nothing new. It goes all the way back to our ancestors, Uncle Adam and Aunt Eve. It’s just who we are.
“WE HAVE ALL become like one who is unclean, and all OUR righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
We try to look good. We believe that appearances are everything. We hide our real intentions and our true thoughts under PRETTY TALK and PRETTY DEEDS. But to You, it’s as though we were wrapping ourselves in used toilet paper – a ‘POLLUTED GARMENT.’ How much better if we stood before you naked and ashamed.
“We all fade like a leaf, and OUR iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Our faith is so weak and dried up, that all it takes is the slightest little temptation, and off we go, carried away with the wind, separated from the vine from which we have our life.
“There is no one who calls on your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you…
Our mind has grown so dull and our heart has become so hard, that we no longer pray. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that we never took the time to learn how to. We’re just too busy.
You have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.”
When God hides His face from us, it’s not that He doesn’t see us. It’s that we don’t see Him, because we’ve gone blind. We don’t see Him because we don’t look for Him where He promises to be seen and heard – in His Word and in His Baptism and His Supper.
How’s that for a confession of sin? How about if we started the Divine Service like that? “Behold, you were angry and we sinned and in our sins we have been a long time. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all or righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 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.” Now, there’s a Confession of Sin.
Now what sort of dramatic action shall we ask God for? Shall we prod Him to “Stir up His mighty power and come…”? Shall we challenge Him to “Rend the heavens and come down” with His divine justice and purge the evil and destroy the sinner?
No! For that would be too dangerous. We too would surely be destroyed in the destruction.
No, we shall pray that He come down with His gentle love and tender grace. We shall pray that His POWER would be made known to us in forgiveness and mercy.
Appealing now to God’s mercy and compassion for His children, Isaiah prays, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.”
“Stir up Your POWER O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from THE THREATENING PERILS OF OUR SINS AND SAVED BY YOUR MIGHTY DELIVERANCE.”
God has answered Isaiah’s prayer and He has answered ours. He has come. But look how He comes. A fetus in a virgin’s womb. An infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. Meek and lowly on a donkey’s colt.
His power is made known in weakness. Mocked, flogged, crucified. Don’t be deceived. Your Lord has come and His POWER is on display before your eyes. By the POWER OF HIS MERCY, He is atoning for the sins of the whole world and making all things NEW.
By the mighty POWER OF HIS LOVE, Jesus Christ came down to stand in our place before God the Father. By His mighty power, He endured God’s righteous anger for our sin and the punishment that we deserved. And God hid His face from Him. If you can swallow this, God hid His face from God. And God could not find God. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
He is “rescuing you from the threatening perils of your sins, and saving you by His mighty deliverance.”
Today on this 1st Sunday in Advent, we prayed a dangerous prayer that dare never be prayed apart from the faith that believes that “you are our Father.” “We are all your children.”
There is a Day that is yet to come, when our Lord will “rend the heavens and come down.” And His mighty power will be made known, not in weakness, but IN POWER and GLORY.
• But until that Day comes, He comes down to us in the weakness and foolishness of His Word, for “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.”
• Until that Day comes, we cling to the Word of His Cross, for no matter how laughed at and scorned it may be, “it is the power of God for us who are being saved.”
• Until that Day comes, He will continue to come down to us in the lowliness of bread and wine, in which we will continue to see His flesh and blood, given and shed for us, to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins and save us by His mighty deliverance.