In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.
There’s been many times when I think I know more than the Lord. I’ve foolishly and smugly concluded that God didn’t have all the facts…or that He just didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. But who am I to advise or give guidance to the Lord? I can no where grasp or begin to comprehend the mind of God as a gold-fish can care for itself in its bowl. It is totally beyond my capabilities to understand God and His works. So again I must humbly confess, “You are God and I am not!”
Unfortunately, when we become Believers, God doesn’t wrap us up in cotton batting and place us carefully in a box for safe keeping. No, we’re subject to every evil and despicable thing the world can throw at us. But in the midst of all the pain, suffering, anguish and grief, we as Believers have one thing the rest of the world doesn’t… when we cry out to the Lord…He hears us. This verse says that He hears my voice…He knows and recognizes my voice above the din of the whole universe. But God doesn’t stop there…He acts when He hears our cry to Him…for when we summon the Lord, He will come to our aid.
David had seen earthly kingdoms rise and fall in his lifetime. But this Psalm of praise he wrote exalted God for His limitless Kingdom…continuing from the ancient past into the infinite future. David was celebrating God’s sovereignty…His reign over all things…and the eternal scope of His rule. And we also praise You, God, today for Your faithfulness… for kingdoms will rise and fall…but Your Heavenly Kingdom is without end. Amen.
Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector in Jericho. A much hated puppet of the Roman government who regularly exploited and gouged his own people. But Zacchaeus had heard of this man Jesus and wanted to get a closer look…so he decided to do something completely undignified for man of his position…he climbed a tree. He climbed a tree for the practical reason that he was a short man in a sea of people…but, as the old saying goes, “to be up a tree” could be fitting for him also. When someone is “up a tree” they are in a difficult situation without a way of escape. Could Zacchaeus had sensed the hopelessness and desperation in his soul as Jesus approached? As Jesus came near the tree, He looked up, called Zacchaeus by name, and invited Himself to his house in one short interaction…but this encounter changed everything for Zacchaeus. For the seeker now had been sought by the Savior, and his life would be changed forever.
Can you echo these same words that John the Baptist declared about Jesus and himself? What then is it that hinders us from making such a sweeping statement? In a single word – pride. Our selfish agenda pushes us to plunge ahead without God’s direction first. Our willful pride orchestrates our own plans, devoid of the Lord’s guidance. We want to remain on the throne of our life, rather than yielding to God. So what are we so afraid of? Are we fearful that as God increases in our life, our own personal identity will diminish to the point we’ll disappear? In a single word -Yes! But isn’t that what becoming a Christ Follower is all about? Our goal is to become less, as God becomes more. So how can we do this? It takes a conscious act of our Will and a yielding of our pride to allow the Lord to increase within us. And it also takes these words…”Yes, Lord. I ask for more of You and less of me.”
Last night our small group Bible study had quite a lively discussion on discrimination within the Church. We tend to be most comfortable at Church when everyone looks and acts like us. Our prejudice surfaces when someone outside that “mold” ventures into the Sanctuary seeking the Lord. Yes, they may not look like you…they may not have the same values or mores…but they are still a Child of God searching for the truth. We need to extend to them the same love that Jesus did…not judging, but supporting and encouraging as the Holy Spirit moves in their life.