Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Lent Midweek 3 – March 22, 2017
Text: Isaiah 46:8-11
“Hallowed be Thy Name”
God does whatever He wants. Unlike us, He is not bound by anything or anyone—“I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Absolute power corrupts absolutely—when it comes to men. But God is not like us. He is altogether good. He does not lie or deceive, He does not wish harm even for His enemies. So, God’s autonomy isn’t something to dread—unless you’re His enemy.
On our part, our will is not only constrained by being a creature, but our natural hearts are bound to sin. Our flesh wants its own way over against God’s—God promises to be our only help in time of need but we want a backup plan; He wants us to speak the truth in love about our neighbor, but we’d rather share those truths which boost us up; God gives everything we need, but our heart says we can’t live without a newer and different life. Because of sin, we have a will that runs counter to God’s.
But this cannot go on forever. The Lord does what He wills and if we try to oppose Him, we will surely lose not only the contest, but our very lives. “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Cor. 10:22)
How can our human, sinful wills be aligned with God’s? This can only be through the one Man who brought peace between God and sinners—Jesus Christ. If there was understandably any time for a Man’s to argue with God about His will, it was when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Betray a righteous Man? Condemn an innocent Man to death? Surely not! “41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
But it was God’s will that sinners should be saved. “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:8-10) The will of the Lord does prosper: That your sins are forgiven, that you have become God’s own dear child, and that you have the hope of a blessed eternity.
So this is a prayer that we, even in our weakness, have grace to acknowledge God’s will to be good for us and all the world. We pray against our sinful nature, which will oppose God’s will, egged on by the devil and the world. We pray that the devil and the world would be brought to an end, that God’s Name would be called upon by pure hearts, and that His Kingdom would grow and reach every part of the earth.
We also pray that God would renew our hearts, especially our wills. That He would “create in us clean hearts, and renew a right spirit within us.” That our desires and delight would be in those things that God delights in—showing mercy to the weak, loving even our enemies, defending the cause of the poor, and bringing His love to whatever callings we have on earth.
So we pray, and so God hears our prayer, that each day we be conformed to the image of our Savior who—even at the prospect of His passion—said, “Thy will be done.”
In the words of Hebrews 13: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”