The situation in Japan that we’ve been watching flat-out over our TV screens and computer screens and radio and whatever it is that we tune into, ought to teach us one thing quite clearly and that is: We are not in control.
A nation that has probably the most preparedness of any nation on earth in terms of earthquakes: the best warning system; the best construction methods in terms of their diligence because of the frequency of the earthquakes that are there, quite frankly was overwhelmed. I have no idea what the extent of it ultimately is going to be because you are watching to see literally if some of the cores are going to melt down and the reactors as well, and there is some indication that there is trouble there. The most prepared nation, civilized developed nation on earth in that way, because of the risks they faced, were overwhelmed.
I would say that ought to remind us very clearly of some things. Again, one: We are not in control. Two: We need God’s protection and mercy because those things that extend out in our lives in various ways come from places over which we do not have control but God does.
Every year as I come up to the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread I try to narrow my focus a little bit into one place. I can’t do 10 things at once; I can do sometimes one thing at once but I try to narrow my focus in terms of what I am looking at and thinking about as I go into those days and I want to share a little bit of that with you today and again, hopefully it will be of benefit to you.
2 Chronicles:7:12And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. – We have the account of God addressing Solomon after the temple had been dedicated, built and then dedicated, and God appeared to Solomon in answer to his prayer and He said:
V.12 – Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.
V.13 – When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,
V.14 – If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
If My people , and you can hear the song as it is sung, who are called by My name will humble themselves , God says, I will forgive them and I will heal their land.
God deals with us in mercy. I keep going back to an illustration I used recently that somebody asked me in terms of the Church. What are you going to do and I didn’t want to say, well, I am going to stay right here. That wasn’t my answer. My answer was: I am going to look to God not man, but look to the Bible and not the internet, and I am going to seek God’s mercy, not what I deserve. And I think that is what started my mind on this process: Seeking God’s mercy.
I want to show us a little bit just how desirous God is of showing us mercy.
Psalm:103:6The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
V.7 – He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.
V.8 – The Lord is merciful and gracious, (He is) slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. Abounding means it just overflows in that sense.
V.9 – He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.
V.10 – He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.
Brethren, we don’t want what we deserve; we want God’s mercy. I am going to show you some of the examples in the Bible that illustrates that, I think, in a very dramatic way.
Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18, is one that I would like to start with and I picked Hezekiah because he was a righteous man, a good king before God who strove to serve God. He had his faults and his failings but then he was followed by his son Manasseh who went exactly the opposite way. It is easy to say well for a righteous man God would be merciful. Would God not also be merciful for an evil man if the evil man would humble himself and repent of his sins? And so, I want the contrast it in this way.
2 Kings:18:1Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.
V.2 – He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.
V.3 – And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.
V.4 – He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, - they worshipped it as an idol.
V . 5 – He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah.
I want to show those that are portrayed as righteous more than any one and then I portray to you, at least by God’s portrayal, those who are evil more than any one and watch how God works with each of them.
V.6 – For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses.
V.7 – The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the King of Assyria and did not serve him.
Now you’ve got to know what the next chapter is going to be: if you rebel against the king of Assyria, what is the king of Assyria going to do? He is going to come over and knock on your door and say: Hello! Let met back in. So you know that is coming.
V.8 – He subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.
Now it is interesting when you start to look at the Bible as it lays out, if you rebel against the king of Assyria, who is it that now is going to want to be your friend? Well, who is the enemy to Assyria? It was Babylon. So you see the account: He rebels against Assyria; Assyria comes knocking. Later on Babylon comes knocking – can’t we be friends? And you see that layout in his life. Now the attack by Assyria follows. Chapter 19 shows God’s deliverance in a great act of mercy. You know, what is the lesson here? That he was a righteous king? The lesson here is that God showed him and his people mercy, over and over again.
In chapter 20 we now have the situation: Okay, he went in and God delivered them from Assyria; the prayer was very, very dramatic in that sense. But chapter 20, there is another problem: Now he is sick.
2 Kings:20:1In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”
V.2 – Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying,
V.3 – “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
V.4 – And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying,
V.5 – “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.
V.6 – And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; - in an ongoing basis, okay, – and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”
The fact is they went into captivity later to Babylon and Assyria never did overcome Judah and God’s promise was kept.
V.20 – Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah – all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city – are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
V.21 – So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place.
What is the lesson of Hezekiah? I believe the lesson of Hezekiah in a really fundamental way is: God shows great acts of mercy. He cried out in prayer to God and God delivered Him from the Assyrians. He cried out to God in prayer and God healed him and extended his life fifteen years. He made some mistakes along the way but in the end God took him as His servant and that is the example that is given.
If we go right on to chapter 21 though, we’ll see his son, Manasseh, taking over as king and you can imagine: well, a righteous man - God shows mercy; an evil man – God is just going to crush him like a bug.
2 Kings:21:1Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah. Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.
V.2 – And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
V.3 – For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.
V.4 – He also built alters in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.”
He went into the temple and put in idols and altars.
V.5 – And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.
V.6 – Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
V.7 – He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the Lord had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever;
So he did basically whatever it took just to rub idolatry and apostasy and rebellion into God’s image, as other people then would see.
He says: I will put My name there forever.
V.8 – and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers – only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.”
V.9 – But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.
So the Amorites and the Canaanites that were cast out because of their evil sins have finally reached fullness – God says, you have even now under Manasseh, done even worse than they.
Now I want to go over to Chronicles to continue the story because there are accounts in both, but in 2 Chronicles 33, starting here in verse 10, it says:
2 Chronicles:33:10And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.
V.11 – Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.
V.12 – Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.
V.13 – and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
He actually restored him back into his office and into his land – the most evil king that is on record and caused people to sin in ways that were dramatic. And the consequences of that, you had to know, continued on. It says: even in his evil deeds, because God confronted him and he implored God and he humbled himself greatly and prayed to God and it says God received his prayer. Just exactly like He did with Hezekiah who had a good record but it was he humbled himself, God listened.
2 Chronicles:7:14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
We walk into the Days of Unleavened Bread. Those who are baptized come into the Passover and it portrays the fact that we are God’s people; that we come into covenant with God and that He works in our lives in great acts or mercy. Restoring us, forgiving us, strengthening us, preparing us for the promise.
Back to 1 Kings – let’s back up a little bit here to chapter 16. Again, this didn’t just happen once. It happened literally in various times and various ways but this is now the story of Ahab. He is on the kind of rogues list of the kings. 1 Kings 16, starting in verse 29 - We are now in Israel. Judah had a few righteous kings and some bad kings. Israel had all bad kings; all evil kings, every single one. But Ahab was certainly one of the worst. Up to his time maybe, I guess, he was the worst.
1 Kings:16:29And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. In the thirty-eight year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.
V.30 – Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.
V.31 – And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.
V.32 – Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.
V.33 – And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
It goes on and just describes how evil he was. Now you read in the story – you have confrontations with Elijah (Ahab); and you have the 450 prophets of Baal that he had installed obviously through his wife, and they were killed; you have the story of Naboth who had a vineyard right by Ahab and Ahab wanted it. He had everything he could have had or wanted or any man would want, but he wanted Naboth’s vineyard as well so he had Naboth killed. So the story plays that out. These things happened for our examples
so that we would understand in part, and in this case I believe, what God’s mercy ultimately is able to be.
1 Kings:21:17And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
V.18 – “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is, in the vineyard of Naboth, where he had gone down to take possession of it.
He is immediately going down to grab the fruits of his corruption.
V.19 - You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours”.
V.20 – So Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord;
V.21 – ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free.
V.22 – I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin.’
V.23 – And concerning Jezebel the Lord also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’
V.24 – The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.”
V.25 – But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up.
V.26 – And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
V.27 – So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning.
V.28 – And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
V.29 – “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.”
To me that is just an incredible story. One of the most evil men on record in the Bible right up until the moment, and he is confronted and he humbled himself and God says: I hear your prayer. He wasn’t converted. He didn’t turn around and become some righteous, noble individual but even the evil man that God portrays who turned and humbled himself before God, He says, okay, I heard that. I think that is an incredible statement of God’s mercy and His grace.
Look at the book of Jonah – we have in this case Nineveh, not actually Jonah himself, but we have the same process. I think we all know the story of Jonah well enough that I can simply go into the part of it where there was prayer and supplication before God made.
Jonah:3:1And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,
V.2 – “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”
V.3 – So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city, a three-day journey in extent.
V.4 – And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said; “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
V.5 – So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, - we are not even talkingabout God’s people now, Israel or Judah, we are talking Gentiles – and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.
V.6 – Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.
V.7 – And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.
V.8 – But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
V.9 – Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?
V.10 - Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them and He did not do it.
I think those are all remarkable examples, dramatic examples. Jew or Gentile, you know you can say slave or free, if before God you humble yourself and ask in prayer and submit yourself to Him, God will hear your prayer. The blessing and cursing might be on the physical end of it or quite frankly salvation might be on the spiritual side.
Revelation 2 is a prophecy about God’s people and it goes back in time in verse 18, to the church of Thyatira and it begins to talk about some of the good things they had done and then some of the sins they had tolerated, but the message says:
Revelation:2:18And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; “And to the angel of the church of Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
V.19 – I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
And that is important, is it not? Remember when you prune back a tree or a grapevine; the current year’s growth gives next year’s fruit. If there is no new growth there is no fruit to be born. He says, the last are more than the first.
V.20 – Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
It is going back historically into the history of the Church but the next verse is what is interesting. It says:
V.21 – And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, - so there was time andGod tolerated the evil actually, and worked with the Church in enough time so they would come to repent . And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
V.22 – Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
The message is to the churches; Half historical in part and also to those who have ears to hear. It applies to each of us as well. God says: I gave her time. If she would have humbled herself before God and prayed to Him, God would have heard her prayer.
Deuteronomy:5:6I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. goes back to the second giving of the Ten Commandments.
Deuteronomy:5:6I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
V.7 – ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.
V.8 – ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is
in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
V.9 – you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth …. The word generations is in italics but it does give the sense. Visiting iniquity by process of the fact, is God is not into seed and remove the curses that come because of evil deeds that were passed on from one to another. They become accountable in their own generation but notice the contrast. It says: visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
V.10 – but showing mercy to thousands , - and the context in most versions says: thousands of generations - to those who love Me (He is comparing one group to another).
The point is not, well, can we count the generations and how long is thousands of generations. The point is, God says My anger is short and My mercy is long. That is the point. In fact God’s mercy is just beyond imagination in what He wants, and desires to give it. I think Ahab and Manasseh certainly would indicate that and the Assyrians would indicate that in a clear way.
Now I could come back and say, all right, what does that mean: to humble ourselves before God. What do we do? Connor and I – Conner went down with me to Lewistown one day and we worked on this in the car. He described, and we discussed, and made out the points and he concurred and so I thought I would put them in my sermon.
Three points - How do we humble ourselves before God?
Number one: Acknowledge God’s majesty and divinity. First we have to acknowledge who God is and that helps us then to have perspective.
Revelation 4 describes the throne of God and the angels before the throne and it describes what they were saying and the way they were worshiping before God and it says:
Revelation:4:9And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, Whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
V.10 – the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
V.11 – “You are worthy, O lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
By your will - and so I regressed before, but the fact is God says it is created by His word but it is also upheld by God’s word which, if God ceased to will, it we would cease to live. Our lives would be over and it wouldn’t be like we would just return to dust; the dust would cease to exist because even the dust only exists by God’s will and the moment that He ceases to will it so, all of this creation would vanish. That is pretty amazing if you think about the fact that in that sense God holds our breath in His hands and it is only by His mercy and grace that we even take one more breath in this flesh.
Psalm 50 again would put us into memory that God doesn’t need us. We need Him. And I think we first have to recognize who God is before we then can clearly see who we are by contrast.
Psalm:50:7Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God!
V.8 – I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before Me.
He says, I am not asking you for anything. I am not going to go out there and try to beg you to do what you need to. He says:
V.9 – I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds.
V.10 – For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
V.11 – I know all the birds of the mountains, - God says He counts the stars. He refersto the stars by name. If a hair falls from our head - God knows what is taking place in His creation.
V.11 – I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
V.12 – “If you were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, - the gold andsilver is Mine, in another passage - and all its fullness.
V.13 – Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
V.14 – Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.
V.15 – Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
Again, starting out, let’s acknowledge God’s majesty and divinity.
Next: Let’s recognize our own humanity and our sin. I think you have to see God first before you can see ourselves more clearly.
Psalm:144:3LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him! It is interesting – David says here: Lord, what is man, that You take
knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
V.4 – Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Imagine going outside on a cold day and breathing out and your breath is visible for a moment and then it is gone. And it just says man is like a breath . So what are we to You? Isaiah 40 says the flesh is like grass and when God breathes it just withers. So we do need to stop and see and recognize just who we are compared to whom God is. I think if we are going to humble ourselves before God that is part of the process that has to take place. If we are going to cry out to God and He will hear our prayers then this is the gate through which we are able to proceed.
Job 42 describes this process when he lifted himself up and in his suffering cried out and made accusation and yet God then appeared to Job and began to explain to him His power and majesty and this then was Job’s response:
Job:42:1Then Job answered the LORD, and said, Then Job answered the Lord and said:
V.2 – “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
V.3 – You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
V.4 – Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
V.5 – “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.
So when you see God’s majesty and divinity more clearly, he says:
V.6 – Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
So I think that first step, seeing God more clearly, leads us to the second step, which is seeing ourselves more clearly.
And the third point goes back to what the point was of my sermon in the first place.
We need to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness and God’s mercy is great. And if His people, who are called by His name, will humble themselves, God says and submit yourselves to Me to cast and set aside your sins, I will hear your prayer. I will hear your prayer.
I don’t think there are any Ahabs in this room today; there are no Manassehs in this room and yet God heard their prayer. Certainly we are His people and we are called by His name and certainly our prayer will be heard as well.
The book of Daniel: I wanted to use Daniel’s prayer because it walks through and connects some of these very basic points. I’ve always thought this particular prayer was remarkable in just the way it lays out:
Daniel:9:3And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
V.4 – And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, - focussing in on God’s majesty and His divinity.
V.5 – we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. – focussing in on their humanity and their sin.
V.6 – Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
V.7 – O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day – to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against you.
V.8 – “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.
V.9 – To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.
Over in verse 16 – it is a long prayer.
V.16 – “O lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those
He is crying now for mercy .
V.17 – Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.
V.18 – O my God incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.
V.19 – O lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
And what God revealed to Daniel then was the prophecy showing the progression of His plan that would lead up indeed to the establishment of the Kingdom of God. He revealed to Daniel the beast and prophetic form, where salvation would come from, where the hope and promise of God’s people would be. God is merciful.
I mentioned last week – the context again was pruning and how we are pruned back as an act of mercy so we might bear more fruit. There was something else laying out in the yard when I went out last week to look and examined what needed to be done and it was something that I hadn’t mentioned. I went out and below one of the trees, one of the larger trees, I looked down on the ground and there was a piece of bark, about a foot and a half long, laying there – a big strip of bark. And I looked up and thought there was going to be a big strip of bare wood somewhere up in this tree because I am looking at the bark at my feet and about half-way up the tree there was an area of damage from a place that I had pruned maybe one to two years ago.
A large branch that I had taken off and some times I like things to look neat so I sometimes have to be careful when I am pruning because I like the trunk of the tree to look smooth like no branch had ever been there. So I sliced off that big branch and it had little boulders on the other side and I sliced them off as well. When I was done it was just nice and round the way I thought it ought to be. But you know what? I then called it flush–cutting and that is a good way to kill a tree with the damage because you did not only cut back the dead or the surplus but you have taken out the growth bar and -band as well. You’ve pruned beyond the point to where that tree can tree can go forward without damage and now the repairs are severe.
God knows our frame. He knows that we are as grass, allright. He knows our weakness and when He prunes us back He prunes us in a way to bear much fruit in mercy, in kindness.
God works in our lives in a series of acts of mercy. Sanctification – being set apart for God’s holy purpose, is an act of mercy. Justification – being made right or straight, forgiven of our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ is an act of mercy and glorification – being raised up in the resurrection; being called by name by God to raise up My glory is seen now on you as portrayed in the book of Isaiah. It is a great act of mercy.
God calls us to humble ourselves and to submit ourselves and bow before Him but what He offers us in return is an abundance of mercy.
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