“Holy God” by Keith Potter – taken from Devotions for Lent
In the season of Lent, we remember the great sacrifice that Jesus Christ made, the forgiveness that was paid for with his life. We confess that our sins have gotten in the way of a relationship with God.
However, our confession will be thin and hollow unless we understand how great and holy God is. We are forever underestimating the seriousness of sin and its effects, making us unlike God and unfit for his good fellowship. Our efforts at forgiving ourselves and others will be thin and hollow as well unless we understand how God’s grace so completely covers us through Jesus Christ, making us righteous in God’s eyes and fit for his good fellowship.
So in this season, we meditate on God’s holiness and wonder what it would be like to be filled only with loving intentions and healthy motivations, like our God.
In Isaiah 6, we discover that the story of the great prophet starts with a grand vision of God on his throne, surrounded by angelic beings. Day and night, these attendants cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
“It’s all over! I am doomed for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5)
Seeing God gave Isaiah eyes to see himself. Unclean. Badly acculturated in the filth of his surroundings. Anything but holy.
So God touched Isaiah. He enjoys forgiveness and cleansing and a new readiness. God calls out for a human agent.
Isaiah responds, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.”
That can be our story. In light of God’s holiness, we come undone. “Woe is me! I’m an unclean person among unclean people. Now that I really see you, Lord, I see myself. Help!”
And God does help, with a grace greater than our sin. If his holiness is great, his grace is somehow overarching, for it covers every sin of ours that must offend the purity of his holiness. “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
4 Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Matthew 18:21-35 – The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Lord, you call us to your service and you continue to work among us.
Your love will never abandon us. Deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. We place our lives in your hands, and we ask you to forgive us.
You challenge us to forgive others as we have been forgiven.
How often we are so very much harder on others than you are on us!
Praise to Christ, who has given us Himself as the Bread of Life.
Let us pray to Him, saying:
Jesus, you feed and heal our souls; please strengthen us.
Lord, give us a pure heart eager to receive your word,
– so that we may produce good fruit.
Help us to be a light to those in the world,
– so that they may be drawn to you.
We confess, Lord, that we have sinned,
– wash us clean by your gift of forgiveness.
God of infinite love,Amen.
I thank you for this reminder of your love
and your call that we be more patient,
gentle and compassionate with others.
Here in the middle of Lent,
I turn to you to ask for your help.
Please soften my heart.
Help me to let go of judging others
and to forgive them as you forgive me.