Isaiah 64:1 - "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down ..."
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at LHM.org.
Just off the coast of Italy, at 9:45 p.m. on January 13, 2012, the cruise ship Costa Concordia sailed too close to land and collided with a ridge of submerged rocks, leaving a large gash in the hull. Water flooded the below-deck compartments, causing the ship to tip over to one side. Thankfully, favorable winds pushed the ship back toward land, where it ran aground. Otherwise, it would have sunk, resulting in a tragedy worse than the Titanic. Of 4,229 persons aboard the Costa Concordia, thirty-two died. The subsequent investigation laid blame on the captain. He not only mis-steered the ship, he knew that they'd struck the rocks and that the ship was going down, but he delayed the distress call, apparently to cover up his poor judgment. The investigation report called his actions "unbelievable," and concluded that if the "mayday" had only gone out sooner, many, if not all of those lives could have been saved.
Isaiah 64 opens with a distress call to God. Isaiah's scroll of prophecies speaks into our human tragedy. Spiritually, we have suffered a catastrophic collision. We are sinking. But, unbelievably, our self-appointed captains assure us they have things under control. So, the prophet warns us. Quit the cover-up and call out to God, to the God "who takes action for those who wait for Him" (Isaiah 64:4b).
Isaiah clarifies our distress situation. We know that something has gone wrong with the world. But what we normally notice are surface symptoms. The deeper problem is that we broke ourselves against the bedrock of God's will for His creation. And we're too ashamed or too preoccupied to cry out and ask for help. That's the source of all our other problems, Isaiah says. "There is no one who calls upon [God's] Name, no one who rouses himself to take hold of [God]" (Isaiah 64:7a). The problem isn't just that our ship is sinking. The problem is that we tried to set a course without God as our Father. God's will for His creation isn't just a search-and-rescue operation to get us out of distress. God's will is to get us back on His ship, back into His family, with His Son, the crucified and risen Jesus as our Confidant and Captain.
When the Costa Concordia was in distress, its captain was too proud to ask for help. Many people died as a result. Most, however, were saved. Not just because of the favorable winds, but also because of the proactive Italian search-and-rescue crews. They had enough information to know that something had gone wrong. And they responded to the situation even before the distress call went out. And so with God, as He spoke through Isaiah, "I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek Me ... Before they call I will answer" (Isaiah 65:1a, 24a). God sent His Son to save us, not because we asked, but because He loves us. God wants you to call on Him, not because He needs the information, and not just because He wants to rescue you from distress. He wants to rescue you for a new life, for a life of trusting that He wants to hear from you, of living with His Word inside you, a life responding with God's love to others in their distress, even before they call.
WE PRAY: Dear Father, let Your Word dwell in my heart so that I can be part of Your search and rescue that You have prepared for all people. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. When was a time when you needed help, but were too preoccupied or embarrassed to ask?
2. Read chapter 64, a "distress call" to God. Which parts can you relate to most, or least?
3. This Advent season, what is a practice that could help you more faithfully "wait" for the Lord?
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