All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. (Is. 64:6-8 NIV)
In the commercialized world of 2018, Advent is now something like an extension of Christmas. Christmas parties are creeping up ever earlier and earlier, and the Christmas programs are staring in early December to make way for the busyness and shopping that need to get done as the 24th and 25th approach.
All this “Christmas creep” with its joyous festivities can obscure the fact that Advent is similar to Lent; a season of repentance. In Advent though, it is not repentance because of sin that led to Jesus being crucified, but repentance in preparation for the Lord’s first coming and His return.
If these words from Isaiah do not show our need for repentance I am not sure what can. Not only are our sins justly condemned (like in Ps. 14: 3, and Rom. 3:23), but even our righteous acts are shown for what they really are- a sham. We can do nothing of own in order to win a right standing with God. The picture painted in these verses is bleak.
This reminds me of the many encounters I have had on the reservation, which provide ample proof for the Biblical teaching of the fallen state of people. I know of a family that deals drugs and flaunts the law while intimidating almost everyone they meet with threats of violence. That family sends their daughter to a local school, where their daughter, in turn, is bullied because she is seen as an easy target by the former victims, after getting fed up with this treatment she turns on another person, her former friend who is also an easy target, and because of the hatred and venom, the friend attempts suicide. The cycle of sin and destruction continues and spreads… As the Scriptures ask, “who will rescue” us? (Rom. 7:24)
Although the family I mentioned has not yet turned to Christ in repentance, all of us who have, are assured of the answer Paul gives later in Romans: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) Repentance is important (you may recall the 1st of Luther’s 99 theses reminds us that all of Christian life is repentance) but repentance is not God’s final word to us.
Repentance leads us to Jesus, our coming King, the one whose very name means salvation.
LORD, thank you for showing me that my only hope is in you. Thank you for changing my heart and mind through repentance and renewal. I look forward to your return, and I pray ‘come Lord Jesus’. Amen.