Tuesday Morning Devotion (When God Does Not Hear)

(1) Surely YHWH’s hand is not shortened so that it cannot save,
Nor is his hearing diminished, so that he cannot hear.
(2) Rather, your misdeeds have separated you from your God,
And your sins have hidden his face from you so that he doesn’t hear {or “can’t do what you say”}.
— Isaiah 59:1-2

I’m taking a detour from Isaiah 55 this morning to look more at why it appears to us that God’s word is failing sometimes, even when we know it isn’t.

One of the first excuses we think of when things don’t go the way we think they should, or when the things we ask God for don’t happen is this: What have I done wrong? Is God punishing me for my sins? We’re especially likely to think of this when it’s someone else’s prayers that aren’t being answered. We wonder if they prayed fervently enough, if they have enough faith, if they are right with God, or, in the final analysis if they are good enough to get an answer from God.

Our verse today is dealing with that problem. God’s capacity is not diminished. He has not become any less capable of hearing or responding. There is a time when it is because of our sins that God can’t hear us. The Hebrew word used for “hear” in this passage has a double meaning that is not fully reflected in the English word “hear.” It applies both to hearing and to obeying. Look at the alternate translation I provided in brackets for Isaiah 59:2. Is it possible that God can’t do what you say, that is, he can’t respond according to your petitions because you have a veil of misdeeds and sins between you and him?

Where people get in trouble here is by thinking that somehow our sins are making it impossible for God to speak or act. No, it’s not God whose power is reduced. We are the ones who have failed to see just what it is that God is up to. We can’t get in God’s will if we don’t know what that is.

I believe the message of this passage is not that we need to become perfect before God can work with us, but rather that we need to be open and listen, so that he can correct us. It’s so easy to shut off the voice of God. The devil rarely attacks us by taking us directly away from God. Instead, I believe he gets us on our own agenda, an agenda of good things, but things that miss the mark God has for us, and thus slowly we are weaned away from God’s plan. Eventually we’re so sure that our plan is God’s plan that we will no longer notice that God is not with our program.

Isaiah 59:15 says that truth gets lost to sight. That’s the real problem. And he comes (verse 20) to those who repent. Those are the ones on whom he places his Spirit, and promises to leave it there forever.

(1) Blessed is the person who doesn’t walk in the counsel of evildoers,
and doesn’t stand in the path of sinners,
And doesn’t live where mockers live.
(2) But rather his delight is in the instruction of YHWH,
and in his instruction he meditates day and night.
(3) He will be like a tree, planted by streams of water,
which gives its fruit in its season,
it’s leaf doesn’t wither,
and everything he does prospers.
(4)The evildoers are not like this,
but are like the chaff, that the wind drives away.
(5) Because of this the evildoers will not rise up in judgment,
Nor sinners in the council of the righteous ones.
(6) Because YHWH knows the way of the righteous folks,
but the way of the wicked will perish. — Psalm 1

Whose program are you on?

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