Psalm 65:2-3 O you who hear prayer,
to you all men will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Man can, and does, postulate all sorts of characteristics for deity. Investigating different religions turns up all sorts of concepts, backing up what many atheists claim, that man creates gods in his image, rather than the other way around as Genesis 1 proclaims. However, David here picks up two things about God that eclipse all sorts of theology that people argue about: God hears prayer, and He forgives sin. I am aware of no religion that doesn’t include at least some sort of prayer. Some religions twist that around to the point that people are really praying to themselves, calling it “meditation” or whatever. Meditation is good and useful when it is focused on our Creator and what He has said to us, but that requires taking the focus off of ourselves, and much teaching on meditation is inward-focused, telling you to “find” things in yourself. Biblical meditation allows God to show us things about ourselves, but the focus is on God. Biblical prayer arises from the conviction that our Creator cares about us, and is listening. Inseparable from that is the joyful faith that He forgives sin. Anyone who comes to God must acknowledge that He alone is truly holy and pure. We sing a song in this church that talks about trembling when we encounter God’s holiness and purity. Faced with perfect purity, it is natural to be overwhelmed by our own lack of it. That God forgives sin, that He has provided atonement through His own Son, is unspeakably magnificent and glorious. Such a God is more than worthy of our total love, obedience, and devotion.
I obviously grew up in a strongly Christian environment, but I have been exposed to a wide variety of religious traditions. Here in Japan I am surrounded by Shinto and Japanese Buddhism, and I have read about other branches of Buddhism, as well as Hinduism and Islam and various minor religions. Nowhere have I found anything to compare to the God of the Bible, who loves us enough to deal with our sins, forgiving them and taking them from us. From the time I came to Omura in 1981 I have been telling people I didn’t come to teach them a religion, but to introduce them to the Lord Jesus. (There’s a bit of a pun in that in Japanese.) This continues to be true. This past Sunday in a group prayer time a man who has only been a believer a few years said, “This isn’t a religion, it’s a way of life, faith itself.” I was very happy to hear him say that, but I hadn’t connected it to my statement from 40 years ago until just now. I think people find me strange because I’m obviously religious, in a sense, but I don’t focus on forms and ceremonies. It’s not that I don’t do ceremonies, such as baptism and Communion, but that the forms are almost irrelevant. I don’t want to make people be “good Baptists,” (or good Catholics or whatever) but I want them to be good disciples of Jesus Christ. For that, I’ve got to be more committed to my Lord than I am to any tradition, even though I feel I have benefited greatly from various good traditions. I need to rejoice in my Lord who hears prayer and forgives sin, and introduce as many people to Him as I can, for their salvation and His glory.
Father, thank You for Your indeed amazing grace to me. Help me not take it lightly, but be an open channel for that grace to flow to as many as will receive it, for their salvation and Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!