Proverbs 28:9 and 13, NIV
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable . . . he who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
All of us have memories of childhood, when our mothers had the impossible task of persuading us to swallow foul-tasting medicine. I know I have! I didn’t really want to know that it was ‘doing me good’ when all it did was make me pull my face in a disgusted grimace. The only consolation was the sugar cube I was given to suck, as a ‘reward for being such a good boy’! In my heart I knew my Mum wouldn’t ever harm me. But nevertheless, whenever the medicine bottle came out, I always tried to avoid the inevitable nose-twitching dose and turn away from what was best for me.
God is like both the ‘best Mum’ and the ‘best Doctor’. He knows what’s good for us, even if we don’t like it. And He knows that the safest and the best way for us to live is within the provisions of His law. This is the place of blessing. And by choosing to live according to the ways of God, we keep the doors closed through which the enemy can attack us. Paul warned us not to do things that would give a foothold to the enemy (Ephesians 4:27). The Psalmist put it this way, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7).
So, if we know what the Word of God says, and we deliberately choose to live in a way that is contrary to the path of blessing, we shouldn’t be surprised if we are no longer living in the reviving presence of God’s Holy Spirit, but are on a downward path away from that highway of holiness that Isaiah talked about (Isaiah 35:8), and which the foolish will avoid. Yes, the Bible talks about the foolishness of those who walk away from His law and His way.
Our Scripture for today also tells us that when we actually choose to ignore the law of God, our prayers become detestable to God. In Isaiah 1 God says that in circumstances like this “even if you offer many prayers I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:15). People often ask me why God doesn’t answer their prayers. There can, obviously, be many reasons for this, but I am increasingly aware that the message of this proverb could be one of the most important words in Scripture for today’s worldwide community of believers. When we stop walking in the ways of God – our prayers no longer reach the heart of God. And isn’t this a simple outworking of a divine principle that we will be treated according to how we treat others?
God has spoken to us through His Word, and if we choose to turn a deaf ear to what He has already said, are we not simply telling God to treat what we say to Him (our prayers) in the same way that we treat what He has said to us? Perhaps we all need to look again at our lives in the light of God’s Word and repent. For this is what God’s Word also says: “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . . if you are willing and obedient.” Isaiah 1:18-19.
Prayer: I am sorry Lord for expecting you to hear and answer my prayers when, in so many ways, I have not responded to the things you have already said to me. Please forgive me for the times when I have ignored your law and gone my own way. I choose to turn back to you now, and ask that you will forgive me for the contempt with which I have treated your living Word. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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