“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil- to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!” Come down, O Lord! Come and save us, come and deliver us from our enemies! Come with your mighty power, the same majesty and glory that you have had from eternity reveal on this earth! Come down and visit us in salvation, as you did for your people of old. You conquered the Egyptians, you fought for your people, so that all Israel and all Egypt- from Pharaoh on the throne to the servant girl in his house- would know that you truly are the God of the universe. Isaiah wrote about you: “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” Come in the midst of our affliction, save us in your love and pity! Carry us as you carried them, and bring us out from the bondage of our enemies. We suffer in this world, we are persecuted by those who hate us and you, we are the victims of so much evil. Come down and strike terror into the hearts of our enemies! May they quake at your presence, may the very earth itself be moved! Come in your majesty, your power, your glory, crushing sinners with your righteous judgment!
But wait just a minute, Lord. Now that we think about it, maybe it’s better if you don’t come. We want you to make our enemies tremble, to shake the very creation, but the truth is we are the ones trembling. If you come down in power and glory for the destruction of sinners, we too will be destroyed. For we are all completely and totally sinful. We can complain about all those people outside these walls while pretending that we are righteous, but it’s a lie. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” We are all unclean, covered with the filth of sin; we inherited this corruption from our parents, and we wallow in the filth each and every day. Lord, we are destined for death, we are destined to be carried away like a leaf, and leaves get burned. We are trembling at your Law, for it condemns us, it doesn’t give us any place to hide. Even our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment; every deed we do, good or not, is tainted with sin. If I serve my neighbor, I’m looking for recognition, I want something out of it. My service in the church is to make people respect me, when I volunteer I want my picture in the paper. Or I resent having to help others; I serve, but only grudgingly. I can’t even pray without comparing myself to others, trying to appear more ‘spiritual’ than my neighbor. My good works truly are filthy rags!
“Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” The worst thing, Lord, is that I sin knowing your wrath over sin. You are angry with my sins, and yet I continue to commit them! It isn’t that your Word isn’t clear, it isn’t that pastors don’t preach your expectations clearly enough, it is just that I can’t stop sinning, and I sin in such arrogance, such boldness that it is disgusting! I sin knowing full well the penalty for sin; sometimes I even plan my sin, ignoring my conscience, which is always trying to point me back to your Word. I treat your graciousness as a license for sin; I sin while thinking, ‘I’ll just ask for forgiveness later.’ And I am hardly alone. “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” No one calls on your name, Lord; we are all completely and totally sinners, through and through. None of us are clean or righteous, no, not one, and so you have hidden your face from us, you have left us to endure the consequences for our sins, in this life and in eternity.
Turn your face to us once again; be not hidden from us! Rend the heavens and come down, not to bring us glory, but to deliver us from the bondage of sin. We have taskmasters of our own making, and we cannot deliver ourselves. We need you, we need your salvation! We tremble at your law, we melt in our iniquities, and there is nothing that we can do about it. Even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags. “But now O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.” We are not blaming you for our sin, O Lord; we are in this mess by our fault, by our own fault, by our own most grievous fault. But we are your creation, and like the clay pot, we need to be remade. You gave us life, you formed us from the dust of the ground; come, O Lord, and help your creation. Bring us the salvation that we so desperately need; intercede on behalf of your creatures! “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!”
You have come; we waited for you and you came. But you did not come in a way that we expected. “When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.” We didn’t expect you to come in this way, but Lord, your ways are not our ways. Thanks be to God! You came to us in human flesh, bearing the same body that we have. You passed through every stage of life that we did, from conception to birth. You rent the heavens and came down, not in power, glory, or majesty, but in humility. You rent the heavens and came down, to be carried in the womb of a virgin, to be born in a stable and laid in manger. You came in humility, you came as our servant, you came to bring us salvation. You have shown to us incredible love and grace, beyond anything we could ever have imagined, and we deserve none of it. What other God would even come to us, taking on our flesh to deliver it, not to mention coming as a humble baby, as our servant? “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who waited for you.” We waited for your coming since the day we fell into sin, and now you have rent the heavens and come down. You have shaken the earth, from the terrified shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem to Herod in His palace- nothing will ever be the same.
You have come; we waited for you and you came. You rent the heavens and came down, entering into Jerusalem as a triumphant king. All of Jerusalem was shaken as you entered her ancient gates. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.” You entered that city in victory, acclaimed by all the people. For you were the long awaited King, many even believed you were the Messiah. You came to save us, you came in answer to our prayers, our earnest pleas for deliverance from the bondage of sin. But you did not come in a way that we expected. We did not expect that you would rend the heavens and come down only to hang dead upon a cross. “When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.” The very creation itself quaked at your death, for it realized the significance of what occurred that dark Friday. The sinless Son of God died in the place of His sinful people, those whom He so dearly loved. Only by giving up yourself into death on our behalf could you save us, and so you willingly went there to suffer death and hell with the weight of the world’s sin on your shoulders. There you won salvation, there you answered our cries. We prayed that you would rend the heavens and come down and you answered, not with power or glory, but with humility and service, all for us and for our salvation. Then the earth would tremble again three days later, for you would rise triumphant over sin and death. You have conquered our enemies, you have defeated our foes, you have delivered us from bondage!
You have come; we waited for you and you came. But you did not come in a way that we would expect. You rent the heavens and came down, hidden under water, words, simple bread and wine. You won salvation by dying in our place on Calvary’s cross; you sealed that victory by walking from the empty tomb on Easter morning. But we, your people, do not have to go to Jerusalem to find forgiveness. You who ascended into heaven still come to us bearing those gifts. You have come to us this very day. You rent the heavens and came down to Thain, making him your own child, giving to him all that you won with your shed blood. You will rend the heavens and come down to us with your Body and Blood in just a few moments, bringing the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. You come to us in your Word, bearing forgiveness, teaching us and strengthening our faith. You come to us in ways that seem foolish to our world, ways that seem powerless and insignificant. Who could imagine a God who would save with a baby born in a barn, a man hanging dead on a cross, some water in a bowl, a book, a wafer, or a small glass of wine? “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no one has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him.”
Come Lord Jesus, come back to us! “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence!” We wait eagerly for your return, for when you return, our eternal inheritance will be fully revealed. You will rend the heavens and come down, this time in power and majesty and glory. All creation will be shaken as it never has been before, for it will be remade, cleansed and purified from all sin, evil, and corruption. Come Lord Jesus, come back and accomplish all that you promised! Help us to wait in patience, to see you as you come in Word and in Sacrament, but always to eagerly cry out for your return. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.