Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 18:9-14
God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth. And it is he who says, “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you .... “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols. Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.” Sing a new song to the Lord! Sing his praises from the ends of the earth! Isaiah 42:5-6A, 8-10A
In the story Jesus told we see two very different men and two very different prayers. When we hold the first man and his prayer up against the verses above from Isaiah 42, they fly in the face of what God says about himself and his relationship to mankind. When we hold the second man and his prayer up against these same verses, we get a sense of correspondence, harmony, and appropriateness. The story Jesus tells is filled with irony.
The first man set out to live his life in a way that was correct and corresponded to God's desires for him. However, somewhere along the way it became all about the man and how good he thought he was doing at getting his life to measure up to the standards he had adopted for trying to please God. The result is a prayer filled with pride and self righteousness where all he sees is himself before God. This man does not go home justified before God.
The second man has lived his life in pursuit of fulfilling his own desires in total disregard for God and his ways. However, somewhere along the way, realizing the sinfulness of his lifestyle and his rebellion against God, he sees his absolute need to get right with God. The result is a prayer filled with humility and desperation where all he sees is himself before God. This man does go home justified before God.
Lord, help us to come to you in prayer with a great sense of being before You, Creator and Lord of all. Affirm to our hearts that you called us to yourself to demonstrate your righteousness not ours. May it be that we do not resist your hand that seeks to take hold of our hand so that we walk with you. May we so walk with you that life we live is your doing. Guard us from seeking glory and praise for ourselves. Have mercy on us, Lord. Pour your love and grace into our hearts and lives, Lord. May glory and praise be yours alone, Lord, as you intended them to be. May our lives (filled with correspondence, harmony, and appropriateness) be a new song of praise sung fully to you, Lord God.
Posted on Mon, January 26, 2015
by Ken Hart