Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Is 58:9-14; Ps 86:1-6; Lk 5:27-32:  Who is abounding in kindness?  The LORD is abounding in kindness and him alone!  It is the beginning of Psalm 86 that teaches us the way of the LORD so that we may walk in his truth.  The truth is we have occasionally cried out to the LORD.  We have on any given lent taken prayer seriously; given a bit more to the needy, and even fasted regularly.  However, have we ever called out to the LORD all the day?  Have we ever found gladness in our soul?  Have we ever really lifted up our souls to the LORD? It is at those rare and wonderful moments that we have finally recognized that the LORD is forgiving, abounding in kindness to all whom from the depths of their hearts call upon the LORD. Indeed, he does hearken to our cries and attends to our prayer.  It is this faith-filled confidence that gives us joy in Lent.  Indeed, our prayer all lent long is, “Lord, give me back the joy of salvation.”  The prophet Isaiah promises us that we will delight in the LORD if we remove from our midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech.  The Lord Jesus makes a similar demand on his disciples because he has not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.  In this mission we are ambassadors for Christ, he makes his appeal through us who have been sick in sin and in need of the Divine Physician.

Do you hear the outrageous promises of the LORD?  Can your heart take in this abounding kindness?  The LORD promises to brighten up the darkness in which we live and move and have our being.  He will be so close that even the gloom shall become like midday.  Then the LORD promises to guide us along the way to plenty even though the land is parched.  As we eat of this land of plenty, he promises to renew our strength, to soak us with his love, and to provide a spring of refreshing water that never fails.  We will be given two new names, two titles of honor, “Repairer of the breach” and “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”  Somehow, we will become a delight to the LORD, and he will take us down the high road. The very promises he has made to our ancestors will be fulfilled in our lives.  All this is ours for the taking, and all we have to do is “not follow our own ways”.  All we have to do is refuse to oppress anyone.  All we have to do is stop tossing out false accusations.  All we have to do is satisfy the hungry and afflicted. All we have to do is become like the LORD who is abounding in kindness.  That’s all, nothing more, or is it nothing less?

What a recruitment line, “Follow me.”  The response is even more amazing, “And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.”  The Lord Jesus demands everything and promises everything.  Where is his abundant kindness?  It’s in the invitation and in the response.  Indeed, he wants us to follow him into the desert, into the wilderness of Lent.  He wants us to leave everything behind and follow him because he will provide all we need—even suffering, hunger and thirst.  Indeed, the Lord Jesus is all we need.  He will provide us with opportunities to grow strong in his love; we will be tempted to use religion, even prayer, almsgiving, and fasting for our own benefit so that others respect us.  If we resist these and every other temptation, we will be able to speak the word of God to every hostile situation to every demon that comes our way.  Like the Lord Jesus, the friend of sinners, we will know from whence we come and whither we are going.  We come from the compassion of Christ and we call all sinners to the joy of that compassion in Christ.  That’s why the Lord Jesus ate and drank with sinners, and that’s why we eat and drink with sinners.