Sunday Devotions: "Forgive Us Our Sins"
Hosea 1, Luke 11
One of my favorite ways of reading the Bible is to imagine myself within the narrative, to see the action or hear the words as if I were a particular individual in the story.
So when I saw that our Old Testament reading for this week came from the beginning of Hosea, I instinctively prepared to hear God’s word with the ears of the prophet who delivered it to his people. After all, we’d all like to think of ourselves as obedient to God, attentive to his promptings and faithful to his commands, ready to speak truth even when it is inconvenient or unpopular.
But then I caught myself, and instead tried to listen to Hosea 1 from the perspective of its other main character: Gomer, the adulterous “wife of whoredom” the prophet is told to marry. An individual embodiment of Israel’s national faithlessness to the Lord, Gomer gives birth to children whose names portend God’s punishment, God’s mercilessness, and God’s rejection.
When I listened as Gomer, not Hosea, I didn’t hear reassurance of my righteousness, but conviction of my sins. I couldn’t congratulate myself on being faithful to the one true God, but had to wonder what false idols, what modern-day Baals, I’d erected in my own life.
So as I turned to our Gospel lesson this week and found Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, I paid particular attention to its closing petitions:
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation. (Luke 11:4, NIV)
Maybe because I had in mind Gomer — a woman seemingly defined by her sin — I found myself thinking how often I had asked God for forgiveness, only to find myself falling back into temptation days, hours, or minutes later. (Including the temptation not to forgive others!)
But in Luke’s telling of the story, Jesus not only teaches his disciples how to pray, but encourages them to keep praying. Just as a friend woken in the middle of the night will eventually offer help, so we can be confident that the Father will answer the Son’s prayer:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (vv 9-10)
It’s easy to interpret these words as promising prosperity, blessings, and all the good things that come so easily to our praying lips. But what if we read this promise with an eye to the second half of Jesus’ prayer? “Ask for forgiveness from sins and it will be given to you… knock and the door leading away from temptation will be opened to you.” Do we make those prayers with persistence born of such confidence?
After all, we are praying to the same God who promised forgiveness to the nation represented by Gomer: “Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered, and in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (Hos 1:10, NRSV).
Next week’s lectionary readings: Psalm 49:1-12, Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14 & 2:18-23, Luke 12:13-21, Colossians 3:1-11.
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