Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land.”
Genesis 28: 15
“‘With thee,’ companionship; ‘keep thee,’ guardianship; ‘bring thee,’ guidance.”
Today’s Study Text:
“5 Lessons On Prayer From Mount Carmel” –
Lesson 2 - Penitence
Definition of Penitence: Exhibiting remorse for one’s sins or wrong deeds. Repentant or confessing.
“It can take less than a minute to commit a sin. It takes not as long to obtain God’s forgiveness. Penitence and amedment should take a lifetime.”
Hurbert Van Zeller
In a personal way, what does it mean to me to repent?
What does Elijah’s behavior, as he bowed down before God, tell me about his relationship with his heavenly Father?
“Man is born with his face turned away from God. When he truly repents, he is turned right toward God.”
D. L. Moody
“It is impossible to know God, to obey Him, to function within His family, or to understand His Word if we are thinking incorrectly about who He is.”
A God To Call Father
As we have looked into the events which transpired on Mount Carmel I wondered what it would have been like to have accompanied Elijah, as after the crowd had dispersed, he began to climb back up to the mountain’s crest where we see him bowing down in prayer, acknowledging the closeness he felt with his Father in heaven.
Interestingly, we could wonder why Elijah came back up the mountain to pray for rain. Hadn’t God, in fact, already promised that the rain would fall? Hadn’t Elijah, already conveyed the fact to King Ahab that as he stated, “an abundance of rain was on the way?” How did Elijah know a downpour was in the works? And if he knew this to be a fact, then was his prayer necessary at all?
Here’s where there was still a lot for me to learn about prayer from the top of Carmel. Yesterday, we studied the ways we can better prepare to enter into communion with our Father -- that close intimacy that draws us into harmonious oneness with our Creator, the Ruler of the Universe.
Today, as we look at how Elijah approached his Father, we find that this man of God, bowed down, with his face between his knees, acting as some may describe as a penitent -- a supplicant coming before God and humbling himself.
Somewhere down through the ages, some may have mistaken the need to hold our heavenly Father in fear and awe as a need to be so frightened of God and to humiliate oneself in such a dramatic way, that bodily harm seemed to be the only way we could get God’s attention and call forth His response.
From Elijah’s mountain top position -- bowing before His Father -- we recognize the respect Elijah had in his heart for a Father he had found he could depend on through the years. Elijah’s prayer for rain wasn’t dependent on him receiving a sign from God -- although this happened. His prayer for rain was evidence that he was claiming what had already been promised. It was a view for you and me that we can walk by faith because our Father is trustworthy. He does what He says He will do. We, too, can claim what God has already promised He will do.
But as we climb with Elijah up the heights to Carmel’s crest, there is another important element which comes to bear on the boldness Elijah exhibited in claiming God’s promises as his own -- as already fulfilled in his life. This has to do with the word “penitent.” We must not get this specific word mixed up with “penance,” for God makes it clear it is not some act we perform that brings us into perfect alignment with Him. Instead as David wrote during a time in his own life when he had been disobedient and longed to bring his life into harmony with his Father, it was then he penned the words in Psalm 51. What David told God is this:
“For You delight not in sacrifice, or else would I give it; You find no pleasure in burnt offering. My sacrifice (the sacrifice acceptable) to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart (broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent), such, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51: 16, 17, Amplified Bible).
What a complete picture we have of our Father’s desire for us to come to Him, when we have failed, with a spirit of confession and a repentant desire to turn from the path that leads us away from Him. One of the more interesting and easy to understand descriptions of repentance which I have found during my study about this word was explained by William Temple who wrote, “The world, as we live in it, is like a shop window into which some mischievous person has got overnight, and shifted all the price–labels so that the cheap things have the high price–labels on them and the really precious things are priced low. We let ourselves be taken in. Repentance means getting these price-labels back in the right place.”
What a wonderful way to describe the “high price” heaven paid for the redemption of you and me. It should be that with this cost in mind, that we bow in gratitude before our Father -- recognizing all He has done for us. As Lewis Wallace so beautifully portrays, “Repentance must be something more than mere remorse for sins; it comprehends a change of nature befitting heaven.” This is why a devoted child of God like Elijah, after a day in battle with the powers of evil, is found again at eventide, after a heavenly display of power by the God of heaven and earth, taking time to pray again, as a penitent child, bowing before his Father, claiming all his Father has promised -- including an abundance of rain to provide moisture to a drought-ridden land.
It is with this knowledge that I asked myself this question, and you may wish to do the same, “Will I today claim my Father’s promise, a promise He has said He will fulfill, and seek for the renewal of a broken heart? Will I turn from those worthless items and take as my own ‘the pearl of great price?’”
In one of my favorite promises in all of the Bible, the Apostle John assures us that when we come to our Father, as a repentant sinner, we are accepted and cleansed: “If we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins (dismiss our lawlessness) and (continuously) cleanse us from all unrighteousness (everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought and action)” (1 John 1: 9, Amplified Bible).
When we look at God’s servant Elijah, bowing in prayer at the top of Carmel, it would do us well to remember these words penned by the great English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon: “Do not make any mistake about it; repentance is not a thing of days and weeks…No; it is the grace of a lifetime, like faith itself…all the while that we walk by faith and not by sight, the tear of repentance glitters in the eye of faith.”
“O how I fear Thee, Living God,
With deepest, tenderest fears,
And worship Thee with trembling hope,
And penitential tears.”
Frederick William Faber
“O love of men, O Father of mercies,
You are rich in mercy to all who call upon You.
I am not fit to be called Your son,
Nor to be Your servant.
But I repent!
Help my impenitence and be merciful to me.
Deep calls to deep;
My deep misery calls to Your deep compassion.
Where sin has abounded let grace abound more fully.
Overcome my evil with Your goodness;
Let mercy rejoice against judgment.
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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