Note the curious disparity here. God’s people are very much trying to behave like God’s people. They “delight to draw near to God”. They aren’t just religious; they’re downright spiritual. This isn’t self-imposed, legalistic drudgery; these people are sincerely - joyfully, even - seeking an encounter with the living God. Yet God is not pleased. The apostle James says that if we draw near to God, He’ll draw near to us (James 4:8). Well, Israel is, and it’s not working.
Thankfully, the answer isn’t shrouded in mystery; it’s provided plainly. God’s people, for all their spiritual enthusiasm, are a quarrelsome group of miscreants who have oppressed and neglected the poor. Loving one’s neighbour as oneself is, evidently, not a priority. Under such circumstances, the Lord refuses to be responsive to prayer and supplication, no matter how sincerely and fervently such petition may be offered.
If there is a clearer biblical picture of western evangelicalism today, I don’t know where to find it. Enter any number of evangelical churches and you’re bound to find enthusiasm, dedication and spiritual fervour. If it’s an experience you seek, it’s an experience you will find. But ask yourself, within such churches, do we really love our neighbour - our Christian neighbour, let alone anyone else?
If someone loses a job or falls ill in your church, is any real help rendered beyond some half-hearted promises to pray and a few casseroles? Are we behaving as “one body” (1 Cor 12:12-27), or as several bodies pulled together once or twice weekly for some mutually agreeable religious activity?
If we want a genuine encounter with the Living God, we had better be able to answer this question confidently.
Colin McComb lives in Edson, Alberta with his wife, Gail, and their three lovely children.