Not to put any pressure on you, but if you didn’t already know, there is only three months till Christmas. Sadly, Christmas decorations and what not are already up in most retail stores. Before we know it, we’re going to start seeing those Black Friday ads with their Black Friday deals, their door buster ads and their fancy advertising slogans.
We’ve all heard them. “Free gift with purchase of $100!” “Black Friday Sneak Peak – Get a Jump Start on Big Time Deals – up to 70% off.” “Mix and Match Entire Store – Once a Year – Buy 3 Get 3 Free!” “Don’t wait, time is running out!”
We even hear this kind of talk at the beginning of our Old Testament lesson this morning when Isaiah says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6a). Hearing that, especially if you are hearing it for the first time, like the Israelite people were, you may be like, “Wait a minute! What’s going on? Is the Lord going somewhere where I can’t reach Him? How does that work?”
What’s worse yet is the last part of that verse. “call on Him while He is near” (55:6b). Again, where is He going? It sounds like He is going to be going far, far away. How long is He going to be gone? Is He ever coming back? If not, I better get my requests in, I better straighten up. Maybe I can convince the Lord not to leave!”
Can you see where these words from Isaiah could cause one to be confused, to be scratching their head and not sure about this whole following the Lord thing?
To get a better understanding of what this passage is saying, we need to stop, calm down, take a deep breath, and relax. We need to take a step back and look at the larger context. We need to look at the location of these verses within the greater context of the whole book of Isaiah.
Chapter 55 follows the section in Isaiah that is known and cherished by many as the “Suffering Servant Section.” Chapters 52 to 53 are the fourth Servant Song of Isaiah and then chapter 54 focuses on the “Eternal Covenant of Peace.” In these three chapters, the amazing, gracious work of Jesus is foretold. It’s in these chapters where we hear the familiar words like, “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities … The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all … He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth … He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors … with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.”
For the Israelites, these words are all looking ahead to what the Savior would do. From our perspective, we hear these words and look back at what it was that Jesus did. And with all this that Christ went through, all the pain, the suffering, the ridicule and mocking, the torture and then to top it all off, He was forsaken by His own heavenly Father … with all that Jesus voluntarily did and went through … you think He is going to just take off and leave? Looking at our world and how we all live our lives, I wouldn’t blame Him for wanting to leave. The thing is though, it would be extremely wrong and inappropriate for us to look at our reading from Isaiah 55 as a mandate, as an order, a command to get your life in order and find the LORD, to walk in His ways … or else! Or, do good stuff and get right with Jesus … time is running out! That’s not what Isaiah wants you to go home with. God isn’t going anywhere. He’s not a Black Friday or an Amazon Prime sale which is here today and gone tomorrow.
Isaiah 55 begins with an invitation. The LORD says “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (55:1). Okay, hold on a second. God says to come and buy and eat and drink, but there’s no money to do that. The invite to buy is for the one who has no money? How does that even work? Well … it doesn’t … and that is exactly the point. We who have nothing are given absolutely everything.
The last three weeks in our Time to Profess we have been going through each of the three articles or sections of the Apostles’ Creed and the meaning that is found in Luther’s Small Catechism. We didn’t do that just to do something different. In going through them like we have, we focus in on what it is that God has done and continues to do for us. He gives you and me our body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He gives us everything we need to support this body and life in which we have. God protects us. Jesus redeems us from all our sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. The Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, makes us holy and keeps us in the true faith. We are given the promise that we will be raised from the dead and those who believe in Jesus as their Savior will be granted eternal life.
God is doing all this. He does it out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. There’s nothing I can add to this. There is nothing we can contribute to our salvation. God is God and we are not. We live under Him. We are blessed with and by His grace! And so it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
You and I have nothing … and yet … we are given absolutely everything. We who are lost and who are unable to navigate our way out of a paper bag are told to, “Seek the LORD while He may be found” (55:6a). But you may be thinking, I’m lost in the chaos and darkness of sin. I’m being bombarded by sale fliers enticing me to go here for this devilish deal or to go there to get that enticing product. I’m lost, I’m unable to find my way. How in the world can I find Jesus?
Here’s the thing … you don’t. Jesus instead finds you! Jesus finds you and He places Himself in a place or in a position so that you will see Him! Psalm 34 says that “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (34:18-19).
Jesus, the Suffering Servant, the one who wants you and all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), comes to you. We just confessed, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”He reveals Himself to you through His Holy Spirit, through His holy Word. He reveals Himself in the selfless acts of mercy that are shown to you and to those around us. Jesus reveals Himself to you and others through tears shed and words of support spoken to those who are hurting. Jesus wants you and me to be near to Him.
“Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). God seeks us so that we might find Him, but you know, He does this in ways that do not always make sense to us. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (55:8) and so we are called to trust. To fear, love, and trust in God above all things, with all that we are made up of. And I get it, this isn’t always easy.
God has placed all kinds of different people in your lives. Some of them you love and adore and cherish, others, you don’t get along with all, you don’t see eye to eye on anything, or it is hard for you to even be in their presence.
Jesus said that night is coming when no man can work. The day is coming when Christ will come again. And when He comes, those who don’t believe will have run out of time. Living in the end times, living in the eleventh hour, you and I have been called to share the message of God’s love and grace to those around us, even if it to those who we would rather not talk to or associate ourselves with. We have been called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The clock is ticking; time is running out. Brought near to God by His grace, may we share that grace with those around us in all that we say and do and while giving God all the honor, glory, and praise. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.