Brethren--Let Us Seek the Lord!
Lord God, we come before You this day singing Your praise and seeking Your blessing. Move us, O Lord, to repent of our sins with humility, to love You always with sincerity, and to follow Your will and ways faithfully. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
St. Paul was in prison in Rome facing a possible death sentence. Still he remained filled with both hope and determination. He would continue to serve His Lord Jesus in life, knowing that upon his death he would gain eternal life.
God's grace is undeserved. He gives the gift of eternal life to all who believe, whether they come to faith in their youth or in their old age. Jesus illustrates this truth with His Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
Text: Isaiah 55:6-9
"Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
In Christ Jesus, who seeks to bless our souls with His message of love, dear fellow redeemed:
Less than two weeks ago we commemorated the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist bombings in which more than 3,000 of our fellow citizens died. Do you think that any of those victims realized that fateful morning that they were going to die that day? They were businessmen and women, firefighters and policemen, children going to day-care or on flights to see their grandparents—certainly not! None of them were aware that terrorists would take their lives in such ruthless fashion. Do you think they prepared for death? Were they prepared to meet their God that day? Some no doubt were, while others probably were not. That thought alone should give each of us cause for reflection. First of all, none of us here today knows when he or she will die. I would guess that most of us believe our death day lies somewhere far in the future. I would imagine that was the case as well for most, if not all, of the victims of 9/11. Secondly, since we do not know our death day, and seeing that it could be any day—think of Edwin Saffert, who was murdered in Springfield earlier this week, or our own Leona Hanel, who died of a stroke earlier this month, we should always be prepared for death. Consequently, BRETHREN—LET US SEEK THE LORD! Let us do so now—while He is near and can be found! Let us do so with sincerity—forsaking sin and trusting in His mercy! Let us do so in humility—recognizing we cannot fully comprehend His ways and thoughts!
Isaiah lived during a time of overall material prosperity in the little kingdom of Judah. Things were going well outwardly, yet the people seemed to have lost their moral and spiritual compass. It was not that the people, at least fairly large numbers of the people, were failing to practice outward religion. They were, but they were no longer faithful to the LORD. Their attention was focused on this life and gaining and enjoying their fair share of material goods and pleasures. It was a time not unlike today in our United States.
God sent Isaiah to warn His people of pending judgment, to remind them that God did rule in the heavens, and that He was interested more in the state of their hearts than the state of their pocketbooks. Isaiah told the people that from God’s perspective they were like a man stricken from head to toe with a terrible sickness, but who had covered himself with a clean, white sheet. They refused to look under the sheet to see their sickness, but kept insisting everything was all right, because there was that clean white sheet! He spoke also of God’s love and mercy and, therefore, invited them to “come…and…reason together…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; thought they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The bottom line Isaiah wrote, however, was that it was most imperative that they “seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.”
When is it that the “LORD…may be found” and when is it that “He is near”? That time is right now! The place is wherever we might be! God has given each of us this time of grace, and while we are alive He is near us. Right now is the time to seek the LORD, while we are living, breathing, thinking, able to hear, able to repent, able to rejoice in a God who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The writer to the Hebrews tells us, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (9:27). Life is only so long—do not spend it simply attempting to accumulate things, which ultimately do not last and have no real meaning! That same writer to the Hebrews tells us that, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31), but that is only the case if we have ignored God’s pleas, rejected His grace, and chosen to go our own ways. To those who seek the LORD now and who heed His word, Jesus assures those hands of God are strong to save and will keep us safe (cf. John 10:29).
I once knew a young man—healthy, strong, well versed in the Scriptures because he had been blessed with a pious and faithful mother, but a young man who had strayed from his faith. He was a member of the same volunteer fire department I had joined. When I once attempted to remind him of the importance of having a vital relationship with his Lord, he responded that he did not need the LORD at this point in his life, because he was young and strong. He assured me, however, that he would return to the LORD when he was old. What would have happened if that young man had been one of the firemen lost at the World Trade Towers? BRETHREN—LET US SEEK THE LORD! Let us do sonow, while He is near and can be found!
Yes, let us seek Him with sincerity, forsaking sin and trusting in His mercy! Isaiah goes on, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah calls upon the ungodly of his day to repent and turn to the Lord. He assures them that God will not turn them away, but rather will forgive and embrace them.
Today, as well, we proclaim a message of “repentance and remission of sins” to all people. We do so, however, within a society that is increasingly in danger. Recently, I read a poll in which less than 30% of Americans agreed that there is such a thing as absolute truths—that there are such things as absolute morals, things absolutely right or wrong. If you are deceived into believing there is nothing really right or wrong, you will conclude that there is no real reason to repent of anything. If you do not have to repent, then you have no need of forgiveness, and, consequently, no need for a Savior. Thus Satan can use the relativistic thinking of society today to undermine the message of the gospel and suggest there is no real reason why anyone must believe in Jesus as Savior.
My dear friends, there are absolute truths and God has established an absolute code of morality. That code of morality condemns us, when we violate it. When we do so, we separate ourselves from God. When we, however, are led by the Holy Spirit to repent of our sins—to forsake our wicked thoughts and ways, it is imperative that we know what Isaiah here reveals. God does not want us to live our lives in fear and despair. Rather, He wants us to know that He “will have mercy” on us and that He “will abundantly pardon” us. It is that forgiving love of our God that brings joy to our hearts as His believing children and allows us to live our lives filled with holy confidence! Therefore, BRETHREN, LET US SEEK THE LORD with sincerity, forsaking sin and trusting in His mercy!
Yes, let us seek Him in humility, recognizing we cannot fully comprehend His ways and thoughts! Isaiah writes, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” One of the greatest challenges of our Christian lives is that they are lives in which we are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). The world says, "Seeing is believing!" We are so used to verifying the facts with our senses, that when things, which we cannot verify outwardly and so understand confront us, we tend to be skeptical and reject them. This is why, for instance, so many people have trouble accepting the doctrines of the Trinity or the Deity of Christ. We cannot verify these Scriptural truths apart from believing the testimony of Scripture. One plus one plus one equals three according to our thinking, but that is not the case when considering the Triune God. We must accept this teaching and others on the basis of faith. We can do so only when the Spirit of our Savior God leads us to subject our judgments to the fact that God’s thoughts and ways are so much greater than ours, that we must accept them in faith.
Beyond certain Scriptural doctrines, however, we must also humbly submit ourselves to the will and ways of God with regard to those situations in our lives, which we cannot understand. Why does God permit certain things to happen to us or to the ones we love—things like cancer, or bankruptcy, or the effects of natural disasters, or even death? We cannot always understand these matters, and our human tendency is to want to take control of our own lives and have everything the way we want it to be. Such tendencies can at times lead us to question God and perhaps even in pride to stand in judgment of Him. Yet when such temptations arise, it is wise to keep in mind the lessons of Scripture. Job learned to submit his will, ways, and thoughts to those of God, for he could not stand before God and answer His questions. We are too small and God is too great! It is enough to know that He loves us, that He has a plan for us, that He will keep His promises to us, and that He will stand beside us each and every day until He chooses to take us to Himself for all eternity.
I would imagine that all of you have heard of Todd Beamer, the gentleman who with the words, "Let’s roll," led a passenger revolt on Flight 93 and caused their passenger to crash into the hills of western Pennsylvania rather than into another terrorist target. His wife, Lisa, has recently published a book under that same title, describing her ordeal. She was pregnant at the time of Todd’s death. You and I can only imagine the turmoil in her mind as she tried to discern God’s will and ways in permitting the tragedy of 9/11 to occur. What is most interesting from a spiritual standpoint is that on that very day of tragedy Lisa was preparing to lead a Bible Study and God led her to the words she needed to harbor in her heart. The memory verse for her study was Romans 11:33-36. Later when she was permitted to pick up Todd’s car from the airport she found a stack of Bible verse memory cards, her husband had used to pass time when he traveled. The Bible reference on the top car—the car Todd was perhaps memorizing en route to the airport was likewise Romans 11:33-36. What was the message? St. Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
There will be times in our lives when as we seek God, we will be left wondering why certain things happen. But let us then remember that God’s ways are not always are ways, and God’s thoughts are infinitely higher than our thoughts. He does, however, love us. He has proven that by sending us His Son. He will take care of us and provide us with the strength we need in any and every situation. Our God will prove Himself faithful, for He cannot deny Himself! BRETHREN—LET US SEEK THE LORD! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting