Seek the Lord!
Dear Lord God, our dear heavenly Father-I enter Your courts with joy in view of Your grace! By grace You determined to save me from the foolishness of my sinful rebellion and its inevitable result.death. Through the holy life, innocent death, and the glorious resurrection of Your own Son, You have redeemed me and through the effective working of Your Spirit You have called me to faith. Be with and bless me this day as I come before You for worship. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Are we “doers” of the word, or merely “hearers” of that word? The apostle James urges us to put into practice what we learn in the Bible. As God’s children we will want to control what we say and help those in need!
Jesus informed His disciples on Maundy Thursday evening that He would shortly be returning to His Father. This He did when He ascended into heaven. He promised them and us, however, to both hear and answer our prayers!
Text: Isaiah 55:6-11
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. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
In Christ Jesus, whose word reveals truth and brings freedom, dear fellow redeemed:
You will find them sprinkled throughout the Bible. The apostles Paul and James were especially fond of them. Jesus used them regularly in His sermons to the people, and as He taught His disciples privately. Isaiah uses them twice in the first sentence of our text today. Grammatically we identify them as imperatives. Theologically we refer to them as evangelical admonitions. They are the commands that God gives us as His believing children. They are not intended to drive us in fear to obedience, as are the threats of the law, but rather they are intended to draw us in love through the gospel into a pattern of living which will result in God’s blessing.
Isaiah begins our text by saying: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” The words “seek” and “call” are imperatives. They are commands, which are not intended to drive us, but rather are intended to draw us into a close relationship with our Savior God—the LORD. Let us, therefore, consider the first of these evangelical admonitions—SEEK THE LORD! In our text we find three things we ought to seek and the reasons why—each of which leads us to the love of our gracious God.
Yes, SEEK THE LORD! Seek, first of all, His mercy! Isaiah urges us: “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.”
“Boy, are you going to get in trouble when mom and dad find out what you did,” a young girl tells her even younger brother! So begins the efforts of the younger brother to hide what he has done from his mom and dad, and when his actions are discovered to deny what he has done…all so that he supposedly will not get into trouble. Yet, trouble by nature is all of our middle names! Man by nature fears God because of his sin. Adam and Eve hid from God among the trees of the Garden of Eden after they had sinned against Him. Man has been hiding and ducking and denying ever since—all to stay out of trouble…to avoid being punished for sins having been committed.
What should every wicked and unrighteous man do? He should, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, repent of his sins—that is, “forsake his way.” He should change his thinking, sorrowing over the fact that he has offended the just and almighty God, yes, but also the merciful and gracious God. Isaiah says that God will have mercy upon sinners—that He will pardon us and do so abundantly! Consequently, what does God tell us sinners about how to handle our sin? He says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
God is a realist when it comes to us and our sins. He knows that we are sinners, and as sinners He knows that we will sin. Still He loves us! Does not the apostle Paul tell us: “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us”? (Romans 5:8) Consequently, rather than trying to avoid God when we fall into sin, we will want to seek Him out, for He will be merciful and gracious to us. The problem arises when we try to hide our sins, or deny our sins, or when we rather than repenting rejoice in our sins. It is then and then only when we turn away in unbelief that we will not experience the mercy of God, but rather His judgment. Think of our Savior who stood on the Mount of Olives and sadly stated regarding His own people living in Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38a)
Are you burdened by your sins…sins about which no one else may know? Are you uncertain about your relationship with God because of what you have said or done in the past? Are you afraid to go to God and admit your problems, because of your own pride and fears? If so, do not resist the calls of your Savior but listen as He speaks to you: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). My dear friends—SEEK THE LORD! Seek His mercy, for He promises abundantly to pardon you and to help you overcome the sins that seek to bind your soul.
Yes, SEEK THE LORD! Seek, secondly, His ways! In the first verses of our text the prophet Isaiah is speaking. In the verses which follow the LORD Himself steps in to speak. The LORD says, “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.”
How are the thoughts and ways of the LORD different than our own? In many ways, we must say immediately! First of all, God knows all things, so He always has the proper perspective on any matter. We often do not, even though we often have a great deal of difficulty admitting that! Secondly, God can do anything, for He possesses all authority and power. We do not, and therefore we often become frustrated by our lack of power or abusive with that power we possess! Thirdly, God is just and holy, so He would never think, nor would He ever do anything wrong. Unfortunately, we do sin in thought, word, and deed regularly!
The key difference between the thoughts and ways of the LORD and our own, however, lies in the simple, yet profound phrase: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is the grace of God—His love freely and undeservingly given—that distinguishes His thoughts and actions from our own. By nature we have a profound love for ourselves, and that love manifests itself in many selfish ways, from a refusal to share our toys as two-year olds, to wanting to be first in every line during grade school, to thinking everyone else’s schedule in the family should yield to your own as a high school student, to racing to get that final parking spot at Walmart the day before Christmas!
In stark contrast the apostle John tells us: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11). The thoughts dominating the mind of God are those desires to help. The way of God is that of sacrifice—paying the price with the blood of His Son so that we might have that which is priceless—everlasting life! It is that grace, which ultimately wins our hearts. It is that love, which in the end will lead us to change our thoughts and lead us to alter our ways! SEEK THE LORD! Seek His ways!
Finally, dear friends, seek His word! The LORD continues to speak in the final verses of our text: “As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
God’s word is so very, very precious! The Bible tells us that it serves as “a lamp” to our feet and “a light” to our path (Psalm 119:105). It tells us elsewhere that it is “living and powerful… sharper than any two-edged sword” so that it can and does discern “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus tells us that if we “abide” in His word, we will be “His disciples indeed,” and we “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make (us) free” (John 8:31-32).
You would hardly gather that, would you, from the attitude of many within our world today, including many within the external Christian church? Today, the world views the Bible, at best, as simply one of many human books expressing human opinions about God and religion. The critics, both inside and outside the church, suggest that it is filled with errors and antiquated thinking. Those hostile to the Bible consider it to be dangerous.
In stark contrast the LORD Himself compares the beneficial effects of His word to the beneficial effects of rain and snow. The moisture that God sends down from the heavens does not come down without effect. A majority of farmers in our area have just planted their crops. The rains of this last week and those which we expect to come are absolutely vital for the seed to germinate and then grow. The crops we pray will be bountiful—bringing blessings to many through the income they provide and the products which are produced by their use. In the same way the LORD assures us that His word, when proclaimed, will have an effect. It will not return to Him void—with no effect. Rather, it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish. It will prosper His kingdom.
The apostle Paul writes so very clearly, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). He says as well that God “sanctifies” and “cleanses” believers with “the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26). As we seek that word and abide in that word, Jesus promises that we “bear much fruit,” for without Him and the words of life He brings us “we can do nothing” (John 15:5). Is your life lacking in contentment, in satisfaction, and in joy? Are you having a difficult time in your marriage or family life? Are you finding yourself increasing stressed and unsettled? If so, may I suggest, dear friends, the best and most effective solution for you is toSEEK THE LORD! You will find Him in His word, which means then that you will want to seek and find His word!
May the LORD lead us ever to do so—to His glory, for our own benefit, and for the blessing of all those around us! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting