Seek the LORD while he makes himself available; call to him while he is nearby! The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle and sinful people their plans. They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them and to their God, for he will freely forgive them. – Isaiah 55:6-7
God’s appeal was to seek Him and it is tied to the implication that while opportunity exists it does have its own limitations. There may be a point where that opportunity may be diminished or taken away all together. For this text it carries a certain urgency since the appeal is to the wicked and sinners who are called to abandon their lifestyle and return to the LORD.
The call is a call to repentance. Repentance quite literally means to change one’s mind about something; it has the idea of turning away from present behaviors or activities and stop doing them. When one repents the idea is to abandon that way of life and to start living according to God’s Word. Here the wicked and sinners are to completely change their mind (abandon is a good word) about their value, beliefs and choices that result in behavior that is, as the text indicates, wicked and sinful. Repentance is not about feeling bad about what one has done. That is simply sentimentalism especially if there is no action taken directed to “return to the Lord”.
Returning to the LORD is not just recovering a cordial relationship so that we are on speaking terms. The idea is about fully surrendering my own ideas and the way I am choosing to live and going back to what God’s righteousness requires of me. Repentance inevitably is followed by humble submission. I truly must abdicate my position as the director of my life and submit to Christ’s leadership. There are two things that will motivate me to- return to the Lord, things that are necessary: first, I have to believe that God forgives. If I don’t think God will forgive then there is no reason for repentance and turning from my activity because I will feel fully justified to keep on doing what I am doing. Secondly, humility – it is impossible to agree with God that my activity is sinful and wicked unless I have the humility to submit to His authority and obey His Word.
God is not about brokering or negotiating a way of life. Our ambition should not be to convince God to conform to our purpose and support our plan for success for our life. As I have mentioned in the past, God is not a concierge who is there to support our desires and ambitions for life. As Henry Blackaby has proposed, the issue is how is God at work and how does He want us to join Him in His journey and purpose? God has measured out what He is accomplishing before time began and He is working it out that purpose in the context of the human condition, human fallenness and brokenness. He calls His people to be willing participants with Him in His mission and purpose. Of course His purpose of rescuing humanity from their sin and rebellion and creating a new humanity in Christ is central to His overall purpose to glorify Himself. As Ezekiel mentioned in chapter 36:22 – “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘this is what the sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake that I am about to act, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy reputation which you profaned among the nations where you went. God will not share His glory with anyone and that means we will not be standing on the podium receiving the award for outstanding achievement; God will receive the praise, adoration and the accolades. His eternal purpose is really all that matters.
The comforting element of this verse is for those who return to the LORD, He will show mercy and freely forgive them. God is not cruel nor insensitive God to our plight. He will show mercy to those who humble themselves before Him. He welcome those who have the wisdom and faith that God will respond to them in a way that restores the relationship. There are times this feels like a daily thing; there are others that feel they need this pathway on occasion. Either way, God is ready and accessible to respond to Him by faith.
Sincerely, Pastor Brad