Sermon on Isaiah 55:6-9
Text: Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We have great respect for people who discover things. For example, our country has a legal holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America. What people often forget is that Christopher Columbus discovered America by accident. He was actually looking for a trade route to India and the Far East from Europe. While traveling west, he just happened to bump into America. Christopher Columbus did not find what he was looking for, but he is remembered for what he found. This morning, we are told to SEEK THE LORD. We will look at, first of all, 1. Man’s Attempts To Find God. Secondly, we will see that 2. God Shows Man How To Find Him.
The words of our text follow an invitation by God to come to him. He promises to fill every need. More importantly, he promises to fulfill all of our spiritual needs. He also says that he will gather his people from all nations to himself. With this as a background, he now tells the world, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” He invites man to seek him.
How will man respond to this invitation? Natural man will respond in a number of ways. There will be those who refuse to seek the Lord. They say, ‘I don’t want anything to do with God or religion or anything like that.’ They refuse God’s invitation. They go on serving their own interests. They make themselves the center of the world. They go through life as though God did not exist.
There are others who will serve a god, but one of their own making. For example, we might think of those people who bow down to idols of wood, stone, or precious metal. They are seeking to appease these gods. None of these gods that they are seeking is the true God and so they are not seeking the Lord, either.
What about those religions that use all of the same words for God that we do? Are they seeking the Lord? Unfortunately, the answer, in most cases is ‘No.’ For example, any religion that does not give credit to Jesus as being the Son of God or give him equal glory as the Father, is worshiping a false god. The same holds true for anyone who believes that there is a god, but it’s up to you as to what or whom it is. The god that they are seeking is as much an idol, as the figure that people bow down to. They are not seeking the Lord.
There are also those who try to seek God’s favor by what they do. They feel that they can earn God’s favor by being extra good people. They figure that they can help themselves into heaven by all of the good that they do. Surely God must owe them something for their troubles. There are even those who cause physical pain in themselves, so that God will feel sorry for them. Martin Luther, while he was a monk, would beat himself severely, sometimes to the point of collapsing. Why would he do such a thing? He had been taught that God was an angry God, whom man had to please. If a person deprived themselves of something, it would show their devotion to God. By doing these things, they seek to earn God’s favor.
Man comes up with all of these ways and more to try to seek God. He relies on his own understanding and reasoning to tell him how to get right with God. Yet, the Scriptures tell us in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” All of these ways that have been mentioned have no other end than eternal punishment in hell. All of these ways will not get you right with God. Try as man might, he can never, on his own, seek God and find him.
So, how can man seek God and find him? He can only do so with God’s help. First of all, God wants us to know that we do absolutely nothing to get right with him. Why is this true? It is because everything has been done for us. We were enemies of God because of our sins. We could not do anything to get right with God, nor did we want to. Yet, Jesus came to this earth to live in our place and to suffer and die to pay for our sins. Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross as our perfect substitute. He paid the penalty that was ours, because of our sin. To show us, once and for all that his Father had accepted his payment for our sins, he rose from the dead on Easter. This forgiveness is ours through faith in Jesus as our Savior.
We didn’t even get the faith that reaches out and accepts this gift of forgiveness through something that we did. This faith is a gift that is given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit, as he works through the Means of Grace, the Gospel in the Word and Sacrament. That is the only way that we can receive this saving faith. Scriptures tell us in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
Wait a minute; do I mean to say that there is absolutely nothing I do to earn my salvation? That doesn’t make sense to my type of thinking. Who ever heard of getting something for nothing? Yet, that is what is taught us in the Bible. We do not earn our salvation in any way. We do not make a decision to follow Christ, without the Holy Spirit first creating faith in our hearts. While this may not make sense to us, God reminds us in our text, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” We seek and find God, only after shows himself to us.
Some of you might be thinking, ‘How does this text apply to me? I have already, by the grace of God, found him. Through the faith that the Holy Spirit created in my heart, I believe that my sins are forgiven.’ At first, I felt the same way. However, it is of vital importance that we keep reminding ourselves of this blessed truth, because to believe anything else has eternal consequences. In addition, we look at verse 7, “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” You see, even though we have found God, we still sin against him every day. We need to be reminded of this fact that we are sinful. We need to be reminded that it is wrong to place anything or anyone in the place in our lives that God demands for himself. We need to be reminded again and again that we are to defend our neighbor’s reputation, rather than tearing it apart. We still sin every day and need to be assured again and again of God’s forgiveness. We are assured that he will forgive us from our text. We also ask him for the strength to live lives that are pleasing to him, out of thankfulness for all that he has done for us.
There are those who would say, or think, ‘I’ll ask God for forgiveness later. Right now, I’m too busy or having too much fun to do that right now.’ Yet, God adds a sense of urgency in our text by saying, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” An unrepented sin is very damaging to our spiritual state. It deadens our aversion to sin. It may, eventually, lead to our falling from faith. My friends, let us seek the Lord today, trusting in his forgiveness. Let us do it every day. Let us also be confident that forgiveness is ours, for our God is gracious.
We want to seek the Lord every day of our lives. Even though we have found him with his help, we want to be more and more like him. We seek his forgiveness and strength. May we always thank our God that he found us. May we rejoice in this discovery. Christopher Columbus may have found a new land, but we have found our God. Amen.
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