You're Invited! RSVP (part 2)
By Harold Markham
II. We are invited to trust God’s path. vv.6-7
“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; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7
God bids us come, but He has terms in mind. He has a specific path for us to walk. It is a path of repentance and restoration.
The only way to get to the moon is to leave the Earth! The way to come to God is via repentance.
A. Repentance is required. vv. 6a-7b
Here our invitation is being restated again in a synonymous way. The focus here, however, is urgent repentance. Do it while we can! Soon it will be too late! You will notice in the English translations four clear imperatives—each a faithful, trusting step in this path of invitation.
- Seek. v. 6a
Leupold suggests that “seeking the Lord” involved offering sacrifices. Motyer suggest that this seeking involves commitment to what one knows is real. “But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God shall choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. Deuteronomy 12:5. In the OT this word is sometimes (84/164) translated as enquire (inquire). Its is a deeper probing. The basic idea is to tread, step, or enter. The shades of that word vary in usage, but that’s the root concept (Pieper). Yes we will “find” God when we seek with all our hearts. But I also know from a NT understanding that none “seeks” after God. So I am inclined to agree with Motyer and see this as an enquiring commitment of the God we know exists. It is the response of coming at the beckon of the invitation. Seek God.
For many of us we fall into the category of “knowing” the fact of God’s existence. Do we enquire (inquire) of Him? Do we want to know Him—personally (John 17:3 says that this is eternal life)? Or are we just content to hear the Bible stories and rest in our churchianity? Are we filling our spiritual vacuum—that hunger and thirst for God with some temporal junk food? When is the last time we stepped before God and presented our bodies as living sacrifices before Him as an act of worship (Rom. 12:1)? Calvin said, “We ought to draw high consolation from being assured that it is not in vain for us to seek God. “Seek,” says Christ, “and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened; ask, and it shall be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
- Call. v. 6b
Some climatic parallelism is being used here as this strophe (vv. 6-13) develops. “Call” is more intense than “Seek/step/enquire (inquire)” (JFB). Near is more intimate than just being “found”. In fact as I studied this section it seems seeking, calling, forsaking, and return are all steps toward repentance. It is one thing to enquire (inquire) of God; it’s another thing to desperately cry out to Him. There is a world of difference between “Dad, watcha doing?” and “Dad! Help!”
When God cracks the door open and gentle bids us come, or when He strides near via circumstances and the work of His Holy Spirit, we need to call on Him. It is more intimate than seeking, it’s clearer than the winding paths of enquiry. But it is limited. We best do it while we can. Some of you today have been caused to see God clearly this week. The trials you have faced have given you a view of God. You need to call to Him. You need to trust His way. Perhaps some of us need to repent.
- Forsake. v. 7a
Isaiah knew what it was like to be near to God (Is.6). He knew what it was like to see himself in light of God’s holy perfections. His first response was “Woe is me!”
We had just painted the churches inside walls and the entire building looked fresh and clean. It was a great day in our church body and we were all feeling the excitement and satisfaction of a job well done until…the pastor shined the overhead projector on a back wall to display his sermon notes. When the intense light shined on the wall the entire church was able to see spots of wall where the painter had missed. So it is in our lives that in the dim darkness of human comparison and logic we look ok, but when confronted with the holy light of the Lord’s standard we fall short and see things for what they really are! The puritans used to say the brighter the light the greater we see the imperfections. We have much sin to forsake.
What sin(s) do we need to abandon (Qal) so that we may draw nigh to God? For me this week it has been pride. God resists the proud. I can’t be close to God and be filled with myself too.
“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:6-10
For some here today it may be mammon. Others here may be struggling with a specific area of disobedience. Whatever your sin is it needs to be forsaken.
Some say, "Surely if you keep preaching like this no one will ever want to come to church. They will be turned off to Christianity. You take it too seriously." Listen my dear friends, to turn from death to life is no chore! To reach out for life giving water when parched is no pain. It is only when we fail to see God as He is that we have trouble forsaking sin. Perhaps we like Isaiah need to see God afresh. Only then will we trust his path and forsake the evil way (lifestyle) and the evil thoughts (plans) that determine our path.
- Return. v. 7b
To turn from sin also means that we turn towards something. Many a man has been a moralist and turned from overt acts of wickedness to hidden acts of the heart. Our Lord addressed this in Matthew 5 where He intensified the law. True repentance always involves a turning to the Lord. This message is not new in Isaiah. In fact chapters 31:6 and 44:22 advance this concept long before the invitation of our text. But here it is listed as the climatic step man takes in repentance. To seek, call, forsake, return equals repentance. Repentance is the ultimate act of faith and trust (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9).
When we repent our gracious God acts.
B. Restoration is provided. v. 7
Restoration is possible because of two gifts God is willing to bestow on those who repent. The first is…
- Compassion. v. 7c
Compassion (רָחַם), sometimes translated in the AV as tender mercies (Ps. 51:1) is a need based response. It cannot be manifested with out a need. When a man comes to the Lord he has great needs. Like Pilgrim he needs his burden of sin dealt with. Like Peter he needs his guilty conscience washed. Each one has his own original baggage to sort and deal with. God, however, is full of compassion and meets men who are needy and manifest great compassion (Lam. 3:22-23). This is a tough concept to grasp because it is so opposite to our natures.
There are times when my compassion fails. You are the same way right? Ok, here is the deal. The man at work who has been a pain in your side—a thorn in your flesh, has been terminated. You secretly exclaim AMEN. A week later he calls you on the phone and says. “Hey man I am down on my luck and in between jobs and I need a little grocery money. Can ya help?” Your first response is “My dear soul, what needest thou? Ask and it shall be yours to the half of my kingdom <wipe tears from eye>. Right? NO! You think, “Serves ya right bum! Shoulda worked harder!” At that moment your compassion failed. God’s compassion never fails! “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13
There are times when it is difficult to return to the Lord because we forget His compassion. I recall the story of Peter after his denial—how he tossed in the Apostle towel and went back to fishing. Yet our Lord drew near to Peter and was found and Peter had intimate fellowship with Christ that day on the beach. I don’t care what sin you have been involved in, if you will but turn to Christ this day you will be bathed with compassion and find the grace to press on.
Secondly restoration is possible because of…
- Pardon. v. 7d
God freely and abundantly grants a pardon to those who return to Him (Lit. He will act multiplyingly in pardon-Motyer). The idea here is compound interest. He gives us far more than we deserve. God does whatever is necessary to forgive our sin. This is an amazing foreshadow of the atonement. God would do the unthinkable to grant the unworthy a pardon. God’s love for man is truly amazing. Motyer points out that this particular construction is used on of God and speaks clearly of God’s forgiveness of sin against Him.
Not only are we invited to trust God’s invitation and invited to trust God’s path but also…