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The Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God

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Roadrunner came on line a little over a month ago[1]. It is the world's fastest supercomputer, the first to break the petaflop barrier of 1,000 trillion operations per second. Yet for all its ability the human brain processes information even faster. Some estimate the brain carries out 10 quadrillion operations a second or 10 times the rate of Roadrunner. Yet here in the heart of Isaiah 55 we read, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

This is one of those passages of which we've heard verses. Most of us know these verses about God's way not being our ways. We've also heard the last section about the Word of God not coming back empty. Some of us may even recall hearing the invitation in verses 1-3 as an offer to come to God for blessing. Today I hope to show how these sections fit together and what they have to offer us in terms of following Jesus.

A couple of things to keep in mind as we start, first this is poetry. Second, it is Hebrew poetry. What this means is that something is said then the point is repeated again in a different way. It's called parallelism. So when verse one says, " Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

 We're are not being told something about thirst and something about specific types of drinks. We're being told that in a parched desert, God offers the resources to sustain life even if we can't pay the price. The expansion of this thought or the second part "buy and eat"; "wine and milk" and "without cost" go to the graciousness of God. It's not just well water we're offered but the best things in life. And God doesn't add the cost of what we get onto our tab, but there is NO cost to us for the grace and mercy of God.

This is written while Israel is not in Jerusalem. They've been carted away to Assyria where Darius is ruler. All that they've known, their very identity as God's people has seemingly been stripped away from them. The temple has been ransacked and destroyed. They'd done okay. They owned land, conducted business, and even maintained their worship but it wasn't the same.

Verses 4 and 5 refer to Darius at the time it was written. It is also a forward looking prophesy of the coming of Jesus, as God's chosen one. This isn't the suffering servant of a couple of chapters before. Here is the resurrected Jesus who calls nations other than Israel to Himself. The glorified Christ now seated with God in the heavens. Jesus said, "When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32) It is this calling of nations which Paul was commissioned to as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Some would argue that the verses about seeking and calling are directed at Darius. Since, this side of the empty tomb, we know it is Jesus who has received splendor I believe these verses call us to reorient our vision toward God who is the source of life.

"Seek the Lord while he might be found; call on him while he is near" tells us that there is a time when God might not be found or isn't near. That doesn't mean he won't listen, but it means the grace that it's too late for the grace offered in Christ. God withdrew his support and spirit from Saul. He hardened Pharaoh's heart. He blinded those to whom Jesus spoke in parables so they didn't understand. There are those, like the ruler who asks Jesus which is greatest command and Jesus tells him, "You're not far from the Kingdom of heaven" or the thief on the cross who Jesus promise, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."

God's timing isn't ours nor does he subject himself to our expectations. Here are a couple of things to think about when seeking God. It demands a changed life. To forsake or turn away is to repudiate totally what we know is sin. Those who seek God need to stop doing things that are evil, bad, or just not of God. What's more we're to stop the way of thinking that feeds such habits. We seem to think nothing of sin. It's almost as if, "Oh well, it doesn't really matter because Jesus has to forgive me." But the truth of the matter is, our sin and its lack of effect on our life say more about our relationship with Jesus than we'd like it to. An "I don't care" attitude toward sins says the same thing about Jesus. If we don't care about our sin then we don't care about our Lord. If we don't give a rip about our lusts, gossip, cursing, hatred, bigotry, or envy we don't really give a rip about Jesus. If we're not concerned about getting a handle on our addictions, pornography, lying, stealing and hateful ways of thinking then I believe we're really not concerned with Jesus or with what God's concerned with because, and make no mistake about this, he is concerned with sin. It cost him his son's life.

There is no charge for the refreshment we are promise in a desert. Likewise, God's forgiveness and grace is beyond measure and freely available. And the reason for this is because God doesn't think as we do. One of the reasons for the commandment which says not to make graven images is because it is easy to confuse God with some sort of super human.  He's not. He is so far above us any words we use fall short, any concept we have doesn't do him justice, any attempt we have to get our mind around God is a lesson in futility. Haddon Spurgeon said, "As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God." And even that's not vast enough to explain the foundational difference between God's ways and ours.

Keeping this in mind, do you realize how foolish it sounds when we get upset at God over something we don't like? Oh, I imagine even God understand when we have someone we love die but when we get mad because we can't have our way it is worse than childish.

Verses 10-11 explain what this difference looks like. God's word, like dew from heaven, goes forth to do his will and it accomplishes it. God's desires will not be thwarted. God's desires won't be stopped. When Jesus died on the cross, it was the fulfillment of God's plan, in existence before the beginning of creation.

And here is the pay out for God's word accomplishing what God has set fort for it. We rejoice. Shalom, peace goes with us. Nature recognizes God's hand in things, and the weeds of the world will be replaced with pine and myrtle trees. Yet all of this isn't for us. It honors God and stands as a sign of His mercy, grace and goodness to a people that don't deserve it.

I hope you know that chapter and verses were a late human invention, so we can't stop without going into the next few verses because they remind us of our responsibility before God. God reminds us that salvation and righteousness will be revealed soon. What does this have to do with us? We are to maintain justice and do what is right.

APPLICATION:

God's goodness through Jesus is without merit or measure. We can't buy it. We can't earn it. It is more than a "get by" type of love and forgiveness. It is overwhelming in its goodness. It isn't just water but wine and milk. It transforms creation so that the forest and mountains see God's salvation and rejoice. The useless weeds are supplanted by useful and wonderful trees. Likewise in our lives the useless is transformed by God's blessings and transformed into the useful, beautiful and aromatic.  

Having said this, God's love and mercy cannot be assumed. It is sought after as if running or chasing. And what's more there is no promise it will always be available. Seeking and calling means we have to get rid of the sin that hinders us. It means calling the sin in our life sin and deciding to change. It means saying "no" to thoughts that are full of sin, rebellion and hatred. Positively, seeking God means we are to maintain justice and do what is right. Let's face it these aren't difficult lessons. We know what sin is and we know we can't decide to stop even if it is hard. We know what it is to be unjust, to make others the butts of our jokes or to act in ungracious ways. Yet if we want to be blessed by God then we live out his way in our everyday life so that we can stand in His presence and know we are His people.

Start today, look at the language, attitudes and actions you overlook or excuse as just being "normal" and which you know are wrong. Confess these to God for what they are, sins. Tell him you want to honor Jesus in your life and that what you've been doing doesn't do this so you want to change.

When you find yourself slipping back into a pattern or habit go to God again with your confession and desire for His presence. As you do this you'll find you are able to handle situations better.


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[1] See http://www.doe.gov/news/6321.htm & http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/roadrunner/20080609/index.shtml accessed July 9, 2008

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