May 3, 2016

May 1, 2016 - Isaiah 55:6-11

Theme: No Time Like the Time of Grace

Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and how untraceable are His ways. The portion of His Word on which we meditate today comes from Isaiah 55:6-11:

Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 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. 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 "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, 11 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.”

What motivates you to get things done? What’s the driving force that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going throughout the day? Oftentimes it depends on what we’re doing. The motivation behind work is providing for ourselves and loved ones. The motivation behind vacation is having time for relaxation and enjoyment. The motivation behind family activities is growing closer with one another. The motivation behind a doctor’s visit is staying healthy. There are many different forces that motivate us day by day.

The opposite of motivation is procrastination. Procrastination is putting off or delaying something, especially something that demands immediate attention. Procrastinating often makes us feel good right away but has negative long term effects. And procrastination can be addictive, the more we do it, the more comfortable we are with it, and the more we are tempted to continue doing it.

There’s a familiar saying that many of you know when it comes to dealing with procrastination: No Time Like the Present. This little saying reminds us not to put things off that can be done right away. If you’ve got the chance to do something now, don’t put it off just for the sake of putting it off. You never know when the future might change and you won’t have the opportunity to get it done. God calls for us to apply a similar lesson in our lives through the words of Isaiah this morning, and through the story of His Son’s work to redeem us from sin.

We need to “seek the Lord while He may be found.” In other words, we need to heed the instructions and guidance he gives us in His Word, because we have that Word today. We need to receive, by faith, the blessings of forgiveness that God fought so hard to attain, which led Him to offer up His very life. Sound like God thinks your salvation is important? Again, why put off for tomorrow what you can do today? So, just as there is No Time Like the Present, so also there is No Time Like the Time of Grace. That phrase, the Time of Grace, is used to describe the opportunity that God has given us here on earth. The Time of Grace is the time we have to learn about and grow in the Lord’s love. Everyone has this opportunity from the moment they are conceived. God calls to all people to listen to His Grace and receive it by faith for the salvation of their souls.

The pressing issue is that like all units of time, even our Time of Grace has an ending point. Each of us has a day, whether that be the day we die or the day the Lord returns, that our opportunity to hear the gospel will end. There are no second chances after this day arrives. God tells us that once we die we are judged, there’s no time gap in between (Hebrews 9:27). Just like once Jesus died on the cross, all our sins were forgiven, no need to seek further atonement. This is obviously one of the reasons why Isaiah implores his readers to “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” After death or Judgment Day, whichever comes first for us, there will be no more opportunities to seek God’s Grace, for the Lord will immediately send us to either heaven or hell.

Isaiah’s warning of losing the nearness of the Lord is not just message to be concerned about when death. Every day, whether it be our first or last, presents moments to grow closer to the Lord or drift farther from Him. This admonishment is given especially to those who now have the Word. This applied directly to Israel when Isaiah first recorded this message. Today, it applies directly to us. We have been extremely blessed to have access to God’s Word our entire lives. Not all people in this world have that opportunity. This truth is even more apparent in our age of digital communication. The entire Bible can be read and copied effortlessly on a computer. A vast array of audio devices can play the words directly into our ears. Churches exist all over our nation that broadcast the Word every week. Without a doubt we certainly have the Lord and His Word among us today. But will it always be like this?

It’s not hard to see the history of how the Lord’s Word has come and gone in different parts of the world. Back before the Lutheran church was formed, it was extremely difficult for people to get their hands on the Bible. This was due, in part, to the tediousness of making copies by hand. The invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1450 helped alleviate this stress and got more copies of the Bible out there. But the church also had a hand in keeping Bibles from people, if you can believe that. The Roman Catholic policy before the Reformation was that only ordained priests could personally use the Word. The only access common people had to God’s Word was through the voice of the priest, and sadly many priests abused this authority. It was illegal, punishable by death, for people to try and translate the Bible. And many died to so that the Bible could be read by you and me today.  

But as is with all things in life, what was new, exciting, and valued quickly becomes commonplace and people began to forget about the amazing blessing they had. In time, what used to be considered a blessing, namely access to the Word of God, is thought of by many today as a resentful burden. The more subjective and self-centered our culture becomes, the more people will question God’s Word because it speaks to His absolute truth, not man’s opinions. It’s almost as if Isaiah prophesied directly about the history of Christianity in Europe and America. For people no longer desired to seek after God and find Him in the Bible. People forgot that God’s ways are higher than ours and that His Word is able to accomplish His will. And the trend continues today.

A major complaint against God is why He chooses to remain silent. Why does God allow wickedness to prosper if He indeed hates it? Why does God put up with sinful mankind if He indeed has all power? Why do we believe in God if we can’t see Him? These are questions that we all have about God at times. In many ways, these questions strike directly to the nature of God and the need we have for a Savior. Why should we continue to seek God if He left us? Why couldn’t Jesus stay on earth with us, why the need to go back to His Father? Well, the Bible tells us why. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit tells us why through the sermon of Peter on Pentecost:

“God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear (Acts 2:32-33).” Christ defeated sin on your behalf and rose again through His resurrection to pour out His blessings of righteousness upon you. It’s very much like a seed in springtime. The seed must die. The seed starts small. The seed seems insignificant to the rational mind. But in the proper setting, the seed gives life and the life leads to fruit. Perhaps now we can see why Isaiah would choose to describe the Word of God as a scene out of springtime. The sun returns, the waters flow upon the earth, seeds are planted, life springs anew. Every year, around this time, we have a reminder of what the Lord’s Word of gospel truth means for us. It’s not impressive to outward observer. But to the believer, it is the power of God unto salvation.   

As the Holy Spirit now uses us to work through the Word of God, He tells us that Christ is among us through the Word. Apply His message in the book of Hebrews to our Savior’s death and resurrection: Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:1-3).

For us who are living in the final days, God has revealed His grace to us directly through His Son. We have the testimony of His Son’s work in the Words of the Bible. Jesus said a similar thing to His disciples: The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going (John 12:35). Jesus is the light of the world. We have that light among us now when we listen to His Word. As our living Savior, He means much more to us than just a bodily presence. He is with us every time we pick up our Bible and see His love flow from the pages. We have the light among us today just as the disciples did. This is an amazing gift, but let us take heed not to lose it. Isaiah reminds us, “Seek the Lord while He may be found.”

A day is certainly coming when our time of grace will end. It could happen today, tomorrow, next week, next year, or 100 or more years down the road. The key is that now is the time to listen and believe. Now is the time because everything is fulfilled now. Jesus has finished the work of salvation that proved to be impossible for each of us. He has declared His victory over death and the grave, by many eye-witnesses and validation from the Scriptures. He has returned to His kingdom in heaven and is interceding on our behalf right now. But, He’s also coming again. No Time Like the Time of Grace, to believe and to receive life in Christ.

But there’s no time like the present also because the gospel continues to move. The Word of life stays with those who follow it and departs from those who reject it. It truly is sad to see how this process played out in Europe where unbelief and idolatry have ravaged the land. But it’s a reminder for us in America. God’s Word does not remain stagnant with those who continually reject it. It will move on to those who receive with meekness and joy.

Let us learn from that lesson for our own lives. Every day in God’s grace is an opportunity to grow closer to Him or drift away. Every day, we either water and tend the precious seed of faith or we let it wither away on it’s own. It’s not hard to see the direction that our country is headed; as a whole we are trending the same as Europe, a slippery slope toward unbelief. We can and should certainly try to counteract this through Christ’s powerful word of gospel but it doesn’t mean it will change. No matter what we do, we can’t convince people to “seek the Lord,” we can only support and speak to the truth.

You must also be ready to look at your own life and give an account to the Lord. Which direction are you headed? Isaiah recorded this message to give us guidance. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Christ demonstrated His love for you by dying on the cross of God’s punishment in your place. And not only that, He is currently in heaven now, working on your behalf as the worthy Substitute between you and the Father. There is no question about His desire to be with you.

We’re not able to witness every stage of development and change with our own two eyes, but we trust that it will take place because we know it will happen. No one can deny that a seed will grow in soil with the proper amount of sunlight and water because we’ve seen it happen many times before. You’d be laughed at it you doubted such a matter. Yet, the change and growth of God’s grace on our hearts is gradual. Don’t doubt it just because you are impatient or because you are pressured by the world.

We have a great blessing today by having God’s Word among us. This is a blessing that we can share not only with each other but also with those who may not know it yet. Remember, there’s no time like the time of Grace. God has extended all people an opportunity to believe in Him, and He is truly among them through the Word. Let us not procrastinate by wasting this precious chance to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. There is nothing more important that you can do with your life, and you have God’s promise that He will make you prosper.

Let us not doubt or fear because of all of the uncertainties of life. We have God’s Grace today, let us humbly and gladly receive it, each day. There’s no time like the present. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.

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