Today’s message title, “Seek the Lord while he may be found“ is taken from Isaiah 55:6. This chapter 55 is talking about God’s invitation. Chapter 53 speaks about the work of salvation by the Lord’s servant. Chapter 54 is about the blessing and the heavenly kingdom that will be brought about by the work of salvation. Verse 1 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.” “
Then in today’s passage it says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” (6) No matter how close God is, if you don’t personally seek God, you can’t receive those blessings. The most fitting response to the Lord’s work is to seek the Lord. Today I would like to talk about three aspects of this.
１．The Lord will freely pardon (Vs. 6,7)
The first thing is why we must seek the Lord. That is because the Lord has forgiven. Please look at verses 6 and 7. “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
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.”
Verse 1 says,” “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,“ It isn’t just water. Food, wine and milk too will be received by free grace without paying money or paying the cost. This is really an amazing invitation! It is unthinkable in our society to buy something without paying any money. However, here a more amazing invitation is being spoken about. That is if a person seeks the Lord, even if he is “wicked” (7), even if he is “unrighteous” (7), the Lord “will have mercy on them, and… freely pardon.” (7) Generally, the “wicked” (7) and “unrighteous” (7) are separated from God and walking their own selfish way so it seems like they would be abandoned by God, but that is not so. God is near to such wicked people, and “will have mercy on them.” (7) God is next to the “unrighteous” (7) and “he will freely pardon” (7) them. Therefore, we must forsake our ways, and “seek the Lord”. (6)
How about you? Are you walking your own way, rather than the way of God? Are your thoughts yours or God’s? Even though you believe in Jesus as your Savior, do you strongly want to do as you want to do and live as you want to live?
Jesus said this. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) It is important to have your own firm opinions, but if they are too strong, then you won’t be able to listen to the Word of God. Therefore, you must deny yourself. You must seek God’s way, not your own way. You must walk not by your own thoughts, but by God’s thoughts. Even if it looks foolish in man’s eyes, by listening to God’s Word and walking according to it, you will be the happiest person.
Let’s return to the Lord. If so, the Lord “will have mercy on” (7) us. Let’s return to the Lord. If so, the Lord “will freely pardon” (7) us. “Freely”! Our God freely pardons. If we commit a sin that can’t be made up for, we tend to think that we can’t be forgiven, but that is not so. Even if we are forgiven, we think that we can’t be forgiven easily and think that we must do penance or lots of charity in order to be forgiven, but that is wrong. God “will freely pardon.” (7) There is not one sin that God will not pardon. There is only one exception. That is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. “People can be forgiven all their sins… but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” (Mark 3:28, 29) That is because even though the Holy Spirit shows sin through the words of the Bible, and says that salvation from that sin is through Jesus, if a person refuses to receive it, there is no way that he can be saved. That person will eternally not be forgiven. However, except for that sin, any kind of sin will be forgiven. Jesus Christ on the cross made atonement. There is not one sin that Jesus will not forgive. The moment you receive and believe in Jesus as your own Savior, all your past sins, present sins, and future sins are forgiven.
Please open your Bibles to I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
This is the promise of God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) This is amazing grace! This forgiveness is higher than human intellect. This is God’s forgiveness. If you seek the Lord; if you forsake your ways, your thoughts, your values, your plans, and return to the Lord, then the Lord “will have mercy on” (7) you. The Lord “will freely pardon” (7) you.
However, there is just one condition. That is “while he may be found;…while he is near.” (6) In other words, there is a limited time limit. He can’t be found forever. He won’t be near forever. In the course of time a time will come when even though you want to find him, you won’t be able to. In the course of time there will come a time when he will go far away. At that time it will be too late. Therefore, “while he may be found…while he is near” (6) we must “seek the Lord.” (6) How about you? If you still haven’t believed in Jesus, you must not put off doing so. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor. 6:2) Now is the chance to believe. No matter how wicked we are, no matter how unrighteous we are, the Lord is near you now. Therefore, we must “seek the Lord while he may be found.” (6) In time, we won’t be able to seek the Lord.
２．God’s way and God’s thoughts are higher than yours (Vs. 8,9)
The reason this can be said is because God’s way and God’s thoughts are not ours and they are much higher. Please look at verses 8 and 9. “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
They are certainly different. The forgiveness that we think of and God’s forgiveness is completely different. The dimension is different. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,” (9) so are God’s ways and our ways and God’s thoughts and our thoughts are completely different. Please compare your thoughts with God’s thoughts. If so, you will realize that they are totally different. That is because we are not God. God is omniscience and omnipotent, knowing everything. However, we have limitations and limited knowledge. We don’t know the future. However, God knows everything: the past, present, and also the future. We think that we know our own life the best, but in reality it is not so. Who knows you the best is God. That is because God made you. Therefore, God knows what your future will be. He can see what you can’t see. He knows what you don’t know. God is perfect and has a perfect plan.
If so, the wisest thing to do is to believe in God and live putting all in God’s hands. You may believe in yourself, but there are limitations and you are doing nothing more that believing in your limited self. You may think that you know everything, but it is a limited knowledge. You may think that you know what is best, but God may have a completely different plan.
Last summer, the missionaries to Turkey, Mr. & Mrs. Suetomi came and gave their testimony from this passage. They were sent out to Turkey for 6 years doing a good work in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara and then they returned to Japan last year. No one planned it, but for the past 6 years the couple were led from one center of Turkish culture, economics, and politics to another. In Istanbul and Izmir not only were they led to a good cooperative relationship with the church leaders, but through Koto concerts they shared the Gospel with the people they met and led many people to the church. Even so, 2 years they were led to the capital city, Ankara. They didn’t know at all why they were in Ankara. Last year when Prime Minister Abe visited Turkey, they were invited to a welcoming dinner that the Prime Minister Erdogan gave. They were given the opportunity to play the koto there. They were able to give a testimony to Prime Minister Abe by hand giving him their CD and a letter. Who could have ever dreamed of that! God knew everything. God has a perfect plan. He sent the missionary couple to Ankara in advance. God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
If so, we should stop being troubled about thoughts of this and that, and we should pray putting all in God’s hands. Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) We must make this prayer our prayer. This is what is best. There is a grand plan of God prepared for you that is higher than your thoughts. You must rely upon this plan. God loves you so he will prepare the best way for you. That’s because God gave his most important only son. Therefore, God’s plan is the best. We must put leave everything to that plan. We must pray like Jesus, “Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
３．God’s word will not return empty (Vs. 10-13)
The third point is the result. When we believe in God and live leaving everything in God’s hands, we will be filled with God’s blessings. Please read verses 10 and 11. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Here God’s Word is being spoken figuratively as rain and snow. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth” (10) and brings life to the things that are there, God’s Word too will definitely not return empty. In Israel rain rarely falls. Israel has a rainy season and a dry season. The rainy season is in the winter. When the rainy season is over, the plants all sprout at once. The desert becomes green, and beautiful flowers bloom. In the same way when God’s Word is spoken, no matter how dry the hearts of the people who hear it are, they will be watered and a beautiful flower will bloom. Even a person, who has been withered up until then, even an unproductive person too, will be changed into an abundant green heart. This is the Christian life. When God’s Word is planted in his heart, he becomes more and more alive. His thinking, and values change. What he says and does changes. His personality and habits completely change. God’s Word has that kind of power.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thought and attitudes of the heart.” God’s Word is alive and has power so it can give man life.
In 1787 the English government sent 100 people to the Pacific island of Tahiti to pick up breadfruit plants and transport them to the West Indies. The name of the ship was called the Bounty.
After they reached the island, they made alcohol drinks from a native plant. They began drinking excessively and making life miserable for the women. The men also fought continuously and gradually killed each other off. Finally only one man was left, John Adams. However, there we many children who had been born from the relationships between the English men and the native women.
About 30 years later an American ship visited on the island. The crew was surprised by the scene before their eyes. There was a church and John Adams, an old man, was the pastor. He was the king of the island, and like a father to everyone. He was surrounded by children of mixed blood. He explained to the crew what had happened on the island.
After all of his companions had killed each other off, John who was powerful and the only person left returned to the Bounty. There he found a Bible. When he read the Bible, his eyes were filled with tears that wouldn’t stop. He repented. He became a man of God.
After that by the leading of the Holy Spirit, he gathered the children together and taught the Word of God. The people respected him and made him king and followed him. Then the island became a read paradise. This was the power of 1 Bible.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thought and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) When the Word of God is preached, “it will not return…empty.” (11) It “will accomplish what” (11) God desires” and achieve the purpose for which “ (11) God sent it.
Even so we may think that there is no meaning in in preaching the Gospel because the other person doesn’t respond and shows no interest in faith or spiritual things. You may think there are no results. However, don’t give up. God’s Word will definitely not return empty. It will definitely accomplish what God desires “and achieve the purpose for which” (11) God sent it. To save people is the work of God. It has completely no relationship to our technique. When we speak the Word of God, the Word is alive working and changes that person into a person of God.
How wonderful that blessing is in verses 12 and 13. Let’s read this together. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
This is God’s promise for you. When you plant the Word of God, “you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (12) It is not just man. “The mountains and hills… and all the trees of the field” (12) too will sing to the Lord. That is because by Jesus sin has been atoned. When sin is atoned by Jesus not only man who is stained with sin, but all of the natural world will be redeemed too.
Verse 13 is what it is like. “Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.” “Thornbush” (13) and “briers” (13) are symbols of curse. The “thornbush” (13) and “briers” (13) will all be removed and instead juniper and myrtle will grow. I think you know Junipers. They are green and alive all year round. Most junipers offer at least some level of drought resistance. They are a sign of life. Maybe you haven’t seen a myrtle tree. The plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree. The star-like flower has five petals and sepals, and numerous stamens. Petals are usually white. The leaf is very fragrant. Its fragrant oil is used in bath oils and pain killers. It is often used as a hedge plant. In other words, life is powerfully out of it. The juniper and myrtle are symbols of blessings. “This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” (13)
Like desolated Israel that is afforested and is covered with unceasing green, if you seek the Lord “and turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on” (7) you. Your life will be full with blessings. We were put here to be blessed. By believing in Jesus Christ “instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.” (13) The mistakes of our past and the failures of our past will by believing in Jesus will all be changed for our good. What a wonderful promise” That is good news, the Gospel.
Now if you believe in Jesus this blessing will become yours. If you will respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading, then you too can live a blessed life. However, you can’t have that chance forever. We must “seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (6) No one knows what will happen to you tonight. No one knows what will happen to you next week. Therefore, please “seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” If so, the Lord “will have mercy on” (7) you and “he will freely pardon.” (7) Then he will bless your life. Those people who have already believed in Jesus too, think anew about what it is to make Jesus your Lord, and forsake your ways and forsake your thoughts and “turn to the Lord”. (7)