Song of Isaiah (2)

Song of Isaiah (2)

The Second Song of Isaiah

Please read Isaiah 55:6-11.

Isaiah 55 has been called the gospel in miniature. It contains the compelling invitation to come to the Lord. It issues the call for revival. It highlights God’s benefits if we seek Him… free nourishment for our souls. This chapter refers many times to God’s central character quality: compassion, mercy, pardon (Exodus 34). And we are here reminded of God’s transcendence and greatness. This little chapter is a poetic masterpiece. It sings with beauty, but it has a solemn edge to it. It brings accountability as well as hope. This chapter is a straightforward call to redemption, to the sure mercies of God, to the salvation of the Lord. This “Second Song of Isaiah” is found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in the section entitled Morning Prayer II.

“Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;

call upon Him when He draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways

and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and He will have compassion,

and to our God, for He will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens

and return not again, but water the earth,

bringing forth life and giving growth,

seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;

it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed,

and prosper in that for which I sent it.”

DISTANT. “Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near.” (verse 6). This word of advice seems to imply that God can sometimes not be found. That God is sometimes not near. What does that mean? Does God play hard to get? If God is omnipresent, how can He be distant? There have been times when it seems like God has withdrawn Himself, has gone silent. There were the 300 years of rule by the judges that “now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.” (I Sam. 3:1). On the one hand, God seemed distant. But on the other hand He kept intervening by hand-picking judges to save the Israelites after their disobedience and sin. God was distant in His communication, but He was present in His intervention. During the era of the judges, the Israelites were apathetic, unfaithful, immoral, and the Lord decided to punish them by leaving them to their own devices. God withdrew, and He was silent.

There is another time of silence, in a prophecy of Amos, chapter 8, when because of their sins, God promised a famine in the land of Israel. This was a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos said that some people would wander in search of the word, but they would not find it. People would even grow faint “thirsting for the Lord’s word.” God once again withdrew, choosing to, in a sense, hide.

Esther is an interesting case of the hidden God. Not once is God even mentioned in this story, but God is certainly there the whole time intervening, working miracles, proving His hidden presence.

Finally, there was an interesting situation during Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry (Ezekiel 20:3), when some leaders of Israel thought they deserved a word from the Lord. They were presumptuous, they thought if they whistled God would come running. God’s response to this presumption was instructive. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: How dare you come to ask me for a message! As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will tell you nothing!”

God seems to be saying, Don’t expect me to be up close and personal all the time. Don’t presume that I am at your beck and call. Sometimes I choose to seem silent or distant, and yes, sometimes you might have a dry period in your spiritual life. So seek me when I seem close and intimate, but also seek me when I am distant. Call to me when I seem more available, and call to me when I appear to ignore you. God’s silence is a mystery, and as Isaiah says elsewhere in this passage, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God’s ways are not our ways. God’s wisdom is far deeper and higher than our understanding could ever be. After all, how really do we know what is best for us? How do we know what will lead us to deeper growth and stronger dependence on Him? God knows these things, they are His secrets. When God seems distant or silent or unresponsive, we need to continue trusting that He is acting in divine wisdom. God may seem distant at times, but in His mercy He is still present.

COMPASSION. In  verse 7, Isaiah is pleading with the people to turn from their wicked ways, and God will freely forgive them, God will have compassion on them. The Hebrew word here for compassion has a root in the word “womb,” the hidden, loving place that nurtures life and growth. It seems clear from Scripture that the Father has a mother’s love. The Father has a maternal side to His care. God’s compassion is the same as that of a mother who cherishes the child she has carried and borne. Isaiah says this in 66:13:  “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” And also in 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” And Jesus compares Himself to a mother hen in Matt.23:37, when He “longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” God is properly referred to as Father, but He often displays the heart of a mother.

MERCY. Showing compassion, putting love into action, having mercy is not the normal way of the world. Forgiveness is not the customary way of the world. It is not the way of the world to “abundantly pardon.” God’s ways are not the world’s ways. God loves justice, yet is pure mercy, motivated by compassion. God is all about accountability, but also forgiveness and pardon. His ways are so much higher than our ways, there is no possibility that we will understand His thoughts, His plans, His actions. His justice, motivated by mercy, goes higher than we could ever understand. His forgiveness is higher than our forgiveness, as far as the heavens is from the earth. When God perplexes us, we need ultimately to trust in His character of mercy, justice, and righteousness.

RAIN AND SNOW. “For as rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth…” (verses 10-11). It’s very clear how rain nourishes the earth, but snow? Snow seems to be an unsung hero in the watering of the earth. While the upper levels of snow remain protective, the bottom layers melt and nourish the ground. Snow provides a blanket of nourishment for the plants. As snow melts, the plants get watered. Sometimes when our efforts to nurture growth, in others or ourselves, seem fruitless, it could be a layer of snow covering the seedlings, and growth is actually happening in a big way beneath the surface of the snow, where you don’t see it. Trust that God is bringing forth new life even when it seems to be dormant. It could be God’s snow covering the ground, bringing nourishment below the protective surface. It could be like the snows atop Mt. Hermon… When it’s time to melt, it will flow down the mountain to bring the needed moisture to the plains beneath. In God’s mercy, the snow could be a fruitful blessing.

PRAY THE WORD. This is indisputable. There is no denying it. God’s Word will be fulfilled, it will be achieved, it will complete its purpose. His Word will bring a blessing, it will bring new life, it will provide fresh seeds for new growth. His Word will succeed, it will not return to him empty without accomplishing what He wants. God’s Word is His will, and will not be fruitless. This has been called the “cycle of blessing”… sent from God, come to earth, return to God. God will be blessed when His Word returns to Him, fulfilled and fruitful. This brings God joy and satisfaction. And this is why it seems wise to pray God’s Word. God’s holy Scripture brings spiritual blessing, and in its time is a sure thing. It can’t be denied or thwarted. His Word does not return empty. Wondering what to pray for your friends, your family? Pray God’s Word. Sing His Word even. Make up your own melody or tune. In this case, pray/sing the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Pray thoughtfully through that blessing from the Word a few times, and your prayer life for others will be deepened. God’s Word will accomplish His will. That prayer/song will not return to God empty. There are many blessings, too, in St. Paul’s epistles. Pray the Word over your loved ones, turn the Scripture into a song, and His Word will fulfill His purposes.

THE LIVING WORD. “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (55:11, NLT). In His mercy, the word God eventually sent out is His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The Father sent His Son, and the Son fulfilled His destiny, His purpose. The Word prospered everywhere He went, “bringing forth life and giving growth.” (55:10). Jesus the Word, full of grace and truth, does not return empty, and He blesses the Father with what He has accomplished. The Word returns to the Father, completing His mission to the applause of the Father and all the angels. As George MacDonald once wrote, “Why the Lord must go and ascend to His Father, though with Him all the time and with Him at the moment, I cannot tell you; but it means something, as if there were some center somewhere where this very body of His must be embraced in the arms of the Father before He was satisfied – as if He had to go back and tell His Father, ‘I have done it, Father, I have done it! It is over now and we shall have them all back by and by.” The Word that was sent out indeed prospered, flourished, overflowed in fruitfulness, to the delight of the Father.

Second Song of Isaiah – YouTube