The Second Song of Isaiah – Further Thoughts

The Second Song of Isaiah – Further Thoughts

The Second Song of Isaiah – Further Thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6-11

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.” 

Please refer to my initial thoughts regarding this second song of Isaiah in the blog’s category “Song of the Bible.” I firmly believe everything I wrote in that post, but now I have some further thoughts. The rabbis used to recommend that we squeeze every portion of Scripture till there is no juice left… and we’ll come to discover there is always more juice to squeeze out of the Word. I have found this song of Isaiah, an excerpt from Isaiah 55, to be profoundly squeezable.

“Seek the Lord… Let the wicked forsake…” (verses 6-7). In the beginning, God wanted fellowship with the people He made. God wanted to include mankind in the intimate friendship He enjoyed within the Trinity. It would go against the grain of God’s character and purpose to exclude Himself from man’s companionship. When sin entered the world, that fellowship was fractured. But even then, God followed the fallen friends into exile. God was determined to stay with His sinful, exiled creatures, and any  distance between them was the effects of sin between man and God. Throughout the old covenant, it seemed that thoughtful people lived in fear of God’s abandonment. And yet they continued to sin to create that distance. But God never gave up on mankind. He continued to make Himself available to those who sought Him in repentance and righteousness and faith. People would fearfully say things like, “Cast me not away from your presence; take not your holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11); or “Wake up, Lord God! Are you forsaking us forever? You can’t hide your face any longer from us!” (Ps. 44:23-24).

When God cut through the distance and made Himself approachable in His rich mercy, wise people would seek Him out. Notice the sense of urgency in this passage of Isaiah… Seek Him! Call upon Him! In other words, make the most of God’s presence! He doesn’t have to be near you. Take advantage of His nearness. Yes, He is a God nearby, but don’t forget that He can be a God far away as well (Jer. 23:23). God has every right to hide His face. But He isn’t doing that! In His love, God has exiled Himself out of the garden and is always hanging around His creatures.

So return to God, Isaiah says. Repent! Reject your unrighteous impulses. Stop your wicked deeds. Quit your evil scheming and impure inclinations. Turn your back on your godless motivations, your shameless imaginations.  Make changes, turn from your wicked thoughts and tainted deeds. Return to the Lord. He is waiting for you, He wants to renew your intimacy. You will find Him to be rich in compassion, abundant in mercy. When you turn to God, He is waiting with open arms to receive you unto Himself. He will forgive you. He will pardon you in His grace. His lovingkindness will envelop you and your fellowship with Him will be renewed.

In God’s new covenant with us, He went the extra mile in His desire to reconcile with us. He sent His Son to take on our flesh and offer Himself as the means to redemption, to closing the distance. Not only that, but God sent His Holy Spirit to come alongside us and reside within us. God is now present in a most intimate way. We need never fear as in ancient times that God will play hide and seek with us. “I shall never hide my face from them again, since I shall pour out my Spirit...” (Ezek. 39:29). God now dwells within us. What a gift! He is now as close to us as our heart. He will not cast us away from His presence. He will not take His Holy Spirit from us. He has promised us eternal life with Him, starting now. And we can trust Him to stay with us. We can trust Him to continue his mercies. For the Father of the prodigal has welcomed each of us home.

For my thoughts… For as the heavens… (verses 8-9). What is the context for God’s comment that His thoughts and ways are profoundly higher than mankind’s? God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and we aren’t. Let’s face it, there is God and then there is everything else. So of course His understanding and His actions will be unspeakably higher than ours. Isn’t that obvious? But what was the Lord specifically talking about in verses 8-9? The clue is in verse 7, the topic is mercy and compassion and forgiveness. His merciful ways and His compassionate actions will not be understood by us mere mortals. God’s ways are counter-intuitive to man’s. Theologians, and the rest of us, can only wonder at statements like this, “Mercy rather than justice is the outstanding attribute of God.”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel). The fact that God seems to have unlimited grace will puzzle us humans. The fact that He will eternally forgive wrongdoers will mystify us. The fact that He has no boundaries when it comes to His mercy will cause us to scratch our heads and acknowledge God’s vastly different way of doing things. The distance between God’s mind and our mind is like the distance between the heavens and the earth.

How distant is that, actually? We now estimate that the distance between the earth and the edge of the observable universe is 46 billion light years, making the diameter of the observable universe about 93 million light years. Scientists have determined at this point that there is very little curvature of the universe. The universe is almost perfectly flat, which means the universe is essentially infinite in size. So when the Creator of the universe says that his thoughts and deeds regarding mercy are as different from man’s as the distance from the heavens to the earth, we should sit up and take notice. So it’s true then that God’s way of thinking about forgiveness is as distant from a human’s way of thinking about forgiveness as the distance between the universe and the earth. At a minimum, that’s about 46 billion light years’ distance. At a maximum, God’s thoughts on mercy are an infinity in distance from man’s thoughts. Maybe at some point we will fully understand Father Patrick Henry Reardon’s observation, “Mercy is the cause and reason of all that God does. God does nothing, absolutely nothing, except as an expression of His mercy. God’s mercy stretches out to both extremes of infinity. All we will ever discover of God will be the deepening levels of His great, abundant, overflowing, rich, endless mercy.” (from Reardon’s book, Christ in the Psalms).

Man’s mercy is stingy, conditional, inconsistent, tends to be self-serving, and often depends on the worthiness of the person being shown mercy. Man’s mercy includes words like inexcusable, unforgivable, irredeemable, disgraceful. But God’s mercy is the opposite of all that, and is nothing even remotely like man’s mercy. God’s mercy and man’s mercy are like night and day… No, it’s even more different than that. God’s mercy and man’s mercy is infinitely distant from each other. God shows mercy in an infinitely different way than man. God’s quality of mercy is a universe apart from man’s. God is infinitely more merciful than man, so much so that man cannot even hope to understand the depths of God’s mercy, unless you are looking at Jesus. God’s mercy is beyond human comprehension, but because of Jesus is now up close and personal. God’s lovingkindness breaks the mold, and now, since we’ve seen it in action through Christ, we can thirst for that mercy in a world devoid of authentic love.

For as rain and snow… So is my word (verses 10-11). Continuing with God’s theme in verse 7 of compassion and pardon, Isaiah discusses God’s love cycle in relation to the natural water cycle. God’s word of love going forth from His mouth is His promise of mercy and forgiveness. God promises that, just as rain and snow bring life and fruitfulness to the earth, His love comes down from heaven and aims to soak into the fertile ground of man’s repentant heart. God’s love for man is not a futile exercise. His love will not return to Him empty. But it will bring the proper praise back to Him on the throne. God’s love has a purpose, it will  prosper mankind. The love cycle: God drenches mankind with His word of love; life and growth naturally follow; the new life that springs from God’s love will result in fruitfulness; Mankind will respond and bring back to God praise and adoration and faithfulness. God’s love will accomplish its purpose in the heart of man, and that’s a promise to all who turn to God in repentance. God’s word of forgiveness will bring new life and vitality to those who turn to Him.

The Second Song of Isaiah – YouTube