During the summer months of July & August, we at Cornerstone are engaged in a short series from Isaiah 55. I’ve shared before about my love for Isaiah, especially the second half of the book and it’s message of new creation, restoration and healing that would come in a new age initiated by God’s Messiah-Christ. Such stirring words, to say the least!
We are taking 5 weeks to cover what is ch.55. We’ve broken it down into these 5 parts:
- Vs1-3a – The Invitation to Feast
- Vs3b-5 – God’s Faithfulness to David & Us
- Vs6-7 – The Call to Seek the Lord
- Vs8-11 – God’s High Calling & Faithful Word
- Vs12-13 – The Fruit of God’s New Age
On Sunday, I took up part 4, looking particular at vs8-11. These are extremely well-known words:
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 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.
Normally, when we read vs8-9, we envision God simply telling us the place we cannot reach. We are fallen and broken sinners that will never be able to think the thoughts and walk in the ways of our perfect God. And, of course, I agree that we could never reach that place (maybe even continuing in the age to come). But, to be honest, that understanding of the passage has never satisfied me. It feels short of the call of the exhortation, especially in Christ.
I can’t remember what brought it about, my own pondering of the passage before the Lord or a reading of a commentary that I’ve had as an aid in study – Alec Motyer’s The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. I believe it was the latter.
But what I’ve realised from vs8-9 is that God is not showing his people a bar and saying, ‘Ah, you can never reach there.’ He is actually calling them to come up to that place. In effect, God’s saying, ‘Here is the way I think, here is the way I act, these are my ways. And I’m calling you to think, act and live in that same way.’
‘But that’s impossible,’ one might quip.
Sure. Again, I recognise the reality that we are broken sinners. But God does call his people to live out a certain way. Not so much to create a Lutheran dichotomy of law and gospel at all points, leaving the sinner desperate under the law to rely fully upon the grace of God (you’d have to know a bit of Luther’s theology to understand more of what I’m referring to). Rather, God calls us, especially as his Spirit-empowerd people, to walk in such way. I think it’s something of what Paul had in mind when he said:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Eph 4:1)
The calling has come, has been received. Live like it, walk like it. That’s the calling.
Matthew did not particularly arrange Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon of the Mount for us to think we cannot do this. It was the calling of God’s new people being formed in his Son to live in this manner, after the words of God’s Son. Hence, we have:
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)
The call from the Lord, Yahweh, is to come think and live like him. And we know we can only accomplish such as we submit to his lordship and empowering.
It’s time to rethink and revisit this message. Those declared right[eous] are called to right-living, God’s right[eous] ways of living.
I think our desperation for God doesn’t need to be about sin, but about a longing to be like Him in thought and deed. Even Adam and Eve desired to be “like God”, they just went about it the wrong way. Only through the work and strength of Christ can we begin to approach and perhaps in heaven attain a measure of His ways and thoughts.