The Path to Zion
You know how feeble my abilities are to contemplate your purposes and plans for our lives. Help me during this time that I am setting aside to open my mind to your thoughts so that I can discern your will for my life. Amen
Read: Isaiah 55 8-9, NIV
““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.””
This passage begins with the word “for” because God, through the prophet Isaiah is explaining the previous verses in this same chapter. God is quoted as saying that He is inviting Israel into a new relationship with Him even after their previous failures. He is offering this renewed relationship for free, unlike the ordinary economy of life. He implores them in verse 3 to hear His invitation and yield to Him so that they can have life. He implies that not only Israel, but all the nations, even the ones they do not know about will be blessed by entering a covenant relationship with Him. This chapter in Isaiah continues the prophecy of Jesus and a new way that is to be offered for entering into God’s presence and living with God. Verse 7 is especially important for the point I am about to make:
“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.” (Isaiah 55:7, NIV)
Isaiah is explaining that God’s offer of a covenant relationship requires Israel and, by extension, us to conform to God’s prescribed way of living. God will never conform to us; we must conform to Him. How is it that God is willing to take us back from our rebellion? The means by which God was going to arrange for our rescue was to remain hidden from mankind and the Devil until Jesus defeated death on the cross. Today’s scripture reading is all God was willing to reveal in the days of Isaiah.
So what lessons can we draw from this scripture reading? For one thing, God loves us even when we are in rebellion. He, like the father in the Prodigal Son story, is waiting at the mailbox looking up and down the road, hoping for our return. For another, returning to God involves changing your life so that you are no longer in rebellion. You must love God by wanting to make Him happy with your words and actions, and you must live and work for the good of others. You must die to self if you ever really want to live. Verse 3 just before today’s reading is, “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” Isaiah 55:3 NIV
This life with God involves sweet surrender to Him. Trusting Him to look out for your well-being so that you are safe to live selflessly. Our worldview should include the following realization that is well-defended in Norman Geisler’s “If God Why Evil?”. This is not the best of all possible worlds, but it is the best possible path to the best of all possible worlds. We have to assume that God functions well as a pathfinder. We must humbly accept that life has difficulties and our job is to get through them with God’s help. It is kind of like a parent helping a child who has difficulty with math to get the necessary skills by working problems together. One of the difficulties that we must endure is our own fallen nature. God makes allowances for our weakness, and as long as we continue to earnestly strive to conform to His will, He takes our intention as repentance and continues to actually remake us into the people He requires. This process is called sanctification. It is a lifelong project that we do with God’s help. The important thing is to never give up.
God, I earnestly seek You as a deer pants for water. I need the refreshing that can only come from You. Empower me to live for You and, in all things, trust You. I know that a joyful, meaningful life can only be lived when my life is enfolded in You. Amen