Going Deeper 6-18-19

The first reading for Pentecost 2...
Isaiah 65:1-9   I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, "Here I am, here I am," to a nation that did not call on my name.  I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks;  who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you."  These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long.  See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps their iniquities and their ancestors' iniquities together, says the Lord; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions.  Thus says the Lord: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, "Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it," so I will do for my servants' sake, and not destroy them all.  I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there.

This can be a strange and difficult text to understand.  We must know the historical context (as is true throughout the Scriptures!) if we are to make sense of it and draw truth from it.  Coming at the end of the writings of Isaiah, these words are addressed to Israelites who were returning home from exile, serving as a type of summary as to why things had unfolded the way they had, and also as a source of hope for a better future.

God reveals how His people had broken covenant and broken His heart.  He had been extremely patient, but had been ignored, similar to a young child playing hide and seek who hides out in the open and even calls out, but whose friends are too busy doing other things.  And those 'things' included many which God had forbidden.  

Finally, God had taken action and allowed the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and its temple and take most of its citizens captive.  For almost 70 years they had to live in a foreign land.  They had broken the covenant over and over again, had ignored the warnings of God's prophets, and finally paid the price of their constant unfaithfulness.

But God has always had a desire to restore His people.  And now God was going to bring back a remnant of His people and continue to move forward His plan of reconciliation... and plan ultimately fulfilled in the mission of Jesus.

There are messages of both warning and grace in this text.  God is loving and patient and always eager to seek out His wandering children.  That is the grace.  The warning is that it is dangerous for us to allow ourselves to be distracted by things that draw us away from God, especially things that are sinful.  But grace still has the last word... God never gives up!

With You in His Grace,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."