“And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying, “I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.” But regarding Israel, God said, “All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.””
Romans 10:20-21 NLT
Two more Scriptures from Paul’s arsenal of Old Testament readings. His memory must have been amazing, but, like many of his fellow Jews, he was steeped in Scripture from an early age. In these closing verses from Romans 10, Paul quotes from Isaiah 65. But two chapters before in Isaiah 63, the prophet starts an impassioned prayer, “Lord, look down from heaven; look from your holy, glorious home, and see us. Where is the passion and the might you used to show on our behalf? Where are your mercy and compassion now?” (Isaiah 63:15). He continues, “Lord, why have you allowed us to turn from your path? Why have you given us stubborn hearts so we no longer fear you? Return and help us, for we are your servants, the tribes that are your special possession” (Isaiah 63:17). And he rather petulantly declares, “Sometimes it seems as though we never belonged to you, as though we had never been known as your people” (Isaiah 63:19). In the next chapter, Isaiah reminds God of His role in the lives of His people – “And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Don’t be so angry with us, Lord. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:8-9). But God replies through the prophet with the verses quoted by Paul in Romans 10, “The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name. All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes” (Isaiah 65:1-2). What a damning indictment of a people who called themselves favoured and chosen by God. God said He would deal with the sinners, ““But I will not destroy them all,” says the Lord. “For just as good grapes are found among a cluster of bad ones (and someone will say, ‘Don’t throw them all away— some of those grapes are good!’), so I will not destroy all Israel. For I still have true servants there. I will preserve a remnant of the people of Israel and of Judah to possess my land. Those I choose will inherit it, and my servants will live there” (Isaiah 65:8-9). There has always been grace available for the sincere seekers after God.
Society today suffers the same illness that was experienced by the Israelites back when Isaiah walked on this earth. An illness called rebellion, with symptoms including (but not limited to) “crooked schemes” and following “evil paths”. It’s all summed up in a little word, not popular though in today’s society, called “sin”. And just as God said through Isaiah that He was there for them, the same response can be found in today’s society – “but no one asked for help”. In my community there are people struggling with various issues, such as loneliness, illness, poor and debilitating mental health, poverty, and grief, but they will not acknowledge that God exists, let alone be there for them to help them in their troubles. He even has His arms opened up in a welcoming invitation, but they prefer to struggle on in their difficulties regardless. It begs the question – what is the point of a life of struggles in an uncaring society, followed by a day of judgement and more misery, when all the time our Father God is in Heaven, arms opened, with His remedy for sin available, and eternal life with Him one day, all for just a simple choice? Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “ … Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light”.
We pilgrims, sadly, are the favoured few. We have responded to God’s invitation and through Jesus, we have found the remedy for our sins and can now enjoy a wonderful loving relationship with our Heavenly Dad. We may face troubles in this mortal life, but God is there for us, sustaining us in every situation. He knows the end from the beginning, and one day we will be with Him. Forever. But we mustn’t just sit in our pews, praying that we will survive unscathed until the day when we cross the great divide. We have a job to do. The Heavenly grace and love that we have found is there for all to enjoy. And others won’t know about it unless we tell them.
Dear Father God. we intercede for the sins of those in our communities, praying for Your Spirit to awaken a people who have fallen spiritually asleep. Please have mercy on us, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.