The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 55:6-9—another short text. It is important to take note as to the location of this pericope within the greater context of the whole book of Isaiah. Chapter 55 follows the section in Isaiah that is known and cherished as the “Suffering Servant Section.” Chapters 52-53 are the fourth Servant Song of Isaiah with chapter 54 focusing on the “Eternal Covenant of Peace.” In these chapters, the amazing, gracious work of Christ is foretold. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… pierced for our transgressions… crushed… the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all… like a lamb led to the slaughter… with everlasting love I will have compassion on you… etc.” So, it would be extremely inappropriate to look at our text as a mandate to get your life in order and find the LORD, walk in His ways… or else! Do good stuff and get right with Jesus… time is running out! I wish I could say no one is captured in this snare, but I cannot.
Chapter 55 begins with an invitation to, “Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk…” But I thought there was no money? The invite to buy is for the one who has no money? How does that work? Well, it does not and that is exactly the point! We who have nothing are given everything. We who are lost and unable to navigate our way out of a paper bag are told to, “Seek the LORD while He may be found…” But I am lost. I am unable to find my way. How can I find Jesus? EXACTLY! He finds you and places Himself in a place/position so you will see Him. Luther had it right after all!
How can I find Jesus? EXACTLY! He finds you and places Himself in a place/position so you will see Him.
55:6 דִּרְשׁוּ (dir-Shu) root: דרשׁ (daw-rash) Qal, imperative: “to seek”
בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ. (be-him-ma-tze-O) root: מצא (maw-tsaw) Niphal, infinitive construct: “to be found” Sometimes called a “tolerative Niphal.” A good translation would be: “Seek the LORD while He is findable” “…while He allows Himself to be found.” Who has made the LORD “findable?” Who has allowed us to be able to seek and find the LORD? The One who has placed Himself and us in the same place—near to one another.
קָרוֹב (ka-Rov) “near”
55:7 אָוֶן (A-ven) “wickedness; sin; unrighteous; injustice; trouble”
מַחְשְׁבֹתָיו (mach-she-vo-Tav) from: מחשׁבה; (makh-ash-aw-baw) “thought; plan; purpose; intent; device”
וִירַחֲמֵהוּ (vi-ra-cha-Me-hu) root: רחם Piel: (raw-kham) “to have mercy; to have compassion; to take pity; to love”
לִסְלוֹחַ (lis-Lo-ach) root: סלח (saw-lakh) Qal: “to forgive; to pardon; to be kind toward”
This verse reminds us of a portion of the liturgy: “Return to the LORD your God for He is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” At first the parable of the prodigal son comes to mind, but the Gospel for this Sunday, Proper 20, is the parable of the workers in the vineyard which emphasizes it is never too late because the Master is merciful and shows His mercy where He will!
55:8 מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם (mach-she-vo-Tai mach-she-Vo-tei-Chem) from: מחשׁבה; “thought; intent; plan; purpose” Literally: My thoughts, your thoughts
דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי (dar-chei-Chem de-ra-Chai) from: דַרְך (deh-rek) “way; road” Literally: Your ways, My ways
Note the chiasm in this verse is part of the larger chiasm of this text. The LORD God is making this comparison to help us understand why He can be so compassionate and merciful when we are unrighteous and wicked. HE is not US!
55:9 גָּבְהוּ (ga-ve-Hu) Qal: “to be high; to be lofty; to be exalted”
Again, we note the comparison between God and man. “You can trust Me; seek and find Me; return to Me because I am not like you! I have made all these things possible. I have removed the barriers. I have put Myself in a place where you can find Me because I am your God.” We see this reality in real-time in the Holy Word, the incarnation, and the real presence. God seeks us so we might find Him, but He does so in ways that do not always make sense to us.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 55:6-9.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 55:6-9.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Isaiah 55:6-9.