By Jeff Pulse –
The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, September 24, 2017, is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 55:6-9, another short text. It is important to pay attention to the location of this pericope within Isaiah. Chapter 55 follows the section of Isaiah we know 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 amazingly 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.” So, it would be extremely inappropriate to look at our text as a mandate to get your life in order and find the LORD, or else! Do good stuff and get right with Jesus—time is running out! I wish I could say that 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.” Wait, I thought the invite to buy was for the one who has no money? EXACTLY! 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 wait, I am lost. How can I find Jesus? EXACTLY! He finds you and places Himself in a place/position so that you will see Him. Luther had it right after all!
55:6 behimatso—root matsa—to find: This is a Hiphil form that has a historical causative sense. The translation “seek the LORD while He is findable” helps to bring this out. Who has made the LORD “findable?” Who has caused us to be able to seek and find the LORD? The One who has put Himself and us in the same place, near to one another.
55:7 awen—wickedness; sin; trouble; injustice
Machashavah—thought; plan; purpose
Wiyrachamehu—root: racham—to have mercy, compassion on someone; to take pity (piel form)
Lislocha—root: salach—to forgive; pardon
This verse should bring to mind 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.” Perhaps we might think of the parable of the Prodigal Son. However, the Gospel for this Sunday is the parable of the workers in the vineyard, which emphasizes that it is never too late because the Master is merciful.
55:8 machshevothi—“my thoughts” (versus “your thoughts)
Darkeykem—“your ways” (versus “my ways”)
NOTE: The chiasm in this verse is a part of the larger chiasm of this text. The LORD God is making this comparison to help man understand why He can be compassionate and merciful when we are unrighteous and wicked. HE IS NOT US!
55:9 gabah (X2)—to be high and lofty; exalted
Again, 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 you can find Me because I am your God.”
As a Lutheran Pastor, I would most certainly point to the Word, the incarnation, and the real presence as the ways that the LORD has done all of this.