Hide and Seek with God, Isaiah 55:10–13, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 6 (Proper 10), July 12, 2020
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that the word of the Lord “shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (11). So today while being made aware of our own frailty, we are invited to find comfort in the worth of the word of God, by which the Lord assures all who have ears to hear that He will continue to accomplish His purposes through that which gives life, His very word.
One of the most humbling and gratifying thoughts we can have throughout life’s journey is the thought that God always loves us and wants us. He could have anyone He wants, someone rich, famous, powerful, brilliant. But He wants you and me. We learn that from the first verses in Isaiah chapter 55. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (6-7). Not only does He want us, He comes near to us through His word. He is easy to find, because He finds us.
The problem is that our sin has created a separation between us and God, and we are powerless to do anything about it. It may be hard to think about the fact that sin separates us from God when things are going extremely well, or when His saving action is not apparent and completely obvious. These things can be difficult to understand.
Carrying on with difficulty was the case with Israel, both before the exile to Babylon, and during that exile. Things were, indeed, bleak. But God promised through Isaiah an eternal covenant with eternal benefits. It would not ever be obvious how everything would work out, but Israel could trust God’s word of promise to bring them final triumph on the basis of an everlasting covenant founded upon the work of His Servant.
The people of Jesus’s time were in an almost identical situation. Under the oppression of Rome, they had no apparent victory of God’s gracious reign and rule. But, in Jesus’s actions, in His ministry, God’s word of promise through Isaiah came to fruition in a preliminary way. And the word of promise of a new covenant came to fulfillment in an even more complete way through the new covenant in His blood on the cross. And God’s word of promise is a foretaste of the full redemption of His people at His second coming.
Before today’s text begins, Isaiah hints at the fact that the wicked should forsake their ways and the evil people should give up their evil thoughts. But the sad truth is that, no matter how much we want to follow that instruction, we are powerless to make it happen. When it comes to righteousness before God, we are lame, bankrupt, blind, and powerless.
Yes, it is our sin that separates us from God, but do you know how great that distance of separation is? The moon is 235 thousand miles from the earth. The sun is 93 million miles away. The nearest stars are light-years away. That doesn’t even come close to the distance between God’s thoughts and ours.
These verses in Isaiah can speak to us today. We stand in relation to our Lord’s second coming, just as the people of Israel did to God’s promise of return from exile and to the promise of a new covenant in the Servant Jesus. Just like them, we wait! We wait for the completion of the promise, in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, what was also true for them is true for us, as well. God’s word is powerful, creative, and trustworthy. It can never fail. We can trust it with our life. We will surely come into possession of the promised inheritance of the New Creation, as the sons and daughters of the most high King.
The solution is God’s word, a word so effective that it has the power to accomplish His purposes in our life.
So, the word is effective in two ways. First, the word of Scripture is God’s written witness to us. He is not a God of silence. He has spoken by the prophets and evangelists. He has done this because He wants to be found. God’s word is unique. Of all the words thought, spoken, or written throughout history, only God’s word is consistently able to do what it says. God’s spoken word caused creation, brought forth life, it creates and preserves faith.
As marvelous as that is, God’s word has come to us in a way that is infinitely more personal than a written or spoken word. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in many ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrew 1:1).
The ultimate manifestation of the effectiveness of God’s word is the person of Jesus Christ. God’s word became flesh. He is God’s message to us, In Christ; God has truly come near so as to be found. We were created for companionship with God but sin destroyed that companionship. Genesis 3:8 tells us that Adam and Eve tried to play hide-and-seek with God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
Now, in Christ, God demonstrates the depth of His desire for our companionship. God dealt, once and for all, with the grime of human wickedness that made our companionship with Him impossible. In Christ, the word is made flesh. God took the burden of our sins upon Himself and paid the full price for them, so that for those who are in Him, there is now no condemnation. God has accepted Christ’s payment for our sin. He now says, “You are forgiven. The blood of my Son sets you free to be my people.”
God’s word is effective. It is not just the Bible, but the word made Flesh who dwells in us, the word which is in our hearts and on our lips and which has transformed our lives into living invitations. While it remains His word and He does with it what he sees fit, we have the cure for that which this world needs most.
The word has now effectively restored our companionship with God. The melted snow and rain, waters the earth, enabling seeds to sprout, grow, and bear fruit. In this way God sustains human life. So also His word creates the seed of faith in our hearts. That same word gives the growth, enabling the seed to sprout and bear abundant fruit, all to the eternal glory of God.
And so the Lord sends the word down from heaven to water the earth. He sends His Son, that is, the word of God Incarnate, who takes on flesh and blood to come down and water the earth. And water the earth He does.
The only-begotten Son of God, who was not conceived in sin but by the Holy Spirit, came so that He might bring life and immortality to all. He came down from heaven, was incarnate of the virgin Mary, and was made man. He who was in the beginning the word of God, took on flesh so that He could be crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, die on the cross to atone for our sins, and water the earth with His precious blood. When the Son of God hung on the cross, having suffered hell, He was pierced by the sword, and from His side water and blood poured forth to water the earth.
As the Word of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, hung there on the cross, He certainly didn’t appear to be powerful. He appeared to be defeated and powerless. So those who scoffed at Him were confirmed in their suspicion, while those who had followed Him were tempted to despair. The word of God appeared to be powerless.
But then, in glorious victory, like a sprout shooting forth from the ground, the crucified and dead Jesus is raised from the dead to burst forth from the ground alive and well. That which was sown perishable and in great weakness and dishonor, appearing to have no power at all over sin and death, is raised in glory and power and honor, immortal and imperishable, as the victorious word of God, whose death only served to conquer death, but whose life now serves to give life to the world!
The fact that God loves us so much and delights in our companionship is our motivation to let His powerful word work in our life, and to let His word conform our way of life to His higher way. Though we fail daily, He never fails to shower His love upon us anew through His word, enabling new growth that yields fruit to His glory.
I’d like to leave you with a picture of Christ to ponder. The Johnsons have two sons, ages 10 and 4. The older brother loves to join the other neighborhood children in spirited games of hide-and-seek. Up until now, the 4-year-old, Billy, has never been permitted to join in their fun. He is too little. The older children can easily hide from him, and he is unable to find them. One day, Billy tearfully asks if he can play. Reluctantly, the children agree, but only on the condition that Billy’s older brother is “it.”
The older brother closes his eyes and counts, “5, 10, 15, 20, all the way to 100. Ready or not, here I come!” He knows Billy will not be able to stray farther than he can search. He knows Billy will become frightened when he discovers that he is alone. And he knows Billy will welcome being found by his older brother. Soon after he starts calling “Billy, Billy,” the younger child responds to his word, replying, “Here I am. Find me!” So Jesus Christ, our older Brother, comes looking for us. He finds us through his word, and we delight in being found.
Our companionship with God is created and sustained by His word. We can celebrate that reality each time we remember our Baptism and participate in the Lord’s Supper. When we feel lost and want to find Him, or better, to be found by Him, we know where to look. He is where His word is.
The word of the Lord works. Not some of the time, but all of the time. It always accomplishes what the Lord purposes. And it always succeeds in doing the thing for which the Lord sends it. This is the promise given to us by the prophet Isaiah. And he gives this promise to us so that the promise would be clear and we would be certain of the power of the word of God.
When we first find Him in Baptism, and whenever we are reunited with Him in the Lord’s Supper, wonder of wonders, we discover that He has been searching for us all along! If you should ask, “Lord, how can I be sure you and I are in a good relationship?” He smiles and says to you, “Child, you have my word.” And that is enough. Amen.