Isaiah 55:1-9 (NRSV)
1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.“ Isaiah 55:6
These verses are jarring. While I often embrace ideas that God is always present, “seek the Lord while he may be found“ gives me pause and uneasy questions.
During grief, it can be difficult for me to sense and connect with God‘s presence. Each loss cracks my heart differently—some need a slow thawing drop-by-drop of spiritual restoration. Coming to church numb and worn down: a phrase of music, a physical gesture, a line of prayer—a drop flowing to fill cracks that feel vast and deep.
Perhaps “seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” asks us to practice our rituals; actively noticing where and if we sense “God near” so in times of “thirst” and impoverishment (as described in 55:1- 2) we will continue to seek God even if our faith feels dim and unconnected.
The pandemic has brought too many losses to account. Many mourn dear ones, some long for a return to our lives as they were two years ago, others attempting to regain footing with these ‘new’ vulnerabilities. We may be asking God how, why, and please help.
These verses of Isaiah are said to talk about the promise of Jesus coming. Lent being observed as a time preparation. “Everyone who thirsts…and you that have no money…“ Could seeking the Lord be asking where do I sense thirst? Do I have places I feel impoverished? Am I holding them when I might try seeking God? The verse says change his ways and thought and “Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him”.
In Christian practice, I noticed my tendency to form opinions on my feelings — do I feel connected to God in prayer, or how the sermon moves me, etc. My soul, I imagine, as a deeper energy, mysterious, strong, and with some separation from my feelings. Yet I wonder here in Isaiah if the jarring feeling I have from “seeking the Lord while he may be found”; the thirst, the poverty – is this meant to stir feelings and evoke protective care of the soul? Isaiah also seems to tell us the condition of our soul is important for tribe, community, and nation. Perhaps tell me to look past, deeper, than my uncomfortable feelings with his passage.
The chapter says if thoughts and ways are changed, God will have mercy. Specifying that God is not similar to us in thought or action. Humility seems suggested to view ourselves in context of the earth, heavens, and God’s ways.
God grant that I may be humble and acknowledge my human place in the realm of all life. That I may find ability to seek you, moving through my discomfort, to reconcile my modern view with the writing of Isaiah. Please guide my thoughts and heart during this time of Lent. Amen.
--- Stasia Pasela