15 March 2011Isaiah 55:6-9
"Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near." (v. 6)
Chapters 40-55 of Isaiah clearly relate to the period of the
Exile in Babylon. The people of Israel are defeated and humiliated
and the Temple has been destroyed. Again, we find ourselves in a
wilderness of sorts where there is estrangement and alienation from
all that is familiar and safe.
The despair of the Exile, however, is beginning to be replaced by a hope in the future; a hope which resides in the forgiveness and restoration offered by God. In the earlier verses of chapter 55, God promises to make with the people "an everlasting covenant" (verse 3) with an invitation to share in the attendant riches of abundant life. The suffering of exile is drawing to a close and salvation is at hand.
This salvation is to be found in God: seek the Lord, call upon him, return to him and he will "abundantly pardon" (verse 7). Here is the grace and generosity of God, whose thoughts and ways are, thankfully, so much higher than the people's.
The promise of "an everlasting covenant" remains, as does the invitation to share in abundant life. Suffering may need to be endured and Lent can remind us that the journey is not always easy and smooth, but it is one on which we are accompanied by a gracious and generous God.
During Lent, take time to seek and call upon the Lord, and return to God. If there is despair, let us find hope in the promises and faithfulness of God. If there is suffering let us seek salvation in the grace and generosity of God. The Lenten journey is one of hope and redemption, as it prepares us for the ultimate source of hope and salvation, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What do you think is the difference between hope and optimism?
Reflecting on your own experiences of suffering, despair or alienation what helped you through those difficult times - or continues to help you now?
How might you seek the Lord, and call and return God?