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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Seek the LORD while He may be Found
Text:Isaiah 55:6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Giving your heart to God

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 27:1,2                                                                                

Ps 24:2,3                                                                                                        

Reading – Isaiah 55; Luke 14:15-24

Ps 105:1,2,3

Sermon – Isaiah 55:6

Ps 63:1,2

Hy 5:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, it has been said that at the heart of every message spoken by God’s prophets are these three simple words: return to me. For centuries, the LORD sent many messengers to his people—everyone from Amos, that simple farmer from Tekoa, to Zephaniah, a member of David’s royal house. Whatever their background or ability, God’s prophets would preach that basic message: return to me. “I am your Creator – return to me. I am your Redeemer; your Father – return to me. I am your Husband – return to me.”

That core message really reflects the LORD’s heart. What is the character of God the LORD, but One who desires to fellowship with his people? He wants us near, living with him in trust and love and obedience.

And especially when his people wander from him, when we leave the good pathways of his Word, God reaches out with his gracious call: return to me. Now, reading the Old Testament prophets, we might overlook this loving message. To our mind, most of the prophets come down hard on Israel, pointing out gross sins, warning of judgment by plagues and exile—they are more “fire and brimstone” than “love and mercy.” Isaiah too, has spoken his share of harsh words, calling Judah an unclean nation, a perverted people, and a desolate vineyard.

But God always gives his rebukes in love. He makes a mockery of our idols so that we’ll put trust more in him. He chastises the unjust and oppressive so that they learn to show his kind of mercy. The message, again and again—not only in Isaiah but in all the prophets—is for sinners to come back to the ways of God. For that delights the LORD, when we don’t live in sin’s bitter wilderness, but in the peace of fellowship with God. That’s a good message for today too. We must hear God’s call, and answer. In Isaiah’s message, we’re all exhorted:

Seek the LORD while He may be found:

  1. seeking
  2. and finding


1) seeking: When we read Isaiah 55 a few minutes ago, what did you notice? Maybe one thing you noticed is that it is a profoundly beautiful chapter. Within its thirteen verses there are so many well-loved and favourite passages: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…Seek the LORD while He may be found…My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…My Word shall not return to me empty.”

Maybe a second thing you noticed is the frequency of commands or imperatives. This whole chapter—especially the first seven verses—has a tone of urgency, a strong sense of appeal. If you count them, there are no less than twelve commands in the first seven verses. Just a sampling: “Come to the waters…Come, buy and eat…Listen carefully…Incline your ear…Seek the LORD…Call upon him…Let the wicked forsake his way.”

It’s a powerful series of invitations, which means that we better listen and respond. It’s true, of course, that even if God commands us just once, we need to pay attention. But the LORD is a communicator who knows how to get his message across. And sometimes repetition is highly effective, like these commands in our chapter. For all of them (we’ll see) convey essentially the same message: Go to God!

And here it’s worth asking why God is being so insistent. What has happened, that God now turns up the volume like this? A couple chapters ago, in chapter 53, there came a most significant message. It’s the revelation of the Christ, God’s Suffering Servant.

You know the chapter and what it says about our Saviour: “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…He was led as a lamb to the slaughter…and for the transgressions of my people He was stricken.” All spoken long before it happened, but absolutely certain to happen through the power and grace of God!

These words are a gospel that is world-changing. Because of the coming of Christ, God pardons our sins. Because of Jesus’s atoning death, God grants life. It’s solely on the basis of Christ’s work in chapter 53 that God can speak good news to his unfaithful people in the following chapter, chapter 54. Like in 54:8, “With a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you.”

So that’s the lead-in to all the urgent commands and invitations in our chapter. If it’s a sure thing that Christ has come—and suffered and died and rose the third day—and if sin has been totally paid for, then it’s high time for everyone to come near in order to receive that forgiveness. Everything has been done, all is ready, so now God makes an earnest call: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!” (55:1).

That call is echoed in a different way in our text, “Seek the LORD while He may be found.” Seek him. There’s such a richness in that word “to seek.” But let’s understand it properly. Seeking God is not like our search for something that we’ve misplaced, like a desperate search for our car keys or our cell phone. No, if God ever feels far away or distant, it’s not because He has moved. More often than not, it’s because we have.

We’re called to seek the LORD: not looking for the missing God, but seeking the one whom we know is already present. This is how Moses said it to the people of Israel back in Deuteronomy 12:5, “You shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put his name for his dwelling place.” Seek the place that God chooses for his dwelling, Moses says, because God will be there! It’s where you can draw near to him in worship.

The Hebrew word for “seek” has a nice depth of meaning. The basic sense of the verb is “to take a step toward,” to start moving in a certain direction. That’s because for the Israelites, seeking the LORD meant physically going to his house of worship. For many of them, it meant making a journey to the tabernacle or the temple.

That still gives us a good picture of what is involved in seeking after God. Stepping toward him must be deliberate. If I can use a buzzword, our seeking after God must be intentional, something we’ve set out to do and committed time to do. Nobody wanders into having a good relationship with God. It doesn’t happen by accident, as if one morning we wake up and we find that the LORD is suddenly near to us. Not if we’ve been careless or lazy or idle in seeking him. Instead, we can expect God to feel at a distance.

Listen to what God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” The LORD wants his people to put their heart into it. ‘Here is everything that I have done for you in Jesus Christ. Here is what I freely offer, and what I have promised you in your baptism. Now seek it earnestly!’

The difficulty faced by Judah is the same difficulty as ours. When a person grows up in the covenant—a Christian home, church on Sundays, even Christian schooling during the week—we just might not have a sense of urgency in seeking God. For God has always been there! We’ve been taught his Word by our parents. Our heads are chock-full of content from the Catechism. The “concept” of God (if I can put it that way) is not strange to us, but as familiar as the oxygen we breathe. Yet who notices oxygen? Not ‘till it’s gone, right? 

So it takes searching and seeking. Isaiah wanted Judah to come to God: not to hold him at arm’s length like an out-of-town uncle you don’t really know, not to keep God in reserve like another idol in their collection, but to really seek him. He’s the great Saviour, the loving Father, the wise Potter, the only God. If you will truly know God, then you have to seek him with intention: ‘It’s a new day, and I am going to draw near to the LORD. I will open his Word. I will worship him in my thoughts. I will have open eyes for everything that God is doing in this day.’

And if we’re really seeking God with our whole heart, this is more than a devotional activity. It’s not something that happens only when the Bible is open on the table in front of you, or your hands are closed in prayer, or you sit church for worship. Seeking after God is seeking God’s way with your entire life: today, tomorrow, and every day.

This is why Isaiah immediately speaks about repentance in verse 7: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD.” There’s that prophetic catchphrase, “Return to God.” Abandon your old way of life and its patterns of sin, because that leads only to judgment and death. When we are trying to find God, we’re also trying to lose something else: the evil which clings so closely.

A person who claims to be seeking God cannot remain stubborn in his sin, holding onto her unrighteous ways. This is what God said about sinful Judah back in Isaiah 29:13, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” God must be sought in a way that shapes your whole life.

I touched on prayer a moment ago, and we should give it a little more attention. Because see how our text is constructed out of two parallel statements: “Seek the LORD while He may be found/ Call upon him while He is near.” Directly in parallel with seeking God is calling on God. And “to call” on God is the language of prayer. Think of how David puts it in Psalm 86:7, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me.”

Let’s call this another “non-negotiable” activity of seeking God. If you will seek God with your whole heart, then you’ll forsake your wicked way. And if you’re seeking God, then you will pray to him, and pray often.

It’s good to view prayer as the expression of our desire for God. By contrast, we often treat prayer as a means to get what we want: ‘God, I am seeking strength for today. I am looking for guidance in this dilemma. I hope to get some mental peace, so that is why I’m praying to you.’ We’re allowed to ask God for all these things, and more.

But at the heart of prayer is a seeking after God, not things: ‘I seek you, O Lord. I want to draw near to you, to know your grace and to enjoy your goodness.’ We call upon God at any moment of the day, in any place, under any condition, because we know that God is near. “Ask, seek, and knock,” Jesus once said about prayer: “and the door will be opened.”

Once again, this truth can be all too familiar. So familiar that we neglect it, and we coast along without cultivating a life of prayer with God. Appreciate the urgency then, in our text—and in this whole chapter: “Incline your ear,” God says in 55:3, “and come to me. Hear, and your soul shall live.” Seek the Lord while He may be found.

The Lord Jesus gave a good picture of how important this is. He said that the kingdom of God is like a certain man who gave a great supper and invited many people (Luke 14:16). The king’s table was heavy with good food, but the banqueting hall was still half-empty. That’s because when people received his invitation, they began to make excuses: “I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow.”

And so the invitations went out again, this time to those who’d be considered unworthy, unlikely guests of the king: the lame and the blind. They came, and still there was room. So again the call went out until the hall was filled. And at the end of the story, the king makes this declaration about those who turned him down, “I say to you, that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” (v 24).

The link to our chapter is clear. God has made ready all the preparations. The saving work of Christ is finished; his Spirit has been sent down from heaven; his Word is freely available; the church doors are open to us so that we can hear the preaching of the gospel and use the sacraments. So God has put out his invitation: “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1). Come to the feast!

And now God “waits,” you might say. Who will answer? Who will respond and join him at the table? Not that God has any uncertainty about the outcome of his invitation. He will find people to respond, for He will work it in them. And those who respond might not be wise or worthy, but God knows that too.

There’s a puzzle here, of course, that God seeks a response from sinners, and that God also works the response in those sinners! He says, “Return to me,” but it’s only his grace and Spirit by which we can return. This is beyond us. No wonder Isaiah says in the following verses, “My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (v 9). We can’t map it all out, the intersection of God’s sovereignty and our own responsibility.

But what’s clear is that God calls us to seek him. There’s a response we have to make, and the window of opportunity doesn’t stay open forever. It’s like those advertisements you see: ‘Here’s an amazing deal, but act now, because it’s a limited time offer!’ This is how the Lord puts it in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

Today we thank God for working his answer in us: He has sought us, so that we might seek him. He has called us, so that we might call upon him. We give thanks for that. But we all understand that today is just one day. There is a real sense in which we all, whatever our age or status, must continue to hear God’s call to seek him. We must continue to respond: “While it is called Today,” seek the LORD. For then you will surely find.


2) finding: Some of our searches end in disappointment. You looked high and low for your cell phone, but you never did find it back. Or maybe you spent an hour on the beach with your metal detector, but found nothing, not even a pull-tab. Sometimes when we seek, we don’t even know if something is there: just groping in the dark.

But God is there. If we ascend into heaven, or make our bed in the depths, He is there. That is his glory, that God is everywhere present, yet never stretched thin. God is infinite in his glory, and never constrained by the kind of limitations that we face.

Still, even though God is not far from us, we need to see that it is purely an act of grace that He lets himself be found. God reveals himself to sinners. The LORD makes himself accessible to his people. It’s only through his mercy can we seek God and also find him.

For there are, of course, many millions of people who have looked for God. The Lord has shown something of his glory and power in the creation. The Bible says that He has even put a sense of eternity into human hearts—a sense that there is something bigger and more lasting than anything we experience here on earth.

It’s for this reason that many cultures have crafted idols, and given names to their gods, and built shrines and temples. It’s a way to express their deep longing for the divine. It’s understandable, generally well-intentioned, but their idols are completely lifeless and the product of a deep ignorance.

The point is, God cannot be found at any time, and in any way. But He can be found only when He desires to be found; He can be found only when He shows himself. And here is our immense privilege: that we are allowed to know the living God, and not only know him, but to enjoy a living relationship of love with him!

We “find” God in his Word. We “find” God through prayer in Jesus’s name. We “find” God when we come to church and meet with him in holy worship. We “find” some of the richest blessings of God in our fellowship with other believers, in the bond of true faith.

And God is so good to allow this privilege not just to a select few, but to many people. True, He revealed himself to the people of Israel for many centuries, and to them alone. Every other nation God left in their ignorance, and that included our own pagan ancestors of long ago. But the LORD always intentioned to open up his arms to embrace people from every tribe and nation and tongue.

We see that a lot in Isaiah, even as early as chapter 2 and its account of the Gentiles streaming to Zion and to house of God. It’s in this chapter also. Look back at verse 5, “Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you.” The nations shall come running, shall come seeking, because God is ready to be found.

It’s like how the king in Jesus’s parable throws open the doors of his banqueting hall. He is pleased to invite people from all over, because he wants the gift of his generosity to be enjoyed by many. That’s a picture of the gracious character of our God: not one sinner needs to be an outsider, not one sinner has to die in his sin, but God desires all people to repent and come to a knowledge of the truth through Christ.

For God is near. ‘He can be found,’ Isaiah says, ‘and He is near.’ Does that mean that God is sometimes nearer to us than at other times? Does it mean that there are times when God cannot be found, like He’s out of range, like we’re trying to pray but don’t have coverage? We already said that God is everywhere present, every day of our life. And God wants to be found, because He delights to save people. That doesn’t change.

But the point is the urgency. Isaiah has announced the gospel of Christ: Now is the day of salvation! Come to the waters and drink, because the waters are fresh! Why would we turn down the generous invitation to draw near to God? Why take a pass on the waters of life, or on the great feast in the Lord’s presence?

Jesus tells us, of course, that one day the doors will be closed. One day sinners will seek, and not find, because it will be too late. Or maybe you die tomorrow, and you haven’t yet used your life to seek God with your whole heart. That’s too late, too. Or maybe we keep living for many years, and enjoying our life to the full, but never get around to drawing near to God. That’s a missed opportunity, and it’s the worst mistake a person can make.

Do you stay where you are, or do you step forward? Do you seek God with faith in him and in his Son as Saviour? That is God’s will, that we all respond to what He has given us—that each of us seeks and finds, and that we do so today. As James says in his letter, “Come near to God and He will come near to you” (4:8).

So seek the LORD while He may be found,

Call upon him while He is near!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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