Hear the Invitation (Lenten Reflections on Isaiah 55)

Text: Isaiah 55

Come, listenlook and seek. Those are the main imperatives of Isaiah’s invitation.

The message of Isaiah since chapter 40 has been deliverance. Just as God liberated Israel from Egyptian slavery, so now God is acting to deliver Israel from Babylonian exile. God’s chosen servant has suffered the punishment of the exile (Isaiah 53) and now God renews his covenant with his people. “Do not fear,” Yahweh declares, for Israel will no longer remember its shame because God is their redeemer (Isaiah 54:4-5).

So, the invitation goes out to Israel. Come, listenlook and seek. Hear the invitation!

COME! Three times Yahweh bids “come” (55:1). Whoever is thirsty, come and drink. Whoever is hungry, come and eat. It is Israel’s wilderness experience again. God will provide just as he did when Israel left Egypt. Come, eat and drink what is real rather than settle for the illusions of prosperity, success and comfort in Babylon. Come, enjoy what God gives rather than trusting in what you have accomplished. Come, experience God rather than counting on your own achievements.

LISTEN! Three times Yahweh pleads “listen” (55:2-3). Listen, really listen, to the invitation. Don’t be deceived by what seems good, pleasing and viable. Only what God offers is truly good, delightful and life-giving. Listen to the good news that God offers. What God offers is everlasting, eternal—it is an everlasting covenant or relationship. It is not temporary, fleeting and momentary. It is permanent and unchanging.

LOOK! Twice Yahweh implores “see” (behold, look; 55:4-5). See what? Look to the past. Look to the covenant God made with David. Remember how God made David a witness among the nations, a leader among the peoples. God took a shepherd boy and made him a world power. God can do it again! Look to the future! Israel will call the nations to God and the nations will come to Israel for salvation because God has chosen Israel. The future holds the promise of God. Trust him.

SEEK! Once, but with finality and urgency, Yahweh begs his people to “seek” him (55:6). Pursue God—call on him. Let go—forsake evil. Let go and let God.

This is the message of Lent. Those who practice Lent hear this again and again through their forty days of devoted pursuit. We let go—we let go of stuff, normalcy, comforts, food…whatever discipline we have chosen….in order to pursue God through prayer, meditation, silence, sacred reading, almsgiving…whatever discipline we have chosen…that we might find God.

Isaiah 55 assures us that when we let go and pursue, God finds us. God is near; God is available. Our pursuit is not in vain. God comes in mercy and forgiveness (55:7). We will never comprehend God’s grace nor his purposes, but we can embrace the communion God offers.

The invitation—come, listen, look, and seek—is an effective one. When we respond, God will accomplish his purpose for us. The invitation is not weak but powerful. God’s deliverance and salvation is not in doubt. Israel will leave Babylon in joy and peace. Creation itself will rejoice in what God does and pave the way for Israel’s return. Moreover, the return from exile is an everlasting, eternal sign of God’s faithful commitment to his covenant.

As we pursue Lent—as we let go and seek God—we are assured of the results. God will work among us, in us and through us. God is present to restore, redeem and renew. We “fast,” not for some fleeting achievement or fame, but we “fast” to know God.

Our Lenten season—our trek through the wilderness—ends at Easter. The one who paid the price of our exile is the same one who was raised from the dead. When we seek God, we will walk into a life of peace delivered to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is our Lenten walk and our Easter deliverance.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean in your life to hear the invitation “Come”? What must you leave in order to go?
  2. What does it mean in your life to hear the invitation “Listen”? What distracts us from hearing the good news?
  3. What does it mean in your life to hear the invitation “See”? What do we “see” and how does it shape our life? Does it often lead you to fear rather than faith?
  4. What does it mean in your life to hear the invitation “Seek”? In what ways are you seeking God in your life? What does that mean in practical terms?
  5. How do you practice “Let go and Let God “ in your life?

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