3rd Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 55:9
:As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

            Sometimes people we love decide to do somethings that just don’t make any sense to us, we think, ‘Why did they do that? How come to that conclusion? What’s going on?’. We know that we don’t all think the same, but there is hope, to understand your parents, children, friends and other people. We are all fundamentally the same, we are human and are influenced by the things that have happened in our lives, by our genetics and those we have lived alongside. But to think like each other, to really get into someone else’s head, that’s not an easy thing to do. Then compared to this, trying to understand other humans, how on earth could we ever understand God, His thoughts and His ways?

            He tells us. He tells us that His ways are fundamentally different to ours, as separate as the earth and the stars. And by His grace He also tells us how God’s thoughts are different to yours and mine. The difference between the thoughts that come from us and the thoughts that come from God. In the first two verses of this chapter He tells all who are thirsty ‘to come and buy milk and wine without cost’, then asks ‘why do we work for things that don’t satisfy’. His way is to receive from the Lord the blessings of freedom, life, and satisfaction; and our way is to strive to earn things, and strangely enough things that don’t satisfy. Our Heavenly Father here gives a fantastic analogy for how we are saved, thirsty people given free drink; the drink is yours, you need it, you didn’t earn it, but you can reject it; far better to trust the gracious giver and receive well His benefits.

But then God says to you that your ways are like chasing after things that don’t satisfy. Fundamentally, simply put we think we earn everything we get, and we strive for things we don’t need, and this is even in the small things. I’m certain that you all remember wanting to do something that was not helpful at all, maybe you only realised later, or maybe you just really wanted that extra beer, to hit that person in the face, to get to feel good in the moment regardless of what would happen later. But that you always think that you earn what you get might be something that you trust God about, but don’t really see it in your life. But it is true. This is why we struggle with God’s salvation, with our faith and trust in God. Despite your sins, your failures and your betrayals, Jesus still loves you, still forgives you, this is harder to accept for some rather than others. This is what Paul writes about in Romans, what I want to do I do not do, what I do not want to do I do, … what a wretched man am I. Thanks be to God who delivers me from this body of death (Romans 7:15-19, 25). In our society we hear about karma, you get what you give, give good receive good, give evil receive evil; we’re told it’s the way the world works. But what about cancer? What about sudden death of a family member? What about those Jews killed by Pilate?

How does Jesus respond to these questions? Do you think these people are worse sinners, more evil than you? No, all are sinners just as bad as each other, we all want to earn our salvation and strive for things that are bad for us. But unless you turn from your evil ways toward God, you too will perish. (Luke 13:1-5). Are you thirsty, do you need God to take you out of this destructive cycle? Jesus tells us, yes, we are; but don’t forget that God’s mercy and forgiveness, freedom from your sin, death and the devil, these things He freely gives you.

Through Isaiah He tells you that He will make a covenant with you, an everlasting promise and relationship, nothing can take you away from the love of God. This promise to David of the Messiah, the Christ to come. That people from every place will come and He will protect them, people the Israelites had never heard of, many of our ancestors, and also people we do not know. All these people, indeed all people who are trapped by sin, who are chasing the things of this world, the things that don’t satisfy, who are striving for what God freely gives; these people God calls to turn from their sad ways of living, to reject their thoughts and to turn to Him, to Jesus, who has mercy on them and pardons them.

In this season of Lent we remember that we and all people are helpless sinners who need God’s help. We look to Jesus, forward to Good Friday where He suffered our sin, guilt and death, and also to Resurrection Sunday where He rose victorious and free over sin, death and the devil. He is our saviour, our commander and our King.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Joseph Graham

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