Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the Earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.(P) The word of the Lord.
Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and highly to be praise; His greatness is unsearchable. (R)
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works. (R)
The Lord is just in all His ways and holy in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.
Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, "You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just." So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, "Why do you stand here idle all day?" they answered, "Because no one has hired us." He said to them, "You too go into my vineyard." When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, "Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first." When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, "These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the hear." He said to one of them in reply, "My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?" Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There is a story about a boy playing hide-and-seek with his friends. When it was his turn to hide, he did so eagerly. But for some reason his friends stopped playing while he was still hiding. The boy became very upset with his friends and ran to his grandfather who was in the house. With tears in his eyes he said, "Grandpa, I was hiding behind a tree and waited for hours. But my friends did not come to find me." The grandfather took the little boy in his arms and said, "Oh! My child, do not weep because the boys did not come to find you. Perhaps you can learn a lesson from your disappointment. All our life we are playing a game of hide and seek with God. God is waiting to be found but we go in search of other things and we have no desire to look for him."
Friends, the Old Testament often speaks of seeking and finding God. The Israelites were told many times to seek the Lord. For instance, Moses told the people who had forsaken God that if they sincerely start looking for Him once again, they will find Him, Deuteronomy (4:29). Solomon was encouraged by his father King David to seek God with all his heart and find Him, 1 Chronicles (28:9). So also Isaiah called out to Israel to seek the Lord.
Let us briefly look at the circumstances under which Isaiah began preaching. The prophet lived in a very turbulent and unstable time. By Isaiah's time, the nation of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms - the northern kingdom, Israel, with ten tribes and the southern kingdom, Judah, with two tribes. His ministry was in Judah although he spoke of events in both kingdoms. Assyria had attacked both Israel and Judah and conquered them. The Israelites were being forsaken by God because they had taken up false worship and turned away from God. Some were completely ignorant of the righteousness of God and others were indifferent to seeking and finding God. However, they still performed the religious ceremonies and asked why God allowed these things to happen to the chosen people of God. In the context of utter despair and the hopeless condition, Isaiah delivered a message of condemnation for their sins, along with a message of hope for a day of restoration and words of comfort so that they would not lose heart. Their restoration and redemption would take place through the Lord's Servant, the Messiah. Isaiah said, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving."
"Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near", implies that God had not abandoned His people but allowed Himself to be found if they sought Him, and to be near if they called Him. So they were called upon once again, but in a tone of reproach, to seek the Lord with contrite hearts and accept God's gracious offer of mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, as well as peace and happiness, without delay. Otherwise the opportunity would pass and God would withdraw himself from them.
Friends, the reading is a gentle reminder for us to seek the Lord before everything else. Some might ask why God hides himself in the first place and then wants us to look for Him. Why doesn't he just make Himself visible to all people? As a matter of fact God seeks us always and allows Himself to be found. It is like an adult playing hide-and-seek with a child. When it's our turn to hide we might "hide" ourselves in a place where we can easily be found by the seeker. We want that the seeker to feel like he or she has found us but in reality, we make ourselves easy to "be found." That's what God does. He lets himself to be found. Saint Paul says, Acts of the Apostles (17:26-27), that God has not only created us to occupy the entire Earth, but also decreed the times and limits of our habitation and wants us to seek Him, by feeling our way towards Him and succeed in finding Him, as He is not far from us.
So it is not so much that God hides Himself from us but rather we are blind that we cannot see Him. It is our own sin and unbelief that hide the Lord from our sight and prevent us from finding Him. If we are seriously seeking God then we have to seriously turn away from our sins. We cannot find God if we are still in sin. When we call out to God for any favor He will often awaken our conscience to something in our life that needs to be forsaken. It is important, therefore, to forsake wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts to obtain God's favor. As long as we look to man's ways or plans, the outcome is not just improbable but impossible. It is impossible to do God's thing in man's way and get God's result. That's why the Lord says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. As high as the heavens are above the Earth, so are my ways high above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts."
Today let us all pray that God may touch our hearts and give us the desire to seek and find Him.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!