AN EXHORTATION TO SPIRITUALITY AND REPENTANCE . The prophet passes from the ideal to the actual, from the glorious future to the unsatisfactory present. The people are not ripe for the blessings of the Messianic kingdom—they do not sufficiently value them. Hence a tender exhortation is addressed to them by God himself, inviting them to become more spiritually minded ( Isaiah 55:1-3 ), and fresh promises are held out to the obedient ( Isaiah 55:3-5 ). The disobedient are then somewhat sternly exhorted to turn from their evil ways and repent ( Isaiah 55:6 , Isaiah 55:7 ).
Seek ye the Lord . Again the strain changes. The people are once more addressed, but in a tone of reproach. Israel must "seek the Lord" without delay, or the opportunity will be past; God will have withdrawn himself from them. He "will not alway be chiding, neither keepeth he his anger for ever" ( Psalms 103:9 ).
Exhortations and assurance.
I. EXHORTATIONS . "Seek ye Jehovah." This is the beginning of a religious life—to seek for God, to inquire for his ways ( Deuteronomy 4:29 ; Job 5:8 ; Job 8:5 ; Psalms 9:10 ; Psalms 14:2 ; Psalms 27:8 ). "While he may be found" ( Psalms 32:6 )—"in a time of finding." For a bitter "day" will come, when woe to his foes ( Isaiah 65:6 , Isaiah 65:7 )! It is hinted that a time will come when the offer will be withdrawn. "If a man will not do so simple a thing as seek for mercy, as ask for pardon, he ought to perish. The universe will approve the condemnation of such a man." "Who knows what a day may bring forth, and what may be the dangers of an hour's delay? This is most sure, that every particular repeated act of sin sets us one advance nearer to hell. Who can tell, while we go on our audacious course of sin, but God may swear in his wrath against us, and register our names in the black rolls of damnation? And then our condition is sealed and determined for ever." "Call upon him;" i.e. implore his mercy ( Joel 2:32 ; Romans 10:13 ). How easy the terms of salvation! how just the condemnation of the sinner who calls not on God, first for pardon, then for a share in the promises ( Jeremiah 29:12-14 )! God (according to the manner of man's thoughts) seems to be nearer at some times than at others to men. Some special influences are brought to bear; some facilities of salvation. "He comes near to us in the preaching of his Word, when it is borne home with power to the conscience; in his providence, when he strikes down a friend, and comes into the very circle where we move, or the very dwelling where we abide; when he lays his hand upon us in sickness. And he is near to us by day and by night; in a revival of religion, or when a pious friend pleads with us, God is near to us then, and is calling us to his favour. These are favourable times for salvation—times which, if unimproved, return no more." "Let the ungodly forsake his way, and the man of iniquity his thoughts." To seek Jehovah must involve the renouncing of all other gods; the calling upon him, the cessation of prayer in heathen temples; and, with this, all the "thoughts," the habits and feelings, of impure heathen life. It is to renounce corruption and destruction for blessedness and peace, which are contained in the thoughts of Jehovah ( Psalms 36:5 , Psalms 36:6 ; Jeremiah 29:11 ). "He has plans for accomplishing his purposes which are different from ours, and he secures our welfare by schemes that cross our own. He disappoints our hopes, foils our expectations, crosses our designs, removes our property or our friends, and thwarts our purposes in life. He leads us in a path we had not intended, and secures our ultimate happiness in modes which we should not have thought of, and which are contrary to all our designs and desires."
II. ASSURANCE OF FUTURE FELICITY .
1 . The certainty. God's purposes fulfil themselves. They are as certain as the law of gravitation, as the falling of rain and snow. In poetic religious thought these elements of nature are his angels (cf. Psalms 148:8 ; Psalms 102:4 ). They fulfil his purpose in inanimate nature; so shall his Word fulfil his purpose in the moral world—it shall not return empty, nor until it has done its work. (On truth compared to rain or dew, see Deuteronomy 32:2 ; Psalms 72:6 ; 2 Samuel 23:4 ; Isaiah 5:6 .)
2 . Its glory and joy. The exode from Babylon is not only meant, but the glorious condition of Israel after the return. It is compared to the transition from the wilderness (the misery of the exile), with its monotonous dwarf shrubs, to a park of beautiful trees ( Isaiah 41:18 , Isaiah 41:19 ), in the midst of which Israel is to walk "in solemn troops and sweet societies" (so in Isaiah 35:9 ).
3 . The sympathy of nature. (For similar views, see Isaiah 14:8 ; Isaiah 35:1 , Isaiah 35:2 , Isaiah 35:10 ; Isaiah 42:10 , Isaiah 42:11 ; Isaiah 44:23 . So in Virgil, 'Ecl.,' 5:62; and in Oriental poetry generally.) When the god Rama was going to the desert, it was said to him, "The trees will watch for you; they will say, 'He is come! he is come!' and the white flowers will clap their hands. The leaves as they shake will say, 'Come! come!' and the thorny places will be changed into gardens of flowers." A change will be produced in the moral condition of the world, as great as if the useless thorn should be succeeded by beautiful and useful trees. It is of the very soul of poetry that it hints and presages spiritual events which cannot be made clear to the senses nor certain to the understanding.—J.
God's especial nearness.
It is one of the familiar Scripture truths, open even to the little child, that God is always near to us; and that there is no time we can think of when he may not be found by the humble, believing heart. But there are times when he is comparatively near , and when, if we are wise, we shall go to him in the spirit of full self-surrender, shall enter the kingdom of his grace, and secure his everlasting favour.
I. THE PERIOD OF YOUTH ; when the mind is open, the conscience tender, the soul responsive.
II. THE DAY OF VISITATION ; when the stricken and wounded heart wants a Divine Healer, and can find none but in him who binds up the broken heart and heals its wounds.
III. THE TIME SPECIAL PRIVILEGE ; when we listen to the minister, read the book, have fellowship with the friend whose true and earnest voice has an unusual power to penetrate to the secret places of our soul.
IV. THE HOUR OF DIRECT DIVINE CONTACT ; when God lays his hand upon us, touches the springs of our sacred thought, reveals to us our sinfulness and our need, awakens us to the seriousness of our life and the nearness of eternity, and calls us to return unto himself. Wise is it beyond all earthly wisdom then to hearken and obey, to seek the Lord while he may be found, to call upon him while he is near; foolish is it beyond all other folly to turn a deaf ear or to show a disobedient spirit then; for God may never again come so near to our souls—may never again be so readily found by our human spirits; the distance between us and our Saviour may be continually enlarging, until some great gulf of sin or hard-heartedness separate us from his side and from his service evermore.—C.
The time for seeking after God.
Compare "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." After showing the need for seeking after God, and the duty of seeking, dwell on the appropriate time for the seeking, unfolding and illustrating two points.
I. THE TIME FOR SEEKING IS NOT FIXED BY OUR CONVENIENCE . Yet men constantly act as if it were. They assume that they can find God when they please. But such an idea proves that they neither know themselves nor God.
1 . They do not know themselves; for a man is not at all sure of feeling the desire when he thinks he will and arranges to. If a man plays with his deeper emotions, and puts off responding to them until some unknown time, he has no security that the feelings will return. If a man resists good inclinations, he will find that he cannot get them when he would.
2 . And they do not know God; for he can never permit man to play with his offers of mercy and willingness to accept. Rejected gifts, neglected gilts, cannot he still pressed on acceptance. It is inconceivable that God can ever wait on man's convenience. We must take advantage of God's time for seekers, for he can never recognize times that seekers are pleased to arrange for themselves.
II. THE TIME FOR SEEKING IS FIXED BY GOD 'S INVITATIONS . It must be; for the gift is an absolutely sovereign and free gift, and the Giver must be allowed to find his own time and way. If salvation were a matter of purchase, we might expect it to be dependent on our good will. It is wholly a matter of grace, and so absolutely dependent on God s good will. Our Lord even said, "No man cometh unto me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." The general invitations of God stand in his Word; the precise and special invitations to individuals, in which we find our golden opportunities of salvation, are, in the text, called times when "God may be found," or when God is propitious towards us; and times when "God is near," or gives an impressive sense of his nearness. Such times may appear to us as