Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"My thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55)

And you can't do theology by common sense either. Or at least, perhaps what we think of as obvious "everyday logic" might be a bit glitchy. Ever drawn the wrong conclusion...

While we're working out where we are someone speaks. With words. The LORD addressing his people Isaiah 55. Assume for a moment that's even possible. Unless we presume there's no god then a God who speaks in a world where people speak isn't so strange. Who is listening? People - people who have committed spiritual adultery. Not mere rule breakers but heart-breakers. Grant that that diagnosis might have some traction. Assume for a moment that that makes sense. Because it does, doesn't it? What's broken in this world goes right down into our hearts. Not a quick answer to the world but there's explanatory power, there's emotional sense, there's logic to that. And it's twisted the way we see everything like a teenager in love or a toddler having a tantrum we don't come at things dispassionately.

Suppose God spoke to such a people. What would he say? Try harder? Shape up? Pay up? Dance? No.
“Come, everyone who thirsts,come to the waters;and he who has no money,come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,and your labor for that which does not satisfy?Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; 
Just an invitation. Follow your heart to better things. Sounds like Jesus. Yes. Simply, come. Come to Christ. Come receive. Come be filled. Come, and, as the next two verses say, you'll be loved forever like David. All gods offer, but the speaker here offers freely. Buy without cost to yourself. Free. Yes, really. No such thing as a free lunch? Actually, no. There is. What's the catch? No catch.

It seems counter intuitive but it's what our hearts yearn for. It's against common sense and yet exactly what makes sense. Why would a god worth knowing need payment from us?

In v6, he calls again:
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Come home. That everyone doesn't immediately come tells us that we're not neutrals in this world. We're committed to our causes. And we say: But, I can't. But, I'll be destroyed. But, I'll be rejected. But, you don't mean it. But I don't want to be forgiven. We say it - do we catch ourselves mid-thought... really.
He says: I have compassion for you. Abundant pardon. Forgiveness.

For a million reasons, we don't believe. We dismiss good news as bad news because we love other things.
But he says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The LORD says: my thoughts aren't like yours, my thoughts are higher. 
Not Higher as in cleverer. Not Higher as in Distant. Quite the opposite.
Higher as in coming to be right here with us. Higher as in actually making sense.

We speak in the language of transaction and payment for divine favour.
We expect gods to need us to service them.
We expect that the only kind of god available is like the idols we easily turn to.

The LORD speaks in terms of gift, of grace, of free compassion.
At cost to himself. On the pages of human history.
Isaiah 53 is only paragraphs before - in which the LORD crushed the LORD to give us life.
And - Isaiah 25 - swallowed up death in victory.

This news is out of this world and yet getting its feet muddy, its hands covered in blood.
It's like nothing you've ever heard before and yet it resonates deeper than anything.

And, famously, his words rain down from heaven to bring life on the earth. A word that wont return empty but does produce life. Words of life coming from the LORD to his dead and rebel and betraying people who are enslaved to idols and sin and anything and everything apart from the love of the LORD. Words that disarm our "sensible" pursuit of lying idols and invite us to somewhere that actually makes more sense.
  • Common Sense Religion thinks up from man to god.
  • God is higher - not distant.
  • God is higher in his thoughts - as a giver.
  • Which isn't senseless but it defies common sense.
  • Which isn't irrational but is super-rational, really rational.
  • Which isn't logical but is super-logical, really logical.
  • Which makes sense emotionally.
  • Which can make grown men weep.
  • Which can finally break hard hearts.
  • Which doesn't make sense yet perfectly makes sense.
  • Which can draw us out of our situation.
The higher thoughts of the LORD are grace, outpouring love, walking out to meet us.

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