When it comes to hope, we have a variety of sayings intended to keep us focused on the task of moving forward. For instance, you have heard someone say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Or, one of the more notable ones that are less acceptable today, “It ain’t over till the [blank] lady sings.” As real as hope can be, the reality is that its opportunity will eventually pass. I was reminded of this in my meditation time this past week and thought it was worthy of some time. The prophet Isaiah speaks against the disobedience of God’s people, saying, “How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers” (Isaiah 1:21). Judgment would come, and God’s people would face horrible things. There is hope!
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.”
Since I started with sayings, let’s consider another, “There is always tomorrow.” That is a “feel good” type saying that is not rooted in truth. Isaiah speaks of a time when the Lord “may be found,” and when “He is near.” This truth reveals that hope in God is limited in time. The frailty of life can be realized in these words from James, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanished away.” (4:14). Thankfully, we serve a God that “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1st Timothy 2:4). We should not view the passing of time as proof of no God, but rather that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2nd Peter 3:9). This verse does well to brings us to our next thought.
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord…”
If there is a word seldom spoken of, it is the word repentance. Isaiah encourages God’s people to consider their ways and then forsake them and return to the Lord. Jesus taught of its importance in Luke 13:1-5. He makes this very passionate statement, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will also likewise perish.” Hope, even that of God’s amazing grace, has limits. Those limits are not because of grace itself; but rather because of the willingness for people to accept it, turning from their ways. At the proclamation of the gospel on the day of Pentecost, people were “cut to the heart” as they heard about Jesus, who was both “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36, 37). They asked the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) The first step for them was to repent. There can be no experience of hope absent of it.
“And He will have mercy on him; to our God, For he will abundantly pardon.”
It is not until this part of the verse that renews me about the hope that God offers to sinful man…to me. God is present and ready to show mercy. He yearns for the opportunity to “abundantly pardon” all who seek His forgiveness. This fact is as true for all today as it was to God’s people back then. John says with assurance, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:9). His abundant forgiveness found in Christ is our hope. Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and mercy.
May God embolden us to speak of this hope. God is here waiting for the restless soul to find Him, who wishes to return. But He will not always be there, for even the great hope of Christ is limited by time.