“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 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.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Everyone thinks that heaven is good for weak people, and people who have no hope, but it’s useless for strong people and people with a plan. We say things like, “He’s so heavenly minded, that he’s no earthly good.” But that statement isn’t true. Isaiah says it isn’t true. It is only those who understand the secure hope of heaven who can really face this life.
It’s like the end of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings when Merry and Pippin finally return to their homeland, The Shire. Now most of you know that the Shire is an isolated land full of pastures and Halflings called Hobbits. They farm the land, and live in peace. It always seems like it’s Spring in the Shire, and even the Fall and Winter months aren’t threatening. The worst thing to ever happen is when wild wolves attack.
If you read the books you see that Merry and Pippin are swept away from their small isolated land into a land of danger. They face trolls, and all of the evils things of the Black Land. They see great kings and towers of terrible power. Plots and schemes unfold and they watch as the most beautiful and wise sacrifice their own lives for the love of others. They see true evil, and true defeat. They see the moment when victory is snatched from the hands of the enemy.
And then they return to their old land. But their old land, which once felt so large, now seems small. Merry and Pippin are now bigger than their homeland. They stride through it with confidence and courage. They are able to face down bullies, and ruffians—why? It’s because they have seen the true enemy defeated. They know that the victory over evil has been won. And so life doesn’t master them—they master life. They stride through life confidently- not because they are bigger or stronger than what they encounter—but because they know the truth about life and death.
If you believe that this world, and this life are your only shot, then you will always be mastered by life. You will enjoy every success, but you will live in constant apprehension that it may be your last. If you believe that, at best, you’ve only got 70-80 years of life in you every time you fail, that failure will crush you.
But listen to me, I am not saying that you should believe in heaven because it will help you cope with how terrible life is. I’m not saying that heaven is a delusion and you have to delude yourself. What I am saying is that victory and life are assured- and they are assured because the most beautiful, and wise sacrificed his life out of love for us, and 3 days after he was raised from the day through the powerful working of God. That’s a good hope, and it isn’t just for the future. It changes us today.
This post is a part 4 of a series from my sermon on Isaiah 55.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”