Article by John Warren AntalikaDeacon at GraceLife London
Salvation for Stubborn Sinners
Turn to the Lord While He May be Found
If you’ve done evangelism long enough, you’ll have met people who respond to the Gospel message by saying: “I’ll think about it,” or “I don’t need God,” or even “I’m quite satisfied with my life.” Some people just have little or no concern for their eternal destiny and seem blind to the reality that it’s their eternal soul that’s at stake. Others, however, are convinced the gospel is true, but seem determined, despite it all, to continue on their path. They’re stubborn sinners. Isaiah 55:6 contains an urgent message for anyone suffering from this kind of stubbornness:
“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.”
These words were spoken originally to the stubborn Israelites whom God knew would reject their Messiah, and yet God tells them here what they have to do in order to return to God.
“Seek the LORD while he may be found.” This is a simple command. It means “to look for, to search, to chase after.” You don’t have to have a degree in order to seek the Lord. You do, however, have to be urgent. It’s an urgent command. Contained in this word ‘seek’ is intensity and activity. When children play hide and seek, there you see how they are actively looking for an intensely searching that which is hidden. This is also a humbling command. In order to seek for something, we must first recognise that we do not already possess it. There must be the admission that “I do not have what I need; I am not okay; I need help.” Proud people are self-sufficient, they do not see their need so they do not seek. Pride is the greatest obstacle to seeking the Lord, but humble people say, “I need help, so I must seek the Lord.
“Call upon him while he is near.” This is a repeated phrase in the Old Testament which is equivalent to crying out to the Lord for Mercy. The responses of the Israelites many times were that of crying out to the Lord to deliver them from their distress. These were cries for help after the humble recognition that they were in need. Notice who they are to seek and call upon, The LORD, that is Yahweh, the one true God who has revealed Himself to us through His creation. They were not called to seek and call upon a mere man or a god of their own invention, but the one, true and living God. You sometimes hear people say they are seeking God, but when you ask them about this God, it’s a god of their own making, an idol. Are you seeking and calling upon the God of the Bible? If not, then the god you are seeking after and calling upon is simply a god of your own imagination.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” Here’s a call to abandon (to put aside, to turn from) wickedness and unrighteousness. This is a call to repent. You cannot seek the Lord while you are still holding on to your sins. You cannot truly, seek and call upon the Lord while riches, reputation and self are your gods. These are stubborn sins which prevent stubborn sinners from turning to God. The Rich Young Ruler was satisfied with his possessions and riches and was grieved and saddened after being told by the Lord Jesus to sell all that he possessed and give to the poor. After this encounter, Jesus said to his disciples “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Matthew 10:23) What is it, what idol is in your life right now which is an obstacle, a stumbling block to you seeking, calling upon and turning to the Lord? Is it your career, reputation, money, life itself? You cannot turn to God while you are still worshipping your idol. One has to go.
“For he will abundantly pardon.” Turning to the Lord involves trusting in the Lord that he will forgive us. Instead of trusting in our idols for satisfaction, we have to make a U-Turn by turning away from them and turning and trusting in the Lord. Trusting that He will indeed pardon our transgressions and save us from our sins.
Manasseh, The King Who Was Humbled
I delight in reading the story of Manasseh from the Old Testament. Manasseh was one of the Kings of Judah. He became King at the age of 12 and we read in 2 Kings 21 that “he did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger”. The same account is repeated in 2 Chronicles 33 where we read that “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention.” The call from the Lord to turn back to Him was rejected. Can you relate? They were stubborn idolatrous sinners. Therefore, the Lord brought affliction upon the King. But what we read next is astonishing.
“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favour of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12)
King Manasseh was a prideful and stubborn King. He refused to humble himself and turn to the Lord. Therefore, the Lord humbled him by bringing affliction into his life. It was then that he “prayed to Him”. What is astonishing is that the Lord was moved by his plea and had compassion on him.
At the end of Isaiah 55:8 we read that God will have compassion and abundantly pardon those who seek Him, call on Him and turn to Him. This was true for King Manasseh and can be true for you today as well. This is possible because God sent His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to bear our sins, to be pierced for our transgression and die on our behalf. He took upon Himself our stubborn sins and nailed them to the cross so that we can stand before the Holy God without blemish.
Today is the day of salvation therefore Seek, Call, Turn and Trust in the Lord while he may be found.