6 “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.
I am a devotee of the dad joke, the terrible pun which causes children to groan. Once, while driving along I-84 in Oregon, I asked my children why the students in Pendleton did not study fractions. They looked at me rather perplexed until I pointed to the large sign advertising the Pendleton Roundup, a major annual rodeo event. My daughter, aiming a look of utter scorn at me, said, “Dad, you are the reason God doesn’t talk to us anymore!”
In terms of dad joke responses, this was golden. It also speaks, however, of an assumption which permeates even our Christian sensibilities. It does sometimes seem like God has rather put an end to the voice from heaven technique which he used in the Old Testament. We are not there with the disciples at Jesus’ feet listening to his parables. God seems so distant. Isaiah urges us to seek the Lord while he may be found and to call upon God while he is near. Did we miss our chance?
It is good to remember that God spoke very little from clouds and mountain tops in the Old Testament. Most of the time he spoke through prophets and writings. Generations of believers were born, lived, and died between those events. John, in chapter 6 of his Gospel account, tells us that after Jesus declared himself to be the Bread of Life many of those following him checked out of the Jesus movement. The twelve disciples remained but many did not. To those who left, Jesus did not appear to be a divine manifestation. The nearness of God is not found in a preternatural voice from heaven. Indeed, the people of Israel at Sinai wanted to distance themselves from the One who spoke. They sent Moses alone up the mountain. The presence and accessibility of God is found in the fact that he welcomes sinners, people like you and me. We may confess to a fellow Christian our sins, our weakness, our fear, our frailty, and know that God hears that. What is more, he promises us that in the words of that baptized Christian who forgives us, comforts us, and loves us despite our condition, God has spoken to us.
Seek the Lord. He does not think of sin the same way you do. We know that because Jesus died on a cross to save you from it. He has risen from the grave to hear your prayers.