“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”
God assures us that he has "not said unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain." The Hebrew word for "seek" in this verse is "bokash." It means to seek with a desire to obtain, to seek with care and attention. In seminary, my professor of Hebrew said that the way to remember this word is to imagine that there are "beaucoup of cash out there in a box somewhere." Therefore, what do you do? You seek it. In Isaiah 45:19, the word means to seek the presence of another, specifically to seek the presence of God. The promise is that if we make every effort to come into God's presence, we will not be disappointed.
If you are one of those people who always think least of yourself and always put yourself down, and think yourself the worst of sinners, then get a firm grip on this promise. God has not cut you off from his mercy. Do not allow your fears and doubts to overwhelm you. God has not turned his back upon you.
Some people live in fear that something about the doctrine of predestination shuts them out from all hope. They think that somewhere in God's computer a file exists that renders it certain that no matter how much they pray and seek the Lord, God will not answer. However, God said, "I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth." Or, to put it another way, God said, I have not hidden something away in a heavenly computer that would condemn you. Or to put it in a theological way: God said, I have not predestined any praying, seeking soul to damnation. Just the opposite, a soul seeks God, a soul prays, because God has already touched that soul with his spirit.
Isaiah 45:19 says that "the seed of Jacob" cannot seek God "in vain." Now you might say that is great for "the seed of Jacob," but who or what is "the seed of Jacob?" In the book of Genesis, Jacob had twelve sons, who were the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. "The seed of Jacob" then was a way of referring to God's covenant people of the OT. However, the covenant was always only for believers. It was not for those who were the physical descendants of Jacob, but for those who believed like Jacob. "The seed of Jacob" are those who have faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Since this is the same God who has come to us in the NT through Jesus Christ, we now say that "the seed of Jacob" are those who believe in Christ.
The promise then of Isaiah 45:19 is that if we seek God in faith, we cannot seek God in vain. On this matter, God has spoken so firmly that there can be no hedging, or wavering, or wobbling. If we seek God, then we have the Holy Spirit, we are "the seed of Jacob," and the promise is that God will not fail to be there for us. We find the same promise in the NT. Luke 11:9, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." The promise is that we cannot seek God and find nothing.
This means then that sincere prayers always come before the throne of God. God will answer that prayer in his own way and in his own time. We should not overstate our privilege; we should not imply that we can tell God what to do. But the point is that our prayers cannot fail to be heard. Luke 11:10 "For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." That is the promise put positively. In Isaiah 45:19 we have the promise put negatively. God's people cannot fail to find God.
Let us then examine this negative promise. It is not possible that prayer can fail. Suppose the contrary. Suppose that some prayers go unheard. But in the Bible, God urges us to pray, exhorts us to prayer, in verse after verse. If God encourages us to prayer and then does not answer our prayers, then God is cruel and even malicious.
Suppose the governor of state of South Carolina went to the cell of a condemned prisoner and encouraged the prisoner to ask for a reprieve and to send petitions to his office and yet all the time the governor never intended to reprieve that prisoner and had already signed his death warrant? You would say the governor was unnecessarily cruel. Can you suppose God is like that? Can you suppose that God can tell us, even command us, to seek his face, and yet secretly never intend to turn his face toward us? Of course not.
Take another example: Suppose a person came by the church looking for help and I said to her, “Be here at eight o'clock tomorrow morning, and I will supply all your wants." So the person keeps the appointment. At eight o'clock the next morning she knocks and knocks, and I am around somewhere but I don’t answer. What would you think of me? You would say that is no way to act, If I made a promise to help, I should at least talk to her and see what can be done.
Of course, I am a very fallible human being, but apply that example to God. God has made us a promise to hear us. All-mighty, all-knowing, infallible God will not fail to keep that promise.
If prayer could be offered, if God could be earnestly sought, and no answer found and no mercy found, then the person who prays would be worse off than the person who does not pray. The person who prays thirsts for God, but if God will not give him living water to drink, that thirsty soul is more wretched than one who never thirsted at all. To seek God is to have a great spiritual yearning. The seeker's heart is an aching void that the world can never fill, but he that never prays has no longing for God and no desire for eternal things. If then a person longs for God and yet never finds God, he is worse off than that person who never had that longing and never cared about God at all.
That is the way it would be if God paid no attention to his people, but scripture teaches us just the opposite. The Bible teaches that no one can earnestly seek the face of God and fail to find him. Just to cite one example, Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The Bible is filled from end to end with promise notes on prayer. What we should do is cash in some of those notes. We ought to pray.
Some folks argue about whether other animals have souls. Do dogs have souls? Cats? Kangaroos? I do not know. I have sometimes thought that some dogs show more compassion and love that some human beings; however that may be, if a buffalo could groan after heaven, if a bear could pray for eternal life, God would not deny that groaning and that prayer.
Unfortunately, ungodly people are worse than animals. They have no longing after God's favor and no desire for salvation in Christ. They want the things of this world and nothing more, and that is what they have and nothing more.
But the godly person is not so. The godly soul hungers and thirsts after the presence of God. God will not deny that hunger and that thirst. Scripture teaches that God is love. A God who is love will not make a mockery of grace by only pretending to hear our prayers.
If a woman were dying at the door of a hospital emergency room, we would expect the hospital to treat her even if she did not have a cent. God will do no less. The whole human race is dying of sin at the door of God's grace. The gospel tells us that God will not shut the door of his emergency room against us.
This shows us then how we can tell a true God from a false God. According to Scripture, a false God has ears but hears not and hands but helps not and feet but comes not, but a true God hears and helps and comes.
In the great trial between Elijah and the priests of Baal, this is how Elijah said we are to distinguish between God and Baal. God lives and acts; Baal is dead stone. The priests of Baal cried out to their God. They cut themselves with knives. From morning to evening, their cries went up to heaven. Elijah sarcastically challenged them to cry louder saying, "Perhaps your God is on a journey or perhaps he is asleep, and you need to shout just a little louder to get his attention," but all their crying and bloodletting did them no good because Baal was not God. Then Elijah lifted up his hands to heaven and prayed, and the fire of God fell upon the altar and consumed it. The point of that spectacular confrontation was to demonstrate the difference between real and false Gods. A real God, by definition, is a God who answers prayer.
In the NT, the death of Jesus on the cross is another demonstration of God's willingness to answer prayer. God's only begotten Son paved our way to the heavenly throne with his blood. When the Lord Jesus spoke his last words, “it is finished,” that opened the doors of heaven to us. If it were not so, Jesus died in vain. Jesus is lord and savior, the mediator between God and man, but he is none of this if it were possible to seek God through Christ and not find him, but that is not possible. If you seek God through Christ, you will find him.
Let us carry the argument a little further. If God does not hear prayer, then we have no gospel to preach. The gospel is that we can turn from our sins and seek the Lord, but if we can turn and seek but not find, then we have a false gospel. If prayer can be offered in the name of Jesus and not be accepted, then our faith is in vain, but that is not going to happen. This is your promise, you cannot pray in the name of Jesus and pray in vain.
What would the devil say if a soul could seek the Lord and be refused? Hell would ring with laughter. "Here is a soul," the demons would laugh, "that prayed and yet perished." They would drag such a soul through the streets of hell. They would crowd the sidewalks to see it. They would laugh and jeer. But that parade will never happen. Not a single soul that has ever sought the Lord has been refused.
I once heard a story about an old grandmother who was depressed about dying. As she lay on her deathbed, one of her grandchildren came in and asked, "Grandma, what are you doing?"
She said, "I guess I am getting ready to leave this world."
"Where are you going?" asked the child.
The grandmother felt very low so she said, "I guess I will just go on to hell."
"What are you going to do in hell, Grandma?" asked the child
"Oh, I don't know " said the grandmother, "whatever they do there, I guess."
"But you pray a lot, grandma," said the child. "Don't you think that you will have to give up praying in hell."
Now the grandmother, no matter how low she felt, was not ready for that. She replied, "I expect I won't."
"Oh, grandma," said the child very seriously. "I do not think that they allow that down there. In fact, I don't think that you can even get into hell, if you pray."
Wisdom from a child. You cannot get into hell if you pray.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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