Theme: Repent or Perish
Readings: Isaiah 55:1-9 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9
Ps 63: 1-8
give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Repent, or perish,” said Jesus in our gospel reading. Isaiah spells out
what that means, speaking not just to the people of Israel, but to all
of us. The heart of his message is in verses 9-11, where we all are
invited to turn from our own ways of acting and thinking and to seek to
live the way God wants. The result will be forgiveness and acceptance;
what happens if we do not receive these things is not spelt out in this
passage, but Isaiah is clear that there is an urgent need to act.
The chapter begins with an invitation to all to come, and to receive all
they need and more – water, food, luxuries (wine, milk, the richest of
fare). More than physical needs are being addressed here: this is an
invitation to life in all its fulness in the presence of God. The
previous chapter contained a description of the new age God promises; it
is this new age that we are being invited to become part of.
God offers to enter into an everlasting covenant with us, joining us to
him for ever. David is referred to; his reign was the beginning of a
golden age for Israel, and we are encouraged to look forward to a time
when that foretaste would be fulfilled in everlasting peace and
prosperity under the rule of God’s anointed king (the ‘Messiah’).
The key to receiving this is to ‘come’ to God, to ‘listen’ to him, to
‘seek’ him and to ‘call’ on him. The day of opportunity will not last
for ever – so act while he is near! And the action required is not only
worship and prayer; they are to repent, to turn from their wrong ways of
behaving and to turn to God and adopt the ways he requires. Without
repentance there can be no forgiveness from God. Forgiveness deals with
sin; the pardon is free for the sinner, but not for God – Isaiah 53 told
us how the ‘suffering servant’ would take our sins upon himself. But
God’s purpose is to restore our relationship with him. Forgiveness is an
essential element in that, and so is repentance, for if we do not turn
to God there can be no relationship with him and no point in his
forgiveness. (It is not the same for us: there is a point in our
forgiving people who sin against us and don’t repent, for when we
forgive we release ourselves from the bitterness that binds us
unhealthily to them.)
One important factor in turning to God is the realisation that God is
far above us in his ‘thoughts’ and ‘ways’. On the moral level, we all
fall short of God’s perfect standards, and his thoughts and ways are not
tainted with the wrong that ours are. But there is more to it than that.
God’s knowledge and power and wisdom are far beyond our comprehension,
and we do not understand what he is doing or planning. The big questions
of life about suffering and evil, the big questions of our own lives
when we ask ‘Why?’ but get no answer, are questions to us simply because
our understanding is so limited. They are not problems for God. We have
to turn to him in faith, without having all the answers. That is the
only way to Life.
1) How do we come to God, listen to him, seek him and call on him?
2) How can our thoughts and ways become more what they ought to be?