My text for today comes from Isaiah 45:22 through which the Lord God, creator of heaven and earth says: “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”
I want us to see at least four important elements in this short verse. First, What God tells us to do. Next, Why He tells us to do it. Third, To whom is this text addressed. And finally, the reason He can assure those who do as He tells us.
First, ‘Turn to Me.” The Hebrew verb here has the idea of looking with expectation at someone – at God, in this context. It’s a similar idea to what we find in Acts 3:3-5 when Peter and John met the lame man at the temple gate. St Luke records it for us this way: When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
God says, ‘Turn to Me.’ Although the verb here is in the imperative – as in a ‘command’ – I think the TONE of the message is more of a plea: “Look at Me. Look to Me. Why? Because only He can meet the most desperate need of our heart, soul, mind, and spirit. There is no one else who can do so.’
St Augustine was absolutely correct when he confessed to God: “For you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Are you restless in your spirit to know God better? If you are NOT restless to know Him better – then you might be well advised to check yourself. In his epistle to the church at Philippi, St Paul wrote: (Philippians 3:10) “[T]hat I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”
The interesting thing about that text is that he wrote it AFTER he wrote the book of Romans – considered by many commentators as the most comprehensive and systematic treatise on Christian faith ever written.
In fact, Paul wrote those words to the Philippians after he also wrote his two letters to the church at Corinth, and his letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians – all infinitely valuable to the Christian faith.
And here is the point: If the great apostle Paul – even after he’d written Romans and the rest I mentioned – if Paul recognized he STILL needed to know his Savior, then what should I think about my own relationship with Jesus? And what should you think about yours?
Do we think we know Jesus as well as we can or should know Him? Are we satisfied that our knowledge of Scripture and of orthodox Biblical doctrine is at its apex? That there is not more room for growth in Christ and in faith?
Are we RESTLESS to know God? If not, why not? That really is an important question that we ALL should think long and hard about.
“Turn to Me.”
Listen to what Jesus said to all those who were following Him – believer and non-believer: (Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
And listen to what God said through the psalmist: (Psalm 32:8-9) “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.”
“Turn to Me,” God tells us. “Look with expectancy.” “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Don’t we know – at least, we OUGHT to know – that not only did He create us, but that He also, in great love for us, placed that so-called God-shaped void in our heart so that we would seek to fill that void?
That’s why today’s text reminds me of the Lord’s appeal later in Isaiah: (Isaiah 55:1-3a) “Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live.”
Turn to me. Christian – and even if you are NOT a Christian – don’t you hear His voice in your conscience when you’re going the wrong way? Of course, you do – unless you have so hardened your heart that you no longer hear His voice. That happens, you know. Here is 1 Timothy 4: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.”
But those who want to know truth AND to obey truth – don’t you hear the Holy Spirit’s voice in your heart when you’re turning to the right or the left? Here again is Isaiah 30:21 “Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”
Why does the Lord so often tell us to turn to Him? Why does He so often tell us, “This is the way, walk in it”? You know why. Because He absolutely, passionately, sacrificially loves you, loves you, loves you. And because He wants to save you.
Turn to Me and be saved. That is the SECOND point of this message – “Be saved.” But saved from what? You know the answer to that question also. Saved from eternal separation from Him. Eternal. Forever. Our God does not want that. He NEVER, as early as before the Garden – He never wanted that. But His Justice for our willful rebellion against His commandments cannot turn a blind eye to our sins. His Justice demands our judgment. BUT – His mercy provides the means for Justice toward us to be fulfilled when Jesus became our Sin and then received the full wrath of the Father for our sin.
Many of you know the prophecy: (Isaiah 53:5a-6) “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities . . . All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
And so, for all those who are now ‘in’ Christ by their OBEDIENT faith, God's Justice AND His mercy has been met in Jesus who bore all our sins on that cross while we, on the other hand, are recipients of God's mercy extended to all who receive His mercy by faith.
That is why the Christian – and ONLY the Christian – is saved not only eternal separation in eternal agony, but also from the earthly ravages of sin. We’ve all lived long enough to know what persistent disobedience to God's laws does to a person, how it cripples the conscience, infects the spirit, blinds the mind, hardens the heart. You’ve read the Scriptures long enough to know what it says. For example:
(1 Corinthians 6) “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
I hope you caught that last verse – “Such were some of YOU Corinthians. But you are washed, and sanctified, and justified (declared by God to be without guilt) when you were brought into Christ through confession, repentance, and turning away from sin.
“Turn to Me,” God said. You may remember what Peter said to the religious crowd outside the Temple on the Day of Pentecost. They’d asked what they should do to be saved. Peter responded (Acts 2:38-40): “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit . . “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
“Turn to Me” and be saved from this perverse generation – this generation under whose tongues are the poison of asps; This perverse generation who corrupts the holy Scriptures, making God's word say what their perverted minds wish that it said. And be saved from this perverse 21st century generation who fulfill the prophecy spoken two thousand years ago when they seek “for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (1 Timothy 4).
So, how do we turn to him? I think the first step is to be honest with ourselves AND with Him that in our human nature we simply don’t WANT to turn to Him. As St John wrote in his first epistle: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
And St Paul to the Christians at Ephesus: (Ephesians 2:1-5) “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
And the second step to turning to Christ is to recognize we are not really ABLE to do so without God's supernatural drawing of ourselves to Himself.
Here is Jesus in John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” And here is what St Paul tells us about such faith: 1 Corinthians 12:4-5, 8-9) “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord . . . 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit . . .” and so forth.
And the gifts of faith AND the maturing of faith originates in the supernatural and which only the Holy Spirit can do in us. Only He can give us a hunger to know God better. Only he can give us a hunger to seek Christ, and only he can help us to know Christ.
All this time I’ve been quoting Isaiah 45 in which GOD said “Turn” to Him and be saved. But it is of great importance to Biblical faith– AND it SHOULD be of great importance to those trapped in non-Biblical faiths such as Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus also said – repeatedly – that we must turn to HIM and be saved.
So, which is it? Turn to Jehovah God as He said through the prophet Isaiah, or turn to Jesus and be saved, as Jesus said, for example, in John 8:23-24 -“You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am He, you will die in your sins.”
You will notice in your Bibles that the word ‘He’ is in italics. That means the word is NOT in the original text, but was added by the translators. Now listen to John 8:58 - Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am.” In both cases, Jesus referred His listeners to Exodus 3:15 wherein Jehovah God told Moses His Name is “I Am that I Am.”
Do we wonder why the Jewish clergy took up stones to execute Jesus. They knew precisely what He was claiming for Himself. They knew Jesus was saying unambiguously, He was God – the same God of Isaiah who said to all who would listen: “Turn to ME and be saved.”
And now, let me briefly address the last two points of this message. Point number three: Notice the last clause of our text: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.”
No one is exempted, Jew or Gentile, chief of sinners or just your average sinner. Turn to Him and be saved – everyone. Anyone.
To say, as some like to say, that God elects before all time whom He will save and whom He will not save – as John Calvin tragically taught – is simply wrong. Deadly and terribly wrong. If such a false theology were correct, then this text in Isaiah about ‘all the ends of the earth’ makes no sense. If Calvin was correct, then what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 – “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” makes no sense. If Calvin was correct, then what Jesus said in John 7:37 makes no sense: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”
Listen – Christian and non-Christian, and perhaps especially those who tragically and erroneously THINK they ARE Christians – Listen to the text: “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
I need this message as much as every one of you in this sanctuary needs this message: Turn to Christ. Day after day after day of sinning in thought, in word, in action and in inaction – turn to Him. Look expectantly at Him for forgiveness, for mercy, for hope, and for help.
What God pleads with Israel through the prophet Hosea, He also pleads with you and me, with our families, neighbors, our friends and our enemies:
Hosea 14:1-3 “Return . . . to the Lord your God, for your sin has been your downfall! 2 Return to the Lord and repent! Say to him: “Completely forgive our iniquity; accept our penitential prayer.”
Let me close this message now in this way: Almighty God, our Creator says this: “Turn to Me and be saved.” To whom is that message sent? God tells us the answer in the same verse. It is sent to “all the ends of the earth.”
How, then, can we be sure of that promise? We now look for only a moment at the fourth point: We can be sure of His promises because He tells us at the end of that simple verse: “I am God. There is no other.”
“All the ends of the earth” means you and me – Jew and non-Jew. Christian or not. It is to all who have no interest in Christ, and it is to those who remain inquisitive. The invitation is to those who think they are saved but know in their heart of hearts that they are not. It is to the chief of sinners and to those who are just your so-called average sinners.
God makes His appeal again and again in the pages of Scripture. He continues to make His appeal through the words of pastors and laity alike. And because He is God – because there is no one like Him in all Creation – because He is God, you and I can trust Him to be faithful and truthful to His promises.
The God who created all things visible and invisible, the one to whom there is no equal, the one who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God in three Persons – He is the one who will never fail any who turn to Him to be saved – even to all the ends of the earth.
Have you turned to Him? If you have not, now is a good time. And if you have – keep turning to Him, now, today, and until your last breath.