Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 2

hands of jail holding prison bars

It would do every Christian well to memorize Ephesians 3:20 because it says a mouthful –

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us… (Ephesians 3:20. KJV)

What that verse tells us is powerful: Whatever we need, God is able to provide it in abundance. In fact, He can provide more than we can possibly imagine. No child of God ever needs to live with any lack in his life.

Previously, we looked at Romans 5:20 with the truth of Ephesians 3:20 in mind –

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound… (Romans 5:20. KJV)

Sin may “abound” all around you, but God’s grace is more plentiful. The context of Romans 5 is peace, therefore, thanks to God’s abundant grace, we may be at peace with God and with the world around us because of the abundant peace God gives us. That means that God’s peace is without end. God has more peace than the world has strife. It doesn’t matter how much turmoil there may be in your life, God has more peace for you.

Now, let’s take a look at something else God gives in abundance: Pardon.

Let men cast off their wicked deeds; let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon! (Isaiah 55:7. TLB)

General context

In the book of Isaiah, Jesus Christ – the Messiah – is sometimes referred to as “the Suffering Servant” in the latter chapters. In chapter 53, the work of the Suffering Servant makes salvation possible.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to bruise him and fill him with grief. However, when his soul has been made an offering for sin, then he shall have a multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again, and God’s program shall prosper in his hands. And when he sees all that is accomplished by the anguish of his soul, he shall be satisfied; and because of what he has experienced, my righteous Servant shall make many to be counted righteous before God, for he shall bear all their sins. (Isaiah 53:10, 11. TLB)

That’s a general statement about the salvation provided by the work of Jesus on the Cross. In the next chapter, chapter 54, the invitation to appropriate this salvation is extended to Israel

O my afflicted people, tempest-tossed and troubled, I will rebuild you on a foundation of sapphires and make the walls of your houses from precious jewels. I will make your towers of sparkling agate and your gates and walls of shining gems. But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:11, 12, 17. TLB)

And here in chapter 55, this abundant salvation is offered to the whole world. That’s how God planned it, by the way. The Gospel went out first to Israel, and then to the world of the Gentiles. That’s what Paul meant when he wrote this to the Roman church –

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God’s powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way. (Romans 1:16. TLB)

The invitation of salvation is for all who hear it and respond in faith to it. God’s offer of salvation is the greatest offer ever extended to sinful man, but it’s not guaranteed. God offers it, but it must be accepted. Man’s sinful condition makes it impossible for him to seek out God. But, we read this is Isaiah 55:1 –

Say there! Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink-even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine and milk-it’s all free! (Isaiah 55:1. TLB)

Of course, we’re reading some poetic statements here. The thirst the prophet writes about is no ordinary thirst, and here’s the point. Sinful man may not be out there looking for Jesus Christ, but he may be looking for something else that draws his attention to God’s gracious offer. Jesus talked about this “thirst” in Matthew 5:6 –

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (KJV)

Man without God is not only lost, but he has a gaping, aching void that can only be filled with the Lord.

The call to salvation

As we see in Isaiah 55:1, God’s provision of salvation is absolutely free of charge. Nobody can buy salvation – not with good works or tears. Salvation is free. The words of President Benjamin Harrison’s favorite hymn come to mind:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked come to thee for dress,
Helpless look to thee for grace;
Foul I to the mountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I’ll die

The greatest gift to man is God’s free gift of salvation. It’s there for the taking. But not only is the gift of salvation free, it’s free for anybody! Isaiah’s wording is clear and precise: “Is anyone thirsty?” “Anyone” means just that. The words of John 3:16 echo this idea –

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (TLB)

Who could resist what the Lord offers? Apparently most. Sinful man is running around looking for what God is offering, but they’re looking in the wrong places.

Why spend your money on food that doesn’t give you strength? Why pay for groceries that do you no good? Listen and I’ll tell you where to get good food that fattens up the soul! (Isaiah 55:2. TLB)

Isn’t that exactly what people are doing today? Isaiah used symbolic language to describe man’s fruitless and futile search for what only God can provide. It’s a fool’s errand, looking for satisfaction outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ because you were created with that need; it’s part of who you are. The problem is, we try to meet that need with anything or anybody other that the Lord. You’ll always come up short. Hospitals, divorce courts, psychiatric wards, and prisons are full of people who searched for what only God can supply in abundance.

That reminds me of a song written by Ken Hirsch and Ron Miller. Most people are familiar with a version of the song from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that Charlene made famous. It’s a song about a woman who had lived a hard life, drifting in and out of romantic relationships looking for happiness and finding nothing but emptiness and regret in the end. What most people don’t know is that “I’ve Never Been to Me” was originally written from the male perspective, about a man on the same search. Among the lyrics, are these:

I’ve even been to marriage
Had children cryin’
for someone they couldn’t find
Never knowin’ that I was searchin’
For things I left behind

I thought my heart could wait
But I learned too late
Only love can make people free.

Regardless of which version you prefer (I prefer the male version by The Temptations), it’s a cheesy song but it captures the common experience of human beings all over the world. Just think about the years, the emotions, and the money we wasted looking for the very things that cost nothing because God gives them to us out of the abundance of His love, mercy, and grace.

George Adam Smith, writing about the Jews, could have easily written the same things about modern Christians:

Born to be priests, the Jews drew down their splendid powers of attention, pertinacity, and imagination, from God upon the world, till they equally appear to have been born traders.

Indeed. Selling our souls for what junk the world offers us, man has become a “trafficker in trivia,” not knowing the richness of God’s provision is there for those who “hear” the call.

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you, to give you all the unfailing mercies and love that I had for King David. (Isaiah 55:3. TLB)

Now, Isaiah has the final restoration of Israel in sight, but the call of salvation – the reality of God’s exceedingly abundant provision is for all people everywhere. Salvation is God’s gift to sinful man. It’s free, it’s full, it’s satisfying, and it lasts forever.

The time to repent

That’s the good news. The bad news is this: God won’t be offering this free gift of salvation for ever. It’s an offer that will eventually be withdrawn.

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call upon him now while he is near. Let men cast off their wicked deeds; let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon! (Isaiah 55:6, 7. TLB)

God’s time is always NOW. The best opportunity to take God up on His offer of salvation is NOW. Some Bible scholars think these two verses constitute the best advice in the entire Bible.  Smart thinks these two verses should be interpreted like this:

NOW is the moment of greatest opportunity. NOW God’s word is living and powerful and sounds into the minds of the community like a trumpet note. NOW God offers food and drink to the hungry and thirsty. He is near. He is ready to be found. Today he is waiting to forgive. But if his forgiving love is spurned, tomorrow there may be only his wrath that can be known, and this is what it so urgent that men should seek and call upon God and turn in repentance at once.

There will come a time when it won’t be so easy to find the Lord. This was something that weighed heavy on Paul’s heart –

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2. TNIV)

God is always available, but there are times when it’s easier to “find” Him. There is never an excuse for anybody to claim they could’t find the Lord.

for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. (Psalm 95:7 – 9 TNIV)

That’s right. A hard heart can blind a sinner to the presence of God. But for those who find Him and call on His name, He will “abundantly pardon.” The Hebrew is graphic: “He will multiply pardon.” That’s the promise, and that’s what every human being needs: pardon from sin. And because our God is never chintzy, there is more than enough pardon for every sinner. Nobody has an accumulation of sins so vast or so horrible that God cannot pardon. The one who comes to God in an attitude of genuine repentance will find pardon and full restoration.

That’s the beauty of exceeding abundantly above in regards to sins being pardoned.

 

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