“There’s always time for God later.” Have you ever said that? “Isn’t there?” But have you ever asked that? We assume we can get around to God later. When we have children. After we’ve advanced in our careers. After we retire. After we enjoy our retirement. But what if we never make it that far? Or if we forget about God. What if “later” never comes?
Sure – we’ll get around to God. Tomorrow. There’s plenty of time. Later. Life’s too short to look for God now. Before I die. As long as I’m alive, it’s not too late. But what if …
Did you know, the Bible actually says:
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
That’s just some church threat, right? Isn’t it?
Actually, no. It’s not.
It’s not even about people who say, “there’s always time for God later”. It was about people who already walked away from God. Instead of later, they were thinking never. Worse yet, it was for people who had known God, and then turned away. It’s from Isaiah, in the Old Testament.
Here’s a passage from a couple of chapters before the verse we just looked at. Something to describe how the people got to the point where The LORD delivered that message to them, by way of Isaiah.
The Cup of the LORD’S Wrath
Isa 51:17 Awake, awake!
Rise up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD
the cup of his wrath,
you who have drained to its dregs
the goblet that makes men stagger.
Isa 51:18 Of all the sons she bore
there was none to guide her;
of all the sons she reared
there was none to take her by the hand.
Isa 51:19 These double calamities have come upon you—
who can comfort you?—
ruin and destruction, famine and sword—
who can console you?
Yes, this is God’s chosen people from Old Testament times. People that knew The LORD. People that walked away from Him. Very possibly, starting off with people who thought they could return to God when they were ready. After they had fun. After they turned to other gods. After all, There’s always time for God later. Isn’t there?
But there wasn’t. They had walked so far away from God that they never found the time. And now God is threatening to walk away from them. For a time. Unless they returned to Him.
A bit later, in the middle of God’s warnings related to what was going to happen if the people didn’t turn back, we read this:
Isa 52:1 Awake, awake, O Zion,
clothe yourself with strength.
Put on your garments of splendor,
O Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
will not enter you again.
Isa 52:2 Shake off your dust;
rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
O captive Daughter of Zion.
So we know they have a chance to return to God.
Later, we also learn that all of the bad things that will come are only for a time. They won’t last.
Isa 54:10 Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isa 54:11 “O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will build you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with sapphires.
Isa 54:12 I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
Isa 54:13 All your sons will be taught by the LORD,
and great will be your children’s peace.
Isa 54:14 In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
Isa 54:15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
Isa 54:16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc;
Isa 54:17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the LORD.
Some – many(?) – will read this and conclude, There’s always time for God later. This proves it.
But wait. What about those who die during the times of trouble? There are attacks. Flames. Weapons. Therefore, there will also be destruction and death. Some of those who would say, There’s always time for God later – they won’t live long enough for later to come.
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Maybe this is an invitation to find God before He leaves you – for a time.
But maybe this is an invitation for you to find God before you leave Him. Maybe you leave Him by walking too far away. Or maybe you leave Him by dying – and not knowing Him, going to Hell.
Maybe. In reality – Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near is all of those things. It doesn’t matter why you and God are separated. The thing is – if it’s because of your death – it’s too late to do anything about it.
Here’s the context of Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Invitation to the Thirsty
Isa 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Isa 55:2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Isa 55:3 Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
Isa 55:4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.
Isa 55:5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Come, all you who are thirsty
Yes – the passage starts with Come, all you who are thirsty. And yes, it was from Isaiah to God’s chosen ones – the Israelites. At least, it was at that time. But as with the Old Testament in general, it was all about leading us to Jesus today. We see this, among other places, in John’s Gospel.
Jn 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Jesus’ words were for all. Everyone. Jewish or not. Compare them with Isaiah 55:1-5 and you’ll see the same promises. Promises made by the Father – and now repeated by the Son. From God – by God.
In Be Comforted, Warren Wiersbe writes this:
Invitation to the Gentiles
The Servant died not only for the sins of Israel (53:8), but also for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29; 1 John 4:14). Isaiah makes it clear throughout his book that the Gentiles are included in God’s plan. What Isaiah and the other prophets did not know was that believing Jews and Gentiles would one day be united in Jesus Christ in the church (Eph. 3:1–12).
For anyone who may be thinking this was only about the Jewish people, look at what John says in his Gospel regarding his first encounter with Jesus:
Jesus the Lamb of God
Jn 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Jn 1:32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
John writes that he was baptizing people because he thought Jesus would be revealed to Israel. But look what John actually said when he first saw Jesus – Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Not the sins of Israel – and only Israel. But the sins of the world.
Here’s what the Greek word that get’s translated as world actually meant:
2889 κόσμος [kosmos /kos·mos/] n m. Probably from the base of 2865; TDNT 3:868; TDNTA 459; GK 3180; 187 occurrences; AV translates as “world” 186 times, and “adorning” once. 1 an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government. 2 ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, ‘the heavenly hosts’, as the ornament of the heavens. 1 Pet. 3:3. 3 the world, the universe. 4 the circle of the earth, the earth. 5 the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race. 6 the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ. 7 world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly. 7A the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ. 8 any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort. 8A the Gentiles as contrasted to the Jews (Rom. 11:12 etc). 8A of believers only, John 1:29; 3:16; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47 1 Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
There’s nothing in the possible meanings of the word to indicate that it was only the sins of the Jewish people that Jesus would take away. Nothing. We see things like the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race. It gets more specific with #6 – the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ. But even here, there’s no specification of Jew versus Gentile. It’s still everyone alienated from God, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Even the final examples in #8, based on context, refer to Gentiles – not Jews. And so, John’s exclamation, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, inspired by God, refers to everyone.
A couple of notes here.
First – I say John’s exclamation was inspired by God because, of his own knowledge, John thought Jesus was there only for the Jewish people. But when John speaks, he says for everyone.
Second – as we see in definition #8a, there is a condition. While the offer to have our sins taken away is open to all, it is an offer that must be accepted in order to be in effect. Therefore, the contextual definition point to believers only.
God gives a threefold invitation to the Gentiles: come (Isa. 55:1–5), seek (vv. 6–13), and worship (56:1–8).
Come (Isa. 55:1–5). The invitation is extended to “everyone” and not just to the Jews. Anyone who is thirsting for that which really satisfies (John 4:10–14) is welcome to come. As in Isaiah 25:6, the prophet pictures God’s blessings in terms of a great feast, where God is the host.
It’s a three-fold invitation, but it’s not quite as “simple” as it may sound.
- Come – really means follow. You can get a sense for this in Are we supposed to Believe in God, Believe God or Follow God? Then, to see just how close we really should follow when we come towards Jesus, I invite you to also read The Great Omission from The Great Commission.
- Thirsting for that which satisfies – isn’t really about H2O water. While it may be tempting to think of this in terms of never being thirsty, as in being in a hot dry climate with nothing to drink, that’s not what this means. You can learn more about it in Wipe away every tear from their eyes: the greatest miracle?
- A great feast – but is it really? Both water and food are often used in a symbolic way in the Bible. For a look at food in the Bible, please see Will there be cheese in Heaven?
In the East, water is a precious ingredient; and an abundance of water is a special blessing (41:17; 44:3). Wine, milk, and bread were staples of their diet. The people were living on substitutes that did not nourish them. They needed “the real thing,” which only the Lord could give. In Scripture, both water and wine are pictures of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37–39; Eph. 5:18). Jesus is the “bread of life” (John 6:32–35), and His living Word is like milk (1 Peter 2:2). Our Lord probably had Isaiah 55:2 in mind when He said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27, NKJV).
The author went on to say things very much in line with the articles I pointed to. If you didn’t check them out yet, I invite you again to find out more.
People have to work hard to dig wells, care for flocks and herds, plant seed, and tend to the vineyards. But the Lord offered to them free everything they were laboring for. If they listen to His Word, they will be inclined to come; for God draws sinners to Himself through the Word (John 5:24). Note the emphasis on hearing in Isaiah 55:2–3.
Free. Yes, in a way. There is a price to pay, although not the kind of price like we see on an item in a store. For more on that thought, please see How can it cost me nothing but ask me for everything? and Count the cost.
“The sure mercies of David” involve God’s covenant with David (2 Sam. 7) in which He promised that a Descendant would reign on David’s throne forever. This, of course, is Jesus Christ (Luke 1:30–33); and the proof that He is God’s King is seen in His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:34–39). Jesus Christ is God’s covenant to the Gentiles (“peoples”), and His promises will stand as long as His Son lives, which is forever.
Jesus. The one who tells us to count the cost. Jesus – the bread of life. And Jesus – the living water. Jesus – the way to eternal life with God.
Isaiah 55:5 indicates that God will use Israel to call the Gentiles to salvation, which was certainly true in the early days of the church (Acts 10:1ff; 11:19ff; 13:1ff) and will be true during the kingdom (Isa. 2:2–4; 45:14; Zech. 8:22). Jerusalem will be the center for worship in the world, and God will be glorified as the nations meet together with Israel to honor the Lord.
Seek (Isa. 55:6–13). When God delivered His people from Babylon and took them safely back to their own land, it was a witness to the other nations. It also gave Israel another opportunity to be a light to the Gentiles (49:6) and bring them to faith in the true and living God. While it was important for Israel to seek the Lord and be wholly devoted to Him, it was also important that they share this invitation with the nations.
Obviously, the Jewish people did not succeed in being a light to the world. But then, neither have Christians. There is still so much to do in bringing the Gospel to everyone. The series, Grown-again Christian, is all about that concept.
What is involved in “seeking the Lord”? For one thing, it means admitting that we are sinners and that we have offended the holy God. It means repenting (55:7), changing one’s mind about sin, and turning away from sin and to the Lord. We must turn to God in faith and believe His promise that in mercy He will abundantly pardon. Repentance and faith go together: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
Faith and believing. It was probably always hard to have faith and to believe. But it seems like it’s harder than ever in the world we live in today. See Can I trust what I think I know? for more on that thought.
But no one should delay in doing this! The phrase “while He may be found” suggests that, if we do not take His invitation seriously, the invitation may cease while we are delaying. In the Parable of the Great Supper, God closed the door on those who spurned His invitation (Luke 14:16–24; see Prov. 1:20–33). “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (pp. 145–147). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Now is the time
Yes, now is the time. Paul put it quite nicely:
2Co 6:1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 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.
Once we have received God’s grace, do we not think enough of it to want to share what we have with others? Do we not care enough about other people, whom God created, to want to share it with them? In both cases – if we do care, we need to do something about it before the chance is gone.
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near
Yes, it sounds like the seeker is the one with the charge to find the Lord before it’s too late.
But what about The Great Commission? We – Christians – are also given the command to go out and find those seekers. To go out and make disciples – as well as teaching them.
It’s a three-way street. The Seeker. The Christian. And, of course, God.
Sure, God could do it without us. He could reach the hearts of people seeking Him without us. But that’s not the model Jesus left us with. Jesus wants us involved.
Conclusion. There’s always time for God later. Isn’t there?
So that question cuts both ways. “There’s always time for God later” – it’s not just about the person looking for God. It’s just as much about those of us who have found Him, and are charged with helping others find Him as well.
Before it’s too late. Too late for us. To late for someone who hasn’t found God yet.
Just in case it’s not quite clear yet –
There’s always time for God later. Isn’t there?
NO! There isn’t always time for God later.
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Now. Not later.