Over the first few studies in this series of studies, we have taken a look at faith in what I hope has been in great detail for you. Something I stated in the first study of this season that is going to be significant in this week’s study is that faith is what we choose to genuinely believe in. In this past Sunday’s sermon – He Is the Lord, Our God – I stated that faith is not dictated.
God has not demanded for anybody to believe, trust, and follow Him. No, the Lord has invited us to come and be a part of His heavenly kingdom. So, in this week’s study I want to take a look at the great invitation from the Lord: what it is about and who the invite has been sent to.
The Great Invitation
The Great Invitation can be found in both Old Testament and New Testament scripture. There are two perceptions of the Lord that we are about to immediately correct in this study. The first perception we will correct: “The God” of the Old Testament is different from “the God” of the New Testament. The second perception we will correct: God has only chosen one group of people to be His.
God’s desires for mankind
The Lord has always intended for all people to be with Him and not just one nation of people.
Our first stop in scripture will be in Genesis 1-3. In the opening book of the Bible, we see where the Lord created all that is known and unknown for “six days”. The six days of creation, we should know and understand, were not 24-hour days as we know them. Science, whether you believe in it or not, paints a very clear picture that the creation of this universe took billions upon billions of years. The six days, as they are counted in scripture, cover the different phases of the creation.
Now, either before the creation or after, somewhere along the way, the heavenly beings were created by God. Personally, I believe the book of Job establishes that the heavenly beings were created before this physical universe. In Job 38:4-7, the Lord asked Job where he was when He (God) laid the foundations for earth. God asked, “Who determined its measurements … or who stretched the line upon it? … Who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars (heavenly beings) sang together, and all the sons of God (angels) shouted for joy?”
So, where am I going with all of this? Well, angels were created to serve the Lord, yet one of the angels chose to do things his way as he believed his way was better than the Lord’s way. We know this angel as Satan and Satan, scripture shows us, fought against God’s army of angels which were led by Michael. Satan and his army was defeated and was cast down to earth according to Revelation 12:7-9. So, by this point in time, the creation was well underway and most likely had been completed.
Satan’s defiance and rebellion against the Lord is very significant as to why God needed to send out an invitation to mankind. Let’s take a look at what I mean by this.
When God created mankind, He created mankind in His image and according to His likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). The Lord desired that mankind be fruitful and multiplied and when God saw everything that He had made, He said it was very good (Gen. 1:28-31).
So, at one point in time, man was a beauty to behold in the Lord’s eyes; man was glorious and was living without sin. God gave to Adam instructions to follow so that he could remain full of beauty and glory in His eyes (Gen. 2:15-17). Walking in such beauty was pleasing to the Lord as He would choose to dwell with man and move to make man happy.
The fall of mankind
Yet, we know it was after this point that Satan entered into the garden, after having fallen from heaven, with the intent of corrupting mankind. Have you ever wondered why Satan wanted, and still wants, to corrupt mankind? I did a series of studies last year on Satan that you should check out for more details, but I will briefly answer these questions in this study.
Ezekiel 28:11-19, gives us insight into Satan’s mindset that stood against the Lord and caused him to rebel. “By the abundance of your trading (commerce) you became filled with violence within, and you sinned,” is what the Lord said about Satan’s mindset. The Lord continued about Satan’s mindset and said, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor … You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading.”
Satan thought very highly of himself to the point that he believed he knew better than the Lord. Isaiah 14:12-21 goes into more detail about Satan’s fall from grace. In this passage of scripture, the Lord said of Satan, “You have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
Something had triggered Satan into thinking that he knew better than the one that created him. What was that something? Well, the Lord said that it was his trading – his commerce – that corrupted the devil. Satan’s “commerce” – his role – was to be carrying out God’s will. God’s will, we know, was towards mankind as He desired to dwell with man, even after man’s fall in the garden. Yes, mankind had become sinful but there was going to be a way for man to regain the glory it had lost.
As shown in Ezekiel, Satan grew to despise the Lord’s will and he chose violence. Why was he so upset? Let’s think about it. Satan had rebelled against the Lord and was thrown out of heaven with no chance of return. So, Satan moved with evil intent towards the Lord because he would not be forgiven of his sin.
The devil moved so wickedly against the Lord that he then chose to wage war on the Lord through God’s creation – mankind – as shown in Genesis 3:1-7. Satan made an attack on mankind in the garden with the plan to kill God’s creation. Ever since his attack in the garden, creation has slowly been decaying over time due to the penalty of sin.
Yet, because of Satan’s attack in the garden, God made a promise to mankind that man would not die; the Lord made a promise of Satan’s demise and mankind’s true birth, a spiritual rebirth that would lead to glory. To Satan, the Lord said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:15).”
Let us note: this was the first promise of Christ, God’s only begotten Son, in scripture. This promise of Christ, before there was a such thing as “God’s chosen people”, shows us that God always desired to be with all of mankind from the very beginning. In the book of Genesis, we already see the invite through Christ that would be sent out to all of mankind.
God’s covenant to man
Christ, while living in the world, would invite people to come to Him. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).” Those that are heavy laden, we should understand, have been weighed down by sin; the sin that entered the world because of Satan’s hatred against God and God’s creation.
Let us note: this is the great invitation coming directly from Christ to all who would choose to come to Him. So, anybody can come to Christ and Christ is ready to give them rest. This, again, we know from all of our studies on the Great Commission where Jesus tasked believers to go unto all nations and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20).
To put more emphasis on the idea that the Lord has always desired to dwell with mankind, we can take a look at the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant was a promise that the Lord made with Abraham and reaffirmed with him, his son, and grandson on a few occasions.
In Genesis 12:1-3, we will see the Abrahamic covenant:
Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV
2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So, the Lord commanded for Abraham to leave his home country and go to a land that God would show him. This land was the land of Canaan, the Promised Land that the children of Israel later returned to after dwelling in bondage in Egypt.
In this promise to Abraham, the Lord promised to make Abraham a great nation which was born through his grandson (Gen. 32:22-32), Jacob (Israel), who had twelve sons (Gen. 30:1-24). Now, the part of the covenant that is most significant to this week’s study is where the Lord plainly says to Abraham, “in you all the families on the earth shall be blessed.” I put emphasis on the fact that all the families on the earth would be blessed – this means every single nation of people and not just one nation of people.
There are several people who lock in on there being one nation of people that is God’s chosen people. Yes, Israel was certainly chosen by the Lord, but the one thing we must understand is that they were chosen to receive God’s law. Had the children of Israel lived by the law, they would have been the example for the rest of the world to follow in order to be righteous.
Let us note: the Lord, when He desired to give the children of Israel His law, He desired that the children of Israel be to Him a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:5-6).” Priests serve the Lord through their serving others in the temple. So, Israel was chosen to receive God’s law in order to become holy and to then serve other nations. Why? Because the Lord had also chosen the world – the rest of mankind – to also be holy so that He could dwell with mankind as He had always desired.
To show you how badly the Lord desires to dwell with all of mankind, let us also make this note: there are two covenants that the Lord has made with all of mankind when it comes to His desire to dwell with mankind. The first covenant was made with Abraham and was fulfilled through Abraham’s faith as we have seen in a recent study (Gen. 22:15-18).
Again, the Lord said in confirmation of Abraham’s faith, “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” The second covenant was made through Christ where the Lord said that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Whosoever: whoever; anybody. So, I want you to understand that the great invitation has been sent out not to just one group of people but to all people through Christ.
Invitation to Abundant Life
So, as we saw Christ say, those who come unto Him will find rest. In Isaiah 55, Old Testament scripture, we find details about the great invitation that Jesus would later off to all of those that are heavy laden and choose Him. I want to take a moment to go over Isaiah 55 to close out this week’s study.
An invitation to all confirmed
This is the opening verse of the great invitation to abundant life as prophesied by Isaiah in Old Testament days. You will notice right away, even though this is in the Old Testament, the Lord is inviting “everyone who thirsts”. The thirst being spoken of here is not a physical thirst that can be quenched by something that we would have to physically drink.
Therefore, the thirst that is being spoken of here is spiritual and a spiritual thirst can only be quenched by the Lord. The Lord says that you don’t have to come to Him with money to buy, eat, and drink; His providence to quench our spiritual hunger and thirst comes without a price — it is free. All that one would need is the faith to choose to come to the Lord.
Jesus would essentially say the very same thing to the Jews, when He said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37).” Jesus had even said to the Jews that He was the “bread of life.” Those who go to Him, Jesus said, shall “never hunger”, and he who believes in Him shall “never thirst” (John 6:53).
Back in Isaiah 55, we will see the Lord said, “Incline your ear, and come to Me.”
3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David.Isaiah 55:3 NKJV
Do you see how both recorded verses from John’s gospel of what Christ said is the same to the opening of the invite here in Isaiah 55. This, again, shows us that God’s great invitation has always been the same, regardless of time periods. Those that choose to have their thirst quenched by Christ, choose to believe in Him, Jesus said, “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38).” In other words, life pours out of the heart of the believer abundantly.
Accept while the invite is open
I also want to point out how this, again, shows us that the Lord has not dictated or demanded that anybody follow Him. To go back to what I said in the first study of this series, God does not demand religion. No, the Lord desires for true faith in Him and He gives mankind the freedom to choose to have faith in Him.
This is a thought that we will see expressed to us in the prophecy of Isaiah, where the Lord said:
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.Isaiah 55:6 NKJV
I feel like something that I must share with you about this great invitation from the Lord is that there is a clock ticking on being able to “RSVP” – to reply yes or no. The words “while He may be found” and “while He is near” should stand out to anybody going over this particular verse. In essence, this invitation is only available while the Lord may be found and is near to hear you accept His invite.
Now, there is a question here that should be running through your head right now about these two statements. You should be asking: When will God not be able to be found? When is the Lord not going to be near to hear? Is the Lord going to leave this world – His creation?
In the book of Hebrews, the writer encourages people to draw near to the Lord with a true heart having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19-22). The “Holiest” is in reference to the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies that was behind the veil in the tabernacle during the wilderness days for the children of Israel, and in the temple years, had its own special place. The Holiest place today is where the Lord is and we know that God is in His holy temple in heaven.
Scripture tells us that the Lord is on His throne and He is overlooking His creation (Is. 66:1; Acts 7:44-50). When he was being stoned to death, Stephen said he looked up and he could see Christ standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). So the Lord is certainly near to all of those who are of faith and are open to faith in Him. You and I could have been the biggest of sinners but the Lord was near to hear our cries, as a sinner, and forgive us of our sins.
However, the day will come where the Lord is going to cast away this wicked and sinful creation and bright forth a new heaven and a new earth. In the book of the Revelation according to Christ, John said he saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away (Rev. 21:1). The Lord, in that passage of scripture, is seen saying, “Behold, I make all things new (Rev. 21:5).”
Let us note: When the Lord casts away this wicked and sinful creation, those who are of sin will also be cast out of God’s presence for all of eternity (Rev. 20:11-15). So, it is not that the Lord is going to leave this world, He’s going to throw this world away for a new and perfect world that has no sin.
God will still be near to all of those that accepted the invitation to be a part of the new and perfect world. However, those that chose not to accept the invitation while they were in the world, will be cast away from God; they will not be near to Him and so their cries will not be heard nor will they be able to find Him.
Repent in true faith
So, let’s close out this study on the note of how the great invitation is another call to repent from the Lord. God is essentially saying in this invitation that one should repent – turn to God – and find mercy while they still can. The reason being is that one day, the Lord will not care whether you repent or not; one day He will not care if you’re trying to seek His forgiveness.
Again, in Isaiah 55, this is plainly shown to us in the great invite to abundant life:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord,Isaiah 55:7 NKJV
And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Let us note: The call to repent can be said no plainer than this; it is a call for the wicked (the sinner) to forsake their way, their thoughts, and return to the Lord. God, I want to reiterate one last time in this series, is not dictating or making someone do this. Yes, God could snap His finger and make this happen but He is not going to do that. Faith is not dictated; faith is what we freely choose to accept and believe in our hearts. The Lord desires that all of us freely choose to accept His invitation of repentance and part in His heavenly kingdom.