Home » Walking with Christ to the Cross, Week 3

Walking with Christ to the Cross, Week 3

The season of Lent invites us to return to God with our whole heart. It’s a theme that runs throughout Scripture and God’s relationship with his people. Throughout this Bible study, which you can read on your own or in a group setting, you’ll find links to Bible Gateway with notes that open automatically on your screen to the right of the Bible text in the Study sidebar.

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Seek the Lord

The invitation at the heart of Lent is to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, and to call on him for mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. It’s a time to reckon with the areas of our lives in which we feel defeated, have grown cold to God, or feel stuck in self-defeating or sinful patterns. And yet it’s also a time of great hope, because greater than any human failure is God’s lavish grace and faithful love. Even as we humbly reckon with our sin, we boldly expect to be forgiven and changed.

1. For a beautiful depiction of God’s invitation to repentance and new life, read Isaiah 55:1–9 (NIV).

  • In this passage, the prophet promises hope, blessing, and restoration to God’s people who are living in Babylonian exile. Here is how the Encyclopedia of the Bible describes some of the conditions of their captivity:
    They could own their homes and land, and enjoy the produce of their gardens (Jer 29:4-7; Ezek 8:1; 12:1-7). This would enable them to provide for some of their physical needs. . . . Jeremiah 29:5-7 indicates that the Israelites were able to accumulate wealth. Many were so successful financially that . . . when the exiles were given permission by Cyrus to return home, they refused because according to Josephus, “they were not willing to leave their possessions” (Jos. Antiq. XI.i. 3).
  • Given these conditions, why might Isaiah choose to appeal first to the exiles’ thirst, hunger, and dissatisfaction (vv. 1–2)? What might his appeal suggest about their spiritual condition?
  • In verses 3–5, Isaiah reminds the exiles of God’s “everlasting covenant” and “faithful love,” references that point to the promised Davidic Messiah (see the corresponding note for Isaiah 55:1–5 in Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): Old Testament). How does Isaiah’s emphasis on God’s promises—of an everlasting covenant, international prestige, and national splendor—contrast with the exiles’ present circumstances? For what have they exchanged God’s promises?
  • In verses 6–7, Isaiah’s call for repentance becomes increasingly direct and urgent.

    The call of verses 1-3 is echoed here but with a stronger moral emphasis. Earlier the folly of self-willed waywardness was stressed, while here it is its wickedness. . . . There is urgency in this call, for the time is not unlimited. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): Old Testament, “Isaiah 55:6–7”)
    What connections might there be between the Israelites’ “self-willed waywardness” and their “wickedness”? How might each condition lead to and magnify the other?

    Isaiah stresses the urgency of seeking the Lord, and specifies the need to forsake both “ways” and “thoughts” (v. 7). What is at stake if the exiles ignore any one of Isaiah’s pleas—to respond swiftly, to change their thinking, or to change their behavior? Why are all three necessary?

2. The invitation to repentance and new life was a constant theme in Jesus’ earthly ministry. In this passage from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus urgently calls his listeners to repentance, and yet also tells a parable that affirms God’s grace and forbearance.

  • What rationalizations were Jesus’ listeners using to assess their lives and spiritual condition?
  • What would change if they were to instead assess their lives and spiritual condition on the certainty of their mortality and subsequent judgment?
  • Read Luke 3:7–14 (NIV) to see parallels between Jesus’ parable of the fig tree and the teaching of John the Baptist. John calls his listeners to, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8), and then goes on to list examples of such fruit in verses 10–14. Based on his examples, how would you define “fruit in keeping with repentance”?

Questions for Reflection

  • The Israelites in Babylonian exile had become so accustomed to their captivity that they were no longer aware of their spiritual thirst, hunger, and dissatisfaction. In what ways, if any, might the circumstances of your life as it is now have dulled you to your desire for God?
  • What “self-willed waywardness” or “wickedness” are you aware of in your own life? In what ways, if any, have you become accustomed to it, tried to minimize it, or put off addressing it?
  • Overall, which do you find it harder to forsake—sinful patterns of thought or sinful patterns of behavior? Why?
  • What rationalizations are you prone to use to assess or justify your life and spiritual condition? What changes when you consider your life and spiritual condition instead in light of the urgency of the biblical call to repentance? Similarly, what changes when you focus on the magnitude of God’s love and mercy rather than your own guilt, sins, and failures?
  • Isaiah stressed the deep satisfaction of God’s blessings as well as God’s faithful love, nearness, mercy, and pardon. Which of these do you need most as you turn to God and seek him in this Lenten season?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

Psalm 63:1-8 in the New King James Version paired with the New Living Translation.

For Additional Study

Check in next week for Week 4 of Walking with Christ to the Cross: Waiting and Persevering for God’s Promise.

If you missed previous weeks, they can be found on our Walking with Christ page here.

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