Looking for God in all the wrong places
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD” Isaiah 51:1
We sinners are always pursuing a righteousness that we think could come from the law–from the things we do. We want to find God through our own effort and achievement. This is what St. Paul calls “confidence in the flesh” in the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians. And “if anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh,” Paul says, “I have more.” As to righteousness that comes from the law, Paul says he’s got more than you do. However, he confesses, it’s all utterly worthless. That’s because, in the end, the law will never declare you righteous. It can't. It will always and only show you just how unrighteous you really are.
So through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord asks, in effect, “Why do you keep looking to yourself to produce righteousness through the law?” It’s like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip–it was never there in the first place. Instead of looking for God in all the wrong places, the Lord says, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn: Look to Abraham your father.” What made Abraham righteous? The Lord answers, “I called him.” It wasn’t anything that Abraham did that made him righteous, but it was the promise that God gave him, “that I will bless him and multiply him.” And ultimately, the promise that Abraham was given is the promise of Christ for the forgiveness of his sin. He heard this promise, “and [Abraham] believed the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). This is not a righteousness of your own that comes from the law, “but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
You won't find God in His mercy for you by seeking righteousness in the law. Instead, He makes you righteous by calling you; not according to the law, but according to His promise. And, we confess, He has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in true faith. He first did this when He baptized you, and He keeps you in faith by faithfully keeping His forgiveness of sins in your ear.
Our confidence is not in the flesh but in the promise of Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace to you,