Description / Transcription
Well, good morning Christ Covenant. It is great to be with you today. Let us turn our attention now to God’s Word and this morning we’re in the book of Isaiah, chapter 55. So if you have your Bibles, Isaiah 55, verses 1 through 3.
Now if you’ve been here in the mornings over the last period of time at Christ Covenant, you know we’ve been working our way through the book of Genesis, and that’s been a series that Kevin has been preaching through. He’s out this week and so today we’re going to be taking a look at this wonderful little text in Isaiah, one that I’m confident you know and have heard many times before. You may not know this, and that is that the book of Isaiah in the early church was regarded as the fifth Gospel. We have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and so dependent were the early Christians on the book of Isaiah, so central was its theme of grace and redemption and forgiveness, that it became known as the fifth Gospel after a while.
Our passage today, in verses 1 through 3 of chapter 55, will make that abundantly clear, as this passage as you well know is really a passage about grace. It’s a passage about the Good News of the way God pursues and redeems His people.
Let’s listen to this great invitation, chapter 55, verse 1:
““Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in the rich food.
Incline your ear and come to me;
Hear that your soul may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
My steadfast sure love for David. ””
Amen. Let’s pray and ask God to bless this reading of His Word this morning. Let’s pray.
Lord, we confess that this is an invitation we really need to hear today. We often struggle and doubt and wonder does God really want to be with us. Do You really want to be with us? Lord, today You’ve declared Yourself to be the God who beckons, pursues, and invites. May we heed that call today, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
So this past October I had an opportunity to go to New York City to teach a class for Reformed Theological Seminary. Some of you may not know that RTS actually has a class in Manhattan, right there in the middle of the city, and so I went up to teach a class a couple weekends last October. One of the weekends I thought, you know, it’d be good to take the family, so our whole family, Melissa and our three kids, all made it to Manhattan one weekend in October to be up there together. It was one evening, and it was a beautiful October evening, we decided, you know what, if we’re in New York, we need to go to Times Square. So that’s what we did. We weren’t far from it in our hotel, so we hiked a few blocks and eventually we turned the corner and there it was.
You’ve seen the shots on TV and the bright lights and the crowd and the center of the whole city, which is maybe the biggest city, sort of at least conceptually in the United States and in the world, and there you are in the heart of everything, and you could feel the excitement. You could feel the energy and the buzz. Packed with people on a beautiful fall night. As we walked into this crowd, it wasn’t long before we were approached by every vendor imaginable. There were people dressed up as heroes from the Marvel comics, wanting to see if we would get their picture with them. There was a person dressed up as Spiderman hanging from a light pole. There were people on the streets selling us watches and t-shirts and gadgets and all kinds of food and the world’s greatest pizza and the world’s greatest hot dogs and there’s this and there’s that.
Then, of course, there’s all the digital ads. You’ve been there in Times Square, at least you’ve seen it on TV, there’s bright lights everywhere. There’s ads for the latest Broadway show and a movie on the way out or the best running shoe you can buy or the best restaurant you can eat at.
And there we were. Standing in the middle of this marketplace, being bombarded from every angle with every invitation you can imagine.
Now that little moment I thought about later, it’s sort of a microcosm, isn’t it, of the world we live in. I mean, that’s what it’s like to live in our world today, is it not? That we live in a world where we’re always bombarded with invitations, promises, buy this, participate in that, be a part of what we’re inviting you to and if you take up the world’s invitation on all of these things and it makes amazing promises. You just eat this food, wear these clothes, be a part of this thing, then success and happiness is yours, and we spent half of our life just dealing with these messages coming our way.
As I thought about this passage this morning, I was reminded as we read it that this is also a scene in a marketplace. You may not realize it yet, but the whole context here is a scene of an ancient marketplace where vendors come and they call out their wares and invite you to buy.
But there’s one big difference. In this marketplace, in Isaiah 55, the vendor is God Himself. God Himself is the one doing the inviting. God Himself is the one doing the selling. God is the one who is beckoning to come and get what He has for you. As you’ll discover, of course, in this passage, this marketplace is like no other because this marketplace is the kind of place that you go when you have no money and you have nothing with which to buy. But yet God offers it freely Himself.
So what you have today in this passage then is the real voice we need to listen to today. As we get bombarded with all those invitations in our marketplace of ideas, God comes to us and says, “I’ve got one voice you need to listen to, listen to mine, come to Me.”
Now the original audience would have needed to hear that message. You may not remember the context in Isaiah here, but this is a dark time for Israel. Isaiah prophesied under many kings in Judah, they were wicked kings and God had warned them you need to turn away from your idols and your false gods and Israel wouldn’t listen, so God raised up the Babylonians and carted off Israel into exile. As this message comes to Israel, she is sitting in exile. She’s probably wondering, “Has God abandoned us? Has God turned His back on us? Is God going to keep His promise to us?”
Here is wayward Israel that God is chasing with this great invitation.
Now truth be told, that’s not just a message that Israel needed to hear, that’s a message that you and I need to hear, is it not? As we sit here this morning we probably wonder, too, whether God wants to be with us. Maybe you’ve been, like Israel, running from God, off on your own little exile, wondering if He still wants to be with you. This message was not only for them, this great invitation is for us today.
So here’s what I want to do. I want to break down this invitation into its component parts. We’re going to work through five different things about this invitation today, and I’ll move quickly through these five, but like any invitation, when you get it, you have questions, and we have the same questions about this invitation.
What did we learn about it? What is it like? What’s motivating it? We’re going to work through five things together to understand this is indeed the greatest invitation we could possibly get.
Let’s start with the first of those five things, and that is the nature of this invitation. What are we invited to? What are we invited to?
Now, that’s the first thing you’re going to ask any time you get an invitation. If you get an invitation in the mail, if you get one in your e-mail inbox, if someone gives it to you verbally. The first question you want to know the answer to, is, well, what am I being invited to? Is this a party? Is this a celebration? Is this a wedding? Is this an event? What exactly is this invitation all about?
This is the first thing we want to solve in this passage this morning. Now here’s the truth. As you look at this passage, at first glance you might think it’s about something very different than what it’s really about. I mean, look at the opening verses: “Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, come buy and eat, wine and milk.” It sounds like it’s an invitation to physical things. You’re going to eat, you’re going to drink, you’re going to celebrate. It sounds like an invitation to a great feast.
You might think to yourself, well, maybe God is inviting Israel to return to the Promised Land. Maybe all this invitation is about is a physical restoration to a physical land with physical blessings. Ah, but then you keep reading. When you keep reading and take a closer look at this passage, you realize actually this isn’t about physical things at all. In fact, these physical things are just symbolic of the spiritual invitation that is really taking place here.
As you read on in the passage, you come to it in verse 3. Look at verse 3 and you realize what the invitation is really about. Look what it says: “Incline your ear and come to me.” There it is this morning. God is saying, “The real thing I want to give you is not physical pleasures. The real thing I want to give you is not a restored land. I don’t want to give you necessarily a worldly, problem-free life. I don’t even want to give you all the things that you think you need. I want to give you the thing you need more than anything. You need Me.”
In other words, what’s remarkable about this passage is the great invitation, the great invite isn’t to some party, isn’t to some land, isn’t even to some literal feast, it’s an invitation to come and be with God Himself. He is the real living water. He is the real milk that satisfied. He’s the great wine of celebration.
By the way, this is a wonderful correction in some ways to us in the Christian life this morning, because I think we sometimes go through the Christian life and we think about what our ultimate blessing is and we begin to think that the ultimate blessing is something that God can do for me, or something that God can give me, or the ultimate blessing is a problem that God can solve for me. God does do those things. God does solve problems for us and God does give us physical blessings, but that’s not the ultimate reward, that’s not the ultimate thing we need. God is coming to us in this passage and saying, “The ultimate point of life is to be with Me. I am your great treasure. I am your great reward. I am the thing you’re longing for.” That’s the correction we need because we spend our life chasing so many things. We’ll see this elsewhere in the passage. We chase so many other things and God is reminding us, “Come and be with Me.”
Now, when God invites us to do that, what does that actually mean? Well, look at the rest of verse 3. It says “incline your ear and come to Me,” and look what He says, “hear that your soul may live.” When you come to God, He offers you not just to be with Him, but the restoration of your soul. He offers you eternal life.
Do you realize then that ultimately the invitation in Isaiah 55 is ultimately the invitation of the Gospel? It’s to come and have a relationship with God. It’s to come and be close to Him. Yes, we’re sinners. Yes, He’s holy. But God comes to invites us into this personal relationship to have eternal life, to have our soul restored.
What I love about this, and I’m sure your picking up this already in the passage, is just how personal it is. Have you picked up on that? It’s not like God comes to Israel and says, “Hey, I’ve got this great slate of ideas I want you to embrace.” By the way, God does have ideas. He does have doctrine and theology and He does want us to embrace it, but notice that’s not the invitation. It’s not to have Israel embrace an idea or Israel to embrace a concept. He doesn’t come to us and say, “Well, here’s a list of doctrines.” God cares about doctrines, but notice this is an invitation to Himself.
I wonder if that’s something we need to be reminded of this morning, too. When you think about your Christian life, are you following a set of ideas? Or are you following a person? God comes to Israel and says, “I want to be with you. I’m not just a concept. I’m not just a force. I’m not just an idea. I’m a person.”
So this first thing, then, in our invitation is just what it is about. It’s about coming as sinners to be with God, to have our soul restored, to have a personal relationship with Him. Now that’s the first thing.
Let’s look at the second thing of the five here in this invitation, and that is the manner of the invitation. How it’s being offered. How does God deliver it here? By the way, that’s important to us when we get invitations, is it not? You ever get an invitation where you weren’t sure it was really meant? You ever get an invitation where you’re like, ehh, seems a little half-hearted, I’m not sure you really want me at your party.
Actually, just the other week I got this invitation in an e-mail that came to my inbox, and I got the invitation and I said, “Wow, this looks like a pretty interesting event. I think I might actually want to go to this event.” I was about to reply to this invitation when another email came to my inbox from the same person, saying “Oops, sorry, I accidently sent that to you. I didn’t actually mean to invite you.” Ouch. And then they wrote back and said, “But you know since I sent it, you can come if you want.” I was thinking to myself, “Well, sorry, you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel that enthused now.”
I mean, the way you get an invitation matters. It’s one thing to get one, it’s one thing to get one where you feel like there’s some energy behind it, like someone really wants you there.
What’s amazing about this invitation is not just that God gives it, but the earnestness with which He gives it. The persistence with which He delivers it. The compassion with which He goes after His people.
I said it earlier as we started here that the whole scene here is like an ancient marketplace in the Greco-Roman, or really the ANE world here in the book of Isaiah. In the Ancient Near Eastern world, marketplaces like this were very common. You’d walk into a town, there’d be an open market and vendors would do two things in an open market. One is they would get your attention, they would shout out to you, and then once they got your attention they would offer you their wares. They would say, “Here’s what I’m selling. Here’s what I want you to come and buy.”
If you notice here, this is the way God has set up the analogy in this passage. He is presenting a spiritual marketplace, and He does the same thing that a vendor would do. He gets your attention. It’s a little unfortunate here in verse 1 of the ESV, it doesn’t capture this, but in the NASB there’s a Hebrew word here that captures pretty accurately the very first word in verse 1 is actually the word the New American Standard translates as ho, h-o. Ho is just like, hey, hey there, listen to me. It’s a way to get your attention and the ESV doesn’t pick it up as clearly, but that’s what a vendor would do. Hey, you there, listen to me.
Then I want you to notice another thing about the way this invitation unfolds. I want you to notice how much God repeats Himself. How persistent He is. It’s not one invitation. It’s not even two invitations. It’s a repeated invitation over and over again. Verse 1, come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, come buy and eat, come buy wine and milk, listen diligently, eat what is good, delight yourselves in rich food, incline your ear, come to me.
Notice over and over God is issuing a command, a beckoning, a call. This is an amazing picture of the character of the God that you and I serve. He is a God who is the great pursuer, the great initiator, He’s the great seeker. Do you realize that this is a God who’s chasing down His people? He’s going after them like a husband would woo his bride, like the shepherd would go after the one sheep and leave the 99 behind. This is a God who wants to be with His people.
It’s not so much that the people are seeking God, it’s that God’s seeking them. Make no mistake about it. When it comes to salvation, this is the second point I want you to see today, not only does God want to be with you, that was the first point, to save you, to redeem you, but secondly when you look at the manner of the invitation here, you realize that it’s God who’s the great initiator. If there’s going to be a union here, if there’s going to be a reception here, it’s going to be due not to our diligence but God’s, not to our persistence but God’s. It’s not that we’re wanting to go to this party, but God wants us to come. God is the great loving seeker. How merciful and amazing and rich He is.
Now once you realize that, that ought to raise a question in your mind – Why? Why would God do that with a people like Israel? In fact, maybe the better question is why would God do that with a people like us? If you’re asking that question, that leads to a third observation I want to make about this passage this morning, and that is the motive of this invitation. The motive. Why is God doing this at all?
It’s kind of one of those things where you’re like, you ever get invited to a party and you’re like, “I don’t know why I got invited.” You’re like, “I didn’t think I knew them that well,” or “I didn’t think they necessarily even liked me.” You may have all kinds of things in your head that make the invitation a surprise.
When it comes to salvation, though, we’re rarely surprised. We ought to be, though. If you knew the state of Israel, you ought to be surprised. We don’t have time to go back in the book of Isaiah, but God has throughout the book of Isaiah laid out Israel’s sins in spades, put them all on the table. They have pursued false gods, they’ve committed spiritual idolatry, they’ve worshiped idols, they’ve chased after things that God has told them not to chase after, again and again and again.
And yet, even with all that, God, for some reason, chases them, pursues them, and goes after them.
Don’t forget here that it’s not that God is going after Israel merely offering a pardon, it’s not like God is saying, “Well, look, if you come back to me I’ll spare your life.” No, God is saying, “If you come back to me, I’ll make you a child, I’ll make you a son. You can sit at My table. You can eat My food and have the richest of fare.”
When you realize that, you realize that demands an explanation. What would motivate God to chase down simple people that way? I don’t think we ask that question enough, and the reason why I don’t think we ask that question enough is because I think we’re rarely surprised by God’s mercy. We’re rarely surprised by God’s mercy.
By the way, you notice how often we’re surprised by God’s judgment? When God judges someone in the Bible, we’re shocked. Sometimes we’re even appalled. How could God do that? We wonder, why would God judge that person? But then when God shows mercy, we shrug. Well, of course, that’s what He should do. Of course He should invite me to His party. Of course I should get an invitation. I thinking lurking behind that is the belief that we’re really not that sinful a people and that I really should be invited and it would be surprising if I weren’t, not surprising if I was.
What I want us to see in this passage today is the utter shock that the invitation is happening at all. God doesn’t have to save anyone. God doesn’t have to redeem Israel. God doesn’t have to redeem us. But yet here He is consistently pursuing, seeking, longing, chasing. It demands the question of why.
Well, the good news, of course, is our passage answers the question. Look down at the second half of verse 3. Here’s what we read. After saying “incline your ear and come to Me, hear that your soul may live,” notice what He says, “and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, My steadfast sure love for David.”
Ah, here’s the motivation for God’s pursuit of Israel. He has made a promise to David. He has made a covenant with David. And He is inviting Israel to benefit from the covenant.
Now we don’t have time to turn back in the Bible and revisit what that covenant with David was, but you know what it is. You’ve read it before. God goes to David and says, “I’ll make a covenant with you. There will be someone on your throne forever. The Son of David will rule in greatness and honor and glory and He will be a righteous king whose reign will never end.” Of course, we know who that king is. Eventually that Son of David, that great righteous branch, sprouts up and comes and it is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. In other words, the motivation for the love in this passage is the coming work of Jesus Christ where He would die on the cross and save a people for Himself to fill and fulfill God’s promises to David.
In other words, what you realize in this passage is although the invitation is free, it does have a price. It’s just that we aren’t the ones paying the price. The One paying the price would be this coming saviour, this redeemer, who is in the covenant line of David. Do you realize then the key word here in this verse 3 is just the word love? God loves you because He loves you, and He loves you because of what Christ has done to redeem us.
So there is ultimately not just a grace-centered aspect of this passage, but ultimately a Christ-centered aspect of this passage. God’s motive is to honor His Son and give Him a people for Himself.
Okay, that’s the third thing. Let’s move on to the fourth thing of our five things in this great invitation. This is really the biggest one. Well, actually the last two are both really significant. Fourth thing to note about this invitation is the recipients. Who is invited? Who should come? That may be the most important question. If God gives an invitation to be with Him, if God gives an invitation to eternal life, if God gives an invitation to a relationship, maybe the most important question you’ll ever ask is, “Am I invited?”
Does God invite everyone? Is everyone included in this great invitation?
Actually, here’s where the passage shocks us. The answer is no. Not everyone is invited. Now you hear that and you think, whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second. You’re saying not everyone is invited to this feast? You mean there’s some sort of restriction on who can come? You mean God has some sort of standard on who can be a part of His wedding banquet?
Then you may think to yourself, well, if God has a standard, if God has some sort of resurrection, I wouldn’t want to know what that is because I probably don’t meet it, you might think. You might think if God has a standard for who can come to this party, it’s probably going to be a really high standard. It’s probably going to be for the religious people, or the morally upright people, or the people who’ve given away all their money, or who help the poor. Surely it’s going to be the successful or the rich or the beautiful or what have you. Surely they’re the ones that are invited.
But the shock of this passage comes when you realize something. The criteria of who can come are not exceptionally high, the criteria about who can come are exceptionally low. In this passage, realize it’s not just surprising that the invitations are limited, what’s surprising is who they’re limited to. The poor, the thirsty, the hungry, the undesirables, the misfits. Don’t miss the point here. It’s not just that God tolerates these people. It’s not like God invites the beautiful and the moral people and says, “Well, all you other people can come, too.” No, God only invites those people. It’s only the people who have no money and no food who can come.
You’re thinking to yourself, this is the strangest feast I’ve ever heard of. What kind of feast is this where only those kinds of people can come?
Well, Jesus actually talked about it. He talked about it as at the great wedding banquet of the Messiah. When Jesus talked about who would get invited to His wedding feast, here’s what Jesus said: Go quickly out into the streets and the alleys of the town and bring in the poor and the crippled and the blind and the lame. So the feast is limited, but not to who we would expect.
Now who’s it limited to? Well, here’s where we turn to verse 1. I want you to notice there’s two limitations of who can come to this: The thirsty and those who have no money. Let me just say a word about each of those.
First, the thirsty. This is often used in Scripture as not obviously a reference to literal thirst, but a reference to a spiritual condition. For someone to be thirsty is to realize they’re lacking. To say you’re thirsty is to realize you’re in desperate need of help. To be thirsty is to realize that you’re a sinner in need of grace and in need of redemption. This is why the invitation is for the thirsty. It’s for those who know they don’t have it all together.
By the way, the whole idea of thirsty is just not a concept we get in our modern day. Here we are in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2022 and I say, “Hey, it’s for the spiritually thirsty.” The problem is very few of us have ever really been thirsty. I mean, how many of you, I mean, maybe you went for a run and your thirsty, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. In the ancient world it was not uncommon to be thirsty and near death. Water was not available in the desert world oftentimes when you would be on long journeys. It was not unusual to be thirsty and to realize that you are dying if you don’t get water soon.
If you’ve never been in a real desert and really felt the sun beating down on you and the parching in your mouth and feeling like every bit of moisture is evaporating off your skin, it’s hard to know what an ancient person would see this as. But in the ancient world, to be thirsty is to be near death. It’s to be on your pathway to dying.
And God wants to make it very clear. This marketplace is for those who know they are desperately needy spiritually. It’s not for those who think they’ve got it all together and all figured out.
But it’s not just thirsty. I want you to notice it’s also those who have no money. Look at the other part of verse 1. The better word here in our modern parlance is “bankrupt.” This is a marketplace for the bankrupt.
Now what is this referring to spiritually? Here’s what’s interesting. This is an amazing combination. It’s one thing to know you have a need, that’s thirsty. The reason I think God adds bankrupt here is because He wants to make a second point, which is not just that you have to know you have a need, you have to know that you are unable to fill it yourself.
By the way, it’s that second thing that’s so key. Most of us might recognize our need, we might recognize we’re sinful people, we might recognize we’re imperfect, but we might think we can solve it ourselves. We might think we have the resources, the ability, to overcome it. I can just work harder, do more, be better, fix the problem. God says, “No. Not only do you have a need, you’re bankrupt, you have no ability to fix it on your own.”
By the way, did you notice the invitation is not just to the poor? It’s to those with no money. That’s very important here because God doesn’t want to say, “Well, if you have a little money to contribute, I’ll contribute the rest and we’ll meet in the middle.” No, God is saying this marketplace is for those who have no money at all.
This means that we don’t bring anything to salvation on our own. We don’t make any contribution on our own, that God does it all. Now this is hard for us as people, as Christians. We want, if we’re honest with ourselves, we kind of want to pay a little bit for salvation. That’s what we’re taught in our world, that, well, maybe I can contribute a little bit and God can contribute a little bit and we’ll meet in the middle and God says, “No.” This is a marketplace like no other. The only way you buy in this market is by trying not to. The only catch in this marketplace is that the only people we let in are who have no money.
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine showing up at a marketplace that’s all roped off and they say, “Well, you gotta enter into the gate” and they’re like, “Well, do you have any money?” and you’re like, “Yeah, I got lots of money,” “Well, this isn’t for you. This isn’t the marketplace for you.” You’re like, “What? Wait. Hold on. I can only get in here if I have no money?” “Yep.”
That’s the Gospel. That’s grace. God turns everything on its head.
By the way, that’s what makes the Gospel good news. It’s for those who are thirsty and those who are spiritually bankrupt. For those who aren’t thirsty, for those who think they have it together spiritually, for those who think they have plenty of spiritual money to spend, they’re not invited. It’s not that God doesn’t want to have a relationship with those people, but they’ll never come. If they’re satisfied in themselves, they’ll never come to this invitation, so this is a market like no other.
Now I thought this week, how do you take something like this and put it into modern terminology? I couldn’t help but think back, and you’ll resonate with this because everybody has experienced this as a child growing up, I want you to think back to your days in elementary school when you’re on the playground and it’s time to pick teams for kickball. Okay? You remember that horrible experience? We all know it. Right? Somehow two people end up as captains; I never knew how this happens. But two people end up as captains and everybody else lines up, and it’s this moment of embarrassment and shame because what is every kid hoping for? Just please, Lord, let me not be the last one picked. Right? And you know how it goes. They start off with the most, the best athletes, the greatest players, and then they whittle their way down to okay, fine, I’ll pick you, I’m mad about it but okay you’re on my team. That whole experience we all remember in our childhood and want to block it out.
But imagine one day that you’re on the playground and things just go very differently. What if the captain stepped up there and said, “That kid with crutches there with the sprained ankle. I’ll pick him.” And everybody’d be like, “You don’t really understand the game very well, do you?” And then what if he said, “The kid on the end over there, who’s overweight and who’s slow and no one ever picks him. I want him on my team.” And then what if the captain said, “You know that little kid over there, who hasn’t his growth spurt yet and he’s always last, he’s the runt of the litter, I want him on my team.” And then he goes through and he picks the weakest, the smallest, the least likely… That is the kingdom of God.
Here’s what God will do. God is going to pick that team. You know what He’s going to do? He’s going to win with that team. And when He wins with that team, He will get the glory. Grace is the way the Gospel works. Grace is for people who are weak, like us. And grace gives God all the glory.
That brings us to our final point. Fifth thing I want to bring to your attention today, as we look at this invitation. We’ve seen the nature of it, it’s spiritual, it’s to God. We’ve seen the manner of it, God is earnest. We’ve seen the motive, it’s the love that God has for David, ultimately in Christ. We’ve seen the recipients, it’s for the thirsty and the bankrupt. Now we come to the last, and that is the reasons to accept this invitation. Why should you come?
You know what’s interesting about invitations? I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this before. People rarely, when they give you the invitation, rarely give you reasons to accept it. If they’re inviting you to a party, they don’t say in the invitation normally, “By the way, this is going to be the greatest party of all time. Don’t miss this one. This is going to be amazing.” People don’t do that. They say, “I’m having a party and I want you to come.” Or “I have a wedding and I want you to come.” They don’t actually give you a four-point outline on why you should accept their invitation.
But you know what God does when He invites us? He actually gives us reasons to accept it. He gives us a reason why we would follow this invitation. What’s interesting about this passage, God gives us a little bit of a negative reason and a positive reason, I want you to notice here in verse 2.
Here’s the negative reason: Why do spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
God says, “You know why you should accept this invitation? Because you’re wasting your life pursuing your false gods.”
Do you notice what He says in verse 2? Why do you spend your money? By the way, this is the only time money is spent in this passage. In God’s marketplace you don’t spend money. Notice what He says to the Israelites: You are spending money, but you’re spending it on what isn’t bread. If you come to My marketplace, I’ll give you real bread and it’s free. Do you realize what He’s saying? He’s saying what you’re doing with your life doesn’t make sense. You’re spending your effort for something that’s not bread when I’m offering you something that is bread and I’m not going to charge you anything for it. Why are you wasting your life chasing idols?
This is the first reason God gives for why we should accept His invitation, because the idols we’re chasing are destructive and a waste of our life. You don’t want to be an idol chaser. Serving false gods never ends well. You know why? Because idols are horrible task masters. They’ll demand everything from you and you labor under their yoke and you get crushed by them, and when it’s all over, there’s nothing there. You take the package and you open it up at home and it’s empty.
God says to us, “I’m going to give you real bread and it’s going to be free.”
But here’s the other thing. That’s the negative reason why we should accept it, but there’s a positive reason. Look at the rest of verse 2: “Listen diligent to Me and eat what is good and delight yourself in rich food.” Actually, the old NIV put this better. The old NIV says, “Delight yourself in the richest of fare.” God is saying if you come to Me, I will give you a spiritual feast beyond your wildest dreams, water, milk, wine.
The reason that doesn’t resonate with us is because water, milk, and wine aren’t that rare in our world, but in the ANE world, the Ancient Near Eastern world, water was even rare, and then to have milk, that would be amazing. And to have wine, well, that must be the height of existence. To have wine is to have some sort of grand blessing, to be the richest person possible, and God says, “I’m going to give you water, I’m going to give you milk, I’m going to give you wine. All of that is in Me.”
Why should you accept the invitation to be with God? Here’s the answer: Because it’s better than anything else you could choose. It’s simply better.
It’s like offering a great feast to someone and them saying, “Well, you know, I really like mac & cheese and chicken fingers.” You’re just like, “Have you ever had a good meal? Why would you settle for that?”
Here’s the point. We cannot live the Christian life always convinced that everything we’re leaving behind is more wonderful than God. The only way to live the Christian life is to be reminded and convinced that God is better than everything else we could chase. And as long as we’re convinced everything else is better, then we’ll live the Christian life looking out of the corner of our eye all the time, longing for something else, when God is saying, “I’m giving you the rich feast. Don’t settle for second best.”
As I think about that, I want to close with a quote from C.S. Lewis. This is a quote that you’ve heard before, I’ve probably used it before, but I couldn’t resist using it again because it makes this point so well. What is the point? The point is don’t be so easily pleased with the things of the world. God is offering you something better in Himself. Here’s what Lewis says: “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised us in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord find our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
That’s the message today. God offers you a great invitation. It’s the greatest invitation in the world. Don’t be so satisfied on the things of the world when God says, “Come to me with no money, with no price, and I will give you a feast beyond your wildest dreams.”
Let’s pray. Lord, we’re so grateful for this passage today. Remind us of Your grace that’s infinite, rich, deep. Lord, You’re better than anything else we could chase. Lord, help us to come to You today, not resisting. Lord, I pray that if there’s any here who have been resisting, who’ve been running, that they would relent today and take You up on this invitation. We pray all this in Christ’s name. Amen.