By John Davies
Today’s reading: Isaiah 55: 1-9
Normally when you get an invite to a party, there is an RSVP with the name and contact details of the organiser, to let them know whether or not you can attend. God’s invitation doesn’t need an RSVP, because He will know straight away, by the condition of every individual heart and mind, whether or not each human being has turned to Him in acceptance. This Old Testament reading has Isaiah issuing an invitation from God to His nation, Israel, and what an invitation it is!
The Lord says, “Come, everyone who is thirsty – here is water!”
Israel, as a very hot country, would recognise immediately how precious, and life-sustaining water is. Their water supply was hand-drawn from wells and underground chambers called cisterns, it was not as readily available as ours is, where we simply switch on a tap when we need it! So, in every town and city there were people who made a daily living by selling water to thirsty passers-by. But God is not only offering water, he is inviting Israel to a banquet!
“Come, you that have no money – buy corn and eat! Come, buy wine and milk – it will cost you nothing!”
This invitation would appeal straight away to those who were poor and destitute, for they are being offered luxury items at no cost to themselves. Everything that God wants to give them is being given away for free! To emphasise this, God adds, “Why spend money on what does not satisfy? Why spend your wages and still be hungry?” Everyone on a limited budget says the same thing each week, “Can I afford to buy this?”
What God is offering is not physical food and drink, but spiritual food and drink. The reason is, as he has already intimated, once we consume the food and drink that we’ve had to buy, its nutritional benefits only last for a short time. That’s why we should have three meals a day, and regular drinks, to sustain our bodies and keep ourselves healthy. God is offering something much better, for His offer is to nourish and sustain the spirituality of Israel’s people.
God has recognised that Israel has a hunger for knowledge of Him, and a thirst for spiritual growth, neither of which is being addressed or resolved by what they or their Temple leaders are doing. God saw their need and is offering the help that only He can give.
God is concerned for them, not just in the here and now, but also in the hereafter! For God continues:
“Listen to me and do what I say, and you will enjoy the best food of all. Listen now, my people, and come to me; come to me, and you will have life!”
Everyone is welcome, whereas normally the rich and powerful would have a feast, while the poor are left on the outside looking in! For God makes it plain by His words that neither wealth nor effort will satisfy, instead He wants Israel to hear His Word, and respond to His invitation. The offer is given freely, and the response will be rewarded freely.
That is all God asks of them, there is no cost involved. For God has no interest in the money and possessions that human beings value so highly, why should He? God is only interested in real currency, that of love. For it is through His love for His people that He makes this offer.
God is undoubtedly calling to His nation because He knows that, having been in exile in Babylon, they doubt that they are still God’s people! God answers this by stating:
“I will make a lasting covenant with you, and give you the blessings I promised to David.”
God is thus challenging their doubts and fears, and reaffirming His promise in the strongest possible terms, as He adds, “Now you will summon foreign nations; at one time they did not know you, but now they will come running to join you! I, the Lord your God, the holy God of Israel, will make all this happen; I will give you honour and glory!”
However, whilst recognising and challenging their doubts, God calls them to respond to His invitation in the right way, by changing their attitude and obedience to God; they need to be true followers of God.
God’s statement of this is unequivocal, as He says:
“Turn to the Lord and pray to Him, now that He is near. Let the wicked leave their way of life, and change their way of thinking. Let them turn to the Lord our God; He is merciful and quick to forgive.”
As seemingly enlightened people, we often question why God kept returning to this nation of Israel, who kept failing Him.
Why did He persevere with them, despite them never learning the lessons of the past?
But God makes it clear that He is not there to be understood, as to His actions or thoughts, as He concludes, “My thoughts,” says the Lord, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.”
We should, instead of questioning, be happy that God loves us so much.
A closing prayer.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the covenants you have made with the peoples of this earth. We thank you for the free offer of everlasting life.
We ask you, Lord, to strengthen us in our daily lives, so that we may never stray from your path, but stay true to your will for us.
Help us, Lord, not to judge others in anger or resentment, but to trust in your merciful love, so that at the end we may be accepted into the life that never ends.
We pray this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ.