Sunday, June 20, 2004

55:1 (Come To God)

After giving us chapter 53, where Isaiah prophesies about the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and giving us chapter 54 about the growth of the kingdom and it eternal perseverance, he gives us an invitation to come to God.

He first uses the image of water. Water is essential to survival. It is especially valuable in arid climates like the Middle East, where it can be hard to find. Therefore, it makes a good metaphor for life. Jesus used it when speaking to the woman at the well at Sychar. The story is recorded in John 4. In verse 10, Jesus told her “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Then, in verse 13, he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus used water as an image for eternal life. Maybe he even wanted the woman to think about this passage in Isaiah.

Isaiah gives this invitation to people who need salvation and cannot attain it on their own. He invites those who are thirsty. This would be those recognize their spiritual need. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Isaiah also invited those who have no money, or means to obtain what they need. He invited them to buy without money and tells them the wine and milk were without cost. The fact is, we have nothing to offer God that will win our salvation. David recognized this in Psalm 14:1-3. Isaiah said it in 53:6: “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way”, and in 64:6 he said “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” The ones who know this truth are invited to come.

55:2 (Only God Satisfies)

Why seek things that do not satisfy? It is a pathetic part of human nature that, despite the fact that we hear all the time from people who are rich, or famous, or talented, that it was not enough and they felt empty and meaningless and lost, yet we still seek those things. See Luke 12:13-21.

Remember the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?”

I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire.
I'll never forget the look on my father's face as he gathered me up
in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement.
I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames.
And when it was all over I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a fire"

And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth.
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears.
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.
And so I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle.
I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don't know what, but when it was over,
I said to myself, "is that all there is to a circus?

Then I fell in love, head over heels in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes.
We were so very much in love.
Then one day he went away and I thought I'd die, but I didn't,
and when I didn't I said to myself, "is that all there is to love?"

I know what you must be saying to yourselves,
if that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no, not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment,
for I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

Instead, Isaiah said to seek what is good, meaning salvation and a relationship with the Lord, and our souls would delight in the richest of fare. Isn’t that a great phrase? Do you see your relationship with the Lord as “the richest of fare” and find your soul delighting in it?

55:3 (Hear and Live)

Again in this first he issues an invitation. This time he tells them to hear, or to pay attention to the message, so they will live. Life is wrapped up in God. Although the lost continue to exist in eternity, they do it in torment that is called in Revelation “the second death”.

God then refers to the everlasting covenant he made to David. See 2 Samuel 7:12. I think this refers to his promise to continue David’s royal line and was fulfilled in Christ, who will reign forever. Hebrews 1:8 quotes Psalm 45:6-7 and applies it to Christ, saying “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, our God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

Peter also preached this truth in his first sermon in Acts 2:25-36.

55:4-5 (A Witness)

God made David a witness to the peoples, as he was a great king and military leader of his time. He brought glory to God with his reliance on Him and his faithfulness. But, look how verse 5 puts it in the future tense, saying “you will summon nations”. Here I think David is a symbol or type of Christ, looking forward to the time when people from all over the world will come to Christ.

Christ will be a leader and commander of the peoples, he will reign over all.

55:6-7 (Seek The Lord)

He continues with the invitation. First, he said for us to seek him and call on him and not to wait.

In verse 7, he calls for repentance. He says to forsake the wicked way and the evil thoughts. He said to turn from them to the Lord. These are all pictures of repentance, which is turning from the direction you are going and changing direction to follow the Lord.

What happens when we repent and turn to the Lord? He has mercy on us. He pardons our sin. Peter preaching in Acts 3:19 said to “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” 1 John 1:8-9 says that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 32:5 says “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Proverbs 28:13 says “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

The hymn says “mercy there was great and grace was free,
Pardon there was multiplied for me
There my burdened soul found liberty,
At Calvary.”

55:8-9 (God’s Higher Thoughts)

God tells us here that we do not think or act like Him. First of all, God is above all and we cannot hope to fully comprehend him. Second, the effect of sin upon mankind has reduced our ability to think and act like God wants us to.

This verse is why I think we have to make sure to understand God by his word and not by human logic or philosophy. Much of the history of the church includes trying to impose philosophical constructs on God. Much of what people call doctrine is not a study of God’s word, but extrapolations based on their personal philosophy. See Luke 16:15.

We cannot understand and experience God through philosophy. 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 explains this to us.

So, how do we understand and relate to God? First, through a relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 1:1-2. Jesus leads us to the Father both in reconciliation through his death, and in his words, his teaching on earth, that tells us of the Father. He said, in John 12:49-50, “for I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” He also said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is John 8:31-32.

That is why it is imperative that preachers preach the Word, and teachers teach it. Jesus gave this Word to his apostles and disciples. The apostles passed it on and entrusted it to faithful men to preach and teach it, as Paul did with Timothy. Those men continued to pass it on to other faithful men down through the ages, through times of spiritual renewal and spiritual darkness, through times of encouragement and times of persecution, until this very day. People argue today about apostolic succession as a matter of who has authority. But, I am worried about the succession of those who treasure, protect, and preach God’s word.

Second, the Holy Spirit, given to believers, teaches us. Jesus said in John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

55:10-11 (The Effective Word)

God tells us here that his word will be effective. He compares it to rain, that makes a seed turns into a stalk of wheat. Even more so will his word will come and flourish. He said it will not return to him empty, but will accomplish his purpose. This is yet another way he tells us that he will bring his will to fruition.

God did not give us his word to be abstract, or intellectual, or a curiosity. His word has the power of his will. He gives it to accomplish his purposes, and it will.

55:12-13 (Joy And Peace)

What is the result of all this, this repentance and salvation? The result is joy and peace. We experience it now in part, but in eternity, we will experience complete and unblemished joy and peace in the perfect world of the Lord.

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