Summary: God offers all people an extraordinary invitation to come to him....
1. An extraordinary invitation (55:1-4)
Last week I attended my first ever Chinese Wedding Banquet. Because I had never actually been to one before, I was told there would be quite a bit of food. So right from the start I had fairly high expectations. I’m quite a big fan of food as some of you might know, particularly if it is pork or high quality seafood. We turn up at ten past 8, 5 minutes later, the first dish is out on the table - it’s suckling pig - that’s not a bad entrée. 2nd dish, prawns in some fancy sauce, third dish crab, fourth dish, lobster in chili sauce, 5th dish perch, 6th - another crab, and on and on for 11 dishes! Like I said, I am quite partial to a bit of pig and seafood so you can imagine I quite enjoyed myself! It was an amazing meal - I was satisfied with the first 3 dishes alone but the more I got into each dish, the better and better the whole experience became. And just when I thought it couldn’t get better - here, have a bit of lobster! It was no ordinary meal.
Today’s passage that was read to us before is all about an invitation. An extraordinary invitation that just gets better and better the closer you look at it. In order to appreciate this invitation, we must first look at the historical context. Isaiah 54: 7-8: for a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.
The people of God have been all but destroyed. Wiped out, over a period of about 150 years. There is almost nothing left to them - just a small rabble who are actually slaves to a much more impressive nation. They are desperate, helpless and without hope. And it is in this situation, where that the words of chapter 55 verse 1 fill the page. Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. To those in captivity and in deep need - what an invitation! An invitation to drink, to come to the waters – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got money or not – just come! It’s not a bad offer is it? And yet straight away, you notice something a little strange about the second half of the offer. They’re offered water; It doesn’t deliver on that promise of water. Instead of water, there is wine, there is milk. Is this deception on God’s part?
Well, It’s like someone comes up to me after the service this morning and asks me round to their place for a few sandwiches for lunch. I’m happy enough with the sandwiches, it’s a free lunch but then when I get there - there’s this 11 course banquet before me! God promises water, but exceeds their expectations by delivering wine as celebration and milk…well the people of God probably haven’t seen that since they were living in the Promised Land –a land flowing with milk and honey. And did you notice that although the invitation is to those who are without money, they are invited to buy….Seems a strange choice of words to deliberately invite those without money to buy food.
Yet this is a tough audience that God is extending the invitation to….they need convincing! So in verse two and three we get a real contrast between what these people already have and what God is offering. You see they hunger for that which is not bread, they chase after, they live for, they desire that which does not satisfy, which cannot satisfy! (pause) These are people who have turned their backs on God, who have shut their ears and sold out for a meal which they think is worth the world, yet they have forfeited their soul. So God pleads with them half way thru v2: Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me (did you catch this invitation to once again come to God) hear me; that your soul may live. Throughout the OT, but particularly during this exile there are moments where God’s people were in such torment, such agony because they could not hear God’s word. Amos 8:11 describes it as God sending a famine – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. They will stagger about, desperate, pleading to hear a syllable from the mouth of God – but encounter only silence. Yet here in Isaiah, those days are over. Now, there is an avalanche of words – God himself is pleading that they listen to his words. God is offering his people a chance to have their hearing restored, that they may listen to his word again. Words which offer life, more than that, life in abundance.