"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" – John 3:16
Reading from the ESV bible
1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 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 rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah is God’s messenger to God’s people. He spends the first 39 chapters of his book telling people that the future of God’s people is bleak. God is going judge them for the sins and evils that they have done. They will be defeated by another nation called Babylon and taken away in exile from their home.
Chapter 40 is a new notice that God will save them – he won’t abandon them. Prophet Isaiah announces to them that YHWH’s anger against them has cooled (Isaiah 42:1-2) and YHWH has a task for them to fulfill, i.e. to be “a light to the nations in order than my (YHWH’s) salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). He will bring justice, healing, security and he will do it for them through a saviour. A saviour who is born of a virgin will take up all the punishments on himself. All this promise is for the servants of the Lord (Isaiah 54).
Isaiah 55 was written at the very end of the long Israelite exile in Babylon. Many of the exiles have been born in the foreign place, having only heard of the old land of promise and its capital Jesuralem. Hearing the announcement, some may have been thrilled while others may have regarded it as foolish and empty. In this exile, how could they be a light to the nations? Who are the servants of the Lord? Where is this promise taking them to?
1. God emphatically invites people to come and feast in his blessings. This invitation is for everyone who is in need and can not earn their way in – ‘who thirsts’ and ‘who has no money’. In fact, they can ‘buy wine and milk without money’ because the gift from God is free – ‘without price’.
2. Using a rhetorical question, God asks people to stop spending their money and efforts on unsatisfactory things. Why spend on material things if they will be rusted and gone? Instead, listen to him – eat good food and delight in rich food.
3. Verse 3 further explains what good and rich food is. The only way to satisfy our thirst is to come to him because he offers life for the soul. This is the satisfaction not just for now but for all the eternity because we are joined to God. God offers to make an ever-lasting covenant, and an unbreakable bonding – ‘steadfast and sure love’- with his people as he did with King David.
4. He draws a parallel between what happened to David and what will happen to the people who come and listen to him. Because of God’s covenant with David, God made David ‘a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples’.
5. In the same way, the covenant with David is now reinstituted for the exiles. The covenant between God and his people will make nations they do not even know, along with nations that have never heard of them, come running to gain a new community. Isaiah promises that with the renewal of YHWH’s covenant, new communities of nations and peoples will form around the reformed nation of Israel.
6. Verse 6 shows the urgency of the response required. Don’t wait until it is too late. There is a time when we can’t respond any more. Seek him now when ‘he is near’ and ‘he may be found’.
7. Verse 7 points out that walking the ways of the Lord mean getting rid of the wicked way and unrighteousness thoughts. Isaiah calls people to recognise their sins, turn from wrong to right. It is very comforting to know that forgiveness is guaranteed, i.e. who turns to God is abundantly pardoned.
8. Can the promise be delivered? Yes because it is God who invites us. He can deliver his promises because of who he is. His ways and thoughts are not like ours.
9. In fact, his ways and thoughts are way above us like the heavens are above the earth.
10. Verse 10 is an image of rain and snow from heaven watering the earth, bringing seeds to sowers and bread to eaters.
11. This metaphor is used to show God’s nature. His words have always achieved what it is sent out to do. He never fails. From the very beginning, he spoke light and life into existence. What he speaks happens.
11. Verse 11 is a beautiful picture of what God promises to give us if we come to him. We will have joy and peace, so will be the nature with mountains and hills singing and trees clapping their hands. It is an image of a great restoration, an ultimate restoration of the whole creation.
12. In this new creation, thorns and brier will no longer exist. So there will be no more sufferings and hardship. Instead we will have cypress and myrtle, which are useful for fruit or for delight. It is an image of fruitfulness and joy. This wonderful restoration will bring much honour to God and it will be an everlasting sign of God’s infinite power, faithfulness, and love to his people and all the succeeding generations.
Reading the first verse of this passage, I imagine God standing in heaven and waving at me with an emphatic smile: ‘Come, come!’. I would feel so honoured if the Queen waved at me and asked me to come to Buckingham Palace, which I’m pretty sure will never happen in my life time as I will never achieve enough to be recognised by the Queen. But here he is, God who is the Creator of this world is calling me and welcoming me to his home. How amazing is this! And the more even unbelievable bit is that I have done nothing to deserve this. He offers this free gift to me out of his generosity. The entrance to heaven costs me nothing – a big fat zero!
I studied economics for my bachelor degree and even did a further year of master in economic research. I don’t think I remember much of it now, but I definitely don’t forget one core message: there is no such a free lunch! If it doesn’t cost me, it will cost someone else. Indeed it does stand true for the gift God gives to me. It doesn’t cost me, then who bears the cost in this case? In fact it is God himself. It is Jesus Christ’s death on the cross that brings me this gift. He suffered mentally and physically to pay for my sins so that I can be welcomed into God’s home. It is a free gift, but a very costly one.
Interestingly enough, such an amazing free gift, but not everyone wants to receive it. Isn’t it insane? But I’m not in a position to question other people’s sanity as I once refused it. Fortunately, God is patient and loving. He opened my eyes eventually to see it and receive it. I pray for others to see it and receive it too.