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GOD’S INVITATION

Isaiah 55:1-55:13
Key Verse: 55:1

Thank God that last week we could meet many U of T freshmen. They seemed so excited about their lives at U of T. The university staff and many campus clubs seem to be interested in them and welcomed them. But we believe that God is most interested in them and wants to show his welcoming heart for them. Today’s passage excellently describes God’s yearning heart of invitation for all mankind, definitely including U of T freshmen and all of us. May God help us to probe into his heart even a bit as we study this passage.

First, “Come all who are thirsty, come to the waters” (1-5). Look at verse 1. “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.” As we read this verse, which word draws your attention most? "Without cost"? When we go shopping, our eyes are automatically drawn to signs such as “on sale” or “special.” We want to get things on sale, or at a special price. Definitely, people like free things, something that requires no payment. Here God offers something, “Without money”, “without cost.”

Look at verse 1 again. When we read this verse carefully, we may be surprised to see the word “come” written four times. This word “come” can be one of the most common words in our day to day life. But the weight of the invitation, and our excitement upon receiving and responding to it depends a lot on who says it (i.e. the inviter). A friend can say, “Come to my house.” Or the U of T dean or president can say, “Come to my office”, or the Prime Minister can say, “Come to Ottawa, to my residence”. Here, it is God who says, “Come”--not just one time but four times, “Come”, “Come”, “Come”, “Come.” Of course, this is God’s message to the Israelites who had been long suffering in Babylonian captivity. But also, in light of the whole Bible, it is God’s message to all people including you and me. When Jesus came to this world, he said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened…” (Mt 11:28). On another occasion he said, “Everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet” (Mt 22:4; Lk 14:17). Still another time he said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me…” (Jn 1:39). When we consider these invitations, “come” can be considered a most important word and a most significant message to mankind from God. Ever since men left God and were banished from the Garden of Eden, they have longing to come to God, whether they recognized it or not. But God seems to have more longing and more desperation for them to come to him. That’s why God says here, “Come”, again, again, and again.

He says, “Come, all you who are thirsty.” God knows man’s situation very well. In a word they are thirsty. At the CIS SBC I met a very beautiful woman, who seemed so lovely and enviable. She confessed, however, that she lived an extremely wild life, going through many men. She was so often severely beaten up by those from whom she expected love, yet she could not turn away from such a life, because she was thirsty for love. Last week on club day we could see U of T freshmen flooding to visit all the clubs they could see. This could be their expression of thirstiness for something meaningful. One man obtained great knowledge, honour, high position and wealth. But he remained thirsty-- he was thirsty for something true and eternal. So he came to Jesus, though secretly, at night. In brief, people are thirsty for God. Amos 8:12-13 says, “Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.”

Knowing man’s thirstiness, God invites all saying, “Come, all who are thirty, come to the waters.” Nonetheless to say, to the thirsty water is most needed. As you know water is essential for life. So in the Garden of Eden a river flowed from Eden and watered the garden; it was separated into four headwaters to wet the whole world (Ge 2:10). And in Revelation, the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city (22:1-2a). 14% of the world population suffers from thirst, the majority living in Africa. In extreme thirstiness they are desperate to drink any kind of water, even unclean and dirty water, although such water causes various kinds of diseases. In North America there is plenty of clean water, and additionally, many kinds of beverages. It is known that many of these beverages are not good for health, and some are even harmful and a contributing cause of modern diseases like diabetes. Many even drink drugs. Upon autopsy, examiners found drugs absorbed into Michael Jackson’s whole body. There are so many spiritually contaminated and unclean beverages in this world. They are detrimental to our souls. But in their thirstiness people consume many of these drinks.

But here God says, “Come to the waters.” Certainly, this is pure and clear water. Physically speaking, drinking pure water is the beginning of healing and restoration. Jesus said in John 4:14, “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,” and in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” So here, water can refer to the Spirit of God and also to God’s word (Jn 3:3; 1 Pe 1:23). God invites all the thirsty to the waters of his Spirit and his word of life. He continues, “Come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Here wine and milk are also the similar category of drink as water, i.e. that to refresh and nourish our souls. 1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Mother’s milk has all kinds of nutrition and provides perfect immunity for babies. So are God’s words. Here “waters”, “wine” and “milk” are what God provides for the life of human beings. He wants them to come and buy and eat.

And it is provided without money and without cost. So this invitation of God is for both the rich and the poor. No human condition is a barrier. Also, in the light of the whole Bible this is available to us because God paid it all through his Son Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, God says “Buy and eat.” Again, he specifically uses the word, “Buy.” We know that to buy is to exchange. In order to receive what God offers one has to turn from this world to heaven. In Luke 14 Jesus spoke about a certain man who invited many guests to his wedding banquet. All the guest made excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.” Still another said, “I just got married.” In this way they all rejected the invitation. One must learn to give up something for the better and for the best.

Look at verse 2. “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?” No one wants to waste money; nobody wants to labour in vain. But that's exactly what people do! People spend their hard-earned money on things that tear down their lives, rather than building them up, regardless of how careful they are of diet and healthy lifestyle. In another aspect, people work hard and save money for a whole year for vacations/travel. But after travel, they are still unsatisfied, and are usually even more troubled and tired. So God says, “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good.” Saying, “Come, come, come, come” was not enough. So he says, “Listen, listen to me.” This is his earnest plea. God wants men to pay attention to his invitation and eat what is good.

What is good certainly means what is truly good. According to the Bible no one is good, but God alone. Only God is good and only what God gives is good in an absolute sense. What is good can refer to the waters and wine and milk we thought of before. Ultimately, these point to Jesus (Jn 3:16; 6:35, 54-55). After saying, “Eat what is good” he promised, “and you soul will delight in the richest of fare.” He pleads again in verse 3, “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that you soul may live.” And here we see that we can eat by hearing.

In verses 3b-5, now God speaks about an everlasting covenant related to the Messiah promised to come: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples.” (Jn 18:37; Re 1:5) And then God is speaking directly to the promised Messiah, “Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”

In this part may we learn that no can invite us as God does. He invites each one of us earnestly and again and again. May we accept God’s invitation very personally.

Second, “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (6-13). Look at verses 6 and 7. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “…I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.”

Look at verses 8 and 9. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Who can measure the distance between the heavens and the earth? It is immeasurable. The “heaven and earth” distance is the distance between his ways and our ways, and between his thoughts and our thoughts. At that time the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity. Their future seemed too dark even to think about. But God had hope for them. Soon they would be liberated from the 70 years of long captivity, as God would move the heart of Cyrus king of Persia (2 Ch 36:22-23). After the Israelites’ return to their homeland, from among their descendants a Saviour would be born so that all peoples of all nations would be blessed through him. At that time in the thoughts of Jewish people, the Gentiles were totally out of God’s blessing. It was unthinkable for the Gentiles to be included to the people of God. But God had such a thought and plan. According to Paul this is the mystery of God (Eph 3:9-10). We are living in the last days. As Jesus foretold, the signs of the end of the age are: nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There are to be earthquakes in various places and the degree of the earthquakes to become larger and larger. There are to be unpredictable climate changes. Most seriously, there are to be world-wide deceptions and the rising of anti-Christs or false Christs. Anti-Christs are those who purposely deny Christ Jesus as the only way of salvation. Jesus is the only Saviour and the Lord, for he alone died for man’s sins and he alone rose again from the dead to give us victory over sin and death, thus granting us a living hope of the kingdom of God. Human authorities, however, try to get rid of the concept of sin and the need of salvation, and so deny Christ Jesus, the Saviour and Lord, In their deception, God’s creation truth, even the most fundamental truth that God created male and female, seems to be thrown to the ground. However, God’s plan and God’s ways and thoughts are higher than man’s. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Overriding all human plans and ways and thoughts God will fulfill his world salvation purpose through the preaching of the gospel. Those who have this direction in life will be greatly used by God.

In our personal lives it is also true that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and our thoughts, just as the heavens are higher than the earth. In Genesis ,Joseph when 17 was sold as a slave to Egypt because of his brothers’ evil scheme. Predicted according to man’s way and thought, Joseph’s life would end in misery in Egypt. But God’s way and thought was to make him Prime Minister of all of Egypt in order to save many lives at the time of world famine and to establish 12 patriarchs of Israel. Also, when God called Abraham, a childless 75 years old man, with his words of promise, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing,” surely Abraham had no idea what God ways and thoughts were. Abraham’s thought was only to be a noble father for a son. But God’s thought was to make him a father of many nation. Also, when Jesus called Simon Peter, saying, “Don’t be afraid; from now on, you will catch men,” Peter did not grasp what his future would be. His life seemed to end in despair and regret because of his failures. Nobody could know, even conceive of God’s ways and thoughts for him. In the end God raised him up as a great shepherd for God’s flock of sheep in the early Christian church.

Usually our ways are crooked and our thoughts are self-centred and nearsighted. That’s why God tells us to forsake our ways and our thoughts. This is the reason Jesus wants us to deny ourselves. May God help us to believe that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and God’s thoughts than our thoughts, especially in the time of suffering, so that we look up at him and follow his leading wholeheartedly.

Look at verses 10-11. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” If God’s ways and thoughts are indeed so immeasurably, inconceivably higher than ours, how can we ever know His ways and thoughts? God’s ways and thoughts are clearly shown in his words. His words reveal what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do. So we need to study his words diligently and attentively. And those who truly accept his word and obey it are tremendously blessed, for God’s word will be particularly and fruitfully fulfilled in any person who has accepted it.

Look at verses 12-13. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” This is the result of accepting the word of God: a new life with joy and peace and hope.

In this study, we thank God for his invitation and for his ways and thoughts. May we come to him and put our trust in his ways and thoughts.

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