Isaiah 55:1-5: Delight in the Richest of Fare

A water vendor, a part of ordinary commerce in ages past.  Most did not live next to a stream, and sometimes access to a well became problematic.  So, in typical entrepreneurial fashion, someone recognized a need and found a way to profit.  Thus, the merchant and customer both benefited.

Still, is this not an unusual invitation for a fancy meal?  The attendees aren’t limited to people who can pay.  The only requirement is to be hungry and thirsty.  How can someone procure something without money?  So, the imagery of buying and selling isn’t all Isaiah wants us to digest. 

Now, if the waxing and waning of Scripture animate you, Proverbs 9 comes to mind.  The water carrier is also a wise counselor.  Doesn’t Isaiah echo Wisdom, who sets her table and prepares food and drink?  Such a link shows us God is providing the food.

Still, this food isn’t free because someone needs to cover the cost.  True, but this isn’t for the people to pay.  No, they bring their poverty to the transaction, but God pays all the expenses.  So, His is the redemption price, but theirs is the freeness!  No money is needed, for, to them, the sumptuous meal and menu are without charge.

Now, this is interesting.  The grammar shows those who thirst are singular, but the call to come and eat is plural.  So, when God issues His call, its personal, for you and no one else.  Nevertheless, God provides enough for everyone; hence, the plural.  The blessed water can quench every parched soul for all time.

To let us grasp He means business, God cries out three times, “Come!”  Oh, and if you somehow slept through the first two announcements, the third should still bounce around in your head.  Though something now shifts.  “Why do you spend money on something other than bread?  Why waste your labor on what doesn’t gratify?”  The offer to buy food, though payment isn’t needed, comes with a prickling bristle inside.

An exiled people, the Israelites, now lived in Babylon for many years—some for their entire lives.  After adjusting to their environment, the Jews became prosperous and secure.  The result?  The Hebrew language became strange to their ears, with children no longer taught their mother tongue.  No more estranged in a strange place, their roots grow deep, entrenching themselves in divergent traditions and gods.

Soon, they will be Babylonian in their believing and doing.  So, this God-chosen prophet scolds them for their complacency, approaching with a hidden stinger, stabbing its truth.  To consume doesn’t mean to satisfy, what matters is the quality.

The people’s priorities are backward as they scatter their income on what will never quiet their souls.  Bit by bit, his fellow people became apathetic, becoming the frog in the boiling kettle.  Still, this messenger of old doesn’t argue with them.  Into their complacent waters, he casts a stone, letting the ripples run their course.  “Does all this stuff quell your hunger deep inside you?  Don’t forget why you are here?”

“Listen, listen to me.”  Why?  For God to fill you with real food, not spiritual Cheetos and potato chips.  The basics of life are water and bread, but wine, milk, and meats are luxuries.  So, our giving God grants us life in its abundance, both spiritual and physical.

Now, this explains the sentence structure God uses, for He directs us to “persist in listening.”  Why?  Only because of what He bestows, which can silence the unfillable hole inside us.  All other things will leave you empty.  Oh, this banquet is no soup kitchen because God serves the best food in the world.

How can we partake of this?  By being attentive to His Word.  No wonder God says, listen.  Only He delivers what we need—and His supply will never run dry, which is why He calls us into His abiding Covenant.  So different is our God from us.  Not only can He feed us with the food of immortality, but He is also benevolent enough to do so.

So, what do we discover so far?  A request goes out to sin-parched beggars, to join a feast, though they are too poor to participate.  So, God offers them what they need, except they are foolish and squander their things on the shallow and temporary, leaving them still unsatisfied.  Tell me, what are the options?

In the first verse, God used “come” three different times.  In verses two and three, He again repeats himself, telling His people to “listen” three times.  (Now, our translation omits this, perhaps, thinking the passage is too repetitive.) No, each time you come, you are supposed to attend to His words.  Why?  So, your soul may live.

Often, we think of someone’s soul as something separate from the body.  Not in Hebrew.  To them, a soul is the essence of an individual.  For Adam to live, God breathed His breath into his lungs, and the man became a living soul.  From the start, God created us as beings, with inseparable souls and bodies.  Only after sin entered, did God allow such a separation because of death.  All will again be as God intended when He raises our perfected flesh-filled forms from the grave.

Let’s return to Isaiah.  Toward whom or what are we to turn?  At first, God mentioned water.  In Isaiah 55:3, He changes this to Himself.  So, the water is no mere metaphor, for our Lord speaks of giving Himself to His people through water.  Only He is “the wellspring of life” (Psalm 36:9), “the fountain of life-giving water” (Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13).  Those, with a keen eye in the New Covenant, recognize this as a prophecy for the baptism Christ will institute.  Though let’s not, yet, traverse this road.

Now, the responsive psalm we spoke in the Service hits home.  Last week, some of Psalm 89 provided background for the Apostle Paul in his letter to Roman Christians.  Though, if you went all the way through this psalm, its conclusion can be disturbing.

Its writer, a man named Ethan, first celebrated God’s enduring Covenant with David.  Well, something happened.  The Babylonians attacked and conquered the Southern Kingdom of Israel and banished the people.  From all appearances, God discarded and rejected David’s royal line, and raged in anger at the one He anointed.  The hard question Psalm 98 leaves, is “Where are Your ancient mercies, O Lord, which you vowed to David in Your faithfulness?”

In the end, the psalmist still praises God, though uncertain how He will keep His promises.  The how and when are left unsaid.  Unresolved in this day’s psalm?  Yes, but God responds to those outcries through His Prophet Isaiah.

In David’s day, Israel attained its most substantial amount of land.  Compared to him, Isaiah depicts a vast and much grander kingdom.  So, the graces of God poured down on David always pointed to something greater.

Consider this, David served as Israel’s king.  Never, however, did He govern other lands or act as a witness for them.  After Israel’s defeat, the previous Covenant resembles something “spurned and desecrated,” with David’s crown defiled into dust.  Not true since God invites all the peoples to belong in a renewed Covenant.

So, God’s plan didn’t die when ruin came to the royal house of David.  No, His never-ending Covenant expanded beyond a chosen band of people to embrace the whole world.  The promise is no longer tied to a past Israelite king but is now a present and future reality.  Those once unknown to God, meaning those who aren’t His people, will soon become those He chooses.

Do you remember the earlier switch from singular to plural, with water to eating?  Now, God does the same, but in reverse.  In verse 5, the commands He gives aren’t plural like before, but singular.  So, who will call out to a far-off nation and people?  Not a group but a person—and this can’t be David because he died long ago.  No, this can only be the Fulfiller of King David, the long-prophesied Redeemer and King.

Here, God guides us away from ourselves to the Messiah sent to save us.  Yes, this is Jesus, which is why His Word can reclaim us sinners from our fallen wanderings.  With the radiance of God’s glory, Jesus can endow His people with divine splendor.

In a triple guarantee, God concludes His words, matching the three reasons to come and listen.  First, He pledges His promised blessings in the consummation of the Covenant He made to David.  Second, the Person and authority of His designated King, Jesus, will accomplish this.  Last, God declares He will draw the nations into these Davidic promises, fulfilled by Christ Himself, who is holy.

The King foretold of old is Christ Jesus.  In Him, the mercies, which God pledged to a previous king, came true, finding their fulfillment in the proper Descendant from David’s family line—Jesus.  Like earlier covenants, this one will also include a sign.  With Noah, God displayed a rainbow, but for Abraham, circumcision.  At Mount Sinai, God selected sprinkled blood as His sign.

Hmm, so what will be the sign for this everlasting Covenant?  Shouldn’t this come with some type of eternal confirmation?  Yes, but Isaiah doesn’t tell us!  Do you think he’s abandoning us to such uncertainty?  The answer is “he [God] will glorify the Holy One of Israel,” His Son.

To Jesus, who bled the price for our salvation, the Father sent His Spirit to raise His flesh-born Son from death.  Now, those baptized into Him, who came to His satisfying waters, will likewise be glorified.  Do you understand?  The confirming sign will be the glorification of all creation, the new heaven and earth, including you.  So, all God’s assurances find their “Yes” in His only Son.  Such is your Lord, the faithful Savior of the world.  Now you, too, can savor His banquet at the ending of the story.  Amen.