An Invitation is an Invitation. Someone is supposedly thinking high enough of someone that they want that someone to share in a uniquely special moment.
But then again, it might be that the person or those people being invited is, are supposed to be invited to a particular event because of their place or status in the particular arenas (politics, entertainment, wealth, higher social standing, politically correct standing) they are being invited into. As a commoner or much less than a commoner I am quite certain I’m on nobodies mandatory party list. O’ the glitz and glamour politically correct chauffeured soiree’s I miss out on.
But then again, invitations are not always just invitations to a party or event I would want to be seen at, associated with or active or passive participant in. It means I would have to make some measure of personal commitment to some cause or concern I do not philosophically agree with or can financially support or will surely end up regretting because its original intent is purposely hidden.
So, it is ever wise and thoroughly prudent to do one’s due diligence before one RSVP’s themselves to another persons or organizations invitation to “party!”
“Religious life is an encounter with the living God. Sometimes that encounter is preceded by a kind of soul-searching agony that tries desperately not to hear, runs in the opposite direction, and frantically tries to reason itself out of answering the invitation.” Mother Angelica
“I’m always shocked when I get an invitation. People are always shocked when they see me at a party.” Joan Rivers
“I got an invitation to go to the Olympic trials. And in the same week, I got a telegram from a… big executive at Columbia Records.” Johnny Mathis
“Wherever the invitation of men or your own occasions lead you, speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, now, we should exercise our due diligence on the greatest invitation ever recorded anywhere. The greatest invitation to the greatest “party” anywhere!
Isaiah 55:1-3 AKJV
55 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,
and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat;
yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?
and your labour for that which satisfieth not?
hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good,
and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
3 Incline your ear, and come unto me:
hear, and your soul shall live;
and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
even the sure mercies of David.
The Word of God for the Children of God. In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
AN INVITATION NOT TO BE REFUSED
I once read of a visiting preacher who arrived at a neighborhood church and read the poster announcing him as a “preacher with the unchanged message”.
He had a nasty moment in his spirit when he thought that the news had got out that he had only one sermon to his name! Charles Spurgeon got exasperated with a number of his students whose sermons were below standard. He said of them, “10,000 thousands are their texts but all their laborious sermons one!”
In one sense, a preacher of the gospel has an unchanged message; each sermon may have a different text, but ultimately the gospel has but one message. And that message can be summarized in one word – it’s an invitation from God – it’s an invitation to focus all of one’s energies and resources on the word “Come”.
Imagine if you can you’re at your shopping centre one Saturday morning. Quite unexpectedly a window on the first floor of a large super market or wholesale shoppers club or departmental store opens and the manager rings a bell to get the attention of the shopping crowd within. He shouts out, “Everybody is truly invited to come shopping – everything is free today: there’s nothing to pay!”
It was this kind of announcement that Isaiah made in Babylon some 2,500 years ago. Hear the words of God spoken through the prophet, “Come, all you who are thirsty, and you, who have no money, come buy and eat!” (55:1).
“Come, all you who are thirsty.” If you’ve been to the Holy Land you’ll have seen the water-seller as he walks the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. I remember seeing this colorful figure and took his photograph and had to pay for the drink he poured out, although I didn’t fancy it and didn’t drink it! Water, especially in a hot climate, is a valuable commodity and not easy to come by.
Isaiah was addressing the people of Israel who at this time were exiled from their homeland. They had refused to obey God’s laws and now they were suffering the consequences of their actions. God had allowed the Assyrian army to be his instrument of punishment. Their land had been devastated and they had been taken into captivity in Babylon for seventy years.
These are the defeated people who sat and wept by the rivers of Babylon, mocked by their captors, surrounded on every hand by the images of the gods who had apparently defeated Jehovah, the living God of Israel. (Psalm 137)
The people were strangers in a strange land, separated from their homeland by several hundred of miles of inhospitable wilderness. They felt alienated from their God who they believed had turned his back on them. The divine glory of Jerusalem, its temple were but a faded memory that only brought them pain to think about it. These unfulfilled longings brought them to the edge of despair.
It was into this bleak spiritual wilderness that God’s messenger came with a word from the Lord. It wasn’t just good advice, based on human wisdom and psychology, telling them to resign themselves to their present sad condition.
No, it was history’s greatest proclamation of salvation and hope. It was:
A GRACIOUS INVITATION
Most people like to receive an invitation to a special function, perhaps to a wedding or a celebration dinner. But that sort of invitation is highly restrictive. Wedding invitations are given to relatives and close friends; celebration dinner invitations are restricted to top people in business or politics.
But the invitation Isaiah offers is a universal invitation. Isaiah’s words are those which would have been used in the market place. You can imagine the street traders calling out to the passers-by to try their produce – “Come…” It’s like in a carnival with the town crier ringing his bell and calling the crowds’ attention.
How typical this is of our gracious God. He does not wait for people to go in search of him – he takes the initiative, His eternally wide open eyes comes in search of them. (2 Chronicles 16:9a: 9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. )
His love is such that he wants to be found by them, he longs to pardon them and share good things with them. Jesus said that he “came into the world to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:1-10). It’s as if God stands in the market place and implores the people to come to him to find what they really need.
Being our Creator, God possesses the greatest understanding of our human condition. (Psalm 139) Ever since the disaster of the Garden of Eden when our first parents failed to obey God’s instruction, when they tried to “eat their fill” from God’s tree of knowledge, to overstep divinely-given boundaries, mankind has been trying to get to that perfect place of satisfaction for an inner longing.
The famous English poet, Lord Byron (1788-1824), described his experience vividly typical of so many of our fellow citizens: he said he “Drank every cup of joy, drank early, deeply drank, drank draughts which common millions might have drunk, then died of thirst because there was no more to drink.”
It seems, he missed drinking from the Fount of life that only God can supply.
The prophet Isaiah’s call is to everyone who is not satisfied, who feels that their life is incomplete; that there’s something they crave for over and above their present possessions. It’s to “all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come buy and eat.” The only qualification that is made to the invitation is that need must be recognized. The invitation is to “all” –
It means none are excluded who do not for some reason exclude themselves. Jesus said he “did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).
Those whose eyes have been blinded by the “glitz and glamor” of this world; driven by politics and wealth, corruption, intrigue and power, those who falsely depend upon the temporary merits of their own good works for righteousness – these do not all thirst. They have, sadly, an insufficient sense of their true need.
What a sad condition for anyone to be in! And what a dangerous state, because the invitation is also an urgent invitation, for however great is God’s patience, the offer isn’t available indefinitely. Isaiah went on to say, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
God’s word to mankind is a word of gracious invitation, but not only that, it’s an invitational word of:
Here indeed is good news of abundant provision, of generosity that only God could provide. He makes a personal invitation to “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” The words of the text are a paradox – something which would be absurd if it weren’t true. Isaiah’s hearers, and us too, are invited to “buy, yet without money and without price.” Can this be true? Isn’t it a contradiction in terms? The contradiction on the surface is but intended to make this wonderful truth more emphatic.
This offer from God has been termed “the Salvation Market” because it reverses the world’s commercial values where you get “nothing for nothing”! As they say in business: ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch!’ But here we must recognize our absolute spiritual poverty in God’s sight. We must abandon any claims to self-righteousness. We must put away all ideas of having a part in our own salvation. We must be willing to rely on God’s undeserved love and forgiveness, made possible by the sacrifice by his Son, Jesus, on the Cross. The “Salvation Market” is the only market where the seller pays, not the buyer!
Cheap things are seldom valued. Ask a high price and people think a commodity is precious. But God’s offer is not an illusion. Here is the “heavenly merchant” who died for the buyers in his market. He died that no one coming to his market should ever be sent empty away. The selling price is zero, but that doesn’t mean that these goods cost nothing to the “heavenly merchant”. These goods are the cheapest sold and the dearest bought that ever were. All the wealth in the world couldn’t purchase one item in God’s marketplace, for the Son of Man bought them at great price, and now they are all free. No money can buy them because what God offers here in this text is without price because it is 100% priceless.
The offer is not merely about the basic necessities of life. It’s not just enough to only just barely “get by” as if the offer was only for bread and water. No, it is for “wine and milk” – nothing but the best. These were undreamed of luxuries for a people in exile, living in the foreign hovels of Assyria and yet, such is the fallen nature of mankind, Isaiah immediately has to ask the question, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does (can) not satisfy?”
The prophet is puzzled. “Why” he asks his hearers, “do you waste your life?” The inference is that, unbelievably, so many refuse God’s invitation to eternal life. Yet human nature always finds it hard to accept a free offer and wants to make a ‘minimal’ contribution of some kind towards it. No one likes to feel permanently indebted, not even to God, such is the stubbornness of humanity. Those who do that will end up like the Prodigal Son, shattered and disillusioned with life. God’s eternal values are 100% diametrically opposite of our worlds.
We come back to the prophet’s words, “Why spend money … and labour on what does not and cannot ever satisfy?” Why indeed? The free will that God has given us enables us to come freely to him and to be able to enter into the full relationship of sonship. If we reject the generous provision that he has made in Jesus, we deliberately choose darkness rather than light, we turn our backs upon his love. It leaves us without protection and exposed to the forces of evil.
We only have to look at the indescribable depths of moral and ethical failures of our world around us to see the 1000% chaos sin has brought upon its victims.
The good news is that God hasn’t given up on mankind. The gracious invitation, “Come, all…”, the generous provision, “buy … without money”, leads on to a:
The commodity in shortest supply among the exiles was hope. Everything that belonged to their past had been destroyed. Their land had been ravaged. The temple in Jerusalem, the centre of their worship, lay in ruins. There was no comfort to be found in their present circumstances. They were overwhelmed by their sense of loss, taunted by their captors, like fish out of water in an alien culture. Life was bleak and the future didn’t bear thinking about. (Psalm 137)
It was into this darkness that a near inaudible word of promise came, “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you…” It was a both a quiet yet thunderous word of hope. God was telling them that he still rules and is in control of events in Babylon. He’s a God whose purposes are way beyond the grasp of mere humans. He knows precisely what he’s doing and he is willing to transform their circumstances.
The exiles were in despair. They believed that they were doomed to remain in exile and that all was lost. But the word from the Lord through Isaiah spoke of a new beginning. There was, after all, a future for them.
There was going to be a second Exodus. For a second time God was going to redeem his people from captivity and lead them across the wilderness. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace” (Isaiah 55:12). The thunderous sounds of hope declaring God will once again save his people and lead them into triumph.
Our God is the God of the “Second Chance”. Yes, the people of Judah had for the most part rejected God but he still loved them, and here he was offering them a fresh start. There’s an urgency, an imperative about the words; there’s a progression in what had to be done. The invitation was to “come, buy and eat” indicating there’s more involved to God’s offer of salvation than hearing the good news of the gospel and even believing it: there’s a definite requirement that we make it our own by a participation of it, by “eating” it. (Psalm 34)
“Hear me”, says God, “that your soul may live.” This would be secured by an “everlasting covenant” as promised “to David”.
God’s promises to King David and his royal successors after him are now being made freely available to all the people of Israel, both high and low. Covenant privilege has now been extended to the whole people of God. The prophecy was wonderfully fulfilled and made possible by the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, “great David’s greater son”. He is the mediator and trustee of the new covenant. All believers in Jesus are members of God’s royal family.
Here then is Isaiah’s great invitation. It comes to us with compelling urgency to accept God’s offer of a lifetime. It sweeps away our objections. It presses us to respond without delay. It points to God’s immeasurable love and it tells us that whether we are thirsty for his grace or strangers to his covenant or too poor to purchase our salvation, we have only to return our lives to the Lord and he will abundantly pardon. We shall be ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven through Jesus Christ our Redeemer and our Lord (Mark 10:41-45, Luke 19:1-10).
The salvation of God is there for all that will come to him in repentance and faith. Even knowledge of it won’t save us. It is faith, that unique obedience of a relationship with God, which saves. God’s purpose for his people is to give us his life by putting his Spirit within us. Don’t let’s miss it; don’t let’s accept anything less. Isaiah’s word, “Come”, is a gracious invitation; it offers a generous provision and provides a great expectation.
We can thank our God for what He’s done for us in Jesus in the words of an old hymn: “How Good is the God We Adore” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768
“How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend!
His love is as great as his power,
And knows neither measure or end!
‘Tis Jesus the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that’s to come.”
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Let us now Pray;
God of our hearts…here we are! We’ve come with thirsty hearts, praying that your Word will satisfy us. We come with aching hearts, praying for good news to comfort us. We come with overflowing hearts, praying for a chance to share your love with all those who are our neighbors. You, who know our hearts and hear our prayers, be with us now in these days of greatest want and need. Amen.