First class isnt good enough
Every October for about 10 years straight my grandfather, who died a few years ago, would throw a party at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. He called it a friendship party. He invited his family and friendsand he had lots of friends. Hed rent the finest room in the hotel. The guests could wander off into the adjacent courtyard and enjoy the always-spectacular fall weather and breathtaking views of the bay. He told me once how he dealt with the Fairmont personnel.
He told them, "I dont want this to be first class."
They responded just as he expected: "Mr. Pedersen, of course we want this to be first class for you."
"No. I want it deluxe!"
His message was clear. Spare no expense. Pressed duck. Oysters Rockefeller. Champagne. Caviar. The party was the event of the year for many people. When the first of the parties was held, my brother went to the wrong hotel. My other brother and I, of course, told him what he missed. He never missed another party. I never missed it. Three years in a row I flew back from Idaho just to attend the party.
Did you know that God is throwing a party? Did you know that it features the finest of fare? Do you think you might like to receive an invitation to that party? Today, if you listen carefully, you will hear God himself invite you to the most lavish party ever thrown. He invites us to dine with him, feasting on love and forgiveness, and then he sends us out to invite others.
Isaiah 54 and 55 feature the New Covenant and the new age brought about by the Servant of the Lord, whose work was featured in Isaiah 40-53. In Isaiah 54, we saw what this meant for Jerusalem, which represents the people of God. In Isaiah 55, the Lord addresses individuals within Jerusalemand even outside Jerusalem. He speaks to "every one who thirsts."
Join the party (55:1-3b)
The Lord, acting like an ancient street vendor, says "Ho!" Twice in this section he says "listen." Hes trying to get our attention. He first calls out to "every one who thirsts." There is really only one condition for receiving this invitation from the Lord, and thats the condition of being spiritually thirsty. Everyone qualifies as spiritually thirsty. The Lord then invites those who acknowledge their thirst and want to satisfy it to "come to the waters" to find spiritual refreshment.
Second, the invitation goes out to those who have no money. Not only can those who have no money come to the waters to drink, they can "buy and eat." The food isnt free. It has to be purchased. But you dont need any money to buy it. Whats going on? The Servant of the Lord, whose work, as depicted in Isaiah 40-53, creates the New Covenant and ushers in the new age of Isaiah 54-55, is the one who pays the price. The recipients "bring their poverty to a transaction already completed" by the Servant of the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, who paid the price with his own life (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).(1)
Specifically, those with no money are invited to buy "wine and milk." Wine is a symbol of joy, or exhilaration (Psalm 4:7). Milk is a symbol of spiritual nourishment that causes growth.
In verse 2, the Lord turns his attention to those who have money but are spending it unwisely. He asks the question why they buy "what is not bread," which is further described as "what does not satisfy." This is spiritual "food" that does not satisfy us. From Isaiahs perspective, this food is the worship of idols, which he describes as "feeding on ashes" (Isaiah 44:20). The pagan religions featured feasts but provided no spiritual sustenance. Idolatry consumes resources but doesnt satisfy.
The Lord then invites those who have exercised poor dietary judgment to "listen carefully" to him. People eat the wrong kind of food because they dont listen carefully to those who tell them whats good for them. The Lord says that we should listen to him in order to eat the good food he offers and be satisfied.
More than that, he says we should listen and "delight yourself"literally, delight "your soul." This is food and drink for the soul, for the inner person. The soul is to delight itself in "abundance" (literally, "fatness")in ample supplies of luxuriant food. Its good food. Its luxuriant food. And theres lots of it.
In a more expressive way of asking us to listen, the Lord in verse 3 tells us to "incline your ear"literally, to "give your ear." Hes asking that we give him our ears, our full attention. For the fourth time, he tells us to "come." This time, we are to come not to eat, drink or buy. He simply says "come to me." The Lord is the reality behind the images of water, wine and milk, the good and luxuriant and abundant food. The Lord is the herald who calls us to the feast and he is the host who welcomes us. Once we get to the party, we find that he himself is the feast. We "drink" from him and "feed" on him, and we are refreshed, nourished and exhilarated.
In the second line of verse 3, the Lord tells us one more time to listen. He keeps calling out to us. He keeps inviting us. This time, if we listen to him and do what he has told us in this section, we will "live." Literally, he says, "Listen, that your soul may live." As we live physically by eating food and drinking water, we live spiritually by eating and drinking from the Lord. But this is more than simply staying alive spiritually, for the fare includes wine and fatness. We thrive by eating and drinking of the Lord.
Isaiah writes elsewhere of this feast that the Lord would offer in the new age: "And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain, a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine" (Isaiah 25:6). The mountain is Mount Zion, site of Jerusalem, where Jesus feasted with all sorts of people. Jesus said, "And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God" (Luke 13:29). A little later, Jesus told a story about an man who issued invitations to a feast that were refused by those who received them. Then the invitation goes out to "the poor and crippled and blind and lame," and a slave is ordered to "go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:15-24). Gods invitation to the banquet of the new age went to the Jews first, who for the most part rejected it. Just after Luke records Jesus story, he depicts him as feasting with tax-gatherers and sinnersthe outcasts (Luke 15:1-2).
Waters flowed from Gods presence in Eden (Genesis 2:10). In the wilderness, manna fell from Gods presence in heaven. Milk and honey flowed in the promised land, where God dwelled (Deuteronomy 26:9). Ezekiel envisioned water flowing from the temple, which symbolized Gods presence, in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 471-2). Joel predicted a similar development, which included flowing wine and milk: "And it will come about in that day that the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk and all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; and a spring will go out from the house of the Lord to water the valley of Shittim" (Joel 3:18). Zecharaiah envisioned "living waters" flowing from Jerusalem (Zecharaiah 14:8). These prophets foresaw the new life of the new age flowing from a different kind of Jerusalem, a heavenly Jerusalem ruled by Jesus. Jesus acts as if these prophecies are being fulfilled through his presence.
Jesus turns water in to wine (John 2:1-11). In the wilderness, he miraculously multiplies bread and fish, feeding thousands, reminding everyone how God provided manna for Israel in the wilderness (Mark 6:38-44). He says, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). He gives "living water" (John 4:10). Echoing Isaiah 55, he says, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37). In Isaiah, the Lord is inviting people to come to him. Jesus, offering the waters of life, embodies the living God. Most significantly, at the Feast of the Passover, Jesus breaks bread and pours wine and says it represents his body and blood (Matthew 26:26-29).
The water of life is flowing again, along with milk and honey and wine, just as it did from Eden, just as it did in the promised land; and manna is falling from heaven again, just as it did in the wilderness. This refreshment and nourishment and exhilaration come from God, who dwells in Jesus. Jesus, the King, invites the guests, throws the party and serves his people the good stuff. In the garden, there were prohibitions, first against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and then against eating from the tree of life. In the new age, there are no prohibitions. Jesus, who himself represents what those trees stood for, says we may eat freely from him, that we may know truth and wisdom and that we may have eternal life.
Have you ever had the sense that God was trying to get your attention? "Ho! Listen carefully. Give me your ear." His call may not come to you in those words, but you understand it nonetheless. You know youre supposed to listen to something. You know youre supposed to listen to God. Maybe now is such a time. Maybe God is trying to get your attention. Maybe hes called out to you many times, but you havent paid attention to him. Maybe now is the time you want to listen.
Are you thirsty? Are you hungry? If you can feel hunger and thirst, perhaps God has your attention. Are your resources limited? Do you think you dont have the money to buy the stuff and go to the places and take the classes to satisfy your soul? Thats no problem. The food and drink that God offers you wont cost you anything.
Most of you probably have the resources. Youve got money. But perhaps youve been spending it on the wrong things. Youve been buying stuff that isnt bread, stuff that doesnt satisfy. Youre still searching and experimenting and chasingnew city, new job, new church, new friends, new computer, new toys, new tickets, new man, new women, new car, new diet, new appearance, new drugs, new cell phone, new PalmPilot. Youve been worshiping all the wrong gods, and paying a lot of money to do so. Idolatry consumes wages, resources, families and friends and ravishes your soul, leaving you spiritually famished.
Perhaps youre ready to try a different restaurant. Youve been spending your wages on junk food when you can dine at Chez Panisse at no cost to you. God is offering you food and drink. Hes offering Jesus, the bread of life and the fountain of living waters. Jesus himself extends the invitation. He says, "Come to me." Who is he inviting? Everyone. That means youyou who are thirsty and hungry, whether youre rich or poor. Jesus is inviting you to the party because he wants you there. The food and drink that he gives wont cost you anything. That doesnt mean its free. Were suspicious of stuff thats advertised as "free." It usually comes with strings attached, with hidden costs, or else its junk. No, this fare is costly. Its the most expensive spiritual food and drink youll ever find. Its "fatness." Its luxuriant food. Its caviar and cabernet. The price for this feast has been paid by the host himself. His body was broken and his blood was spilt so that we could eat the bread and drink the wine. Your money is no good here. Bring your poverty to the transaction thats already been completed.
Jesus is offering food and drink that will delight your soul. It is noteworthy that God wants you to be delighted in your innermost being. He wants you to be delighted again and again. Theres an abundance of food, and the water and wine and milk and honey are flowing.
We partake of Jesus, and he gives us himself, his life. What does it mean to receive his life? To start with, it means feasting on love and forgiveness. Thats whats signified by the bread and wine of the Lords table. In Isaiah 55:6-7, the prophet invites us to respond to the call of the Lord by calling upon him, who will "have compassion" on you and will "abundantly pardon" you. Its a love feast. Love is the food your soul craves. If you feast on this food and drink, you will be refreshed by the water, nourished by the milk and exhilarated by the wine. You will be satisfied.
How do you partake of Jesus? You feed on "the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). You come to the word looking for God, particularly as he expresses himself in Jesus. You allow the word to give you images. You use your faithyour imagination. You picture Jesus putting his arms around you, looking into your eyes and telling you, "I love you. I forgive you." You feast on the fellowship that Jesus gives you in his family, and you let Jesus love you through your brothers and sisters. You enjoy this feast and linger over it. This is not a Big Mac that you wolf down. This is the finest of fare. You take your time with it. You savor it. You linger over the word, over the images of love and over and fellowship. You savor it all. Spend some time in reflection and in giving thanks to the Father. Every experience in life is a little more satisfying if you reflect on it a bit. And, of course, you dream of the eternal feast to come. "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7).
The King has invited you to his feast. After we have dined with him, he sends us out to invite others.
Invite others to the party (55:3c-5)
If we accept the Lords invitation to dine with him, hell make an "everlasting covenant" with us according to the "faithful mercies shown to David." To understand what this means, we need to understand the covenant that the Lord made with David in 2 Samuel 7. In it, the Lord promised to establish the throne of David forever through his seed, or descendant (2 Samuel 7:12, 16). The Lord makes and maintains this covenant in his "lovingkindness," according to Psalm 89 (verses 2, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49). The Hebrew word hesed, translated "lovingkindness" in Psalm 89, is the same one that is translated "faithful mercies" in Isaiah 55:3. In Psalm 89, the word often appears in connection with "faithfulness." The NIV translation in Isaiah, "faithful love," captures its meaning. The plural of hesed is used rarely in the scriptures, but it is found in Isaiah 55:3 and three times in Psalm 89 (verses 2, 33 and 49), so Isaiah 55 takes us back to Psalm 89, where the psalmist says that the Lord in his faithful love, even his faithful "loves," swears to David, "I will establish your seed forever, and build up your throne to all generations" (verse 4), reiterating the promise in verses 29 and 36.
The descendant through whom the Davidic throne is eternally established is Jesus, whom Matthew right out of the chute introduces as "the son of David" (Matthew 1:1), whose birth Paul at the outset of his letter to the Romans attributes to "the seed of David" (Romans 1:3). Peter says Jesus occupied the throne of David when he ascended to heaven after his resurrection (Acts 2:29-36).
This covenant concerns Davids "seed," which can be either singular or plural. The pronoun "you" in Isaiah 55:3 is plural. When Peter in Acts 13:34 refers to this prophesy as being fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus, the pronoun "you" also appears in the plural, even though hes applying it to Jesus. The Lord made his covenant with David. It is fulfilled in the eternal reign of Jesus, but it is also somehow fulfilled by others. Jesus assumes the throne, and we share in the blessings of his reign.
The Lord says in verse 4, "Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples." Hes speaking of David, but also of Davids son, Jesus. The Servant of the Lord is called as a witness to "peoples from afar" (Isaiah 49:1). True Israel was identified as those who obey the voice of the Servant (Isaiah 50:10). Now the voice of the Servant, after he as suffered and assumed his throne, goes out to the world. To what is Jesus, as the inheritor of the Davidic throne, a witness? He is a witness of the Lords faithful loves. Davids victories caught the attention of the nations. David understood that the Lord had placed him as "head of the nations" (Psalm 18:43). The reign of Jesus, the descendant of David, is worldwide. He is a leader and commandera kingnot just for Israel but for "the peoples."
Jesus, having won a great victory over Satan, the true enemy of not only Israel but all nations, is a witness of the faithful loves of the Lord, who sent his Son, his king, into the world because he loved the world.
In verse 5, the Lord addresses a singular person (the pronoun "you" is singular). Hes addressing the descendant of David, who is Christ. He says, "Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, and a nation which knows you not will run to you." David recognized that the Lord had spoken similarly to him, evidenced by his words to the Lord in Psalm 18:43: "You have placed me as head of the nations; a people whom I have not known serve me." David established his reign by the sword. Davids descendant simply calls, and people willingly bow to him. Not only do they bow, they come running in order to bow. Whats all the fuss about? The king is throwing a party. Hes "calling" the nations: "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters ."
Lots of people throw parties. What makes this one different? Well, theres no feast quite like this one. But how are we to know that of all the parties were invited to, this is the one we must attend? The call goes forth, and people come running to the party, because the presence of the Lord is there, as evidenced by his glorification of his king. The Lord himself is the magnet. His presence is made known by the glorification of his Kingthe crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus (John 17:1), and the healing that Jesus brings in his reign. When Peter healed a lame man and people marveled, he said, "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Servant Jesus " (Acts 3:12-13).
Jesus, a Jew, offered living water to a woman from Samaria, a nation he "did not know." Following her interaction with Jesus, she went into the city and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?" She sensed that Jesus might be the Davidic king the prophets spoke of. Many Samaritans believed in Jesus upon hearing the word of the woman. Then they came to Jesus and asked him to stay with them. Then many more believed in him. They told the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is indeed the Savior of the world" (John 4:1-42). A nation that Jesus did not know came running to him for living water.
If we partake of Jesus (verses 1 through 3b), we will share in the blessings of the eternal Davidic Covenant (verses 3c through 5) we will share in the blessings of the kingdom of Jesus, which means we will partake of him forever. Also, because the Lord makes this covenant with us, Jesus shares his reign with us. He makes us kings. As such, we too are witnesses to the peoples regarding the faithful loves of the Lord, who has won a great victory in our lives. As kings, as servants of Jesus in his kingdom, what do we do now? We invite people to the party! We call a nation we dont knowpeople we dont knowand they come running. Why would they listen to us? Because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel. The Lord will draw them. They want the true and living God. Why should they believe that we know about the true and living God? Because he has glorified usor at the least, he is glorifying us. We have sat down at his banquet table. We have eaten the bread. We have drunk the wine. We have delighted ourselves in abundance. And it has changed us. This food and drink has given us life.
We invite people to the feast. We tell them, "Come, for everything is ready now." The King tells us, "Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:15-24). We tell them about the water and wine and milk, about the luxuriant food and drink that will delight their famished souls. We tell them that at this party, they can feast on love and forgiveness forever and ever. We invite them to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Were like Peter. He failed Jesus in his hour of need, but Jesus returned to serve him breakfast by the Sea of Galilee. When Peter sat down on the shore, he was eating something more than fish and bread. He was feasting on love and forgiveness. Then Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep." Feed them! Jesus turned Peter into a king (John 21:1-17). And Peter began inviting others to the feast.
Dine with the King
If youve never sat down at the table with the King, we who have partaken of Jesus would like to invite you to the feast. Youll dine on the finest of fare. Are you thirsty? Have some water. Are you hungry? Have some food. Are you bored? Have some wine. Are you looking for love and forgiveness? The divine host wants to welcome you into his home and embrace you. Jesus says, "Come to me." Come to him. Some of you are already attending the party but you havent really joined it. Youve only nibbled and sipped. The invitation goes out to you as well: "Come to me." Then, once we have truly celebrated with Jesus, we cant help but invite others to the party.
My grandparents are no longer around to throw their friendship party. I miss them. I miss the party. But I know that even now Im attending an even greater party. Im feasting on the Lord and fellowship in his kingdom. And when his kingdom comes, and his will is done on earth as it is in heaven, the party is going to get even better. And it will never end.
(1) J. Alec Motyer. The Prophecy of Isaiah. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, Ill. 1993. Pg. 453.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ("NASB"). © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Where indicated, Scripture quotations were also taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ("NIV"). © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
February 14, 2001
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