Isaiah 55:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version)
1Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
7let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This month I have chosen this song from Isaiah for our parish to study because it resonates with me. Like most prophetic writing, it is a message from God to the people, and, even though we hear it several thousand years after it was written, as God’s continuing people in this world, it is written directly to us. The two verses which are working on me this month are verses 2 and 9: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” and “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Verse 2 is a question that I need to hear from time to time, especially addressed straight from God’s lips to my ears. We live in a culture that values busyness and more, More, MORE! It is good to be reminded that this might not be God’s value, and, in fact, that it isn’t God’s value. Busyness doesn’t save us; having more stuff doesn’t save us. God alone does that work, and this verse reminds me “to keep the main thing the main thing” (Stephen Covey). What do I spend my money on that is bread? What do I spend my money on that is not? What about my labor is satisfying? What about my labor is not? How do I better align my life to God’s goals? And so the questions breed more questions, questions which I hope lead me “in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23).
Verse 9 puts me in my place, especially as we anticipate the cross-shaped journey of Lent. If “Who is God?” is the question this verse poses, “Not I” is the answer that I need to hear. In being reminded that God is God and I am not, it gives me both a feeling of awe and a feeling of comfort. I am not alone in my journey, and the God who goes with me every step of the way knows all, feels all, loves all, and protects all. God’s eye is on the sparrow and all of creation at once. God knows my thoughts and knows so much more than I could ever conceive. And I am in God’s hands with all the saints in heaven and on earth from now until the day after eternity.
Finally, it with this realization of my dependence that I can return to the beginning of the song and hear it is an invitation instead of a handout: “1Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Without God, I am thirsty. Without God, I am hungry. Without God, I am tired and weak, and worn. Without God, I have nothing to celebrate and nothing to live for. With God, my thirst is quenched, my stomach is full, my faith is renewed, and my cup is overflowing, and this song, written for me and for all God’s people, serves not only to remind and correct, but also to refill and restore.
By this time we read this passage in church, almost half of our Lenten journey will have elapsed. I am looking forward with eager anticipation to this wonderful rest stop in scripture along the way. Thanks be to God. Amen.
In Christ, Pastor Breen