Isaiah 55:1-13 ‘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. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples. 5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendour.’6 Seek the LORD as he is able to be found; call on him as he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. 9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Friends, I suspect that, like me, you might have been struggling with thoughts: the thoughts behind the murderous events of last week in Christchurch and that more local struggle to make sense of the tragic loss of people in the Barossa these last weeks.
In Christchurch, surely it was pure evil thoughts – brutality and cold murder. Here, it is just the grip of death all around us – tragic death, destroying life, love, family, community.
On both counts – the evil and the tragic death, it feels like things we hold as things that are always true and real and trustable are no longer the same – we are shaken.
We need some good news from God. We have it, I believe. The prophet Isaiah has some words that fall straight from heaven to our ground in our time. I hear them as words from God in these times that challenge this ‘new normal’ and show us his much better normal for people of faith in Christ.
These words from Isaiah are spoken to people to a people who have not only lost loved ones, even in tragic circumstances, or to a nation who has suffered an horrific single attack on its innocent people.
This nation has been forcibly removed from its home by a foreign power. These people can no longer live in their homes or their country. Everything they thought was immovable, dependable, rock-solid, true and unshakable has been undone, crushed into the sand and lost. The Jerusalem temple is in ruins, as is the city. The land is desolate and unoccupied and a long, long way away – a mere memory getting fuzzier as the years role on and the shape of the new land and life take hold.
The big question on their minds surely must have been, “Where is God now?”. Either Yahweh was not as great as he said he was or they believed him to be (because he was defeated by the god of Babylon – Morduch), or, Yahweh just does not care anymore. Their sins are too many and now they are resigned to this never ending aloneness and dislocation.
If either is true then why bother with belief, with Scripture, with prayer, with worship. They can’t worship anyway. There is no temple. They cannot fulfil their vows of sacrificing and offering animals and goods and they cannot receive God’s blessing in worship. Besides, life in Babylon is not that bad. You can go to the ballet, the theatre, eat OK food, live in a house, have a job and raise children. …
So complete is the loss that the life of oppression, slavery, worship of pagan gods and monarchy is beginning to seem normal. The evil is complete. It is complete because it is no longer recognized. Evil and false worship has become ‘the new normal’.
But God’s got a whole other ’normal’ to show them. God is not lost, not absent or uncaring at all. His preferred and better future in his better country is also not lost.
‘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.
From receiving the staples of bread and water to the luxury items of wine and milk, God’s giving is overwhelming free gift. This is an exquisite free lunch with bottles of Grange, as many as you want, all on the house. Deeply satisfying for you, and you don’t need to earn it, achieve it, purchase it. This offer of a life beyond the ‘new normal’ is full and free and deeply satisfying.
But how do you “come” to this party of joy? How do you ‘return’ home? How do you receive this finest fare for truly living?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.
You ‘eat’ by listening. You receive the gifts of goodness by the hearing of the Words spoken. You leave the evil and the loss by the ear tuned to this Word from God. This invitation is spoken to be heard and received in the heart through the ears.
What is the best news in the good news of this invitation? Covenant: new covenant: new rock-solid, immovable, dependable relationship of love with the Creator saving God, based on what he says, not what we know.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
It used to be a covenant with just David and his family. Now it is a covenant with all God’s people. And staggeringly, even more.
6 Seek the LORD as he is able to be found; call on him as he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Did you hear it? To whom is this new free deal offered? Even the ‘wicked’, the ‘unrighteous’, the ‘sinful’! Both those who have given up on God and those who have never known him are now invited to this great home coming banquet of the food of life – forgiveness, reinstatement, acceptance, inclusion, belonging, future.
If you don’t believe me folks, then hear this.
8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.
“Declares’ who? ‘Declares the Lord”. This is all God. It is his decision, not Isaiah’s or any other person’s decision. This new future is God’s initiative, his power, his words, his doing. His words are his doing. What he does is what he says and what he says is what he does. When he speaks it happens and it has happened to you.
Jesus, the new David and the new Israel has risen to rule forever and for all after suffering the worst murder in history and rising from the deepest grave there ever was – hell itself.
Jesus is our ‘new normal’ now. He is our home. He is our temple. His sacrifice is enough for all of us. Our worship is not a sacrifice but a banquet he hosts – and it is good bread – The Bread of Life giving us life – like Guinness to the Irish; ‘mother’s milk”!
Friend, leave your ‘normal’ and come to his. He has drunk the bitter cup to the dregs to give us the sweetest and best wine for life; the new wine of forgiveness and hope – even amid evil and loss. He has not ruled us in terror or taken us over by brute force. He has served us with relentless love and still does. The new Kind David is not a scare monger but a servant lover of all.
So, we now pray for our enemies and embrace the stranger and the sinner without fear, but love; his love at work in us. We pray for the Islamic community and speak of this Jesus and his great love for us all. We pray for and serve broken families and grieving friends in Jesus’ name and power.
But there is that question to which we all need to respond:
2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?
If God’s new normal is this great banquet of acceptance for broken, hurting, grieving and even violent, uncaring murderous people, can we still keep on living in our ‘normal’ here in Babylon?
Will the food, the wine, the houses, the education, the land, the vines, the concerns and goings on of this life in the Valley be too much to let go of to eat this choice food and live in this wonderful community of joy?
Friend, in the loss, the questions and the feeling all at sea, come to this banquet, there is a place fort you. It was won for you by the Saviour. He has paid your ticket in his blood. His forgiveness cost him everything to give but costs you nothing to receive.
Leave Babylon, even if hard to do and come home. Come to the King, his food, his drink, his communal banquet. Don’t stay in the ‘new normal’. Do what the NZ Prime Minister said she was going to do:
“You (evil, terror, death, loss) may have chosen us — but we utterly reject and condemn you”
And how? We reject you (evil, terror, death, loss), because Jesus has been utterly rejected and condemned by us, and yet still loves us. His grace is now our ‘new normal’…. and we have to live it.