>The following was preached at Veedersburg and Hillsboro UMC on Sunday, March 7, 2010. The text for this week’s message is Isaiah 55:1-9.

As we enter into the third full week of the season of Lent, I want to continue with the theme of the Christian faith as a journey. And every journey begins somewhere. Every journey begins with an intentional decision to set out. I don’t know of a single person that wants to get from Point A to Point B without thinking about how they are going to get there. And it is so easy these days to plan a trip, isn’t it? We pick a destination, punch in the address into the GPS, or into Google Maps and we get a route. Believe it or not, it is just as easy to begin the journey of the Christian faith.
Two weeks ago, we looked at Romans 10 and saw that the first step on this journey of faith occurs when we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. It’s very simple, at least on paper. There are no rules to memorize or an operations manual to read. Learning how to live the Christian life does take some time, but we have the rest of our lives to figure out those details.
Like all journeys, there are decisions that have to be made along the way. I don’t know about you, but usually the decisions I make on the road revolve around McDonald’s or Cracker Barrell. You know, the important stuff – where to eat, can I make it to the next exit before getting gas, what am I going to listen to. However, in the Christian journey, the decisions have much more eternal consequences. It is possible to abandon the journey completely. To give up and go your own way. And that certainly happens sometimes.
I’m sure every person here knows of a person who just seems to fall off the map when it comes to the faith. Maybe you feel like you’ve done it yourself from time to time. Last week, we talked about forks in the road. A fork in the road is when you have to make a decision as to whether or not you are going to continue following Jesus. Many people come to these times in their lives, and they stop following him. For whatever reason, they decide not to continue on their journey.
When we looked at Philippians 3, we saw that there were some who decided to go their own way. Paul says that their god is their belly. They allow their desires to guide them, not Jesus. And when this happens, they’ve gone down the wrong path. They reached that fork in the road and went the direction that was most pleasing to them. Let’s be straight up for a minute here, it is not always cotton candy and sunny days when we follow Christ. There are difficult times, and we have to decide which path to take.
One time, when I was in seminary, a friend and I took a handful of middle school boys on a camping trip. This wasn’t the “pull up in your car, pitch a tent next to the electrical pole and to play at the pool” kind of trip either. This was a “bring only what you can carry, hike in and find an opening in the woods” type of camping trip. We got there in the evening, set up camp, ate dinner and just hung out for a while. The next morning, we went on a hike.
To give you an idea of what this hike was going to be like, the place where we went is called Red River Gorge. At one point, there is a several hundred foot differential in elevation. There are some difficult trails in that area. I was the lucky one who got to carry the backpack with the water bottles. Now, there were six of us on this hike, and we made sure to have plenty of water for everybody, so I was carrying about 20 bottles of water on my back during this hike. One thing I remember very clearly is how thirsty we got on this hike, and how much of a relief it was to just sit down for a while, drink some water and eat a granola bar.
And what we see today in the Isaiah passage is an invitation to stop and drink the water. It is a call to eat the bread. We are beckoned to come. Four times, in fact, we see that word, “come,” in just the first verse. The tone of this passage is urgent, even excited. It’s not a demand; it’s an invitation. What we are seeing here is not the call of a person selling goods for profit, or for self-benefit. This isn’t the vendor at the ballgame selling peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
The one who extends this invitation is none other than God. God is the one who makes the invitation. But notice, it is a somewhat limited invitation. It is a limitation that is not based on who God is calling, but on the needs of the one being called. This invitation is for those who are thirsty. If you are not thirsty, there’s no need to come. I think back to that hike, and I remember what it means to thirst.
As we walked through the woods for hours, the thick Kentucky summer air made it difficult to breathe at times. And the worst part about it is that the first half of the hike is easy. It was down hill most of the way. We made our way down to a creek that was a few miles from our campsite, and spent some time there skipping rocks and exploring the area. But then it was time to head back.
And after a while, a backpack full of water bottles, 90 degree heat and the humidity of the gorge were wearing me down. Add to that the fact that we were hiking uphill at this point, and I began to really understand what it means to thirst. Your mouth gets dry, the conversations become less, and the heavy breathing sets in. At that point, there is nothing better than taking a break and getting a cool drink of water. Have you ever been that thirsty? Have you ever been so thirsty that you can’t think of anything but water? It consumes your every thought.
The invitation that we read about here is for those who are thirsty. It is for those who have their thoughts consumed by the need for a drink. Our thirst is a physical craving, but what we see more often than not in Scripture is that hunger and thirst point to something more than just the physical needs of our bodies. In Matthew 5, Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed because they will be filled. Thirst serves as a metaphor for spiritual longing.
The simple truth is that those who are thirsty see more appeal in this call than those who are not. Those who have plenty to drink do not thirst. Those who realize their true standing before God, they are the ones who thirst for God’s righteousness. The people who are happy with where they are spiritual, those who are self-satifsifed and self-righteous don’t thirst for God’s righteousness because they think they are already in pretty good shape. I came across a quote this week that said, “You can have no greater sign of confirmed pride than when you think you are humble enough.” Think about that for a minute.
Our spiritual pride can hold us back. Our spiritual pride is the part within us that is saying, “This message isn’t for you. This message is for all those other people that don’t have it all together.” Do you thirst for God’s righteousness, or are you satisfied with where you are? Do you hear the invitation here in Isaiah 55 and think, “Yes, that’s what I want in my life!” Or are you thinking, “Are we going to run over today? I wonder what’s going on this afternoon. Did I turn off the light in the bathroom before we left?”
Those who think they have it all figure out have a problem. Especially those who think they have their spiritual lives figured out. As we continue our journey towards Easter during this season of Lent, I want to remind you of something that’s very important. The ones who eventually put Jesus up on the cross, weren’t those who were thirsty. They weren’t the ones who were responding to the invitation that we see here in Isaiah 55. They were the ones who were satisfied with where they were. They weren’t the scum of society; they were the best of the best. This is so crucial for us to remember as we continue our journey in the Christian faith. We need to always remember to thirst after the things of God.
The invitation is for those who have no money to come, buy and eat. There’s almost this image of a great banquet that is going on. This is even more significant when we understand it in its original context. In the ancient world, when a new king would assume the throne, he would often issue an edict declaring all debts to be cleared. He would call for a great banquet that would be enjoyed by the people of the kingdom. God is still God, so there is no new king on the throne, but He is declaring an edict that releases us from our debts. He is calling us together for a great banquet that will be enjoyed by all the people. It is a new day, and it is a day that is here because of Jesus Christ.
In verse 2, we are given a question to consider. God asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” We do this all the time, don’t we? We invest our lives into things that don’t really matter. Bread helps to sustain life, but we seek after so many things that don’t sustain life. We seek after stuff, after privilege, after power, recognition, glory, fame, and wealth. Whatever it is it does not sustain us. Why do we spend so much of our lives investing in things that don’t matter?
Our culture tells us that it’s all right go into debt to get the things that we want right now. Show me a single department store that doesn’t have a credit card of some kind. Even Wal-Mart has a credit card now. Our society tells us that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. But these things do not sustain us. I have never heard of a single person whose life was saved by a larger television.
Now hear me out on this one. I’m not saying that it is bad for us to have things in this life. The problem is when those things become the focus of all our energy. People become workaholics so they can have more stuff. People stress out about their jobs so they can pay off the debt that they worked themselves into to get the stuff in the first place. I believe the expression is “keeping up with the Joneses,” but what happens when Jimmy and Jane Jones realize that they are still not satisfied with the stuff in their lives. I don’t know of anybody who felt like they finally had everything they wanted in life.
Think about the sports figures that have multimillion-dollar contracts, and hold out for more. Just a couple years ago, Alex Rodriguez opted out of a $25 million/season contract, and then re-signed with the Yankees for $27.5 million/season. What is he going to do with that extra $2.5 million? Is that going to bring him satisfaction in life? Doubtful.
When asked, “How much money is enough?” John D. Rockefeller famously answered, “Just a little bit more.” Rockefeller is also quoted as saying, “Do you know the only thing that gives me pleasure? It’s to see my dividends coming in.” And, “It is wrong to assume that men of immense wealth are always happy.” The first quote is from a person seeking after the things in this life that will never satisfy. The last two reveal the dissatisfaction of that same man. You see, when we constantly chasing after the stuff in this life, there’s always just a little bit more that we think we need.
Can you imagine what this world would look like if people chased after God with the same fervor that they chase after stuff? What would this world look like? And yet, in spite of the fact that God is the only thing that satisfies in this life, we are constantly seeking satisfaction elsewhere. We need to hear the invitation. We need to know that the things of this world will never bring us satisfaction because they can never sustain us. Only God can do that.
So let me ask you something today. Are you thirsty? Do you thirst after God? Does your heart leap when you hear the invitation to come and drink? Or are you satisfied? When you hear this call, do you say, “Nah, I’m all right. I don’t need anything right now.” We need to be people who realize that our sustenance comes from God. When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, he tells Satan that man does not live on bread alone, but on the very word of God. The physical bread that we eat can sustain us for a while, but it is only God who brings us to life.