May 31, 2011 David Balzer

Isaiah 55: Total Satisfaction

 “Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, Tuesday, 8 May. But in the interests of saving lives, the ceasefire began yesterday to be sounded along all the fronts. The German War is therefore AT AN END. We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing. Today is Victory in Europe Day.”

 

So came THE REFRESHING WORDS OF PEACE from Winston Churchill in 1945, ending six long years of war. Six years of deprivation and death. Six years of fear and food shortages. Of blackout curtains, and air raid sirens.

 

And the people of Britain CELEBRATED. Celebrated freedom and peace. Celebrated victory and new beginnings. Celebrated the end of rations, and the beginnings of generous meals. Of regular meat and butter. Of tea and tobacco and fruit. Of a return TO NORMAL.

 

And it’s much the same here in Isaiah 54 and 55. We hear God’s REFRESHING WORDS OF PEACE for ISRAEL. The war is over. Peace has arrived. And the celebration can begin!

 

The HISTORICAL context is that God’s promised to bring Israel back from exile. They’ll return from Babylon to the Promised Land. That their sin’s been paid for.

 

The LITERARY context is we’ve just found out how that forgiveness is POSSIBLE. In Ch 53 we met God’s ideal servant who’ll be punished in place of sinners. Remember 53:5?

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; THE PUNISHMENT THAT BROUGHT US PEACE was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

 

Peace comes TO ALL because ONE was punished. And chapters 54 and 55 are about what that PEACE will look like.

 

For the Jews, peace, or SHALOM, isn’t just about the END OF HOSTILITIES, but about the celebration of rich, fulfilling life – that’s SHALOM.

 

And, just like WW2 ended with agreements signed and sealed, so God’s declaration of peace is SEALED WITH AN AGREEMENT. V9 of ch 54 – Just like in the days of Noah, when he promised, never again, to destroy the earth with a flood

So NOW I have sworn not to be angry with you, NEVER TO REBUKE YOU AGAIN. 10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken NOR MY COVENANT OF PEACE BE REMOVED,” says the LORD,

 

God’s making a COVENANT of PEACE. Signed in the blood of his servant.

 

Peace with God means

And if we jump back up to the start of chapter 54, we see what peace with God means.

 

Celebration

First up, it means CELEBRATION. V1.

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,”  says the LORD.

 

Here, the Jews returning home is like a barren woman who’ll end up with lots of kids. The ultimate turn around. From empty to full. That’s worth CELEBRATING. Just like the millions of English in the streets celebrating the end of WW2.

 

End of fear and shame (54:4)

Second, peace with God means the end of fear and shame. V4.

4 “Do not be AFRAID; you will not suffer SHAME. Do not fear DISGRACE; you will not be humiliated. You will FORGET the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

 

reconciliation (54:7)

And the REASON there’s no need to be SCARED of God anymore is, THREE, peace with God means RECONCILIATION. Restoration of relationship. The END of his rebuke and anger. V7.

7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I WILL BRING YOU BACK.

 

Time and again. Generation after generation God forgave and forgave and forgave. Finally his anger and judgment flared up for a moment. Then it was GONE, and all was forgiven. V8.

8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I WILL have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.

 

That’s a picture of PEACE. Reconciliation, and the end of REJECTION.

 

Unfailing love (54:10)

And, from GOD’S side, peace means his unfailing love. V10.

10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my UNFAILING LOVE for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

 

That’s love that doesn’t blow hot and cold. That doesn’t depend on our behaviour, or on circumstances. That’s a wonderful promise for ALL OF US. All of us who’re tempted to think God’s opinion of us depends on our performance. And it’s ESPECIALLY true for us TODAY who can be CONFIDENT of God’s unfailing love for us, seen in the death of his servant in our place.

10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my UNFAILING LOVE for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

 

Security (54:11-17)

And fifthly, peace with God means SECURITY. That’s there from v11. If you’ve been reconciled to the powerful sovereign God, then that means you’re SECURE.

 

V11. God’s talking to Jerusalem. Once he brings his people back to his city, he’ll fortify the walls. The gates will be unbreakable, and the foundations rock solid. Doesn’t matter who attacks, they won’t succeed (v15).

 

And then, v13. There’ll be security INSIDE the walls, TOO. An assurance of God’s goodwill towards them.

13 All your sons will be TAUGHT by the LORD, and great will be your children’s PEACE. 14 In righteousness you will be ESTABLISHED: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear.

 

Satisfaction

And as we move into Ch 55, God’s refreshing words of peace continue. Just like Winston Churchill invited everyone to CELEBRATE, so God issues HIS INVITATION in v1.

“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.

 

It’s an invitation to people to BE SATISFIED. To come and drink. To have their thirst quenched with water, and wine and milk. And there’s plenty for everyone – doesn’t matter if you’ve got no money. It’s an open bar!

 

There’ll be plenty for everyone. Freely offered. All of grace. Satisfaction you can’t buy or earn.

 

And there’s no money required because it’s already all been paid for. The account’s been settled. How? By the servant. Back in 53:10 God makes his life a guilt offering. V11, he will justify many and bear their iniquities. And the result, v12, is that he will DIVIDE THE SPOILS with the strong. That’s the spoils God’s offering his people – “Come and drink the free wine and milk and water, and BE SATISFIED.”

 

I don’t know whether you’ve ever been REALLY, REALLY THIRSTY. I’m guessing most of us HAVEN’T. But when you’re parched, water is all you can think about. Your desire for it CONSUMES you. Nothing else matters.

 

And when you finally get to drink, you’ll drink A BUCKETFUL. You’ll drink until you’re satisfied. Until your thirst is quenched.

 

It’s a picture of what God’s going to do when he restores the people to the land. Brings them back from slavery to freedom. From the desert to the oasis.

 

But more than a picture of PHYSICAL and MATERIAL satisfaction. It’s a picture, PRIMARILY, of SPIRITUAL satisfaction. It’s an invitation not only for the people to return to God’s LAND. But for people to RETURN TO GOD.

 

Listen, and satisfy yourself with God

It’s an invitation for God’s people to drink in GOD HIMSELF, and be satisfied. Look there in the second half of v2.

Listen, LISTEN TO ME, and EAT WHAT IS GOOD, and your SOUL WILL DELIGHT IN THE RICHEST OF FARE. 3 Give ear and come to me; HEAR me, that your soul may LIVE.

 

It’s GOD who gives words of life. Words of righteousness and wisdom and life. Listening to God, and obeying what you hear is like eating a HEARTY MEAL. It SATISFIES you. It’s light for our path, and health for our bones. It’s wisdom for living, and the perspective of eternity for today. It’s a rock to stand on, and a shelter to rest under, in storms and troubles.

 

It’s what you need to live and to grow.

 

We FEED on God’s word. And God’s inviting us to DIG IN. And like the legendary Blacktown Workers Buffet, it’s satisfaction guaranteed. It’s all you can eat. No one leaves hungry.

 

But, unlike Blacktown Workers Buffet, it’s actually GOOD for you. It won’t clog your arteries, or give you indigestion. It’s RICH, but it GIVES LIFE.

 

So there’s an application here that we’re fairly familiar with. God’s inviting us to satisfy ourselves by listening to him. Let’s DO that. Let’s listen to God in his Word, the Bible. Let’s make his word the focus of our meetings together. Our BIG meetings, even our SMALL meetings, our 1 on 1 meetings.

 

But there’s a trap in that I think we can fall into. There’s a temptation as evangelicals who love the Bible to make THE BIBLE our target. To make THE BIBLE our TREASURE. Instead of it being simply A MEANS TO AN END.

 

Because the Bible ISN’T the treasure. It’s only the KEY to the treasure chest. And the Bible isn’t our TARGET. It’s only the ARROW that GETS us to the target. And it’s not what satisfies our thirst. It’s only cup that POURS the water source into our mouths.

 

What’s our treasure? What’s going to satisfy our thirst? It’s GOD HIMSELF. Look again at v3.

3 Give ear and COME TO ME; hear ME, that your soul may live.

 

Or down in v6,

6 Seek THE LORD while he may be found; call on HIM while he is near.

 

It’s a great thing to love God’s Word. But not to WORSHIP it. We love it because it reveals GOD HIMSELF to us. Even Psalm 119, which is a love song to God’s WORD, makes that point again and again. It begins like THIS.

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who KEEP HIS STATUTES and SEEK HIM with all their heart.

 

Or a bit further on, in v9.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10 I seek YOU with all my heart; do not let me stray from YOUR COMMANDS.

 

We don’t follow God’s word simply because it’s a good thing to do, or it gives us good advice for life. Women’s Weekly does that! But because that’s how we follow GOD HIMSELF. How we DISCOVER him. How we SATISFY our THIRST with him.

 

John Piper’s book, God is the Gospel, makes that point. Whatever is GOOD about what we receive in the good news, it’s missing the point if it’s not centred on gaining GOD. HE is the good. We satisfy our thirst when we get HIM.

 

How are you DOING at that? Are you meeting GOD in his Word? Or is it dry and routine? Is reading your Bible just another CHORE to tick off each day?

 

Then let me ask whether you’re ASKING God to show himself to you before you read? Are you EXPECTING him to speak?

 

Do you read PRAYERFULLY? Do you read a paragraph, then stop, turn it around, and pray it back to God? Thank him for who he is. Praise him. Worship him. Ask him to help you do, and be, what he wants.

 

Do you read THOUGHTFULLY? Do you take TIME to let stuff sink in, or a you in a hurry? Do you make lists of HOW and WHERE you can apply what you’ve read?

 

God WANTS you to find HIM as you listen to him. He WANTS you to satisfy your thirst with him. It’s how you were made. You weren’t made to run on any other fuel.

 

Because when you put the wrong fuel in, life just splutters along, coughs, and then gives up. Like a diesel car refuelled with petrol. It’s a disaster.

 

Don’t be deceived by cheap imitations

And so God says, don’t look to satisfy yourself with the wrong fuel. Don’t be deceived by cheap imitations (v2). Don’t look for satisfaction in dry wells, and empty cupboards. “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost,” says God in v1, and then he says (v2)

2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?

 

There’s free wine, milk and water on offer, and you’re wasting your money on JUNK. Fairy floss that serves no useful purpose. Petrol when you’re meant to run on diesel.

 

He’s talking about IDOLS. All the way through Isaiah, he makes fun of idols that are just lumps of wood or stone. Blind and dumb, and impotent. But people are bowing down to them. Sacrificing to them. Running their lives according to them.

 

It makes no sense. When the living, powerful, loving, forgiving SATISFYING God is offering TRUE SATISFACTION.

 

Idolatry like Israel was guilty of seems CRAZY to us. And yet the reality is we spend our lives doing the same thing. Chasing after idols that won’t satisfy.

 

Tim Keller, in his book, Counterfeit Gods, talks about the modern gods of money, success, intimacy, acceptance, comfort, security. All of them, and more, are IDOLS that control our motives and our actions. They order our priorities, and demand our offerings.

 

Everything we do that’s not worship of GOD is designed to satisfy one of those needs. To WORSHIP something else. Work and projects. Hobbies, investments, holidays, family, home extensions, new cars, work promotions, friendships. All of them demanding our time and energy and money. Because we want to find our SATISFACTION in them. Instead of drinking of the ONE TRUE source that satisfies. The God who made us. Who made us FOR HIMSELF.

 

The writer of Ecclesiastes went much further down that road than we’re ever likely to. In ch 2 he lists everything he tried. He gave PLEASURE a go. But that proved to be meaningless. He undertook great PROJECTS. Look for satisfaction in success work. But here’s his conclusion. Eccles 2:10

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no PLEASURE. My heart took delight in all my WORK, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, EVERYTHING WAS MEANINGLESS, A CHASING AFTER THE WIND; NOTHING WAS GAINED UNDER THE SUN.

 

It doesn’t SATISFY.

 

And that’s with things that are basically GOOD. Like work and family and relationships. That’s not even the BAD things we do. There’s a sense in which every sin we commit is really, at its HEART, idolatry.  The Ten Commandments BEGIN with “You shall have no other gods before me. A commandment against idolatry. And one way of thinking about the ten commandments is that the OTHER NINE are all sub-points under THAT one. All WAYS we sin, and make OTHER THINGS god  in place of God. Possessions or pleasure or people or power.

 

And God’s saying here in Isaiah 55, “Come TO ME if you’re thirsty. I’m the one who’ll satisfy you.”

 

Don’t put it off

It’s an invitation that you SHOULDN’T PUT OFF. He says in v6.

6 Seek the LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND; call on him WHILE HE IS NEAR.

 

The invitation’s still open. The RSVP date’s still to come. But it won’t always be that way. The day’s coming when the offer will close, and the doors will shut.

 

Make a U-turn

And responding to the invitation means making a U-turn. Seeking the LORD involves A CHOICE. To turn TOWARDS him means TURNING AWAY from OTHER things. Other IDOLS. V6 we’re invited to seek the Lord, then in v7,

7 Let the wicked FORSAKE his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

 

It’s about seeing the idols for what they are. That they WON’T satisfy. And recognising who, and what, YOU were made for. And putting all the rest of those things in their right place UNDER HIM.

 

It’s having that right perspective that will begin to BREAK the HOLD of idols in your life. And help you turn, instead, to God. To focus on his goodness. His love and forgiveness. Back in Ch 54 v9 God’s says

9 “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. 10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,”

 

Just as the rainbow was God’s sign of his covenant to NOAH. His reminder for us that he would never destroy the earth with flood again. So his covenant of peace is the sign of his love.

 

So what IS his covenant of peace. Back in 42:6 there was a fascinating declaration by God that he would MAKE his servant a covenant. He says

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and WILL MAKE YOU TO BE A COVENANT for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

 

God’s servant, Jesus, is his covenant of peace with us. The assurance of his love. So the key to turning our eyes away from the idols that DON’T satisfy is to focus on Jesus. To fix our eyes on the cross.

 

THE CROSS is God’s sign of his covenant of peace. The sacrifice of the father. The work of his servant in our place. The cross shows his beauty and his goodness and his WORTH to be our treasure and our satisfaction.

 

Romans 5:8 calls the cross a DEMONSTRATION of God’s love.

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

God DEMONSTRATES his love. He PROMISES his unfailing love by giving us a covenant of peace. And then he INVITES us to satisfy our thirst on him. To come to him. Listen to his word and DELIGHT our souls in his goodness.

 

And Jesus joins in the invitation. In John 4 Jesus invites the woman at the well to drink LIVING water. Water that wells up to eternal life.

 

Then in Jn 7 he explains it a bit more. And he extends the invitation to everyone. Jn 7:38, Jesus is in the temple with all the worshippers there, and he joins with his father’s invitation from Isa 55.

“If ANYONE is thirsty, let him come to me and DRINK. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

 

Jesus doesn’t just offer us the WORDS of God. He offers us GOD HIMSELF. When we trust Jesus, he gives us the water of his Spirit. The water of GOD HIMSELF. Who gives Life that lasts, that SATISIFIES.

 

Will you drink of the living water God is offering?

 

ASK him, DRINK of him. And be satisfied!

 

John Piper: God is the gospel

http:www.desiringgod.orgresource-libraryonline-booksgod-is-the-gospel–3

 

 

 

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