The Israelites who hear the prophet’s ringing, joyful proclamation must scoff. The city is in ruins; the possibility of rebuilding the nation must seem ridiculous. To such demoralized people, needing a fortune to rebuild but nearly broke, Isaiah sounds like a street peddler hawking his wares. Come! Buy! But instead of gouging them, he says it’s all free.
God always does the same. When we find ourselves expending our very lives trying to secure what we need or crave, we overhear God offering us the only goods that will ever satisfy us; and surprise of all surprises, they are free. We call this grace.
For God’s offer of life to work, we need two revolutions in the soul. The first is to recognize the upside-downness of what is valuable and what isn’t. William Temple said the world is like a shop window into which someone has sneaked in the middle of the night and switched around all the price tags. We gawk over what has a high price, fooled into thinking it must be cool. But then the affordable and free (life, mercy, salvation, and hope) we take for granted or don’t invest much of ourselves in. Believe it: The precious gifts of God really are precious.
The second revolution is that what seems impossible, God can make possible. Israel’s great ancestor, Abraham, while chuckling over the notion that he and Sarah would have a child, is told that with God, all things are possible. Isaiah’s listeners just can’t believe this anymore. Oswald Chambers wrote: “We won’t believe . . . we prefer to worry on.” God invites us to purchase the free gift by our trust: “If it is an impossibility, it is the thing we have to ask.”*
*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1927), February 29.
Lord, here is the impossible thing I need. I ask trusting your power and love will sustain my life. Amen.
In the midst of Lent, when many might be giving up a certain food that they love, we read about feasting. The focus is not on physical feasting, but on feasting as a metaphor for communing with God. Isaiah describes food and drink that one cannot buy with money, for it comes freely from the Lord. The psalmist describes the state of his soul as being hungry and thirsty. Only meditating on God’s faithfulness nourishes his soul at the deepest level. Physical food is momentary, but spiritual nourishment endures. In First Corinthians, Paul appeals to this imagery. Although the ancients experience this spiritual nourishment, some pursue physical pleasure and stray into idolatry and immorality. Partaking in this nourishment should cause us in turn to produce spiritual fruit, as Jesus admonishes his listeners.
Read Isaiah 55:1-9. When has God’s grace inverted your expectations?
Read Psalm 63:1-8. As you mature in faith, what new questions about God do you ask?
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Think of a time you have faced great temptation. How did God help you endure it?
Read Luke 13:1-9. For what do you need to repent?
Respond by posting a prayer.