Too many people associate Christianity with restrictions, with arbitrary dos and don’ts and with negative commandments. Often the Church has banged away negatively at evils but has left men and women empty, without reminding them that God is tremendously interested in our finding a satisfying way of life here and now. We Christians have talked so much about the negative side of Christian experience that we have forgotten to emphasize the positive, joyous, thrilling and victorious experience of daily fellowship with Christ.
The prophet Isaiah looked out on a people who longed for happiness and security but were looking for it in the wrong places. They were running to the marketplace and to places of amusement, spending their money madly for things that brought them no permanent satisfaction.
Isaiah stood before them one day and gave them the Word of God: “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. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV).
If Isaiah were living today, he would probably stand at 42nd and Broadway in New York, in the Loop in Chicago or on Market Street in San Francisco, and simply ask the milling, restless throngs: “Are you getting what you want? Are you finding satisfaction?”
He would say to the actress, loaded with fame and fortune but hungrily peering out on life: “Are you getting what you want?” He would say to the successful financier who commands his ships and controls his industries: “Are you getting what you want?”
He would say to the workers of America who are enjoying the highest standard of living in history: “Are you getting what you want?” He would say to the headset-toting youth of America: “Are you getting what you want?”
He would say to the consumers of America who have the best homes, the most comfortable furniture, the finest food, computerized gadgets and sporty, powerful cars: “Are you getting what you want?”
Isaiah did not leave the people with an unanswered question. He went on to tell them that there is a satisfying way of life, if they wish to seek it. He exhorted them to abandon their vain searching for mythical pots of gold at the end of rainbows and to start searching for happiness where it is really found.
His advice is just as timely and appropriate today as it was then, for though history has wrought many changes in material objects, mankind remains the same. Modern people have the same longings, the same anxieties, the same dreams and aspirations as ancient men and women.
They still commit the same sins and fall into the same blunders as their brothers and sisters of antiquity. What was the full content of the prophet’s message to his people and to us today?
First, God declared that things will not satisfy. “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2, NIV).
Solomon, who acquired more property, more knowledge and more fame than any man who ever lived, testified that all this brought him no permanent satisfaction. He lamented: “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, NIV). He was saying: “Take it from me–things will never satisfy.”
However, it wasn’t primarily money against which Isaiah was preaching–it was the wrong use of it. “Why squander your hard-earned money for that which is not bread?” he said. “Why squander your hard-earned money for that which brings no satisfaction?”
Rudyard Kipling, speaking to a graduating class at McGill University, in Montreal, advised the graduates not to care too much for money, power or fame. He said: “Some day you will meet a man of such stature that he will care for none of these things … and then you will realize how poor you are.”
Isaiah was also saying that pleasure will not satisfy. Sometimes I think of pleasure-seeking people going to places they do not care for, to drink drinks they do not like, to take their minds off the entertainment they do not enjoy.
To such a people Isaiah would have said: “Are you getting what you want here? Does this bring you satisfaction?”
Did you ever watch the people coming out of a nightclub or leaving a casino? There are few smiles, as a rule, and most faces are as grim as when they went in. Isaiah would have asked: “Did you find what you are searching for? Are you satisfied?”
The next truth in the prophet’s message is this: God satisfies! “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:2-3, NIV).
Jesus said to the dejected, rejected, thirsty, unsatisfied Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks the water I give [her] will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give [her] will become in [her] a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, NIV).
Just as the body of a person cannot live without water, the spirit of a man or woman cannot be satisfied apart from God. It is not a religious cliche’ when we say: “God satisfies.” He alone can satisfy our spiritual thirst. David said: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:8-9, NIV).
This is the secret of soul satisfaction: Let your soul delight itself in the richest of fare. Remove the obstructions, tear down the barriers, and let your soul find the fulfillment of its deepest longings in fellowship with God.
I could tell you of many people who explored every earthly resource for happiness and failed, but eventually came in repentance and faith to Christ and in Him found satisfaction.
God said another significant thing in our text. He said: “Come, buy … without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1, NIV). He was saying, “Salvation is free!”
God puts no price tag on the Gift of gifts–it is free! Preachers are not salesmen, for they have nothing to sell. They are the bearers of Good News–the good tidings that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, NIV), and that the “grace of God … has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11, NIV).
Money can’t buy it. A person’s righteousness can’t earn it. Social prestige can’t help you acquire it. Morality can’t purchase it. It is, as Isaiah said, “without money and without cost.”
God is not a bargaining God. You cannot barter with Him. You must do business with Him on His own terms. He holds in His omnipotent hand the priceless, precious, eternal gift of salvation, and He bids you to take it without money and without cost.
The best things in life are free, are they not? The air we breathe is not sold by the cubic foot. The water that flows crystal clear from the mountain stream is free for the taking. Love is free, faith is free, hope is free.
You can’t reject God’s grace on the grounds that it is too cheap, for the most precious things in life come to us without money and without price. Only cheap, temporary things have a price tag on them.
So I challenge you: You, who have spent your money for that which is not bread and your labor for what doesn’t satisfy, come and receive this life-giving, soul-satisfying commodity fresh from the hand of God–salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Now one last thing. This offer is for everyone: “All you who are thirsty, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1, NIV). God’s grace leaps over racial barriers, skips across class distinctions, soars over social bars and finds its way to every hungry, languishing soul; to every class, caste, race, color and nation.
Are you getting what you want out of life? Have you found peace and satisfaction? Don’t spend your money, your time and your moral resources for that which will never satisfy. God impoverished heaven to enrich you. He gave His only Son that you might find peace and reconciliation. Turn your life over to God today.