All Are Invited to an Eternal Feast
Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the water; and you without silver, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without silver and without cost! (Isa 55:1)
Main Idea: God calls on poor, thirsty, hungry souls to a rich, free banquet—salvation in Christ!
- God’s Invitation: Come to the Feast (55:1-5)!
- Who is invited? Thirsty, dissatisfied beggars
- What is the fare? Water, milk, wine, choicest foods
- What is the cost? Free!
- God’s Command: Seek Me Now (55:6-9)!
- Seek the Lord while he may be found.
- Forsake your wickedness.
- God’s lavish forgiveness soars above us.
- God’s Provision: His Word Is Powerfully Effective (55:10-13).
- God’s word is like the rain: powerfully effective.
- God’s messengers go out with joy.
- The future world will be free from the curse.
God’s Invitation: Come to the Feast!
In 1845 Hans Christian Andersen wrote a short story called “The Little Match Girl” in which a poor, young girl ventures out into the city streets on a cold New Year’s Eve to sell matches. She suffers badly from the cold but is terrified to go home without selling any matches because her father will beat her. As she makes her way through the cold, dark streets, she looks in the windows of wealthy homes and sees feasts of succulent delicacies, but no one notices her and invites her in. She finds a nook and starts to light her matches one by one to cheer and warm herself. In the dancing light of the matches, she imagines sitting at a rich banquet herself and enjoying the food and warmth. The story ends tragically as she dies out in the cold.
I have often thought of the gospel invitation to come to Christ in the light of that sad story. The Scripture pictures us sinners as on the outside of the kingdom, needing to enter in order to be saved. Inside the kingdom there is a lavish feast of blessing. Outside there is nothing but darkness, misery, and suffering. Jesus told a parable of a king who desired to throw a lavish wedding banquet for his son, and he sent messengers to invite people to come, but everyone who was invited refused to come (Matt 22:1-14). In many ways this story is more tragic than “The Little Match Girl,” for the blindness that causes us to refuse such an amazing invitation is the root issue of our plight before a holy God. In Isaiah 55 God is extending an urgent invitation to sinners all over the world to come to Christ and feast. The only question for each of us is, Will we enter while there’s time?
The chapter begins with an invitation to a feast offered to thirsty beggars who have no money (v. 1). It is also offered to people who do have resources but are foolishly squandering them on things that do not ultimately satisfy (v. 2). This royal feast offers first the beverages then the “choicest of foods.” The three beverages focused on are water, wine, and milk. These three represent different aspects of what Christ yearns to do for our souls.
Christ offers water to souls dying of thirst. Water represents life, for without it we die. Jesus promised the thirsty person, “The water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life” (John 4:14). Secondly, he is offering milk, which represents nourishment, like an infant gets from his mother. Peter commands Christians, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation” (1 Pet 2:2). Finally, Christ offers wine, which has the power to give joyful celebration. Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana to enable them to celebrate freely. All people need not only bread and water merely to exist but something that enables them to sing and dance and leap for joy. In Ephesians 5:18 we are warned not to get drunk on wine but to be filled with the Spirit.
So Christ reasons with us, begging us to stop wasting our lives on things that will never satisfy. He pleads with us to come in out of the cold and have a seat at his banqueting table, and he will satisfy our hearts with water, milk, wine, and the choicest of foods. And the price is astonishing: zero for us but infinite for him, for Jesus paid his blood for this feast. So we are to “buy” it without money, meaning to commit to it by faith, knowing that God himself is the one who gave us that faith.
Verses 3-5 identify the basis of this rich invitation: the covenant blessings God promised to David. The “Son of David” who will rule eternally on David’s throne (2 Sam 7) is Jesus Christ, and in his name nations who have never heard of the God of Abraham will come running to Christ and find a place prepared for them at God’s feast.
God’s Command: Seek Me Now!
Having invited the poor sinners of the world to sit at his banquet, in verses 6-9 he sharpens the sense of urgency that they do so immediately. Verse 6 commands sinners to “seek the Lord while he may be found” and to “call to him while he is near.” To call on Christ for forgiveness is essential to our salvation, for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). But the real issue here is urgency: sinners must seek the Lord and call on his name “while he may be found.” This is a clear warning that the opportunity to come in from the cold and sit in God’s warm banqueting hall will not last forever. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). God will not always stand extending his hand of gracious invitation to sinners to enter his feast. There will come an end—either at the sinner’s death or at the second coming of Christ—and then it will be too late.
To accept this gracious invitation to the feast, the sinner must “abandon his way and . . . his thoughts” (Isa 55:7). The mind of the flesh is death, hostile to God (Rom 8:6). In order for a spiritual beggar to come in from the cold, he must repent, forsaking his wicked thoughts and corrupt lifestyle. And if we do, God will have compassion on us and will “freely forgive” (Isa 55:7). In verse 8 God asserts that his thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways. Actually, God says, “as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (v. 9). What an amazing assertion! I read once of an Argentinian chess grandmaster named Miguel Najdorf who in 1947 played forty-five games simultaneously while blindfolded (Hearst and Knott, Blindfold Chess, 25)! That was the most amazing mental achievement that I’ve ever heard of by a human being. But today God actively controls the events of the daily lives of seven billion people on earth, skillfully orchestrating their free decisions into his eternal plan. God’s mind is as far above ours as the stars are above the surface of the earth.
Verse 8 begins with the word For, making a connection with verse 7, and there are two ways to look at that connection: (1) We should forsake our wicked ways and thoughts (v. 7a), for God’s ways and thoughts are not evil like ours but are holy and exalted; or (2) God’s lavish forgiveness (v. 7b) is so astonishing that it soars above ours as far as heaven is above the earth. God is really, really good at forgiveness; we generally are not. Either way, we come away in awe at how lofty God is and how gracious to invite sinners like us to sit at his banqueting table!
God’s Provision: His Word Is Powerfully Effective
The final section highlights the power of God’s word—his instruction, promises, and warnings—to produce the transformation needed for sinners like us. Again, verse 10 starts with the word For, meaning God is continuing his train of thought. The lavish pardon and the invitation to his feast he offers are communicated to us in his word. He compares his word to the “rain and the snow” that fall from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth, making its plants sprout. In the same way, God sends forth his word by the power of the Holy Spirit. It makes a circular trip like the cycle of precipitation: “For from him and through him and [back] to him are all things” (Rom 11:36). And God is asserting that it will never return to him having accomplished nothing but will most certainly achieve what he sent it to do.
Because this is always true, we must realize that God is either showing mercy by the sending of his word or he is hardening sinners by that same word (Rom 9:18). That is the only way to see that God’s word never returns to him without results but always achieves the purpose for which he sent it. As the invitation to come to God’s banquet is published far and wide in this world, it is obvious that most people reject it (as the parable of the Wedding Feast of Matt 22 asserts). God wills to harden some by the invitation to sit at his table, and he also wills to show mercy to his elect. To some people, evangelists are the fragrance of Christ; to others they are the stench of death (2 Cor 2:15-16).
So Isaiah 55:12 may be speaking of the experience of missionaries and evangelists sent out to summon people to Christ’s banqueting table. They will go out with joy, and the Holy Spirit will peacefully guide them. But the ultimate end of the gospel is the joy of the redeemed in the new heaven and new earth. The language of verse 13 is of the complete removal of Adam’s curse: “Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up.” The curse on the earth will be gone forever, and those who feast in the kingdom of heaven will look on a perfected earth and will glorify God.
This chapter completes an amazing run of chapters in Isaiah. Isaiah 53 spoke so clearly of the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ for us sinners, Isaiah 54 proclaimed the need for Zion to expand because of the vast numbers of Gentiles who would enter, and Isaiah 55 calls sinners from every nation on earth to forsake sin while there’s still time and find a feast of grace and forgiveness in the kingdom of Christ.
So evangelists and missionaries should make full use of this chapter to call sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. Pastors should appeal to their congregations to feast on Christ and to stop glutting themselves on materialism, which does not satisfy. We should press on to an ever-greater seeking of Christ in daily quiet times, to “seek the Lord while he may be found” (Isa 55:6) early in the morning as Christ sought his Father while it was still dark (Mark 1:35). This chapter can also be used to convict and warn the “almost persuaded” person who is presuming on a future time when they will come to Christ. They may die before that day ever comes.
This chapter also should urge us to seek life, nourishment, and joy (water, milk, and wine) in the Word of God. Just as the plants need the rain, so our growing souls need God’s Word.
Finally, this chapter should cause us to be more diligent in evangelism, going out with joy and being peacefully guided (v. 12) to invite lost people into the banqueting hall in Christ.
Reflect and Discuss
- How does this chapter cause you to thank God for his mercy to you in Christ?
- How do the invitations of verses 1-3 (a series of strong commands from God) help us to focus our hearts “on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1-2)?
- What are the differences between water, milk, and wine? How is Christ the fulfillment of each of these in our souls?
- Why is it vital for us to realize that we must receive the feast “without silver and without cost”? How is it helpful to realize that, while the feast costs us nothing, it cost Christ everything?
- How is Christ the fulfillment of the covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7, to which Isaiah 55:3-5 refers? How does that covenant relate to the feast of verses 1-3?
- What does it mean to “seek the Lord while he may be found ”? How does it relate to 2 Corinthians 6:2?
- Why is it imperative for sinners who want to sit at God’s banqueting table to forsake their evil ways and wicked thoughts?
- What does God mean when he says, “As heaven is higher than earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (v. 9)? How does that relate to our wicked ways and thoughts (v. 7a)? How does it relate to God’s abundant forgiveness (v. 7b)? How is God infinitely better at forgiveness than we are?
- How does God’s word never fail to achieve what he sent it to do (vv. 10-11)? If most people who are invited to God’s feast reject it, how can it be true that God’s word never fails to achieve the purpose for which he sent it? How do Romans 9:18 and Matthew 22:14 help to answer this?
- How does Isaiah 55:12-13 relate to missions in this present age? How does it also give us a foretaste of what it will be like to explore the perfect beauty of the new earth God will create?