Studies in Isaiah 55: 2. Reject the Fruitless Life
Isa 55:2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Awareness: Isaiah (the Lord) has just asked us who are thirsty and hungry to come to the waters to drink and to buy provisions without money. That we considered in the first study, but to do those things we have to be aware of having a thirst and being hungry, of wanting these things, which raises the thought, how often are we conscious of being spiritually hungry and thirsty. Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” (Mt 5:6) In Psalm 1 the psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man … (whose) delight is in the law of the Lord,” and goes on to speak of the value or good outcomes of that. In both cases there is this thought of hunger and thirsting, explicit in the former, implicit in the latter. The reality, I suggest, is that for most of us we are happy to potter through life and even though we are Christians, we rarely give a thought to desiring more of the Lord; complacency seems to rule in much of the Christian world.
Why? The causes are, I suspect, contentment with our material comforts in this modern world, possibly an absence of teaching that imparts vision of the possibilities of something more, or shear laziness. It is so easy in this age to settle in this contentedness that does not hunger and thirst for more of the Lord. Only the other day my wife and I were discussing why we were feeling frustrated with our current ‘church life’ and we came to this conclusion: there is little reality of faith and certainly no hungering for more from the Lord. That doesn’t mean the people are not really nice Christians, they are, but it does mean that there is no leadership that leads the flock on in the Lord. As we pondered on this, we realized that in the past we have benefited from apostolic and prophetic ministries from whom came, a “What’s next?” attitude and outlook on life.
The absence of those ministries often means the local church is left with good and well-meaning leaders but who have little vision for corporate and individual life. All that so often leaves us with is neatly preplanned services (often with little room given to the Holy Spirit) that are designed to comfort a weary flock who struggle with the ways of the twenty-first century, but rarely to envision them, equip them, empower them and enable them to grow in character and service and knowledge of the Lord. Is it any wonder that the apostle Paul wrote, “I keep asking that… God …may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Eph 1:17). He then went on to talk about knowing hope, the riches of our inheritance, and God’s power. They are all things to be reached out for, hungered for, thirsted for.
A Modern Challenge: Verse 2 comes as a direct challenge to this modern-day complacency: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” I say it is a modern-day challenge because it specifically challenges the use of money. Modernity got value from things, post-modernity got value from experiences, but all of them still are summed up in the way we spend our money. There are always those who have little left over to spend on holidays (vacations) but increasingly we are part of a growing generation of older people who are relatively well off and therefore travel a lot. Whether it be on cruises, hire of holiday homes (at home or abroad), towing a caravan (trailer) or whatever else Google search can come up with, we do this a lot today.
Competition! And there is the problem: church gets in the way! That, I am certain, is a common almost subconscious attitude in many. To compete, ‘church’ has to be alive and vibrant and full of the life of the Lord – and so often it isn’t, to our shame. Be honest, do you have the feeling on a Sunday (or other times for that matter) that “if I’m not there I’m going to be missing out on encountering the wonderful presence of the Lord”? The well-meaning author seeks to allay our guilt by saying, ‘well, you can’t expect to get a spiritual buzz every Sunday,’ but why not if the living Lord is present? Some of us ‘enjoy’ the wonder of liturgy or the old building (which may be god) and so on, but how about the reality of the presence of the living God? If we look to Him, yearn for Him, hunger and thirst for Him, make ourselves available to Him, surely we should expect to meet Him when we gather?
But is ‘life’ all about ‘church’? No, but it certainly should play a part, for where else are you going to encounter the Lord in other believers, where else are you going to encounter the presence of the Holy Spirit in the worship? (you won’t in Christian TV, videos or tapes in your front room on your own!), where else will you hear the now word of the Lord that challenges, feeds, builds, envisions and releases?
So? So listen to the call of Isaiah: “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Condition and Outcome. The condition – that we listen to God and (there it is again) listening involves taking in (eating) what we hear from God and as we do we will find a sense of delight growing in us with this ‘richest of fare’ that feeds the soul like nothing else does. But in the parallelism that follows, there is something more: “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” Yes, there is the call to “give ear” and to “listen” but there is the thing we take for granted of forget: “come to me.” The come to God means we purposefully turn our hearts and minds towards Him, turning away from our daily events, that we make time and space to sit alone with Him, turning our hearts towards Him and waiting upon Him. No, you won’t do it in the car driving to work or sitting on the crowded train (well perhaps a few of us might be able to shut out the surroundings on a train!). This says, take time to come aside and listen to the Lord, make time to be still and listen, and when we do, life will flow, His life, His presence, flowing to us.
To conclude: So, the challenge is, will we face up to our modern approach to life that uses money to get meaning, money to get escape, money to get rest, money to get experience, and yet money spending which, two months later, makes you question it’s wisdom. Why spend money on … what does not satisfy? Time for fresh assessment of our lives? Perhaps. Time for new vision of what could be? Maybe.