The message preached on Sunday, July 12, 2009
There have always been sales prior to holi and diwali. But these days throughout the year shops have sales and free offers. When I was in college and for the first time noticed the shop signs announcing free offers, I imagined walking into a shop and saying, “I don’t want the item you are selling, but I’m here to take the free item.” Of course, I never did that because I knew that I couldn’t just get the free item. I knew it really wasn’t free. I had to buy the unwanted item before I could get the item that was being advertised as free. The free items aren’t really free are they?
The prophet Isaiah, speaks for God, and announces,
Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything’s free! (55:1, TM).
What a ridiculous idea! How can anyone buy without money? Has the prophet lost his wits?
Right to Buy
The invitation to buy is given to everyone who is thirsty. To find your way to the market where food and drink are free, you must know that you are a person in need. If you don’t recognize your need, you are not going to turn toward the market of free goods.
Knowing your need is to know yourself. People adopt different ways of dealing with need. One of them is to deny the need. The person who denies his need, may appear to be handling his trouble well, but in reality is foolishly blocking himself from reaching a solution to his problem. It certainly isn’t wise to live in denial.
The second condition by which one gains admission to the free market is that of the buyer not being able to buy whatever is on sale. The invitation is given only to people without money or the ability to take care of their needs.
Centuries later when Jesus arrived on the scene, He said,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt.5:3).
That is not the rule by which the world runs. One has to be “spirited” to get on in this world. The strong-willed and purpose-driven are the ones who get ahead in our world. J B Phillips depicted that in the world’s version of the beatitudes:
Happy are the “pushers”: for they get on in the world. Happy are the hard-boiled: for they never let life hurt them. Happy are they who complain: for they get their own way in the end. Happy are the blasé: for they never worry over their sins. Happy are the slave-drivers: for they get results. Happy are the knowledgeable men of the world: for they know their way around. Happy are the troublemakers: for they make people take notice of them (When God Was Man, pp. 26-27 Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1955)
But in God’s kingdom, only those who have no money can buy milk and honey; only they will possess the kingdom.
The rich are always looking for options. They want options on anything and everything. They live their lives in supermarkets. They love the choice. They just love it all.
But for the poor there are no options. They are poor and they are therefore helpless. They cannot afford choice and are given none. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” you know.
When God’s prophet says to the poor that they can buy without money, Isaiah was saying that they are being given a choice. A buyer has choice. A buyer has the right not to buy. God says to you that even though you don’t have what will pay for what God gives, you can still get it. But it is your choice.
How does one decide what to buy? People buy what they value. They want their money’s worth, and they buy to own what they buy. They want to keep what they buy. People don’t buy things in order to throw them away. As Alvin Tofler pointed out in his book Future Shock, originally the ballpoint pen was invented as something to be used and thrown away. But people were unhappy with the concept, which is why the body was reinvented in such a way that it could be reused with a refill.
Isaiah looked around at what people were buying in his day. He considered the history of their purchases. They call it “market research” these days, but he was scrutinising things from a prophetic viewpoint. Isaiah was dismayed when he saw all the stuff people had bought earlier:
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare (v.2).
They had bought
- What wasn’t essential
- What didn’t satisfy
- What wasn’t good
- What wasn’t pleasing
The prophet literally begs people to buy what he has to sell. But when the prophet spoke, he spoke for God. The Lord wants people to have the things that are essential for their life, and God is the only one who can give them what they need.
The big question is, how can one buy without money. The answer to that question is, “If daddy pays.”
Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious (vv.3-5, NLT).
Junior armed with daddy’s credit card can buy things without money. God has given us a promise that allows us to buy. He has set up a covenant account for us. He has given us unfailing love. And the glory of God’s grace is going to dazzle people.
What To Do
To take advantage of any free offer, you have to fulfil requirements. What God has offered is truly free. You don’t need money, and you can’t buy what God has to give. But there are still requirements. The prophet said,
Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life (v.3).
What God wants people to do is to give up their way and try His way (v.8). They tried their own way and managed to buy only misery. God offers something good and satisfactory and delightful.
Every sale and special offer is for a limited period. And so it is with God offers:
Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near (v.6).
You don’t need money or anything else the world considers enough to be a person with options in God’s kingdom, but you do need to remember that the options aren’t open forever. The offer is time-bound.
God says, “At the right time I heard your prayers. On the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you that the “right time” is now, and the “day of salvation” is now (2 Cor. 6:2, NCV).
When you buy something you want a guarantee. We want it to last. The buyer is never one who is in love with a throwaway society. The seller wants it to be that kind of world because it is to his advantage. But the buyer is looking for the assurance that what he has bought is better stuff than what he didn’t buy. He wants it to be a sure thing and one that is durable. That is exactly what God has guaranteed.
- God offers what is better: its worth is sky-high (vv.8-9).
- God offers what is sure: His Word is sure; it’s guaranteed (vv.10-11)
- God offers what is durable: the joy and peace promised by God will last forever (vv.12-13).
In the world’s markets, sellers have only one interest: their profit. God is not a seller like them. He is the only seller whose interest is yourself. It is your salvation that He is interested in. When God “sells” His salvation, you are the one who profits.