"My soul thirsts for God" (Isa 55)
This chapter presents ideas very far removed from traditional
Judaism. It speaks of "seeking the Lord" when the "pious" Jews of Christ's time
claimed the right to special benefits -- simply because they were natural
descendants of Abraham. It speaks of faith, humility, and repentance as the only
proper basis of approach to the Supreme Being. These traits, and nothing else,
are the essentials of true religion. Any services done only mechanically or with
the idea of impressing others are worse than no service at all. God gave
warnings against such false, hypocritical religion in Hos 6:6: "For I desired
mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."
This was quoted by Jesus once as he spoke to his countrymen.
In Jer 6:19,20, God said,
"Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruits of
their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto My words, nor to My
law, but rejected it. To what purpose cometh there to Me incense from Sheba, and
the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
nor your sacrifices sweet unto Me."And here is a lesson for us today: As a community
of believers of the gospel, Christadelphians have flourished for more than 100
years. As we get further and further from our "roots", there may be the tendency
to forget the reasons we separated ourselves in the beginning. There may be
tendencies to join in worship automatically, with lip-service but not
We have before us the example of the Christian ecclesias of
the first and second centuries. With the apostles all deceased by the year 100
or so, the early Christians were left to find their own leaders. They began to
forget their original objectives. They came to see more and more in the
pleasures of the Gentiles around them and gradually forgot their role as
strangers and pilgrims in the earth. They tried to make themselves and their
curious practices more palatable to a heathen world in which they should have
had no part.
And so, as the years passed, first one vital doctrine and then
another was dropped from the Faith, just as parts of a mighty building are
allowed slowly to crumble away. Pagan ideas of heaven-going, immortal-soulism,
and the Trinity crept in to fill the void. Such materialistic and worldly ideas
were questioned at first, but gradually any barriers that existed fell away.
True faith in and reliance upon the Scriptures were submerged and finally
drowned in the elaborate rituals and pretensions of a church fast growing into
Truly this Is a frightful picture, and we are tempted to say
that this can never happen to us. But let us remember that the believers of the
first century were more privileged than us in knowing of Christ through men who
had seen and lived with him. Our only link with the beginnings of Christianity
and our only source of true faith is the Bible. We should always revere the
Bible as God's word and use it to ensure that our faith is steadfast and living
within us, and not only in external ceremonies.
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money;
come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without
price" (Isa 55:1).
In Psa 42:1,2: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so
panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living
The thirst to which the prophet alludes is a thirst for God,
for the knowledge of His ways and the assurance He can bring to us while we live
in the midst of spiritual desolation:
"O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my
flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to
see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary. Because
Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee" (Psa
Because water is something which naturally brings life, to
plants and animals alike, it is a fitting symbol of the teachings of Christ, the
only means whereby we may be brought to eternal life:
In John 4:14, Jesus says, "Whosoever drinketh of this water
shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give
him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting
We are told that we may come to these waters and buy, although
we have no money. The woman of Samaria did just this merely by asking that Jesus
give her the water. But, although the teachings of Jesus cannot be bought with
money, they are by no means easy to obtain. Jesus' parable of the merchant who
gave up all he possessed for the one pearl of great price is a good picture of
what we must do to buy those "living waters".
But what we pay to God is... our time, our energy and our
devotion, not our wealth. This is quite apparent when we read the words of
David. After the people had brought great riches for God's temple, he
"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so
willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have
we given Thee. For we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as were all
our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding"
Our money and our other worldly possessions are of no use to
God. The importance of any gift to God is the sentiment behind it. It must
represent a voluntary, loving submission of our desires to God's
Jesus told men to forsake father or mother or whatever
hindered them, and to take up their crosses and follow him. This is part of that
"price" we do pay -- something in many ways much more difficult to give
than mere money. The truth is free for the taking, but there are no promises
that it will be easy or that it will require something less than an all-out
Both the "wine" and "milk" are also fitting symbols of Christ
in one respect or another. To the Jews, wine showed God's love for His
people in providing them with abundant harvests, indeed with everything
necessary for their daily well-being. In return, the Jews were to dedicate a
substantial part of what they gathered to God, for it all belonged to Him in the
We find the same significance in Jesus' crucifixion and indeed
throughout his life. More than anything else, JESUS shows God's love for us in
providing us with an acceptable sacrifice to cover our sins.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only
begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life" (John 3:16).
We are "justified freely by His grace through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a
propitiation through faith in his blood" (Rom 3:24,25).
In our memorial service, the wine represents Christ's
blood, or life (the comparison between the two being made in Lev
17:11). Throughout his life (and by his death), Jesus showed a
complete dedication to God that should always accompany a knowledge of the
truth. Consequently, we are told to present our bodies as living
sacrifices. As Paul did, we are to strive to know the "fellowship of his
sufferings, being made conformable to his death".
Wine in symbol thus shows God's love for us, shown through
Christ, and reminds us of the need to reciprocate God's love through a life of
holiness and obedience. We remember this each Sunday as we partake of the wine
"in remembrance of" Christ.
Milk is the simplest, most nutritious food. It represents
the basic teachings of Christ's gospel (1Pe 2:2). In studying and attempting
to teach our brethren and others, we should show a humility before God's
word. It is not something to be cleverly manipulated to demonstrate our own
intelligence, but rather something to handle with caution and
"Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for
that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is
good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness" (Isa
There is nothing sadder than God's words about His people in
Jeremiah 2:13: "For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me
the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns,
that can hold no water." Israel's omissions hold warnings for us today. There
are goals connected with the gospel which are always the same, goals which we
are likely to put aside and forget. We should continually evaluate our position
to see that our labor is in the right direction. In Jer 6:16: "Thus saith the
Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is
the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
But they said, We will not walk therein."
"Incline your ear, and come unto me."
Jesus said much the same thing in Mat 11:28-30:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is
It might seem to us that our burden is not light. But we are
forgetting to rely upon God for strength, to ask His help. "If God be for us,
who can be against us?"
We are told that, if we hear, our soul shall live; that is,
live eternally. This, therefore, involves immortality, as seen in 2Sa 23:5, in
which David says that God "hath made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my
It is a sure, or certain, promise, as seen in Jer
"Thus saith the Lord: If My covenant be not with day and night, and if I have
not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed
of Jacob, and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his seed
to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their
captivity to return, and have mercy on
In verse 4, God has given him (that is, David) for a witness.
Here is a direct reference to Christ. As "David" means "beloved", and as David
was "a man after God's own heart", so he represents Christ, "a leader and a
commander to the people". "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which
shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his
rest shall be glorious" (Isa 11:10).
Verse 5 brings all the Gentiles into the picture, as "nations
that knew not Thee". In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains how God's
sure mercies and covenants apply to the Gentiles as well as to the
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds,
as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. For as many of you
as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor
Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye
are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed,
and heirs according to the promise" (Gal
There is then no reason that the Gentiles cannot be
fellow-heirs of the Kingdom of God. Here is a basic part of the gospel, hidden
(we might say) in the Old Testament.
Here is the mystery: "Even the mystery which
hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his
saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this
mystery among the Gentiles: Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory..."
For the Old Testament view, we might refer also to Isaiah
60:5: "Then thou shall see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and
be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee,
the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee."
And especially might we read Zec 8:21-23: "And the inhabitants
of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the
Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and
strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray
before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: In those days it shall come to
pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations,
even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go with
you: for we have heard that God is with you."
Here is something the Jews never accepted: that the Gentiles
could be God's people also. This is quite an unhealthy attitude: We should never
question God's motives nor judge Him as we would a mere man -- but only submit
meekly to the majesty and authority of His revealed word. For us, there is
Christ's injunction in Mat 7:1,2: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with
what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it
shall be measured to you again."
"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near; Let
the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him
return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He
will abundantly pardon."
Here is repentance and humility, traits which are all too
uncommon to modern man -- to natural man of any time. In Ecclesiastes 7:29,
there is a true-to-life picture of natural man: "Lo, this only have I found,
that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many
inventions." This has been true since the time of Adam. Virtually everything
God has given to man has been polluted and corrupted, in disregard for his
obligations to God.
If we are to approach to God, we must abandon all our previous
life and all our misdirected ambitions. This is true Biblical "repentance" --
not simply feeling sorry for wrong deeds, but actively determining to correct
them. This is difficult: but if we have the determination, then we have the
assurance that God will abundantly pardon.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the
Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than
your ways, and My thoughts than your
Mankind is inherently evil. This is the plain teaching of
numerous passages of Scripture: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer 17:9). "The heart of the sons of men
is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecc 8:11).
Even more plain is the truth that God is inherently good: "Why
callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God..." (Mat 19:17).
"The Lord is righteous..." (Psalm 129:4).
One of the principal fallacies of popular religion is the idea
that man is by nature an immortal being living only temporarily in a body of
flesh, and that he is entitled without question to special privileges from his
Creator. For believers in such a theory, it is quite impossible to understand
the true positions of God and man in respect to one another -- the best possible
relation being that of a benevolent master to an humble servant.
There is never a question of "human rights", but only of God's
rights "Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou? or thy
work, He hath no hands?" (Isa 45:9).
Between the two, God and man, is a vast chasm, steadily
growing wider since the first sin of man. The preaching of the gospel is an
invitation from God, leaving man the free choice -- once he realizes the
consequences -- of accepting or rejecting it. It is for us to make the
move to close the gap. Only if we draw nigh unto God will He draw nigh to
"For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and
returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and
bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; So shall My
word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but
it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing
whereto I sent it."
God's purpose cannot fail, no matter how men feel or
what they do to prevent it. God will not be frustrated. As we read in Rev 1:9,
the kingdom of Jesus Christ may suffer tribulation -- for a time, but not
forever. God's word is backed up with all the power in the universe. All we can
do finally is to find ourselves rightly associated with God.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the
love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38,39).
The last two verses of Isaiah 55 are among the most beautiful
in the Bible:
"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and
the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the
field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree,
and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the
Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut
This reminds us of many wonderful passages detailing the
blessings which, as a natural consequence, follow an earnest belief in God's
truth and acceptance of His invitation:
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make
known Thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built
up for ever: Thy faithfulness shalt Thou establish in the very heavens. 'I have
made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant, thy seed
will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations'" (Psa
And in special relation to the life-giving waters of Isaiah
55:1 are the promises of Psa 1 and Rev 22:
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth
in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight
is in the law of the Lord: and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he
shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth
his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever
he doeth shall prosper."
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street
of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare
twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of
the tree were for the healing of the
In Pro 9, wisdom is personified as a woman crying through the
streets, offering the way of righteousness to the foolish. May we only stop to
realize our positions unless God stoops to help us, and may we always be
thankful for His loving invitation to us through the Gospel of the
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath
known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first
given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and
through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."