“Come! Enter into the Blessings of the Everlasting Covenant”

 

Early in his book, Isaiah spoke of another sign, that of a child born of a virgin, whose name shall be called Immanuel, God with us. Immanuel will fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy by giving God’s people true food and drink, abundant pardon of sin, and everlasting joy and peace.

Psalm 32:1-6; Isaiah 55:1-13 (text); John 7:37-39
November 20, 2011

My oldest son is a keen observer. When we first arrived as a missionary family in Davao City, he noticed signs in the stores which said, “Buy One, Get One.” So he asked, “What’s the big deal about paying for one item and getting one item? This is because in the States, the sign would say, “Buy One, Get One Free,” which means, if you buy one item, you get another one for free.

In our text, Isaiah talks about buying food and drink “without money and without price.” The Lord sells them for free! Why would anyone sell something for free? How would he make a profit? It does not make sense. But God is not in the business of making earthly profits.

Isaiah’s intended audience here are Jews who were exiles in Babylon. Yet, he must also had his contemporaries in mind as he preaches God’s promise of forgiveness, comfort and blessings to his chosen nation. Remember that in Chapters 1-39, Isaiah focused on God’s judgment against the Jews and the nations for their rebellion. But the tone changes in Chapters 40-66, wherein the prophet’s focus is God’s comfort in the salvation and redemption of his people and of creation.

Remember Jesus’ Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14? When everything was ready, the king sent his servants to call all those who have been invited to his son’s wedding feast, but they all refused. So the king sent the invitation to all that the servants would find on the roads.

But is the call in our text—“Come”—an invitation, a plea, a suggestion, or an announcement? The verbs—come, buy, eat, listen, incline, seek—are all imperatives. Twelve of these imperatives are found in verses 1-7. God is commanding us to do these things—with urgency! “Ho!” in older translations (KJV, NASB, RSV) has a sense of urgency, a call to attend to something very important. So then is more than just an exhortation. It is an urgent call and command: “Come!”

What’s important and urgent? That the Jews, whether in Jerusalem in the 8th century or in Babylonian exile in the 6th century, come and listen so they may enter into covenant with the Lord and its promised blessings. The Lord made an “everlasting covenant” (mentioned also in Isa 61:8; Jer 32:40; and Ezek 37:26) with King David, because of his “steadfast, sure love for David.” Through this covenant with David, who was a “witness to the peoples, a leader and commander,” God’s people will receive covenant blessings.

What are these blessings? First, God’s people will receive free food to satisfy their hunger and thirst. Second, they will receive abundant pardon for their sin. And third, everlasting joy and peace will be theirs.

Free Food!
The Lord calls the people’s attention and commands them to come, drink and eat. “Come” is repeated four times in verse 1, and is urgent and commanded to everyone who hear.

But how will the people obey this command when they do not recognize their need for God’s nourishing food, and think that they are sufficient in themselves? The problem with the Jews—and with us today—is that we do not admit to our hunger and thirst.

This is why the Lord commands us to come to him for free food and drink. But three problems beset us. One, we think we are so self-sufficient that we do not need help, not even from God. Two, when we have much resources, we spend and use them in things that do not count. And three, because of our self-sufficiency and wrong priorities, we are never satisfied. We think that wealth, career, health, a comfortable home, a nice car, good family life, vacations, and good looks are the most important things in life.

We are like the rich, young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He thought he was self-sufficient with his riches, spending his money on earthly pleasures and pursuit. All he needs to do to be right with God is to obey the Law, but he was unable to obey Jesus’s command to love God and neighbor more than riches because of his great possessions. However, since Scripture tells us that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl 3:11), but temporal things overcame his need for eternal life, he went away sorrowful and dissatisfied with his life, even with all his riches.

Or how about the Samaritan woman by the well, whose need for a husband was her priority in life. But her insufficiency and dissatisfaction with her life easily showed after Jesus offered her living water—himself. Her spiritual thirst, which was evident in her immoral life, can only be eternally satisfied by believing in Christ the Eternal Living Water.

Like the rich man and the Samaritan woman, we are exposed as hungry and thirsty souls because our search for meaning and satisfaction in life never ends, even when we have so much earthly possessions. This is why Isaiah calls everyone, even those who have earthly riches, as people who are bankrupt, helpless and poor. So did Christ called the church in Laodicaea, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17).

What is this water that the Lord is selling for free? Elsewhere in Isaiah and in Scripture, water is associated with the pouring of the Spirit of the Lord. His sinful people is on desert land, so the Spirit is “poured out from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field” (Isa 32:15). They are also thirsty land and dry ground, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isa 44:3).

It is only true bread and drink, “delightful rich food” that the Lord gives, that are truly good for the soul. The wisdom of God calls us, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed” (Prov 9:5). From where does wisdom come, but only from the Word of God revealed by the Spirit? Jesus knew his Scriptures perfectly, and he knew that God’s Word is the only true food and drink that gives eternal life, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

This is why Isaiah commands again in verses 2-3, “Listen diligently… incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” Only God’s Word gives life, so spend time with the Word. Listen attentively to the preaching of the gospel on the Lord’s Day. Study it with your pastor, elders, and others in the church. Read, meditate and memorize it during your quiet moments of solitude. Then you will recognize the Word of God is the only true food and drink for eternal life, just as the disciples of Christ did, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). Only by God’s Word opened to us by his Spirit can we know that Christ is the Living Water and Bread from Heaven.

So the first blessing of entering into God’s everlasting covenant is free food and drink, which is the Spirit of God poured out when God’s covenant people come, and hear and obey God’s Word.

Abundant Pardon!
How can the Lord offer wine and milk of salvation for free? Someone else has paid the price.

When God commands the Jews to enter into the everlasting covenant, he is referring back to the covenant that the Lord made with King David in 2 Samuel 7 when God promised him, “Your throne shall be established forever.” Thus, the Lord says in verse 3 that he will establish a new covenant with his people as a fulfillment of his promise of “steadfast, sure love for David” who was the leader and commander of the people of God. When he conquered many other nations, the glory of his kingdom became a witness for God’s mighty works.

But King David died without seeing the fulfillment of God’s everlasting covenant. Still, God did not renege on his promise, and Peter knew this too well when he preached that Jesus, who was crucified by lawless men and was raised from the grave, was David’s Son whom God would set on his throne forever (Acts 2:30-31). It is through his death on the cross that Christ the Son of David paid for the food and wine in order that the Lord could offer them to us for free.

With Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God promises the Jews in verse 5, “a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you.” What nation is this? Isaiah is referring to none other than Gentile peoples from all nations of the earth, a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that all the families of the earth will be blessed through his Seed (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:29).

Who will enter into this new everlasting covenant with God? These are those who obey the next command in verse 6, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” When Christ came down from heaven, he came to dwell with his people as the Immanuel, God with us, the God who is near. But he will not always be near, and will not always be found. When the rush of great waters, which is death, comes to those who do not seek him and call upon him in prayer for salvation, they will have lost their opportunity to find God because he is far (Psa 32:6). “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27).

Seeking the Lord and calling upon his name means forsaking wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts, and returning to the Lord. When we do this, God will not reject us or deny us his compassion and abundant pardon (see also John 6:37). How is a sinful people pardoned? Is it by their good works or penance or by serving 70 years in exile? The answer is absolutely no, as proven in all of Israel’s history of rebellion, unbelief, idolatry, immorality and injustice. They were unable to turn from their wickedness and unrighteousness, and receive God’s free food and drink on their own efforts or self-sufficiency. They are people without money—poor and helpless.

What then is God’s plan for redeeming them from their sin and misery? Isaiah already revealed it to them in Chapter 53 in the Suffering Servant of the Lord: “he was crushed for our iniquities” (verse 5), “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (verse 6), and “he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors” (verse 12). This is how Christ, the suffering Son of David, paid for our free food and drink of repentance, forgiveness of sin, and salvation. He himself prophesied of his sacrifice for our sins, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

When God’s people come, buy, eat and drink true food and wine, it means that God is pouring out of his Spirit upon them. This is also in relation to seeking the Lord, repentance and purification of sins, as Ezekiel 36:25-27 prophesies:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from fall your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you… And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Jesus alludes back to this prophecy by Ezekiel about water, Spirit and cleansing when he said to Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Later, in a similar declaration, he cried out to the Jews, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).

Isaiah then says God’s ways and thoughts are infinitely different and superior to man’s, the difference like heaven and earth. Why did he say that? First, it must be pointed out that one’s ways and thoughts are inseparable—whatever a person thinks, it shows in his ways, and his ways evidence his inner thoughts. Second, Isaiah distinguishes between man’s sinful ways and thoughts from God’s holy ways and thoughts. The Lord commands us to put off our sinfulness and put on God’s holiness, just as Paul commands in Colossians 3:9-10, “put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.”

This could also mean that since God is infinitely different from and superior to his creation, his ways and thoughts are beyond our comprehension. In this life, we can only know God partially, as through a hazy glass. To the people of Isaiah’s day, God’s plan of salvation and restoration for them is somewhat hazy and even incomprehensible. How would they be forgiven of their sin? How would God fulfill his covenant promises to King David?

The assurance that God is able to fulfill his promises comes from illustrations of his sovereign control over his creation. As rain and snow do not fail to water the earth in order for trees and plants to grow, so the word that proceeds from the mouth of God will not fail, “it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose” (verse 11). Earlier, the Lord’s great pronouncement assures his people, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa 40:8). God’s people can then take great comfort when trials and sufferings come because God can use even evil things and wicked men for the good of his people in ways that he alone can understand.

The first blessing of entering into God’s everlasting covenant is the the outpouring of the Spirit symbolized by food and drink. This blessing in turn results in the abundant pardon of sin freely given by God through the sacrifice of the messianic Son of David. Lastly, both of these graces produce the ultimate blessing of the eternal covenant: everlasting joy and peace.

Everlasting Joy and Peace!

"The Peaceable Kingdom" by Edward Hicks (1826)

"The Peaceable Kingdom" by Edward Hicks, 1826 (click to enlarge)

Isaiah now concludes this portion of his prophecy with the opening word “For” or “Because” or even “Surely.” Verses 12 and 13 are the evidences that God surely has not broken his covenant promises. God’s people will be redeemed and restored from the exile in Babylon. But Isaiah looks not only to the near fulfillment of God’s restoration plan for the Jews, but more so to a complete and everlasting joy and peace of all mankind and creation!

This redemption will be complete and perfect because not only man will be redeemed from sin and death resulting from the fall of Adam. As Paul says, on that day, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Thorns and briers and desert lands will be no more, and in its place, majestic and beautiful cypress and myrtle trees in fertile valleys nourished by life-giving rivers.

So great and glorious is this total restoration that creation itself will join the human race in praise of its Creator, so that even the mountains and hills “shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” No, this is not a proof-text for clapping our hands in worship. Did the mountains sing, the trees clapped, and thornbush miraculously turned into cypress trees? No, this is a poetic imagery of the joy of creation that will accompany the complete perfection of God’s creation.

This glorious restored creation will be the third and last “everlasting sign” of God’s triumph over sin and death in Chapters 54-55. The first sign is God’s “everlasting love” (Isa 54:8). The second is the “everlasting covenant”, which is the expression of this love (Isa 55:3). Early in his book, Isaiah spoke of another sign, that of a child born of a virgin, whose name shall be called Immanuel, God with us (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:21). Immanuel will fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy by giving God’s people true food and drink, abundant pardon of sin, and everlasting joy and peace.

Conclusion
Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? If so, you have recognized that you are a poor and helpless sinner. These two things are truly blessings, as Jesus has said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

So Jesus commands you, “Come, buy, eat, drink and be satisfied,” with the only food and drink that satisfies: his body broken for you and his blood shed for your for the forgiveness of your sins. To everyone who comes, eats and drinks of Christ, he gives everlasting, heavenly peace, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). He also promises his own complete joy to those who listen to his words, “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Listen to The Spirit and the Bride who say, “’Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev 22:17). “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psa 34:8)

And when you come to him, Jesus promises:

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:54-56).

Your Great Shepherd of the sheep makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters. He has prepared a table before you overflowing with his goodness and mercy. Come, for the table is ready. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” (Psa 107:21)

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