The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

August 20, 2017

Isaiah 55:1-5

Come to God’s Rich Banquet!

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor. (NIV1984)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Lutheran church has long been known for being very very good at certain things. Some might even say we are the best at certain things. For example, ever since the days of Martin Luther the Lutheran church has been known as a “confessional church.” If you want to know where the historic Lutheran church stands concerning any doctrine of Scripture you can read all about it in the Lutheran Confessions. Ever since the days of Martin Luther the Lutheran church has also been known as a “singing church.” Luther quickly saw how important and how effective it was to put the truths of Scripture into hymns for God’s people to sing— hymns we still love to sing right down to this very days! Ever since the days of Luther the Lutheran church has become known for its emphasis on education. From our Lutheran elementary schools to our Sunday schools, from our high schools to our colleges to our seminary, from our confirmation classes for both children and adults to our Bible classes and programs such as Christmas for Kids and Easter for Kids— we are very good at teaching the Scriptures in all their truth and purity.

On a far lighter note, however, the Lutheran church is also widely known for its potluck dinners. Whether it is Garrison Keillor or “The Lutheran Ladies” our potluck dinners have long been extolled as some of the very best!

I couldn’t help but think of our Lutheran potluck dinners as I was preparing our sermon for this morning. The reason for that is because here in our text the Lord Himself uses the picture of a banquet to help us understand the #1 central truth of the Bible. Today then, my friends, let’s see how both the central truth of Scripture and the central truth of the historic Lutheran church can be summed up in the words: Come to God’s Rich Banquet! As we study this text we will note two things about God’s rich banquet. First, we want to see that God’s rich banquet is absolutely free. Second, we want to see that God’s rich banquet does indeed satisfy the soul.

In our society today when you and I need to stock up on food we drive to Safeway or to Costco or to some grocery store, we get a cart and walk up and down the aisles picking out the food we want. We go through the check-out counter and pay our money, then we load all our food into our car and we drive home and put the food away in the freezer or in the refrigerator or in the cupboards. We then have food for many days to come! Back in the days of the prophet Isaiah it was not quite so simple. Every day people would go down to the local food market where vendor after vendor would be selling everything from fruits and vegetables to bread and live animals. I am sure we have all seen markets like this on television or in the movies. Brenda and I saw this kind of market first-hand a couple of years ago when we went to China to visit Jonathan and Horatia. When we went to one of the local markets we saw vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables (some I even recognized!) to eggs and breads and even live animals— including eels and fish and crawfish! Then we listened as people bartered back and forth with the vendors to determine how much they were willing to pay for the food that they needed.

It is in that context and against that backdrop that our text for this morning takes place. Putting Himself into the position of a vendor in a market place the God of heaven calls out to us inviting us to His rich banquet. What sets the Lord apart from all the other “vendors,” however, what makes the Lord’s invitation unique is that His rich banquet is absolutely free! Notice how clearly that comes out in the opening verses of our text when the Lord says to us, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

The rich banquet to which God invites us is, of course, a spiritual banquet. God Himself has prepared all the best “foods” that our soul could ever need or want or desire and then He says, “Come, enjoy all you want! This is my free gift to you!”

Now our natural human reaction to God’s gracious invitation is one of skepticism if not downright rejection. We have all heard the saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Many of us may have learned the hard way that when someone offers us something for “free” there is usually some kind of string attached. Not so with the Lord our God. This entire section of the book of Isaiah focuses our attention on the Lord’s suffering Servant— the Lord’s Promised Messiah. You may recall the words of Isaiah chapter 53 where the Lord brings out in graphic detail what His Servant, His Messiah, would do for us! With both the beauty and the blessings of Isaiah 53 in clear focus the Lord then invites us to His rich banquet and says, “It’s all free— because of what He has done for you!” (Pointing to the cross)

Sadly, the there many churches today who do put a “price-tag” on God’s rich banquet. Instead of pointing people to the cross of the Promised Messiah and saying, “This is what God has freely done for you!”, instead of reaching out to the spiritually thirsty and the spiritually hungry and proclaiming that inspired invitation, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost,” instead of sharing the pure, sweet, simple, central message of the Bible— the we are saved purely by grace alone and by faith alone— there are all too many churches that attach “strings” to the Gospel. They may indeed point to the cross and say, “This is what God has done for you,” but then they go on to say, “Now, here is what you have to do. You can be saved if you do this…or if you do that…” Never accept such an invitation, my friends. If you do Satan will have all the room he needs to shroud your salvation in doubt— much like the marine layer that rolls in off the ocean and completely shrouds the entire Golden Gate Bridge in fog. God Himself declares that He has prepared His rich banquet of salvation for you. God Himself invites you to enjoy His rich banquet— completely free of charge, no strings attached!

Ah, but isn’t it true that you get what you pay for? Can something really be any good if it is free? While those concerns are indeed valid for the things of this world they need not concern us when it comes to God’s rich banquet. The banquet that our God provides for us is a banquet that completely satisfies all of our spiritual needs! Continuing the picture of the marketplace the Lord goes on to say in our text, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

The story is told about a farmer whose dog followed him into town one day. As he hitched his horse and buggy to a post in front of the country store, the storekeeper, seeing the panting dog, chided the farmer for making the dog run all the way into town. The farmer replied, “That dog is not tired from following me to town. What tired him out was all his wandering around. There was not an open gate, or hole in the fence, or a tree stump that he did not run off to explore.” Isn’t that exactly how many people live their lives? They run all over the place desperately looking for something— anything— to fill the spiritual void they feel inside of them. Some people run themselves ragged as they seek to find satisfaction through their career. Some people look to material possessions thinking that the more possessions they have the happier they will be. Some people seek satisfaction through sex and so they sleep around with all different kinds of people. Some people look to alcohol and drugs. And don’t you dare think that you and I are immune to such craziness! Our old sinful nature is constantly telling us that the rich banquet God provides for us in His Word simply isn’t enough! Our old sinful nature is constantly telling us that we need “more,” we deserve “more” and if we really want to be “satisfied” we have to get out there and fend for ourselves!

There is only one way, however, to fill the inner spiritual void that we all have by nature. Spiritual “satisfaction,” spiritual “completeness” can only be found by “listening” to what the Lord has revealed to us right here in His holy Word. The reason for that is emphasized here in our text when we hear the Lord say, “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

By nature we know that everything associated with this world will eventually fail us and/or fade away. Think about it. One day our health will fail us. One day all our material wealth will be divided up and given away to others. The things that promise to bring us pleasure often ruin us with illness and disease. By nature we also know that no matter who we are, no matter what we do, no matter how hard we work, no matter how “good” we strive to be we will always fall short of the holiness and the righteousness and the perfection that our holy, just and perfect God requires of us. As the apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:22, 23)

Only God’s rich banquet revealed to us here in His Word can bring us the spiritual satisfaction we need, my friends. While everything else fails us, the “everlasting covenant” that God has made with us through the cross of His Son, the “faithful love promised to David” and fulfilled in David’s greater Son— our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ— this is what satisfies our soul for both time and for eternity. (Pointing to the cross) So listen, my friends! Listen on a regular basis to what your God has to say to you in His holy Scriptures. “Give ear” to Him so that your soul may not only enjoy the “richest of fare” but so that your soul may also live forever in His eternal glory!

Like most Lutheran churches our congregation has potluck dinners down pat. We don’t have them very often, but I always look forward to our next potluck. That, however, is not why we come to church nor is that why we invite others to come to church with us. By the grace of God we come to church to enjoy the rich spiritual banquet that our God has prepared for us. By the grace of God we invite others to come to church with us so that they too can enjoy God’s rich banquet— a banquet that is offered to everyone absolutely free of charge, a banquet which alone can satisfy the deepest needs of the soul.

To God be the glory!

Amen