We all get themàWeddings…graduations…special celebrations…fund raisers….even 175th anniversaries
Some we mark on our calendars…buy gifts…maybe a new outfit to wear
Some we ignore…just one more event to attend…
Some invitations are hard to ignore:
Check engine light…you are invited to pull over and pay attention to the car’s needs
Ice cold water when you’ve been working in the yard.
Someone offers to fix a problem you’ve tried to fix for a long time.
Today’s passage from Isaiah is an INVITATION of EPIC PROPORTIONS
Book of Isaiah is in many ways the centerpiece of the story of Israel in the biblical story.
Israel was always to be God’s special people for the sake of all nations.
But Israel failed to trust in Yahweh which manifested itself in two major ways:
Constantly flirting with idols
A lack of social justice
Under King Ahaz, Judah made an alliance with Assyria for protection against the Northern kingdoms of Israel and Damascus. Judah was then beholden to Assyria until the time when Babylon destroyed Assyria and ultimately destroys Judah in 586 BC.
Isaiah 55 is part of a larger segment of chapters 39-55 dealing with the Judah’s exile in Babylon.
Like most prophets of God, Isaiah’s oracles are God’s warnings of coming judgment and promises of restoration and hope. Isaiah 55 is a word of hope!
There are several important aspects to God’s invitation in Chapter 55:
The Invitation is UNIVERSAL. Come, ALL who are thirsty. From the beginning of time, God has not been about redeeming just one nation, tribe, or race. God loves ALL and calls ALL.
The Invitation is for those who see their NEED. Come, all who are THIRSTY. Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Many do not see their need for salvation (Ignorance)
Many do not believe Jesus is the answer for what’s missing (Unbelief)
But for the Christ-follower, we have seen our need for Salvation. YOU?
The Invitation is WITHOUT COST. Come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat!
Many think they must DO certain religious activities to gain salvation (Works)
Some count the cost of what they give up (their sins) and reject the gift.
Paul says it this way (Romans 6:23), “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Invitation Requires a RESPONSE. “Come,” It’s an action verb. There’s movement needed…movement of our wills, our thinking, our attitudes, and actions. We see this sort of invitation played out in the Gospels:
John 1:35-39à Two of John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus where he was staying and Jesus replied, “Come and see.” And they started following Jesus instead of John.
John 1:46à Philip, speaking with Nathaniel about Jesus, invites Philip to “Come and see.”
John 4à After Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, her life was forever changed. She rushed back to town and said to them, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” The Word tells us that many Samaritans believed in Christ because of the woman’s testimony and many more became believers because they came into the presence of Jesus.
Matthew 11:28à Jesus himself makes a universal invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Yet in all those invitations, a response is needed. People have to make a move.
Later in Isaiah 55:6-7, the response is more clearly defined à “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn (align/realign/ repent) to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, and he will freely pardon.”
Many folks think salvation is just about believing in “the Man upstairs,” without having to personally change. The reason is the Good News is good news is that we don’t have to stay the same person bound in stench of sin and death! God can cleans us with the precious blood of Jesus and make us new when we TURN.
Finally, the Invitation is MISSIONAL. “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.” (glory)
Israel was supposed to reflect the glory…the manifest presence of Almighty God…to a lost and hurting world. This is the MISSION of the body of Christ.
We looked at several attributes of God’s glory through the lens of Isaiah 6 SO THAT we could learn to take on God’s characteristics in our lives.
1 Peter 1:15 says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Why? Because we represent King Jesus to a lost and hurting world. Our invitation is MISSIONAL.
In two weeks, we will celebrate the single greatest event in the history of the world: The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the Savior of ALL creation! Where will you be? Where will your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers be? Some will be worshipping the Resurrected King in their respective churches; but FAR MORE will be nowhere near a church. Why? Could it be they have NOT HEARD THE INVITATION?
What would April 16th be like for every one of Byhalia UMC INVITED any and every friend and family member to join you in worship at 10:30 am that morning? Standing room only!!!
I promise you, an invitation will be given. Do your friends need to hear it? God’s Word will be spoken and it will accomplish its purpose. Later in Isaiah 55 we hear these familiar words about the power of God’s Word: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Last week in our Leadership Council meeting, we agreed that—beyond worship times, breakfast, and other events—the key reason why new people show up is because they are INVITED. [BTW, folks stay, NOT because of praise music and preaching, but because of the love, hope, and belonging, they feel from our community.]
Jesus has offered a way to eternal life. His invitation to COME has been offered down through the generations. We each must see our need, respond to His grace, align our lives toward His, and INVITE OTHERS to the table. AMEN.