The Compassion of the Lord
55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Jesus Christ offers to meet the deepest thirsts of your soul. He offers to bring you into a relationship with God in which your sins are forgiven and you begin to experience His power to live in a way that pleases Him. This life will continue beyond death for eternity.
You cannot buy this gift, but you can receive it. In order to receive it, you must lay aside the idea that there is something that you can offer to God. You must ask Him to give you what you do not have. Faith is like a hand being opened to receive what Christ offers, and He stands ready to give to all who are willing to receive.
In the town where my wife, Karen, and I used to live in north London, market day was every Thursday and Saturday. Crews would arrive at around six in the morning and set up the scaffolding and the canopies for the stalls.
There were stalls with fruit and vegetables, a luggage rack, clothing stalls, and a man who strangely seemed to do nothing but sell parts for vacuum cleaners. The place was always milling with people looking for a bargain.
God uses the picture of a marketplace to explain His incredible offer to us. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
Centuries later, Jesus took up these words and applied them to Himself. “If anyone thirsts,” He said, “let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). The street trader is the Son of God. He offers to satisfy the deep thirsts within your soul. But His stall is one among many.
Jesus’ invitation goes out, but not everybody who hears it responds. One reason for this is that some people in the marketplace are preoccupied at other stalls. They are within earshot of the invitation, but it is not heard because it is drowned out by other voices and other interests.
In today’s market, many are preoccupied at the sports stall. Others are looking for what will satisfy them on the marriage stall. Others are rummaging around in the career, travel, or entertainment stalls.
These stalls offer good things, but Christ says to us, “Come over here; I have something to offer that you will not find anywhere else.” He asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2).
The Son of God offers something of great value. He calls out “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (55:3). That sounds like a great offer. Let’s go over and find out what it costs.
The Price Is Right!
Selling is usually about the trader arguing the customer up to his price, but here we have Jesus arguing the price down: “Come, buy…without money and without price” (55:1). It’s like an auction in reverse where everything is turned on its head, because Christ has chosen to sell to the lowest bidder.
So come with me in your imagination to this auction sale! Jesus is standing in the stall, and He says, “I am pleased to offer total forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The offer includes the ultimate value of everlasting life, and it is available today to the lowest bidder.”
A man in a pin-striped suit steps forward with the first bid. “I’ve led a good life and run an honest business,” he says. “I have been faithful to my wife and have been a good father to my children. I have served on the boards of three charitable organizations. I would like to offer these good works.”
A murmur rises from the rest of the bidders. That’s a pretty impressive offer. “It’s with the man in the pin-striped suit,” says the auctioneer.
Then a lady in a blue coat lifts her hand. “I haven’t done as much as the man in the pin-striped suit,” she says, “but I have attended church faithfully, and I think that I have become a spiritual person.”
“It’s with the lady in the blue coat,” says the seller. “Can anyone make me a lower offer?”
A girl in blue jeans raises her hand. “I haven’t attended church like the lady in the blue coat, but I have tried to live a good life.”
“Well,” says the auctioneer, “that’s not very much, but it’s going to the lowest bidder, so you have it. Am I hearing any other bids?”
A man in a red sweater, and a red face to go with it, gets up slowly. “I’ve not lived up to my own expectations,” he says. “I have let people down, and I’ve done some terrible things, but at least I am sorry. I didn’t mean to do what I did, so let me offer the fact that I am truly repentant.”
“Well,” says the seller, “that really isn’t much. But it’s going to the lowest bidder, so your meager bid has it right now. Is anyone going to make me a lower offer?”
This is not a battle of pride; it is a battle of blushes. Many people have opted out of the bidding, not because the cost is too high, but because the offers are embarrassingly low. Most people are just watching to see if anyone would dare to offer less than the man in the red sweater. How could anyone offer so little to God?
Finally someone steps forward, and says, “I don’t have anything to offer. My repentance isn’t what it should be; my faith isn’t what it should be; my works aren’t what they should be. Nothing is as it should be! I have nothing to offer.” And the auctioneer brings down His hammer. “It’s yours,” He says. “It’s yours.”
What Do We Bring?
Maybe you’re saying, “OK, but don’t we have to bring something to God? Don’t we have to be sorry? Don’t we have to believe?”
Yes. But we do not receive salvation because we offer these things. Salvation is a gift. Many people become confused at this point. They think of salvation as a deal in which God offers forgiveness and life in exchange for our repentance and faith. But that’s not the gospel.
If God were to ask you on the last day why He should let you into heaven, the answer is not good works, repentance, or even faith. Our salvation does not rest on anything we have done. It rests on Jesus Christ alone.
If you are trusting in your repentance or in your faith, you will never have assurance, because your faith could always be stronger and your repentance is never complete. Your salvation depends entirely on Jesus Christ and what He has done for you. Faith is simply the open hand that receives what He offers, and repentance is the response of a heart that has already received.
A blind man came to Jesus to receive the sight that he did not have. He did not come to Christ with sight; he came to Christ for sight. In the same way, we come to Jesus to receive what we do not have. We do not come to offer the life that we have, we come to receive the life that He offers.
Offering the Lowest Bid
Many people have difficulty in worship because they have never received what Christ offers. They are following a moral code and offering that to God. In fact all that they have ever done is offer things to God. Their hands are full, and they have never come to Christ to receive.
God has made it so that every one of us can make the lowest offer. Only pride stands in your way. The man in the pin-striped suit and the lady in the blue coat may have this blessing also, but they must stop trying to buy it. They must lay aside their works and come to Christ empty-handed.
One reason we find this so difficult is that we don’t like debt. This came home to me when a friend offered to fix a problem in our home. He spent a couple of hours working on it, and I was grateful. I tried to slip some money in his pocket, but he wouldn’t take it.
Why did I want to pay him? Because I didn’t want to be in his debt. If I got some help and he got some money, we were level on the deal. And somewhere deep in our hearts that’s often how we think when it comes to God. “He offers me something that I need. Let me offer Him something that He wants in return.” That gives me some credibility, some self-respect. And Christ says, “On that basis, no deal.”
The only basis on which we can receive what Christ offers is with the empty hand that receives from Him, and that leaves us incalculably in His debt for the rest of our lives and for all eternity.
Making the Purchase
Salvation is a free gift, but Jesus invites us to “Come, buy” (55:1). He uses the word “buy” because there is a definite transaction in which you take what Christ offers. Even though you do not pay for it, you must receive it, and unless this transaction takes place, what Christ offers to you remains, as it were, on the stall.
Looking Isn’t Buying
Some people enjoy “just looking” in shops, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s where some people are spiritually. They have come over to Christ’s stall and started asking questions about the Bible and salvation.
Looking is great, but looking isn’t buying. The greatest commitment of your life is worthy of the deepest investigation, so look into the claims of Christ carefully. But don’t confuse looking with buying. If what Christ offers is to become yours, you must close the deal.
Trying Isn’t Buying
If we had bought every dress my wife has tried on over the years, we would be bankrupt! But trying isn’t buying. You could be in a store trying on clothes from nine until five, Monday to Friday, and never buy. And you can come to church, read the Bible, say your prayers, and still never close the deal with Christ. You can feel that you should buy and still never buy.
Knowing Isn’t Buying
The last time we were looking at washing machines, we did our research and then found a helpful sales assistant. He was like an encyclopedia of washing machines. “This one,” he said with a rather nasal voice, “rotates with twenty-three minutes of agitation; and this one has the cork-screw spindle, but it does not have the automatic temperature gauge.”
We began talking with him, and eventually he told us that he didn’t own a washing machine himself because he lived on his own, had plenty of socks, and went to the laundry once every month. He knew all about the products but had never bought one himself. To make matters worse, we didn’t buy the washing machine either!
Maybe that is where you are spiritually. You have learned many things about Jesus, but what He offers has not yet become yours. Knowing isn’t buying.
There’s a time for doing your research, but if you are going to buy, there must come a point where you make a decision and close the deal. And when you buy, what Christ offers becomes yours.
- Why doesn’t everyone respond to Jesus’ invitation?
- Would you be better off if Jesus offered forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life to the highest bidder or to the lowest bidder? Why?
- If God were to ask you on the last day, “Why should I let you into heaven?” what would you say?
- What, if anything, is standing in the way of you laying your words aside and coming to Christ empty-handed?
- Where are you in the buying process with Jesus? Are you just looking? Are you trying it on? Are you learning more? Have you closed the deal?