Pentecost 11a

Preached: August 28, 2011

Come, Feast on David’s Covenant
Isaiah 55:1-5

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit calls out to us today is Isaiah 55.

Oh, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Whoever has no money, come, buy, and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money at no cost. Why spend money on what isn’t food? Why labor for what won’t satisfy? Listen, yes listen to me, and eat what’s good so that your soul delights in abundance. Turn your ear and come to me. Listen so that your soul lives. I will make an eternal covenant for you, namely, the mercies to David which endure. Behold, I have made him a witness for the peoples, a leader and commander for them. “Behold, you will call a people whom you do not know, and a people who does not know you will run to you, because of the Lord, your God, because of the Holy One of Israel, since he will glorify you.” (Isaiah 55:1-5).

This is the word of our Lord.

Psalm 42: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1, 2 NIV1984).

What do you thirst for in life, dear friends? Do you thirst for happiness, satisfaction, contentment? Do you thirst for family, friends, relationships? Do you thirst for success, victory, accomplishment? Do you thirst for acknowledgment, appreciation, acceptance? Do you thirst for excitement, exhilaration, experience? Do you thirst for knowledge, beauty, art, culture? Or maybe your thirsts aren’t that ambitious. Do you just thirst for fewer heartaches, less stress, and not so many worries and pains?

There’s an inner hunger and thirst that food and water cannot quench, medicine and technology cannot solve, and no amount of work, family, achievements, experiences, entertainment, or learning can satisfy it. That’s the thirst you heard in the words of the Psalmist.

But today, dear friends, come and feast on what truly quenches that thirst and satisfies that hunger. In fact, it puts all those other thirsts in their proper place, so that they no longer can oppress your soul. Come, feast on David’s covenant. It’s the only food that truly fills you up. And it’s the food freely prepared for you. Come, feast on David’s covenant.

A. It’s the only food that fills

“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?” (Isaiah 55:1, 2 NIV1984).

We often hear the story line of a father who is always busy at work. He misses his daughter’s recital. He leaves before his son’s ball game starts because of some emergency at work. He even forgets their birthdays. By the end of the story, whether through tragedy or comedy, he has learned that true fulfillment does not come from paychecks, promotions, or prestige but from family.

That’s a lie, though. Don’t get me wrong. Family is more important than work. But just as paychecks, promotions, and prestige do not bring lasting fulfillment neither does family, and neither does any of those other things mentioned earlier.

For how could any of those things satisfy the fervent longing from deep within our soul that the Psalmist expressed? We are God’s creation, created by him and for him. We cannot find true purpose or fulfillment apart from him. And yet ever since Adam’s fall, our natural, inborn self is so corrupted by sin that we run from God and hide from his voice. Your conscience knows. Your conscience accuses. Your conscience convicts you. Left to ourselves rather than finding fulfillment in the living God, our resentment, anger, and hatred against him drive us farther and farther away. Is it any wonder that people try to ignore this thirst by burying themselves in work or family, by distracting themselves with entertainment or pleasures, by numbing themselves with drugs or alcohol, or worst of all, by thinking that they can make it right between themselves and God if they work at being good or becoming spiritual enough? But in the end that thirst and hunger is still there.

Come and feast on the only food that truly fills. What is this food? This invitation to come and eat is in here Isaiah 55. It comes after Isaiah 53 and 54 -- that’s self-evident. But do you remember what Isaiah 53 is about? Do you see the feast our Lord has laid out for us in that chapter and now invites you to in this chapter?

Isaiah 53, selected verses: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering … Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed … [H]e was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, he did not open his mouth … After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:3-5, 7, 11 NIV1984).

That’s the feast spread before you. That’s the covenant the Lord had made with King David. His descendant would reign on the eternal throne, for he would defeat the enemies of humanity: sin, Satan, and death. And so it was that Joseph and Mary from the house and line of David came to Bethlehem, and she gave birth to the Bread who came down from heaven, the living Water, God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the David spoken of in today’s text. He is the witness, leader, and commander referred to. He is the One whom the Lord endows with splendor.

Come, feast on David’s covenant, the Good News of Jesus, who was pierced for our transgressions and who came back to life to justify us through his righteousness, for he bore our iniquities. Feast on the Good News of Jesus, great David’s greater Son, who died and rose and now reigns over all from his eternal throne that stands firm and sure. For the Lord’s mercies and love will not fail. This is the good food that delights your soul, more than wine that brings joy to a celebration. This is the good food that brings life to your soul, more than milk the nourishes an infant. Jesus, priceless Treasure, Fount of purest pleasure! This is the only food that fills.

How do you feast on this food? With your ears funneling the message to your heart. The Lord calls to you, “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” (Isaiah 55: 2, 3 NIV1984).

Don’t let the things of this world, even the good things such as work and family, interfere. Don’t listen to their empty promises of fulfillment. “Listen, listen to me and eat what is good” (Isaiah 55:2 NIV1984), the Lord says to you. Think of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus listening while her sister is too busy. Feast on the one thing needful. Feast on his word that brings you the covenant he made with David, his sure promise to send Jesus, his merciful love that gave you his Son. This is the only food that fills. Come feast on it.

B. It’s food freely prepared for you

Feast on it, for it is food freely prepared for you. People like a good deal. For example, about a week ago, Hewlett-Packard discontinued its new HP TouchPad tablet (one of those new computer gizmos). It had originally sold for $499. Stores had trouble selling it at that price. But when HP discontinued it, they slashed the price to $99 and sold out in about a day. People like a good deal. But when a deal sounds too good, people suspect a scam, and there’s plenty of those going around as well. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”, the old saying goes.

Now, dear friends, I’m not talking about a free lunch, but a full course meal. “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” (Isaiah 55:1 NIV1984). How can that be? Is it scam? What’s the agenda? What’s the hidden cost? Or is it just worthless stuff anyway, outdated junk? Is that why it’s free?

But God does not lie. “Come … without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1 NIV1984), he says. For you see, dear friends, the price has been paid by someone else, by Jesus Christ, with his holy, precious blood. Jesus, priceless Treasure, Fount of purest pleasure. Imagine what the blood of God could buy! Imagine this lavish feast pictured with wine and milk for the soul. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it. For Jesus has actually done it for you. He has prepared this feast for you, free of charge.

How can you know? How can you be sure? Because Jesus himself testifies about it and leads you to the truth. He is not only the payment but also the witness. For the Lord God says, “See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander” (Isaiah 55:4 NIV1984). Hear the testimony of Jesus, the faithful witness. He speaks through the words of the Bible, the words of Scripture written down so that his testimony still calls out to you and to me today just as it did two thousand years ago, unaltered, unchanged, uncorrupted. Be sure and believe. He freely prepares this feast for you. Hear the testimony of Jesus, the faithful witness, as he brings you his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. “I place my body and blood in your mouth,” he says. “The proof that I have paid the full price for you.” Believe the testimony of the Scriptures and the Sacraments. For through them Jesus testifies that he has paid the full price for you. That’s why the great gifts of forgiveness and eternal life are free. “Come … without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1 NIV1984). This feast is freely prepared for you. Come and eat, that is, believe. Believe that Jesus prepared this feast for you. Believe that it’s truly free.

Sometimes I think we take this testimony and promise for granted. It’s as if we figure we have a right to hear Jesus’ testimony, so we fill ourselves with other things until we have time for his promises. We fail to appreciate how utterly amazing it is that the Lord included us in his covenant. For you see, Jesus was born a Jew, from the family of David. And what share do we have in that? We weren’t part of that people. We weren’t heirs of the covenant, descendants of Abraham. David hadn’t been our king or our ancestors’ king. How amazing that the Lord extends David’s covenant to you and me! His promise is not only for the people of Israel but for all nations, even those who had not known that the Messiah was coming, even those whom the Messiah did not visit during his time on earth. That’s why the Lord God says to Jesus, the Messiah, “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” (Isaiah 55:5 NIV1984). How splendid and glorious the work of Jesus, the Messiah, is!

How amazing that his covenant includes you and me! Yes, you, dear friend, are among those whom the Messiah calls and summons though you had not known him. He calls out not only to one people but to all: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1 NIV1984). Listen to his call. Many may flock to the store to buy a $99 gadget on sale. Yet how few spend even 99 minutes a week feasting on the words of their Savior! Listen to his call. Come to the feast prepared each week in the sermon and service. Come to the feast laid out in Bible class. Come to the feast stored up in your Bibles at home. Come, for the feast is for you.

Listen to his call. Feast on his words. Believe his covenant, the covenant made with David and extended to you -- the covenant of forgiveness through Jesus’ blood and eternal life. Come feast on David’s covenant. This food is freely prepared for you, and it truly fills and satisfies, as you thirst for it like a deer panting for streams of water. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313