Invitation to the Thirsty
55 “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.
2 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 you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
December 7th, 1988, an earthquake registering 6.8 on the Richter scale shook the northern part of what is now the Republic of Armenia. Roughly 55,000 people were killed in this earthquake. A woman by the name of Susanna Petroysan was shopping for a new dress with her daughter when all of a sudden they found themselves trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building. After some time had passed, Susanna heard her four-year-old daughter Gayaney cry out, “Mommy, I’m so thirsty. I want a drink.”
Trapped in the darkness of the basement with a prefabricated concrete panel 18 inches above her head and a crumbled water pipe above her shoulders, Susanna was unable to stand up and move around. “Mommy, I’m thirsty. I want a drink.” Her daughter cried out again.
After feeling around in the darkness, Susanna found some shattered glass. She took the piece of glass and she used it to slash her left hand. She then gave her hand to her daughter so she could suck her blood. Eight days passed by. Susanna had no idea how many times she had cut her hands. She only knew that if she stopped, if she stopped cutting her hand and giving it to her daughter … her daughter would die.
Hands were cut … blood was shed … and the child was saved.
The Israelite people who Isaiah is writing to in our Old Testament lesson are thirsty. But thirsty for what? Well, we need to understand something about these Israelite people. You see, these Israelite people who Isaiah is writing to, they have been trapped. They have been living in captivity in Babylon under Babylonian rule for the past 70 years. Shortly after they were driven from their homes and entered into this new life, they got word that the temple of God back in Jerusalem, the physical dwelling place of God had been totally destroyed. The magnificent and glorious temple of God was now no more than just a giant pile of rubble. And even though the Israelites were not very good about following God, even though they weren’t very good about worshiping God … the temple, the temple meant everything to them. You can take away their house, good, honor, child, or spouse, but don’t mess with the temple. However, with the temple lying in ruins, this meant only one thing to these exiled Israelites … God had abandoned them. To the Israelite people, not only did the walls of the temple come crashing down, the walls of their whole world had come crashing down, trapping them in this basement they would become familiar with called Babylon. Trapped in the midst of their new darkness, soul searching in the midst of their entrapment, the Israelites realize that they are thirsty. Thirsty for hope, thirsty for being rescued, thirsty for being restored back to God.
Fast forward about 2,000 years and you will find a different group finding themselves in the same situation as the Israelites trapped in Babylon. Instead of being trapped in Babylon, these people are trapped in 16th century Germany. The Germans of the 1500’s are not trapped so much as in having to live under a foreign ruler, but are more trapped by the fortress known as the Roman Catholic Church. For Martin Luther in the 1500’s, the fortress of the church, even the fortress of the Catholic Church was something he cherished. We need to understand that at no time during the whole reformation of the church did Luther ever want to break away and start a new church. Starting a new church was absolutely the last thing Luther wanted. Luther wanted to simply reform the church, correct it of its errors.
One of the biggest thing which Luther himself struggled with was the haunting question of … have I done enough? Have I done enough to earn forgiveness of my sins? Have a I done enough to earn the glorious honor of standing before Christ in heaven when I die? Have I done enough to please God, to make God happy? The overbearing answer which trapped Luther, which pinned Luther in the depths of darkness was no. No Luther, you have not done enough. Because of this, because of this uncertainty which drove Luther into severe depression and anxiety attacks, Luther found himself trapped by the uncertainity and thirsty. He was thirsty for hope, thirsty for being rescued, thirsty for being restored to God.
Let’s fast forward another 500 years to today … are we really any more different than the Israelites living in Babylonian captivity? We live in a throwaway society. As much as we cherish our possessions, when the walls come down around us and our stuff is destroyed, we say it is just stuff and we go buy new. If something breaks, we simply replace it. But when something happens to someone we love or when something happens to us personally, the walls come crashing down around us and we find ourselves feeling trapped. When we are told a loved one has been in an accident, or they have cancer, or they need to be placed on hospice, or when they pass away … the walls come crashing down. The same thing happens when you are told that you have cancer, you have a disease which will affect the rest of your life, or when you are told you can no longer drive, you can no longer live in your own home and have to move to a nursing home … the walls of security you have worked so hard to build up come crashing down, burying you in a dark and despairing basement of broken emotions. Trapped under this immeasurable weight we search for answers. Why did this happen? Why did this happen to me? Where is God? In the midst of searching, we get a point where we realize much like the Israelites in Babylon, we realize much like Luther, … I’m thirsty. I’m thirsty for hope, thirsty for being rescued, thirsty for being restored back to God.
The message of Isaiah to those who are thirsty and trapped in Babylonian captivity, the message of the Reformation to those who are thirsty and trapped under the burden of whether they have done enough to earn forgiveness and salvation, the message to you and me who are thirsty and trapped in the rubble of desperation, despair, and disappointment is this … come!
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;” (Isaiah 55:1). But come where? Where are we to go? There is really only one place to go. We, as well as all the people of the world, we come to the one who sent out the invitation in the first place. We come to God! We come to the one who is not only the bread of life but we come to the one who feeds us and quenches our thirst for all of eternity. We come to God’s very own Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
But with what do we come to Jesus with? We have nothing. Our hearts are tainted with sin and our good deeds are like filthy bloody rags. There is nothing good in any of us, there is nothing we have which we can give which would satisfy Jesus. Is it wrong of us to come when we have nothing to offer?
Dear friends, this is the most awesome thing which came out of the Reformation. Our sinful nature makes us think that we need to do something, that we need to dig our way out from under the rubble of our lives which has come crashing down around us so that we can come to God. But God said no. God said, I don’t want you to try to dig yourself out because in the course of trying to dig your way out, you are only going to bury yourself even more. Let me help. Let me send you my one and only Son, whom I love. Let me send you Jesus.
And so He did. God sent Jesus who is the only one who is able to reach into the wreckage of our lives. Jesus reached into the wreckage of our lives and he does it with hands laced with blood. You see, blood was all Jesus had. Jesus’ disciples had deserted him. His garments had been gambled away before his very eyes. Even Jesus’ heavenly Father had turned his back on him. As Jesus hung there on that cross, his entire world had collapsed in around him. In the basement of his Babylon, buried under the rubble of the sin of the world, under your sin and my sin … Jesus cried out … I am thirsty! (John 19:28). Jesus was thirsty for hope, for rescue, for restoration back to God. But in his thirst … Jesus died.
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” The hands of Jesus were cut as the nails were driven through them, blood was shed … and we are saved. By the blood shed by Jesus and by His victorious resurrection, you and I are saved.
What are you waiting for to rescue you? Don’t spend money on what doesn’t satisfy. Be real! Be honest! Come as you are to the waters of life. Come to God in prayer, come to God through His Word, come to God through your worship. God is ready to welcome you with arms open wide and quench your thirst. Remember … hands were cut, blood was shed … and my friends … you are saved. Amen!
The peace of God, which truly surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.