"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1)
This is one of the gospel invitations under the Old Testament dispensation. We must not think for a moment that the gospel is confined to the New Testament, because people had souls to be saved or lost in that dispensation which we sometimes speak of as the Levitical, when the gospel was taught, I believe, in the types and shadows of that old, ceremonial law. True, it was "looking in a glass darkly." They were shadowy expiations, weak, as one has said; but they all pointed to the Person and work of Christ, "Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8)
But there were promises, and these promises were great and exceeding precious promises that were made to characters; and those promises were made, I believe, that faith might mix with them, and that faith might go out upon the Person of a promise-making and a promise-performing God; because Paul tells us in the Hebrews, respecting those Old Testament saints, that "these all died in faith, not having received the promises," that is, in the fulfillment of them, but they had "seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them...and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Heb. 11:13)
Well, this is one of the promises that we have read by way of text; and we might say at the onset that all that is really requisite here is a thirst. "Ho, every one that thirsteth." It does not say, "Ho, every elect vessel of mercy," though that would have been quite in keeping with the text; but it is, "Ho, every one that thirsteth." This thirst is a thirst that is given. Naturally we do not thirst for the waters of life. "Who will show us any good?" That is what the worldling says. They are looking for the good things of this life, and they try to be satisfied with those things; though I am satisfied of this, that there is an unsatisfaction with all the things that this world calls good and great. So if the Lord has made you dissatisfied with the things that this poor world has to give, and dissatisfied with yourself and your religious attainments, and if you begin to feel that there is a secret in real religion that you are a stranger to, and if there is under all this a thirst, and the substance of it is expressed by the poet when he says, "Give me Christ, or else I die"--"Ho, every one that thirsteth." The invitation is, "Come ye to the waters."
You will die if you stay away; that is, you are brought under that curse, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." (Gal. 3:10) That curse hangs over every head; but if the Spirit of God has begotten in you a real desire after an interest in the finished work of the dear Redeemer, there is a thirst. O, there is a thirst! You cannot explain it. I cannot explain it; but I know what this thirst is. I remember when I was a lad walking about the streets of Reading, with this thirst in my heart, and all that I could seem to say was, "God be merciful to me a sinner." There was a thirst for that mercy that comes through the Person of Him Who, as the poet says, "stands between, in garments dyed in blood."
"'Tis He, instead of me, is seen,
When I approach to God."
But I could not get as far as that in those days. All that I could get was that there was forgiveness with God that He might be feared, and that forgiveness with God that He might be feared, and that forgiveness came through the rich mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Therefore that was my plea;
"Mercy through blood I make my plea;
O God, be merciful to me!"
Well, do you know what it is to thirst for mercy? If you never do you will sink into hell. I may as well tell you plainly. There is no Purgatory, there is no middle way. If the mercy of God does not come to you, where God is you can never come to see His face with joy.
Another thing you will thirst for, if you are one with a real thirst, is the manifestation of God's pardoning love and mercy. You will not be content with general notions about it, and thinking that it will all come right by and by. You will want the Lord to speak to your soul. Well, the poet has put it very nicely, it suits me well:
"Assure my conscience of her part
In the Redeemer's blood,
And bear Thy witness with my heart,
That I am born of God."
O, if you know something of the oppressive weight of sin--you need not go out into all sorts of profligacy, you need not be a drunkard, a swearer or a whoremonger to know that you are a sinner; it is only for the Lord to shine upon your heart, and you will say, "Alas, alas, I am undone!" Isaiah said, "Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Well, when the Lord shines into your heart, you will see cause there for forgiveness.
"Forgiveness! 'Tis a joyful sound
To malefactors doomed to die;
O may this bliss in me be found;
May I redeeming grace enjoy!"
You will thirst for it. You will say, "Lord, it speaks peace and pardon and forgiveness to my heart. Do give me some token that my sins are forgiven" (perhaps you will look back over your life and you will say it is one huge blot) "do, Lord, cover me with the mantle of Thy forgiving love." You will thirst for it. O, it is a great thing to thirst for this! Not to take things for granted or to think you are right when perhaps you are wrong; but to ask the Lord to decide the doubt for you.
"Thou Who art Thy people's Sun,
Shine upon Thy work of grace,
If it be indeed begun."
Then again, you will thirst for the manifestation of God's love, for Him to say to you in effect, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) O, we want to know that we are loved of God, for the Holy Ghost to shed abroad that love in our hearts, and to give us some true token.
Then we shall thirst that we may drink of those living streams that issue forth out of the Rock, Jesus Christ. The woman of Samaria's well took her waterpot to the well, and she little thought that the Lord of life and glory would sit on that well, weary with His journey. But so it was. And He asked her for drink; but she, being a Samaritan, said she wondered that He, being a Jew, should ask her, a Samaritan, for water. But the Lord Jesus Christ said, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." She said, "Thou hast nothing to draw with;" but the Lord said the water that He should give would be a well of water springing up unto eternal life." Then she began to question respecting worshipping at Jerusalem or in her own city; but the Lord told her plainly they that worship God "must worship Him in Spirit and in truth," that it was neither there nor at Jerusalem, but all true worshippers must worship God in Spirit. Then, when the Lord began to tell her what she was and what her life had been, she was convinced of her sinnership and ran to her former companions and said, "Come, see a Man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" There was a faith's view of Christ. So when her companions came they heard Him themselves, and said, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." (John 4) So that these waters are those streams of love and mercy that flow forth from Christ and Him crucified. They are spoken as waters, but it is the grace of God that is visited upon poor sinners in and through the doing and dying of Christ, and the fact that He has ascended on high, having led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. O, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Fountain, the deep, sweet well of love. It is a great thing, then, to have a thirst, and to come to these waters; and if you stay away you will die. But the Spirit must give the willingness and the ability to come.
Then the prophet goes on to say, "He that hath no money." It is figurative language, I will admit, but it sets forth actual truth. "And he that hath no money;" no wherewithal to obtain the blessing. I wonder if there is a poor sinner here tonight who has no wherewithal to obtain this great blessing of salvation? Well, let me tell you, if that is your concernment, and if it causes you sometimes to cry out under a sense of your desperate state and condition, "O God, be merciful to me!" I will tell you this text stands for you; you have no money. Perhaps you have got no experience that you can look back upon, you have no religious associations, perhaps, that you can point to, but here you are just as you are, without a plea excepting your necessity and your desire to be found amongst these people to whom these words apply. We should all like some money in this respect, but you know you cannot purchase these blessings that come freely through Jesus' precious blood. It is "without money;" and though you may try to bring your good deeds, good tempers, good frames, or good intentions, and your care profound, it will keep you running, and you will gain no ground. But if the Lord has emptied your pockets, so to speak, if He has made you feel that you are a poor bankrupt, if you have got nothing to offer but your sin and misery, your rags, your nakedness, your poverty--ah, and I will go further--your hellish condition (some of us know what this has been), if you have got nothing to offer at all to mitigate your state and condition, this text looks very comfortably toward you. It tells you, "He that hath no money." O, bring no price, bring nothing in your hand! O, but you will say, "If I could only bring a repentant frame, if I could only bring myself as one who could love the Lord, then I might hope." But the text says, "Bring no money." "He that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat."
But you will say, "How can he buy without money?" Well, there is a heavenly barter. These characters that come boldly to a throne of grace, in spite of all that they feel within, they come and they just cast themselves unreservedly upon the mercy of God, and they tell Him sometimes that if they could they would, but as they cannot they must lean themselves wholly upon the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. This is the way this is managed, not bringing money, and yet laying your case, desperate though it may be, at the footstool of mercy, and that you may take in exchange the remission that God gives in His Son. You are covered with rags, so to speak, and the Lord will give you His righteousness; you are covered with shame, and with a sense of your sinnership, and the Lord can just sprinkle your heart from an evil conscience and wash you with pure water. But it cannot be bought with money, and yet it can be obtained in God's appointed way. "Come ye, buy, and eat."
Now the figure changes from water to food; and if you read that sixth chapter of John's gospel you will find how blessedly the Holy Ghost opens up the mystery of Christ as being "the Bread that cometh down from heaven, that giveth life unto the world;" (John 6:33) and they were the words that fell from the lips of Christ, that living bread, Himself. Then He spoke in this way, "Except ye eat My flesh and drink My blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53) The Jews said, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" They did not understand; but Christ made it very clear that there was no salvation apart from partaking of the benefits of His life and death, which He speaks of there as eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
So these poor, hunger-bitten souls come that they might receive the living bread that cometh down from heaven. Well, that they might feast upon Christ by faith. That is the grand work of faith. The labor of faith is to feed upon Christ as being that Bread that cometh down from heaven, that giveth life unto the world. And I will tell you this, we have no life apart from it spiritually. We need the Spirit of God to inspire that living faith that we might truly believe the testimony that God hath given of His dear Son, Jesus Christ. Paul said, in writing to the Galatians, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) O, that is what faith does! You cannot see faith; and yet faith hungers after a dear Redeemer, and faith embraces the rock for want of a shelter, and faith flies to the wounds of a dear Immanuel and finds peace and healing there. That is to "come, buy, and eat."
This eating will go on as long as you are in the body pent, and beyond, because the time will come when these people will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. But I believe the eating here rather sets forth the work of faith, the labor of love, and the patience of hope, that is, the life of a child of God. There is an eating, and it is repeated here, "Come, buy wine and milk."
This wine is the good old wine of the kingdom. It might well represent the precious blood that flowed from the sacred side and hands of our incarnate God. But I believe this wine represents the wondrous love of God in the sending of His only begotten Son into this world to die, the just for the unjust, to bring sinners to God. That is the wine. It is the wondrous love of God. We are apt to think of God sometimes as an intolerable Judge; but if we could but view Him as a propitious Father in the Person of His dear Son Jesus Christ, if we could only view the wondrous love of God in this amazing transaction of not sparing His Own Son but freely delivering Him up for us all, what a sea that would be! I would "drop into that sea outright, and lose myself in Jesus quite."
"Thou art the sea of love,
Where all my pleasures roll."
If we are enabled to "buy wine and milk"--milk which is the "sincere milk of the word," the revelation of God which He has given in His precious truth--this Bible that is before me, it is full of this milk; notwithstanding its being discredited by some that are in high position in the church, yet it is full of milk, that sincere milk that is spoken of in Peter's epistle.
It is without money and without price. It seems as though human nature is ever wanting to buy, to purchase, to bring something of our own for our acceptance; but the Lord is determined that everything that He gives is on the footing of God's free grace, love and mercy. Therefore, if you have this great salvation, it must be perfectly free, "without money and without price."
May the Lord add His blessing. Amen.