You will easily remember this little text. It is the word of the living God, and full of solemn import. I shall consider it from a three-fold point of view--first, as an exclamation; secondly, as an invitation; thirdly, as a declaration.
1. The exclamation, "Ho!" uttered by a gracious God, and heard by a poor sinner, rushing with heedless heart and careless feet to hell, its effect is to stop him in his downward course, arouse him to a sense of his sinnership, and alarm him as to his state. God has many ways of saying, "Ho!" to His own elect sheep when the appointed time arrives, "not to propose, but call by grace." When the Lord does speak, it is effectual in doing spiritually what I perceive our text has done for you naturally, namely, arousing the attention. With powerful voice the Lord, in mercy, awakens His own people from the sleep of death. A soul in a state of nature is fast asleep, and quite oblivious to the importance of eternal realities, until the voice says, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" This awakening call convinces him of the danger of his condition as a sinner before God, and of the guilt and misery of sin. He is aroused to a sense of its all-pervading nature, and awakened to see the depths of the fall. He then finds by daily experience that he cannot think a single good thought, or do a single good deed. He learns the Bible truth that his imaginations are evil, and that continually; his mind is wholly corrupted; his will is all rebellion against God; his "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" his spirit is full of perverseness; and his memory is such that he sees he is one of those who have forgotten God--that God has not been in all his thoughts. And now he begins to feel the misery of sin, which consists in the fact that sin stands as a mighty barrier between God and his soul; between heaven and himself. How that barrier is to be broken down he knows not. When this is realized, it fills the soul with dismay. This is the place where the Gospel comes in. By such experiences room is made for it, and, sooner or later, he hears its gracious call, which brings us to the second part of our subject.
2. The text also is an invitation. "Ho!" In this sense it means "Look here," and "Come here." Some people disapprove of the word "invitation" in connection with the Gospel. The reason is, dear friends, because they know nothing of the Gospel experimentally. No one who has ever had the sweet invitations of the Gospel applied with power can deny their reality and blessedness. In times of darkness, disaster, and distress, how sweet it is to hear the voice of Jesus sounding in our hearts--"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Many a tempted and troubled child of God, even while immersed in the cares and business of this life, finds that a sweet, calm resting of the soul upon the bosom of his Lord is the effect of the merciful application of Christ's call by the blessed Spirit. Power is thereby given to cast all the care upon Him, for "His biddings are enablings."
In viewing our text as an invitation, we must consider the characters to whom it is addressed, and who alone are interested in it. The description of them is two-fold--they are thirsty and they are poor. Souls thirsting for the water of life longing for salvation by Christ Jesus, desiring His mercy, seeking an interest in His love, anxiously inquiring their way to Zion, mourning on account of sin, and hungering and thirsting for the Saviour's righteousness--these are ("every one") called by the Gospel's powerful voice. The soul of the Psalmist was sorely athirst when he cried out with a lamentable voice, "My soul thirstesth for God, for the living God." Nothing but God can satisfy the immortal cravings of a quickened soul. The text is the calling of the thirsty one to the fountain, conveying the gracious intimation that he is welcome thereto.
Moreover, there are the poor, about whom we read much in the Word of God, and of whom it is written, "The poor have the Gospel preached unto them." And old MS. in the library of one of the colleges at Cambridge reads thus--"--"The beggars be Gospelled." How? By having the Gospel to point out to them the rich supply of all their needs in Christ. Now, the literal poor are in a state of destitution, needing clothing, shelter, and food. The spiritually poor are likewise destitute of clothing. Their own filthy rags of creature righteousness have all fallen from them, and they are not yet manifestly and experimentally clothed in Christ's righteousness. They are homeless, for, having forsaken the world's deceitful shore, and been turned out of all refuges of lies, they have not yet found a hiding-place in Christ. In soul-experience they feel without a shelter. Then, having no appetite for the dainties of sin, provided in such abundance by this present evil world, their souls are hungering for the bread of life.
Again, these poor are in a state of insolvency. They cannot pay their debts. They owe to God a debt of love, and are deeply conscious of their destitution of this heavenly grace. They owe to the law a life of perfect obedience, and not one mite can they pay. They owe to justice an eternal punishment of suffering for the crimes which they have done. How can they meet its claims? Thus they are by nature utterly, helplessly, and hopelessly overwhelmed with ruin.
Now those who are taught these things, and are brought to feel the misery of their state, are the characters to whom the invitation is suitable, because they need it, and therefore to them it is addressed.
Let us now look a little at the invitation. It is God's call to the poor sinner, without hope or help in self to come to Him. It is not indiscriminate. Most clearly specified are the people interested in it; therefore it is not of universal application. Being so definitely addressed to certain classes, it is not for all sorts and conditions of men. Yet it is very comprehensive to "everyone" of the sort of persons mentioned including all, excluding none, of the thirsty or the poor.
Furthermore, it is a very personal and powerful invitation. The little word "yet" is repeated twice in this first verse of Isaiah's Gospel chapter. How powerful the application of the Lord's own invitation is, can best be known by those who have experienced its Divine drawing, and life-giving potency.
In the explanation and application which follows the "Ho!" of our text, it is explained as an application by three "Comes." It signifies "Come! Come! Come!" When the first "come" is heard by the poor sin-bitten soul, the word of the King straightway calls forth repentance. By repentance the soul truly begins to draw near the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the second "come" sweetly sounds forth, and that calls forth prayer, by which the heart, in desire and longing, follows after and humbly approaches the dear Saviour's feet. Ere long the third "come" re-echoes in the inmost recesses of the soul, and the sweet note of the Gospel's silver trumpet thrice renewed, calls forth most precious faith, for "faith cometh by hearing," and by faith the Christian draws so near as to creep into the very bosom of eternal love.
Now let me ask you, dear friends, what do you know of this gracious Gospel call? Have repentance, prayer, and faith ever been called forth from your hearts by the all-powerful invitations of the Gospel of the blessed God? Poor sin-burdened ones, listen!
Is He willing? Is He ready to save? That He is may be proved from the fact that the text is--
3. A declaration. "Ho!" It is evidently a declaration of the Lord's mind--a statement of His willingness to save--because He would not call poor sinners to Himself if He were not willing to receive them. Of course He would not! Do you see the exceeding preciousness of this most encouraging truth, that God's call is the greatest possible proof of His willingness to save? Happy are those called by grace, for by that call they are made as willing to be saved as God is to save them.
Moreover, it is clear that the call "Ho!" is as much an invitation to the Lord's market as it is a declaration of His mind. In the latter part of the verse, there is a setting forth of commodities and advantages thereof. The market place, my friends, is Calvary, and the cross of Jesus is the Royal Exchange, where many a sinner has exchanged his poverty for Christ's riches; his rags for a Saviour's righteousness; his misery for Emmanuel's mercy; the hell due to him for the heaven which Jesus merited; the sinfulness of self for the spotlessness of the Redeemer. Hark! the Gospel calls! Christ invites poor needy ones to the banquet of love. See here the "water" of salvation, the "wine" of the Redeemer's blood, the sincere "milk" of the Word, the "bread of life," and the "strong meat" which belongs to those of full age.
Calls effectual reach the heart of the needy--"Eat, O friends; drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved." The payment demanded is only your emptiness, nakedness, poverty and need; for the Lord freely bestows, "without money and without price," the richest, fullest blessings contained in the Gospel storehouse.