Eating with Our Ears: Thoughts on Isaiah 55.1-3 (pt. 2)
That God takes a deep interest in food should come as no surprise. He created humans with the need for food. The first and last chapters of Scripture make references to food. The fall of Adam involved food. Israel’s ceremonial law was largely centered on food. The Psalms frequently praise God for providing food. And in the Gospels we encounter the Son of God performing miracles with food, enjoying conversations over food, even instituting a holy sacrament with food. Food is important to God. It is an expression of his goodness and essential to the lives of his image-bearers. It is more than a mere battery to keep our bodies going; food satisfies some of the longings of the human soul. “If we ponder to what end God created food,” said Calvin, “we shall find that he meant not only to provide for necessity but also for delight and good cheer.” Perhaps Robert Farrar Capon said it best in his eccentric, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection: “To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.” Simply put, food is part of being human.
It should come as no surprise, then, that God used the analogy of food to describe his desire to care for his people through his Word. Pleading with Israel to receive what God freely offered in his grace, the prophet Isaiah used a Hebrew particle, one that usually functions as a cry of woe, to emphasize Israel’s dire need to take God’s offer: “Ho! Come!” Through the Ministry of the Word, Christ calls his people to come into his restaurant and dine with him. He stands on the sidewalk, as it were, crying out to the passersby who are hungry, “I have something good prepared for you! Come and eat! Come to my table!” Money is not an issue. In this restaurant, people who cannot pay are welcome. In fact, our money is no good with God. You only need to be hungry to have a reservation. “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.” There is no currency we can offer God to receive the redemptive benefits of his meals. We cannot, through our obedience, buy what he freely gives as a gift. He has already paid the costs in full through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We now owe nothing. There is no bill. God simply says, “Come and eat!”
The primary purpose of going to church, therefore, is not to serve God, but to be served by Him. The same Lord who once rose from supper, laid aside his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, and washed the feet of his disciples, continues to condescend to his followers and serve them in Word and sacrament. He summons us to a corporate, festive event in the call to worship. Each week, through the Ministry of the Word, he spreads a table in the wilderness, setting before us excellent food and drink for the soul.
The beverages of which Isaiah spoke – water, milk, and wine – became scarce in Israel as they suffered the covenant curses for their disobedience (Deut 28.18, 24, 30, 33, 39, 51). Water, milk, and wine correspond respectively to our human needs of refreshment, nourishment, and joy. Without water, there could be no life. Without the protein found in milk, there could be no growth. And without wine, well, do we really want to imagine a world without wine? God has given it as an expression of his goodness to gladden the heart of man (Ps 104.15) and grease the sandy gears of life. Without wine, we would be deprived of color, beauty, and exhilaration in this present evil age.
While Israel sat on the brink of destruction, the prophet’s use of this imagery couldn’t have been more timely. What water, milk, and wine do for us physically, the gospel does for us spiritually. It refreshes us with the living water of Christ (Jn 4.14; 7.37-38), nourishes us so that we may “grow up to salvation” (1 Pet 2.2), and causes our hearts to rejoice in the promise of glorified life (1 Pet 1.8). Every Sunday, in the public means of grace, Christ sets these beverages before us in abundant supply. Are you enjoying them and making use of them to the benefit of your soul?
Mike Brown, Pastor
Christ United Reformed Church