A Better Way

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  March 20, 2022

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Isaiah 55:1 – 9
Our text for this third Sunday in Lent, comes from the Book of Isaiah which is quoted in the New Testament more often than the writings of any of the other prophets as it foretells of the soon and coming Messiah. 
Perhaps you have heard me share in the past that Isaiah is referred to as a major prophet… not because he was more important than any of the other prophets… but simply based on the length of his writings in comparison to those of the others.
The Book of Isaiah contains 66 chapters which, as you may recall are constructed similarly to the 66 books of the Bible… with the first 39 containing words of judgment and a call to repentance… and the remaining 27 being filled with words of comfort and hope that arise from the promise of the coming Messiah.
Our text for today is found in the later section of Isaiah that focuses our attention on the hope found in the Lord… on the Messiah who is to come… It is the message contained in these verses that points us to:
The opening verse of our text contains an invitation which might sound a little odd at first.  Let’s listen to it as it is found in the Message Paraphrase, “Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water!  Are you penniless?  Come anyway—buy and eat!  Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.  Buy without money—everything’s free!”
Perhaps someone is wondering, if everything is free, why would Isaiah say come and “buy”? And exactly how can you “buy without money” anyway? 
Well, I am so glad you asked… 
What the prophet is inviting the listener to partake in is not literal food and water, but the spiritual food and water that God provides for us… and that is something for which there can be no literal place tag… that spiritual nourishment provides us with A BETTER WAY that leads to the abundant life… the priceless gift of eternity in God’s kingdom.
It brings to mind the story of the Samaritan woman at the well which is found in John 4.   Jesus was engaged in a conversation with a Samaritan woman which she took to be about the physical water that came from Jacob’s well… However, Jesus explained to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Jesus went on to tell her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13 – 14).
The invitation to the thirsty that Isaiah issues is reflected in Jesus’ invitation to the Samaritan woman.  It is an invitation to eternal life that can only come through Jesus, who is the Living Water. 
The nourishment that Isaiah invites us to receive is a spiritual nourishment that can only be derived from our relationship with the Lord.  And just as our bodies will literally starve without physical food, our spirits will starve if we fail to feed it with the Word of God.
And although what is offered comes freely, in terms of any monetary exchange… it comes at an extremely high price… the life of the Savior sacrificed for us at Calvary. 
Now in the next verse of the text, the Message Paraphrase reads, “Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?  Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest.”
In other words, there is a conscious decision we need to make… are we going to feed our spirits the “junk food” of this world or are we going to feast on the Word of God that points us to A BETTER WAY?
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get distracted with the stuff we see on television and social media?  We tell ourselves we are only going to watch for a few minutes, only to look up and realize we have been flipping channels or scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for hours… wasting precious time reading stuff that does not feed our spirits with anything near what they need to be fed. 
But then when it comes time to read our daily devotions or engage in Bible study, we can barely muster the energy we need in order to give God our undivided attention because we have been too busy filling ourselves with the “junk food” of the world. 
It is just like that feeling we might get after eating an extra-large deluxe pizza with a giant bag of potato chips and dip… and then washing it down with a two-liter bottle of Pepsi or Coke before going in search of dessert. 
We are left feeling sluggish and tired and probably even somewhat nauseous… wishing, in hind sight, that we had been much more conscientious and eaten a salad with grilled chicken or salmon instead.
But Isaiah invites us to partake in a different kind of feast… it is a feast that will nourish our souls and provide lasting satisfaction rather than leave us feeling bloated and miserable.
Then as we move to the next verse of our text, Isaiah shifts our attention to God’s everlasting covenant that stems from the promise made to David. 
“Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.  I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love.”
Now what makes the promise of sure, solid enduring love that God made to David so significant is that God made that promise in spite of David’s faults and shortcomings… and without regard for how many times the nation of Israel had already fallen short and would likely fall short again…
That is because God never has and never will renege on any of His promises… He makes them as an everlasting covenant.
Somebody needs to hear that again…
No matter how badly David and the children of Israel may have messed up… God remained faithful to His promise. 
And hopefully this will not come as a surprise to you… but God is just as faithful to us now as He was to the Israelites way back then!  Everlasting means just that… everlasting.
That means no matter how many times we may fall, God shows us A BETTER WAY, to help us get back up again.  And that really is good news for us today, because I think it is fair to say that we are living in a fallen world that needs all the help it can get.
Now looking at the Message again, the next two verses of the text read:

I set him [meaning David] up as a witness to the nations, made him a prince and leader of the nations, and now I’m doing it to you: You’ll summon nations you’ve never heard of, and nations who’ve never heard of you will come running to you because of me, your God, because The Holy of Israel has honored you.
David was the ultimate example of how God can and does use imperfect people to fulfill His perfect will. 
The great King David… the leader of Israel… the writer of many of the Psalms…  was also an adulterer and a murderer… a man who had an affair with Bathsheba and then sent her husband Uriah out to the front line of the battlefield to be killed. 
It this same David; however, who is the one referred to in both the Old and New Testaments as “a man after God’s own heart” (see 1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
And that ought to be an encouragement to us… because the same way that God loved David and used him in spite of his flaws and failures… is the same way that God loves us and the same way that God can and will use each one of us for His glory as well. 
It is no secret that we are living in a fallen and sinful world. The scriptures remind us that “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Just one look at the news on TV or on the internet, can cause us to sink right into the depths of despair as we see what is going on in the world around us… not to mention what is happening in our own homes and within our own families.
But in spite of any reports to the contrary, all hope is NOT lost because God is still on the throne and God can turn any and every situation around for His glory… no matter how much of a mess we may have made.
We can be thankful… because in spite of our multiple mis-steps and mishaps… God has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  And unlike the promises we may make to one another, to ourselves and even to God… God NEVER breaks His promises to us.
Now, it does not seem like a far stretch to say that there are all kinds of challenges facing us on a daily basis… to the extent that it would probably be easier to pull the covers over our heads and remain in the safety and security of our beds rather than go out and face what the new day holds.
But remember what the Prophet Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3 (22-24):
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
The reason we can face today and tomorrow and every tomorrow still to come is because God is gracious, God is merciful and God is faithful… and God has promised to provide us with everything we need.
And just what is it that we need? 
Well, according to the hymnwriter:
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside…  [Refrain] Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!  Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me! 
(“Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” words by Thomas Q. Chisholm, music by William M. Runyon © 1923)
God is faithful and God gives us the strength and the hope that will sustain us, not only today and tomorrow, but every day thereafter. 
And rest assured, no pandemic, political upheaval, economic crisis or even a war can ever change that.  No matter how big our problems may seem, they are just the right size for God to handle.  And I don’t know about you, but that certainly fills my heart with hope and strength.
And that brings us to the next verses in our text this morning, which read:
Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.  Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.
That means that even for those who have gone down the wrong path… there is still hope.  God is still close and waiting for them to come.  Even those who have strayed seemingly too far away… even they have the opportunity to experience God’s grace and forgiveness.
In this season of Lent, we are reminded of the two criminals who hung on either side of Jesus at Calvary… criminals who had most likely been found guilty of extremely heinous crimes of some sort. 
And while one taunted Jesus, seemingly oblivious to the fact of his sinfulness and the ultimate price that had to be paid… the other recognized the magnitude of what he had done and acknowledged that he and his counterpart deserved the punishment they were receiving.
He asked for no favors… he begged for no pardon… but simply said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).   
And in that moment Jesus extended to him mercy and forgiveness… the essence of the hope that is found in our text this morning.  Jesus said to the man, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 12:43).
As Isaiah wrote, “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
The man got what he did not ask for… the free pardon of his sins.  And he did not get the eternal damnation that he rightly deserved…  That is grace and mercy at its finest… something that can be hard for us to comprehend at times… especially when we think that other party should not receive either grace or mercy.
But that brings us to the closing verses of our text which read:
“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.”  God’s Decree.  “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”
I don’t know about you but I am so glad to know that God has A BETTER WAY of thinking than I do and A BETTER WAY of working than I do… because I know if things were left up to me, there is no telling what shape the world would be in.
I am so thankful that God has everything in control and that God has promised to be with us every step of the way as we move through this crazy, mixed-up world.  And no matter how frightening the circumstances may be, we have the assurance that God will be with us.
As the Lord told Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
The writer of Hebrews draws our attention to this same promise, writing, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
In other words, we should not trust in the material things of this world but instead, we should rely on the presence of God in any and all situations.  And that is why the next verse of Hebrews reads, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?’”
Believers have the promise of A BETTER WAY than the way of the world … houses, cars and other material things all depreciate over time… banking and investment accounts can be wiped out, literally overnight… even long-term relationships can turn sour, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
But thankfully, God has given us A BETTER WAY through His Son and our Savior, Jesus the Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus is the way… the path that leads us to God.
Jesus is the truth… the reality of all God’s promises.
And Jesus is the life… joining His life to ours for now and all eternity.
Now, some people may try to suggest that all roads lead to God and argue that saying Jesus is the only way is too narrow of a road to follow.  But the fact of the matter is that the road is more than wide enough for the whole world to take… if only they would choose to accept it.
And as one Bible commentary puts it, “Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, ‘Thank you, God, for providing a sure way to get to you!’” (Life Application Study Bible, 2005, p. 1773).
That sure way is definitely A BETTER WAY than anything the world has to offer.
And it really doesn’t get any better than that.