A couple times a day in my house there will usually be a scene I enjoy watching1. It goes like this. Someone shouts an announcement to the house: Girls! Supper time! Or maybe it will be something like, Come on up for lunch! And it usually doesn’t take long to start hearing and then seeing a decent-sized group of kids come running from different parts of the house. They converge at the dining room table, eagerly waiting the feast of lunch or supper that awaits them.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Eat, drink, and be merry.” It’s a phrase about enjoying yourself and experiencing the happy times that can come from something as common as a meal together with people you love. It’s a phrase that can be abused somewhat in certain situations. Sometimes you even hear, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”
The point of that attitude is Hey! Life’s rough. There’s work to do, but let’s blow it off! Let’s enjoy ourselves! You only live once! This is an attitude that’s only about pleasing yourself and maybe even shirking your responsibilities. And that’s not a good attitude that I want to encourage for anyone.
But still, there does come a time to eat, drink, and be merry. There is a time to just sit back and enjoy the blessings that God gives. That can happen at the family table when people are ready to give thanks and enjoy their food. That can happen when we have things like graduation or confirmation parties or other celebrations in our lives. That can happen whenever we take the time to thank God for his blessings.
But there’s a problem that can happen when we have a feast or a party like this. Maybe we picture this mostly with little kids, when they come to eat and say something like, I’m not hungry. No thanks. I don’t want to eat. This frustrates parents with kids, because you know the kids, if they aren’t hungry now, will be hungry pretty soon. Plus, you just went through the time and effort to make all this food, so eat it already!
But it’s an even bigger problem with the spiritual feast that our God prepares for us. God has sent us his Son. He gave us Jesus and by his life, death, and resurrection, we are saved! We are rescued from our sins! We have forgiveness, life, and salvation forever. And then he gives us his Word and Sacraments. And through them, he invites us to feast on his blessings. He says, Come and eat! Look at everything I’ve given you, everything I’ve done for you! And it’s really easy for our reaction to be I’m good. I’m not actually all that hungry. When I need something, I’ll come back.
But today God comes to us and says the time is now! He says that his feast has been prepared! His blessings are there for us; go and get them. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we live! Today we have God’s promises, and tomorrow we rejoice that God will keep every promise that he has given. We rejoice in God’s feast of spiritual blessings.
The first thing we notice about God’s feast is that it’s completely free of charge. Listen to God’s invitation. 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. (Is. 55:1) God’s invitation here is for people “who have no money.” And even though they don’t have money, he’s inviting them to buy anyway, except they won’t have to buy with money they will buy “without money and without cost.”
I admit that I’m pretty skeptical when I’m told something is free. There’s a reason for the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Sometimes in the newspaper they have these big glossy sheets of coupons for different restaurants. A lot of these coupons will even say “free” on them. But they’re not really free. They’re “free with purchase” of something else. They’re “buy one get one free.” Yes, these coupons are a deal, and they can be a good value, but they’re not really free.
So it’s pretty normal to have a little bit of that same skepticism when God tells us that his gifts to us are free. Forgiveness of sins? Free. Being able to pray to God anytime and anywhere? Free. Protection from angels? Free. Working out everything for my good? Free. Eternal salvation in heaven forever? Free. You see what I’m getting at here? It seems a little too good to be true.
It just makes sense that we’d pay God for these gifts. It make sense that we’d chip in, at least a little bit for all these things he gives us. In fact, it makes so much sense, that every other religion besides Christianity works that way. You work for God, you sacrifice, you do what God wants, and God in turn rewards you. Even many Christian churches start to go down this road a little bit and say, well, Jesus did all this for you, but then you need to respond and make sure you do your part, too. And it makes sense, except for the fact that it’s just plain wrong.
You get a hint of just how gracious our God is in our text. You who have no money, come, buy and eat. Not, “you who don’t have much money.” Not, come on over for a buy one get one free. No, it’s “come and buy, you who have no money.” You can’t buy things if you don’t have money. You can’t expect to get to heaven if you’re not perfect. You can’t count on God to hear your prayers if you’re a sinner. You can’t expect the Creator of the universe to care about you in any way, much less send his Son to you. But God has done all that for us, free of charge.
God’s blessings to us in Christ are free. That doesn’t mean they weren’t paid for. It’s just that Jesus did the paying. His suffering and death and blood paid for every last blessing we have. Our works — they’re the thanks not the payment. Our offerings, again, they’re thanks. If you’re doing something or giving an offering that you think is in any way to earn something from God, stop right now! Don’t do it! His feast is free! Enjoy it! Drink it in!
And when you do, you’ll also find that his feast truly satisfies. Think about another place where you get food: the grocery store. They occasionally have free food there; they’re called “free samples.” In some ways, of course, they’re not really free. They hand out these samples with hopes that you’ll buy some of their food. It’s pretty much frowned on to just show up at the grocery store and eat every last sample there and leave. No, you just get a little taste in these samples. These samples are not a meal; they’re not going to leave you feeling full. I don’t need to eat tonight; we had samples at the store.
Well, in our text, God tells us that he is giving us a feast that really satisfies us. Why spend your money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Is. 55:2)
The truth is, we’re tempted to think too little of what God has to offer us. Think of it this way: if I go into a restaurant, I’m probably not going to order a kid’s meal. The reason I wouldn’t order a kid’s meal isn’t because I think the food in a kid’s meal is bad; I just don’t think it’s really going to be enough. I’m going to eat the whole thing and be left wanting.
It’s possible for us to think of God’s blessings as kind of a kid’s meal. We think kids need to learn about Jesus, and that’s good. Our school at St. John’s is starting next week, and I love thinking about all those kids getting to hear about Jesus every single day and grow in their faith. It’s exciting to think about kids starting Sunday school in the near future and taking that extra time to be in the Word and grow in God’s blessings.
But we could start to think that God’s feast is kind of a just-for-kids thing. By the time we grow up, well, it just seems less important. And after all, it’s the same stories we heard as a kid, so what’s really the point?
In the same way, you’re probably not going to stop at a restaurant at all if you’re not hungry. Why would you buy any food if you don’t want to eat? In a similar way, it’s pretty easy to not feel too hungry for God’s feast. A Savior? I guess that’s good. God loves me? Well, yeah, I guess he does.
Friends, we need to take a step back every day and see how desperately we need God’s grace. We need to look at what we do, what we say, what we think every day. We are not in line with what God wants. We sin. And that’s not something to shrug off, God says that sin means death. Death now and death forever. Every day we need to see how much we need a Savior. And when we do, we’ll see how hungry we are for God’s love.
And it’s his love alone that really satisfies that. Our text says, Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. (Is. 55:3) God says come to me that your soul may live. The soul that sins will die. Well, we sin, but because of Jesus, we don’t die. We live! So look to Jesus; look to God’s blessings! Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we live forever!
The reason that God’s love and his feast of blessings satisfies us is that he makes us God’s people. He alone makes us his own. We can’t do that ourselves; he has to do it for us. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor. (Is. 55:5)
We weren’t born God’s people. We were born sinners that hated God. He was the one who brought us into his family. He is the one who washed our sins away in the waters of our baptism. He is the one who brought us into his Church by giving us faith to trust him. He is the one who blesses us now, and he is the one who promises to be with us forever. We are God’s people, and in love he invites us to be his people for all eternity.
You see, every day of our lives, God is inviting us to a feast. He says, if you’re thirsty, if you’re hungry, come to me. You don’t need money; it’s free. It will satisfy you forever, and you are my people. Maybe you know someone who doesn’t really see the point of this. Maybe on some days that person is you. But for anyone that thinks that way, look again at who we are and who our God is.
We should have been lost. Our sins are enough to condemn us. But God didn’t leave us that way. He gave us a Savior. He watches over us. He hears our prayers. He blesses us with his love every day. He has made us his people, and he promises to satisfy us with his love forever.
Friends, that is the feast he’s inviting you to. So come on! It’s time to eat, and to drink in his promises. It’s time now and every day to celebrate the love our God has for us. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Come. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we live!