“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.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live...(Isaiah 55:1-3)
So Isaiah 55 was my reading for the day; which seems pretty ironic since it's Labor Day weekend. So ironic, in fact, that it made me do a double-take, and then made me do a little research on what exactly Labor Day is and how it came about. It seems that the idea of Labor Day goes back a ways, first being proposed in the United States in 1882; and then officially adopted as a holiday by the state of Oregon in 1887. It actually wasn't until 1894 that it became a national holiday. And best I can tell, Labor Day was a creation of the labor movement to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country. So, in essence, Labor Day celebrates work; and man's accomplishments as a result of that work--good old American productivity...earn your keep, make it on your own, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, make a name for yourself productivity. Which, on the surface, seems like a fine thing to celebrate...until you hold it up beside Isaiah 55. Sometimes it is difficult to actually see the difference between the core values that our culture promotes and the values of the Gospel; that is until you hold it up to the light of Scripture. Then it becomes evident that somehow, through the years, we have drifted toward the culture and away from the Gospel in very subtle, but significant ways.
I caught myself in that tension today as I was sitting with the question asked in verse 2: Why do you labor for that which does not satisfy? I began to realize that as much as I try to convince myself that the opposite is true, I do, in fact, feed on things that can never--and were never intended to--satisfy me. Instead of coming to Him alone, the well of living waters, I go elsewhere; I strive for recognition, toil for affirmation, try to build a reputation, perform to be admired for my work, jockey for position, labor to secure my place in the grand scheme of things. In other words, I labor (long and hard I might add) for that which does not satisfy. It might taste good for a moment, but in no time at all my soul is empty once again demanding to be filled. Of course I can put a pretty face on it, doing it all in the name of His kingdom and His work, but in all honesty, deep in my heart I know better. I know how much of it is really about me; about building and climbing and achieving and earning (all of which are smiled upon and applauded by the culture around us). I can even make myself believe that it is all for noble purposes...for a while. But eventually I come back to the realization that much of what I am laboring for, once again, is that which cannot satisfy and does not last.
The invitation of Isaiah 55 is altogether different. It is not about laboring, and earning, and toiling, and striving and producing. It is not a celebration of man's ability to feed himself, build his own world, or meet his own needs. It is simply about coming. Open, dependent, receptive, attentive, bringing nothing to the table. Just coming. Come and listen. Come and drink and eat. Listen diligently, incline your ear, hear His voice. Then you soul will delight in the richest of fare. Then your soul may live. The very life of the Spirit within us depends on it.
Now that's something to celebrate!!!