This part of the book of Isaiah was written when the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. It is a call to God’s People to remain faithful to Him, in spite of their present situation.
- The word “Ho” is strange to us, and needs to be explained. The expression in Hebrew is a call to the listener to listen attentively. We might say “Hey—listen up”. That’s what “Ho” meant to the people of Isaiah’s time. (v. 1a)
- Now that God has our attention, He calls us to a banquet. We are called to come and quench our thirst and eat for free. (v. 1b)
- We are asked why we waste our time and money on “food” that does not satisfy. When I was a kid, we were warned about eating things that were “empty calories”. God urges us to turn away from these “empty calories”, and focus our appetite on rich, satisfying “food”. This is the “food” being offered at the Lord’s banquet. By now, I believe you should realize that God is talking about spiritual food. (v. 2)
- The Lord beckons the reader to come to Him. He promises that He will provide leadership, like the days of old under David. He promises that His People will be treasured by the entire world. (vv. 3-5)
For God’s People in exile, these were words of hope in promise at a time of utter despair. We Christians today are also called to come to the banquet. We know that the king promised in verses 3&4 is Jesus. We also know that people the world over come to him for wisdom and salvation.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How much of our life is spent focusing on “empty calorie” activities?
For the past month, we have been studying about living in the spirit vs. living in the flesh. In chapter 9, Paul changes the subject. He now discusses the fact that fewer and fewer Jews were claiming Jesus as their Messiah. In the early years of the church, most Christians were Hebrews. But as time went on, more and more Gentiles accepted Jesus, and fewer Jews. This will be the topic of our discussion in the upcoming weeks.
- Paul opens up his heart to the reader. He is in anguish over this subject, and he’s telling the truth. (vv. 1-2)
- He tells us that it would almost be easier if he was cut off from Jesus, so he could be like “his people”, his fellow Israelites. He, of course, doesn’t mean it; that is obvious as we read on. This was how deep his agony was on the subject. Remember that Paul was a devout Jew. So much so that in the beginning he persecuted Christians. He loved “his people” and his rich heritage. (v. 3)
- He goes on to explain that the Israelites had it all—the traditions; the promise; the whole, long, rich Old Testament story. Then, along comes the Messiah, and they miss the boat! All he can do is praise the Lord. (vv. 4-5)
Most of us have friends and relatives who have not accepted Jesus as their savior. Because of this, it is easy to sympathize with Paul in his agony. In recent gospel lessons, Jesus has taught us to do the work, and let God do His part. Paul definitely did his part, but was sad that more of his fellow Israelites didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Over the years, Christians have looked down upon the Jews. They have been persecuted time and time again for what a few of them did to Jesus. Stop for a moment, and consider all that we owe to “God’s Chosen People”. We have all the stories of the faithful presented to us in the Old Testament. We receive the Ten Commandments through them, as well as two stories about the creation of the world. God never changes His mind about the promises He’s made. He still loves the Israelites. Maybe we should, too.
For several chapters, Jesus has been teaching crowds, and gathering a lot of attention. Then, in Matthew’s gospel comes the story of the arrest and beheading of John the Baptist.
- When Jesus heard about the death of John the Baptist, he hops onto a boat to find a deserted place. I believe he wanted to mourn his cousin and lay low for a while. But the Sea of Galilee is only so big. And all you have to do is climb a hill to see which direction Jesus was heading and you could go there by simply running around the edge of the lake. (v. 13)
- So, when Jesus steps off the boat, he is immediately confronted by those he has hoping to avoid. Instead of being frustrated, has compassion for the crowd. (v. 14)
- It grows late. The disciples don’t want to be responsible for feeding all these people. Jesus has other ideas, and tells them to get everyone to sit down. “Feed them”, he says. (vv. 15-16)
- The disciples give Jesus a reality check. “Look, Jesus. We’ve only got five loaves of bread and two fish.” (v. 17)
- You know the rest of the story. A miracle happened that day. (vv. 18-21)
Other than the practical side of feeding the large crowd, what was the spiritual significance of the story? What is the God Message? Why did Jesus do this? First of all, when God’s people were wandering in the Sinai desert, God fed them mana. (Exodus 16:2-12) Also, in 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha feeds a large crowd with a small amount of food. This would tell those being fed that Jesus wasn’t your average traveling preacher—Jesus was a prophet!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In our first lesson, God feeds his people spiritual food. In this lesson, God’s son feeds both body and soul. Do we feel this level of love and compassion for the hungry in our midst?