The Gracious Invitation
J. R. Miller, 1910
The Bible seeks in every possible way—to make men know the divine love and mercy. A great novelist in one of his stories tells of a child who ran away from her home. Every night when it grew dark a candle was set in the window of the old home and left to burn there all night, that the lost one, if ever she crept back, repentant, desiring to return—might see the light and know that it meant a welcome for her, that love's place was kept for her within.
The Bible is like a great palace standing on some mountain top in the center of a dark world. It has a thousand windows in it opening on all sides, and in every one of them a bright light shines, to tell earth's lost and weary ones, wandering in the gloom—of a home where they may find a welcome—if they but come to its door.
The fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah is one of these Bible windows. The chapter opens with a call which falls on the ear of the lost like sweet music. "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come!"
There is a story of a thirsty traveler wandering in the desert. He had a compass in his hand—but knew not whether its needle pointed toward a place of refreshment, or to a spot in which he must lie down and perish. He was utterly in despair. Turn which way he would, he seemed to be only wandering farther and farther away from hope. He had sunk down in the sands of despair, when a little leaf came, wafted by a passing breeze, and fell beside him. He picked it up, and new hope took possession of his heart. The leaf told him of life. It could not have come far, for it was still fresh and green. At the place from which it came—there must be water, shade, and food. He knew the direction, too, for the breeze had borne it. So with the little leaf firmly clutched in his feverish hand—he rose and hastened in the direction whence the leaf had come, and soon was resting in the shelter of a green tree and quenching his thirst from the springs that gushed at the tree's roots! Like that little green leaf, dropping out of heaven, comes the call from God, of the opening words of this chapter to those who are weary and thirsty in spirit. Where it comes from—there must be water, food, and rest! It is divine love that sends it!
The call for attention, "Ho!" is a call to life. It commands attention. It would arrest the most careless, those who are heedless and indifferent. It has a message, too; it is not an empty call. "Come to the waters! And he who has no money—come!" The invitation is universal. "Every one." It is to the poor as well as to the rich. "He who has no money." It meets the universal human need. It fits the actual craving of men. "Every one that thirsts!" Who does not thirst? Who has not deep needs burning in his soul?
The blessing offered is precisely adapted to the need. "Come to the waters!" What water is to physical thirst—Christ is to men's spiritual needs. This world's vanities do not satisfy—but what Christ gives, quenches all their thirst!
Then there is more than water, more than refreshing. "Wine and milk!" These are symbols of nourishment and exhilaration. All is free, too! "Without money!" Nothing has to be paid for these blessings. Indeed, no money could purchase them. Only earth's baubles can be bought with gold or silver. Yet, although free, there is a very real sense in which these blessings of salvation must be bought. "Buy, and eat." Money will not buy them—but like the man who sold all he had, to purchase the field with the hidden treasure in it—we must give up everything to get Christ. We must pay ourselves, our life—to win Him.
One of the saddest things in human life, is the wild search for things which will not satisfy men's real needs. "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread?" It does seem strange indeed, that men never learn the folly of trying to find bread for their spiritual nature—in what this world has to give. They have deep cravings and they try to satisfy them with money, power, pleasure, or fame. But these things are not bread for the soul—and immortal lives cannot feed upon them. A hungry man is not satisfied by finding gold or pearls—it is bread he wants. What can money do—for one who is in deep spiritual distress, or when remorse embitters his life, or when he sits in deep sorrow by the coffin of his dead; or when, facing death himself, he looks into eternity? Nothing but Christ will do in such moments! An angel cannot be fed upon earth's viands. Just so, a human soul finds no satisfaction in the possession of this world's trinkets!
What the gospel offers is real bread, because it satisfies the heart's cravings. God's blessing comes to us through God's Word. "Hear—and your soul shall live!" We are to listen to the invitations of divine grace. But there is a time when we must give heed to these divine calls—or it will be too late. "Seek Jehovah while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near!" The candle burns now in the window—but it will not always burn there. "Whoever will—may come," runs the Bible invitation—but there will come a time when it will be too late to answer the call—a time when God may not be found, when He will not be near—when the door will be shut!
There is only one way of accepting the invitation. We cannot take it—and keep our sins. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah." We cannot be saved—and still keep our evil thoughts in our hearts and go on in our evil ways. God is very willing to take our sins, putting them away forever—but He will not take our sins, without ourselves. We must give up our evil ways, even our wrong thoughts, and must serve God.
Men's hearts by nature are hard, like trodden fields. But even the hardest heart, God's grace can soften. "As the rain comes down and the snow from heaven ... so shall My Word be." We all know how the rain softens the dry and hardened ground. Its drops go to the roots of the withering grass and the fading flowers—and soon new life appears everywhere. So it is when God's Word falls upon a human life. It makes the barren life, fruitful. Sometimes it lies like snow on the earth, not melting for a time. The results of holy teaching do not always appear at once. But as at last the snows melt and fill streams and rivers; so God's Word in a life—will some day find its way down into the heart and bless it. Heavenly lessons have lain for scores of years, producing no effect; yet, at last, when the warm love of God touched the life—it brought forth beautiful fruits.