Bible Study February 11 for Worship March 3

Bible Study February 11 for Worship March 3

55:1 “Ho, 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.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

COMMENTARY

This passage is from “second” Isaiah. He was a prophet writing to the exiles in Babylon. His purpose was to give hope and inspire faith. This passage contains images that were called upon by Jesus in his teaching and other writers and teachers of the faith. It is a rich passage.

The prophet was writing to a people who were spiritually starved and thirsty for hope. He was picturing God offering to those who placed their faith in the divine love a limitless supply of food and drink. “Come to the waters. Come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” This passage sort of sounds like the extravagant welcome of the Sharing Table. Think of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. Anyone who is hungry, who will admit they are hungry can be fed. Maybe the problem of so many modern folks is we are so full of our stuff, we cannot feel our spiritual hunger. God wants to welcome us to a table of love and sharing, if we will put down our material possessions long enough to come to the table.

In verses 3, 4, and 5 Isaiah gives a kind of mission statement for the people of Israel. Nations will come to you to see what it means to be God’s people. The nations will learn from you and come to worship the one true God. If the people of Israel turn to the God of David, then God will make a covenant with them to become a blessing to all the peoples of the earth, sort of an echo of God’s promise to Abraham, that Abraham and his family would become a blessing to all the families of the earth.

But there is a moment of opportunity. A door or a window is open in the present moment for the people to return and reclaim their relationship with God: 6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Maybe the key is that in that moment the Israelites who are weak will indeed put their faith in God, rather than themselves. While they are yet dependent upon God, there is an opening for them to deepen and strengthen their relationship with the divine.

Verses 8 and 9 eloquently express in metaphor the important affirmation God is God and we are not. Even if the Israelites are God’s chosen people, that is a call to humility rather than pride. Only by humbling themselves can the people of Israel become God’s instrument of redemption for the world.

Verses 10 and 11 are a beautiful metaphor in a land that is always on the verge of drought. Vernon Volz , a Northeast Colorado dry land wheat farmer can attest to the importance of timely moisture and just the right amount of snow cover in order to nurture the winter wheat to fruition. The prophet compares the word of God to timely moisture, that can save the people from starvation. The difference between abundance and prosperity and want is the Word of God. Notice how verses 10 and 11 hearken back to verses 1 and 2: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Isaiah then closes with another metaphor that has inspired a wonderful Hebrew folk song:

You shall go out with joy
And be led forth with peace
The mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There’ll be shouts of joy,
And all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands

And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands
The trees of the field
Will clap their hands
The trees of the field
Will clap their hands
While you go out with joy.

As we at United Church think about Isaiah 55 let us remember it is an open invitation to one and all to eat and drink at the table of God. Jesus practiced open hospitality eating with everyone – commensality. That is the message of United Church. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome at the sharing table. The message of open commensality was radical in Jesus’ time, it is still radical today — Open Invitation!

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. In verse 1 of Chapter 55, who is invited?

2. Who is doing the inviting?

3. To those who are invited, what is being offered?

4. What impediments might get in the way of the invitation?

5. What is the nature of the covenant mentioned in verse 3 through 5?

6. According to the Prophet what is important about the present moment?

7. What is being offered to those who “return?”

8. According to the Prophet how is God different from people?

9. What metaphor does the Prophet use for the Word of God?

10. What does the text promise to the people?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. What do you hunger and thirst for?

2. What does our modern culture try to use to satisfy our hungers?

3. If the Prophet is writing to United Church, how do you understand verses 3 through 5?

4. What do you think is God’s covenant with United Church?

5. What do you think United Church needs to do to keep the covenant with God?

6. Are there special moments, when relationship with God are more open than others?

7. In what ways do you think God is calling you to greater humility?

8. In what ways might God be calling United Church to greater humility?

9. If God’s word is the essential moisture that brings life, what should we be doing with God’s word in our lives?

10. If God calls upon people to bear fruit, what fruits do you think you can produce?

11. What fruits might God be trying to cultivate at United Church?

Week of February 25 – March 3: Third Sunday of Lent – Isaiah 56:1-9 – Open Invitation – Psalm 63:1-8, I Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9.

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