Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)
Many Christians are initially drawn to Jesus because he promises to forgive our sins and deliver us from hell. Even before we know what sin is, most of us have some innate sense that we are not what we ought to be. We’d be ashamed for anyone to know our every thought and desire. We feel guilt. And we feel fear — fear that we will be found out, fear that we’ll face consequences for what we’ve said and done wrong, fear that hell might really exist.
And then someone told us there was a way out of hell. That no sin in us was too great for him. That the blood of Jesus really could cover our debt and cleanse us from sin. You can probably remember something of the relief you felt when you realized that you didn’t have to bear your shame anymore, that your sin need not define you, that forgiveness was possible.
All of that, of course, is certainly and beautifully true, but it tells only a part of the gospel story. — of your gospel story. Jesus did die so that you could be forgiven, but he did not die only to relieve your conscience and cancel your punishment. He also died so that a heart that had run far and wide after sin might finally be satisfied in him.
To the Thirsty and Hungry
Have you experienced Jesus in this way? You’ve likely seen and felt something of his love, his patience, his kindness, his mercy, his gentleness, his devotion. But has he ever felt satisfying? Like wading into cool ocean water after lying out on your favorite beach. Like the stunning view overlooking the valley after a long hike. Like the first bite of a dessert you could order every day. Have you tasted and seen that Jesus is good?
Isaiah 55 invites us not just to believe in God, or even obey God, but to enjoy God:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! . . . Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:2)
No one settles when they choose to follow Christ. Whatever fountain they left behind, he is a fuller one (John 4:10–11). Whatever table they walked away from, his banquet is sweeter and more fulfilling (John 6:35). Whatever you enjoy most in the world apart from Christ — think for a moment about what you enjoy most — whatever it is, it really does pale next to knowing and having him. Do you believe that? Have you ever experienced that?
That Which Does Not Satisfy
If you haven’t, you probably have experienced an ache or craving for something more. You may have experienced a deep and abiding love in your family or in some friendship, or you may have begun to feel real success and fulfillment in the career you worked so hard to cultivate, or you may have discovered a hobby you never seem to have enough time to enjoy, but at the end of the day, when the joy began to subside again, you’ve wondered why you still feel hungry, disappointed, incomplete.
Isaiah knows that feeling well: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2). What is he saying? That many of us keep spending ourselves — our money, our time, our attention, our love — on people, possessions, and activities that we know cannot fully satisfy us. He’s not saying that relationships, careers, or hobbies (or whatever you enjoy) are bad for us, but that we are demanding a happiness from them that they were never meant to give.
And going to church and reading our Bibles doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve stopped spending in the wrong places. While we expect Jesus to keep us out of hell, we may still be expecting someone or something else to fulfill our need for happiness, purpose, and love. What if that is why so many Christians seem unhappy?
Incline Your Ear
So how do we begin experiencing Jesus as satisfying? Isaiah is surprisingly clear about how:
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 55:2–3)
The way to access the joy that God promises in Jesus is to carefully read what he has said with our hearts. Feasting begins with listening — specifically, reading, savoring, and applying what God has said in the Bible.
You might protest, “But reading the Bible has never felt like that for me.” The question is, do you assume that your experience is owing to a deficiency in the banquet or to your impatience at the table? Have you really given your soul a chance to drink more deeply? Have you done all you can to mine the gold from these caves? Have you relentlessly prayed and asked God for help (2 Timothy 2:7)?
The feast really is waiting. Jesus loves to feed aching hearts — not just with any food, but with rich food. And best of all, this feast is free. “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” He bled and died so that you could come and eat. He bled and died so that you might finally be satisfied.