I’m privileged to be a part of the Lenten Blog Tour, a tour designed by the good folks who have brought us the Common English Bible (CEB). This post is my assigned contribution to the tour. Know that I’ll randomly select one of the comments made on today’s post and the reply selected will receive a free copy of the CEB New Testament!
The ad in the Babylon Gazette read:
WANTED: Seeking hungry, thirsty, broken, penniless people looking for guaranteed, lifelong involvement with the ultimate employer. Research our spotless track record; the finest work with us. Exciting, enjoyable, profitable service like you’ve never been involved in before. Everything you need will be provided. Opportunities and bonuses beyond imagination. All meals provided; all the totally free, top-quality, nutritious food and drink you can eat. Previous or current experience and reputation is of no concern to us, so long as they are no longer of concern to you. No resumes or references required or accepted. Must have, or show development toward, advanced listening and observation skills. Only those who are willing to give complete commitment need apply. Sign with us and watch yourself become a magnet to others looking for a piece of this action. This is the life you’ve been looking for. Limited time offer; call today.
Now if you read such an ad, how would you respond?
- “Scam! What’s the catch?”
- “Ha! The gag’s on them! They forgot to lift their April Fool gag.”
- “Man alive, the fine print is so fine, I can’t even find it!”
- Publicity stunt. Bet they ran that just to see if anyone is still reading and would comment on it.”
- “Too good to be true.”
- “It may not be too good to be true, but it’s surely too good to be true for me.”
- “If this is the sort of junk they’ll accept ads for these days, I need to cancel my subscription to this rag.”
- “I’ll have to think about that sometime. Maybe tomorrow.”
Now those are all reasonable sounding choices, aren’t they? However, if you’d have picked one of those you’d be more than just a little foolish. How’s that? Because the ad is simply a reworking of one of the most fantastic passages in all of the Bible, Isaiah 55:1-9. Don’t just read the text, read it aloud to yourself. More than once. Drink deeply of the hope that is held out to us all. Here it is in all its glory as it appears in the Common English Bible.
All of you who are thirsty, come to the water! Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat! Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk! Why spend money for what isn’t food, and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is good; enjoy the richest of feasts.
Listen and come to me; listen, and you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful loyalty to David. Look, I made him a witness to the peoples, a prince and commander of peoples. Look, you will call a nation you don’t know, a nation you don’t know will run to you because of the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, who has glorified you.
Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Let the wicked abandon their waysand the sinful their schemes. Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them, to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.
My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. (Isaiah 55:1-9 CEB)
The Spirit’s words through Isaiah the prophet could not be more clear, but they surely sounded too good to be true to many who first heard them. Some surely thought the prophet to be delusional or worse, deceiving. But to all who believed his words then, and to all who believe them now, these words of his are no mere wish nor are they a gag. Rather, they speak powerfully and directly to the reality of the experience of truly knowing the Lord who holds out to any and all who would come to him nothing less than life in its fullest.
Seek the Lord. Call on him. Change your mind to what can be. Change your ways and let him have his way. For the Lord is good, oh so very good, to all who sit down at table and eat with him always. Join the feast and live!
Father in heaven, we are not worthy of what you offer us. What do we have that we could offer you? Your goodness to us is beyond our ability to grasp and yet, to grasp it, and to never let go, is our prayer. Give us ears to hear your message of hope; give us eyes to see you working your kindness toward all who turn to you. Turn us ever and always to you, we pray, in the name of Jesus. Amen.