Monday, August 4, 2008

The Waters of Salvation

Pentecost 12
Isaiah 55:1-5
Bror Erickson

[55:1] "Come, 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.

[37] On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37 (ESV)
You know if Jesus wasn’t God, one might get the impression he was full of Himself. He certainly talked about Himself a lot, and to say he made grandiose claims for Himself is to really understate the matter. Jesus had a penchant for interpreting the Old Testament texts, all of them from Genesis to Malachi, as if it were talking about Him. And He really made no bones about it. On a few occasions He was very open about His unique interpretation of the Old Testament, an interpretation only He among all the rabbis of the day had. At one time he told the Pharisees what was wrong with their interpretation:
[39] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, John 5:39 (ESV)
The problem with their interpretation of scripture was that they failed to see it was talking about him. All scriptures, talk about Jesus. The scriptures do have eternal life, they have Jesus. This text is no different. Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. And Jesus says “If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink. Of the water Jesus has to give he says:
[14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14 (ESV)
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;” God is calling those who despair of salvation to come to Him. Those who thirst, not for the water of this world, but for salvation. Ever had an unquenchable thirst on a hot day? Ever found your mouth dry, your and your tongue swollen? Ever been so dehydrated that your head began to ache? I remember once visiting Masada, Herod’s desert fortress high above the dead sea, baked by the sun of the Negev in southern Israel. It was a rather cool morning, as most desert mornings are, we started up the snake trail, before the full light of the sun could illuminate our path. But the sun came up quick, and beat down hard on us as we made the almost vertical climb zigzagging up the cliff. I let my macho complex take over and ran the last quarter mile of the trail, so that I could beat my professors to the top, one of whom thought nothing of doing a century ride 3 or 4 times a week. Oh but I made it, I was first. Problem was I brought no water. And the fortresses cisterns had long gone dry. There was no water at the top. For that matter, there wasn’t much shade. We still had to walk down, after spending a couple hours, observing the baths, the Roman siege works that prepared for the last battle with the Jews, the final defeat of the Zealots, who hid there after the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. Thirst overcame me. A headache plagued me. I drank water after water, and could not be quenched, until I had a shower and a few beers at the hotel that evening. Ever had a thirst like that, a thirst that needed a shower or a bath to be quenched? This isn’t the thirst God, this isn’t the thirst Jesus is talking about. But it illustrates our condition in regards to salvation.
Some of us in this world are so thirsty, and have been so thirsty for so long, that we no longer know we are thirsty. We live in a desert of death. It looms over us, like the hot sun of the desert, It offers no escape. It sucks the life out of our pours, and dries the sweat before it can offer relief. We thirst, not for water, but for life.
Come, you who thirst, come and drink of Christ. You with no money, come buy and eat, wine and milk, without money and without price. Salvation is free. It costs nothing. There is nothing we can give in return for it, nothing we can purchase it with. We have nothing, no money. We ourselves are worthless. We can’t even sell ourselves into slavery, to purchase our salvation. We have no money, nothing of any worth. We are sinners and we belong to death. And death will exact its cost by taking our lives, taking our souls. But salvation is sweet like milk, and savory like wine. It is priceless, and free. It comes to us in Christ, and from that desert Rock, where the staff of Moses, the staff of the law, pierced His side, as he hung on the cross. The law, which we try in vain to live by , put to death the Rock of Life, Jesus Christ, and from His side, the water pours out on to the desert floor, and we drink the water of life for free, like the Israelites who wandered for forty years. The water gushes out and we shower in it, bath in it, and our thirst for life is quenched as the Spirit is poured over us, with the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the author and creator of life who died for us. This is what baptism does for us! It pours the water of life, the water gushing from the pierced side of Christ, it pours it on us, and over us, and quenches our thirst. And our thirst quenched, we can enjoy the milk and wine, the simple gospel preached, and the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Like an ice cold beer after a day of roofing.
[2] Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Too many today, walk away from the gospel. They spend their money and all their effort and labor on that which is not bread, that which cannot sustain life. But it is all their money can buy, for it cannot purchase salvation. But they are under the mistaken notion that if something is free it is worthless. If it doesn’t require something of you it is cheap. They spend their money on that which is not bread, and expend their labor for that which doesn’t satisfy. They waste their lives duped by the false promise of life under the law. They give their money to false prophets, preaching the law. Prophets who refuse to preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, prophets who deny the power of Baptism, deny the forgiveness of sins can be given to you through the blood of Christ, in a cup of wine. So they labor under the law, working in vain for salvation, under hot sun of the desert of death. When God would give them all they want, need and more with the death of His Son, His Son murdered by the law, in our place. The law murdered Christ, for it unjustly convicted Him of blasphemy for his grandiose claims, and there it lost all credibility. Its lie exposed, it has no life, only death, even for the Author of Life, who did not contest the guilty verdict, but willingly died to atone for our sins, the one final and perfect sacrifice, through which we have life. Don’t spend your money, don’t waste it on false prophets with white washed smiles concealing tombs in their throats, the Pharisees of our day, who preach anything but Christ. Your money is better spent on scotch and cigars, then on their glossy covered books. Christianity is not about becoming a better you, its about being a forgiven you. The Bible isn’t about becoming rich and victorious in this life. It is about Christ’s victory over death won on behalf of you.
So Christ says:
[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.
Listen to Christ, and you soul will live. Listen to Christ as He forgives you your sins. Listen to Christ as He pours The Holy Spirit over you, and quenches your thirst for salvation. Listen to Christ as He pours out his life, His steadfast and sure love for David, with His last will and testament, the everlasting covenant, He has made for you.
This might take some explaining. Covenant isn’t quite the right word here. Even the original translators of the Old Testament, those who translated it into Greek, knew this. They translated the word testament. Covenant is to loose. It covers any formal or binding agreement, promise or pledge, of which a Testament is but one type, all be it, a very specific type of Covenant. So Covenant is not necessarily wrong, but it is not quite right. It is an especially deficient translation because of the normal connotations that go along with the word covenant, which normally is heard and interpreted by people as a contract, along the lines of you do this and I’ll do this. But then, that could be broken, by you, and God would not be able to make it everlasting. But a Testament can’t be broken by you. For you merely benefit from a Testament, a will, you merely receive, and God makes it an everlasting promise of forgiveness in Christ, a Testament in His blood, through which our souls live, because the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ, has glorified you with His death, and resurrection.
Now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


apollo819 said...

Thank you again for emphasizing the difference,(not semantics), between Covenant and Testament.
I use to throw covenant around obviously haphazardly.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Good to see your blog - I'm going to enjoy reading through it. Well done on the sermon, by the by.

Eric Brown

Bror Erickson said...

Great to hear from you Eric. Good to see your still in the saddle. loose track of what happend to classmates.