“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.”
“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.”
We typically think of heaven in terms of a transaction with God. Have you ever realized that? We think of Heaven as a commodity that God owns, and we have to purchase. “Ok God,” we ask, “I want to get into heaven, so what do I have to do to secure my seat?” It’s like Fear Factor: Heaven Edition. There’s a big prize at the end of the show but you have to do some stuff you wouldn’t otherwise do to get the prize. “God, I’ll promise to never lie again.” “God, I’ll start going to church. That preacher is 10 years younger than me and tells terrible jokes, but if I have to I’ll go.” “OK God, I’ll put some money in the plate as it comes around.”
We treat heaven like the carrot God holds out in front of us to get us to obey. We act like what God wants most from us is obedience, and the only way he can get it is to tease us with a big family reunion in the sky. Which, if we are being honest for a moment—who really wants that? I mean, family reunion sounds great if I’m sending the invites. It sounds silly when I talk about heaven like that- but we all treat heaven this way.
Let me speak directly to anyone who isn’t a Christian: I think if you were honest, one of the reasons you find all this heaven talk silly is because you have always heard Christians wield heaven like a bargaining chip. You may think that Christians are gullible, or worse, manipulative. Please hear me—there really aren’t any strings attached to God’s love or heaven. Forgive us who do believe in Jesus for every time we make you feel like there are. We are wrong when we do that.
Christians reading this- why is it that even after we have found God’s grace we still act as if God’s love isn’t enough to change us? Why is it that once we have found to bottomless pool of God’s mercy do we try to find all our worth and meaning, and hope in the tin pan of our own efforts? Why isn’t heaven a better hope for us? I’m convinced it’s because, even though we would say God saves us out of his free grace alone, we still believe the lie that what God wants most from us is obedience, and he will hold out on us until we do what he asks.
But Isaiah says, heaven isn’t anything like that. Did you hear those first 2 verses? Getting heaven requires a transaction. He says, “Come and buy.” But it’s not a transaction between you and God. Isaiah says you can purchase what God is offering but it will cost you nothing. How does that happen?
- If humans sinned and broke our relationship with God,
- And God requires that the breach of relationship be payed for
- How can God offer heaven to us without cost?
He can do so because he assumed our debt. He absorbed the loss. It struck me as I wrote those words that we might pass over them too quickly. We might be guilty of imagining them only in their legal sense. We broke the law. God took the punishment. Just take a moment and instead of thinking of those as legal statements think of them as relational statements. God created us for himself, to see his beauty and we turned our eyes from him to other things, and other people and other loves. We all committed adultery. We abandoned him and rejected his love. And God, as the greatest lover, absorbed the hurt and loss of our adultery. That’s why God makes an everlasting covenant with those who simply come to him and admit their need. It’s because we were unfaithful—and even after he assumes our debt we are still unfaithful.
We needed the true son of David, Jesus to offer us an everlasting covenant, one that can’t be broken by our continual faithlessness. And that’s what the cross is. The cross was Jesus absorbing our faithlessness and offering the Father his faithful life. The death of Jesus was a death of love for the unlovable. The death of Jesus was the faithful spouse laying down his life for the adulteress. We don’t buy heaven. Jesus purchased it for us, and for that reason, heaven is all about Jesus.
This post is a part 3 of a series from my sermon on Isaiah 55.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”