Ryan, a local friend and fellow writer, is walking with me along the bank of the Susquehanna River. We’ve been commiserating about the loneliness of the past ten months.
Since we’re both introverts, we are comfortable with solitude. Creativity thrives there. Up to a point. “When you’re alone all the time, you don’t get to enjoy being alone,” he says. “I just wish I could go hang out in a coffee shop. Just to be around people again.”
We both realize how much we’ve been missing this connection. So, finding a circled pothole on the street, I ask him to stand on it for a photo. His own little pandemic island.
So, how does Isaiah weigh in on this? Quite profoundly, I think.
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55: 1-2)
These chapters that follow the famous Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 delineate the effects of his sacrifice. Over and over, it speaks to those who know the emptiness, the neediness of their spiritual condition and reminds them of what was done for them.
Here, the desperately hungry and thirsty are given sustenance. But note, though it requires money and they have none, they can still eat – their food has been purchased for them. The charge has been covered.
Notice also the progression of food. At first, they are given the basics: wine, milk and bread. But the verses end with a promise of the “richest of fare.”
Recently, my daughter turned twenty-one. The cake she and her sister-in-law made was incredibly rich. (It was the first time we’ve ever had mascarpone in the house.) It’s not the kind of provision you’d give a starving man. It’s bread before cake for him.
I love how Scripture repeatedly points to the Christian life – and the life to come – as a party, a feast, a celebration. But the journey to that feast starts with one’s recognition of need. Only the hungry seek out a meal.
That’s why I think this pandemic has a potential benefit for the church, if it can realize it. (The Hebrew in verse 2 above reads, “Listen listenly.”) Our isolation and disconnection should be starving us for real fellowship. I frankly think that God has been tearing away the veneer of superficial friendliness – the small talk over potluck dinners, the moment of handshaking “welcome” in services, the glib promise to pray for a person’s trouble rather than truly engage in the pain.
Why labor for what does not satisfy?
He’s trying to give us an appetite for something substantial: the solid, warm, soul-filling bread of true friendship in Christ. Only purchasable with his credit.
Ryan and I sure are hungry. How about you?
For your wisdom in isolating and disconnecting us, Lord, we thank you. We know you often have to tear down to build up. Give us a hunger for real fellowship so that we can be ready for the feast to come.
Reader: What simple interaction with other believers are you hungering for?