Everyone wants something for nothing. But equally, we are sceptical when anyone claims to give it! We have all learned that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’.
But that which is more valuable than anything else in this world, and which alone will last when time shall be no more, is absolutely free. It must be ‘bought’ by a deliberate choice and act. But it can only be bought ‘without money and without price’.
Are you interested in free salvation? If so, then turn with me to Isaiah 55:1 and listen, praying that God himself, whose words these are, will give you ears to hear.
The prophet writes: ‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money come ye, buy, and eat; buy wine and milk without money and without price’.
With these words the Lord God himself calls and invites poor sinners to come to Christ, offering full, free, everlasting salvation in him.
In today’s speech, ‘Ho’ means, ‘Hey, You!’ Try to picture this. Here is the Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, standing on the busy street-corner of time, at the intersection of life and death.
He calls out to the passers-by: ‘Hey, You!’ Yes, God himself is speaking to us right now. When the gospel is preached, declares Paul, God is pleading with man to seek reconciliation with himself (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
The word ‘Ho’ is expressive of calling, and carries in it an invitation. It implies pity and commiseration for the persons called, and the invitation is delivered in indefinite terms, openly and publicly. It has the nature of a gospel call, bringing good news to persons described as ‘thirsty’.
Christ extended such an invitation to the Samaritan woman: ‘whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst’ (John 4:14), and again at the Feast of Tabernacles: ‘If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink’ (John 7:37).
In Revelation 21:6 the glorified Christ declares: ‘I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely’ (see also Revelation 22:17).
Are you thirsty?
Obviously, the Lord is not talking about natural thirst. Even less does he mean the sensual thirst of a sinful heart for the satisfaction of its lusts. He is talking about a spiritual thirst, a thirst in our soul that only his own grace can create.
If you are thirsty, this text is speaking to you. If you are thirsty, there is hope for you. You will never drink from the wells of salvation until you are thirsty. Oh, I pray that God has made you thirsty!
Are you thirsty? Firstly, for the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Christ? He says: ‘I am he who blotteth out thy transgressions for my mine own sake and will not remember thy sins’ (Isaiah 43:25).
Are you thirsty for justification before God through Christ’s righteousness, desiring to be ‘justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:24-26)?
Are you thirsty for the knowledge of Christ the Lord (Philippians 3:10)? For peace with God (Romans 5:1)? Then hear the promise of Christ: ‘Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:6).
If you are thirsty, it is God who created that thirst in your soul; and only God can relieve it. He says: ‘Come ye to the waters!’
What waters? Not the ‘waters’ of baptism, church membership, or moral reformation, but the living waters of grace that are found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. His blood is a fountain opened for cleansing, says Zechariah 13:1. His Spirit is a life-giving river of water to purify and revive the soul (John 7:38-39). Christ is the ‘smitten rock’ out of whom the water of life flows to sinners.
Who may come to the waters? Read the text and rejoice: ‘everyone that thirsteth’. Not only the Jews, but the Gentiles also. Male and female, bond or free (Galatians 3:28).
Perhaps you think: ‘I cannot come. I have nothing with which to buy. I have neither spiritual capital nor spiritual income, nothing with which to satisfy God’. Is that the case? Then you are just the one I am talking to!
Read the next line: ‘he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat’. You who have no money are bidden both to buy and be satisfied! I told you, I am talking about free salvation.
The only person who can buy such a free salvation is one who is so desperately poor that he has nothing with which to buy it! Of course, the poverty the Lord is talking about is not financial or material poverty. Many of us have that too, no doubt!
No, the poverty in question is poverty of spirit. A poverty of soul that is sensed, felt, and experienced in our hearts. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, said the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:2).
What are such poor ones to do? The Lord God instructs us. Firstly, we must ‘come and buy’. Though salvation is free, God will not force you to receive grace you do not want. You must ‘buy’ it from him by deliberate, personal choice. As Matthew Henry puts it, you must ‘make it your own by an application of the grace of the gospel to yourselves. Make it your own upon Christ's terms, nay, ... upon any terms!’
Notice also that, though salvation is without money and without price, you have to give up something to get it. You must forsake your sin and throw away your own inadequate righteousness! (Isaiah 55:7; Romans 10:1-4).
You must also surrender your life, for Jesus said: ‘whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it’(Matthew 16:25).
Not only must you ‘buy’ Christ; you must ‘eat’ him too! (John 6:54-56). What you eat and digest is truly and forever yours. So Jesus portrays faith as the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood.
‘Come buy wine and milk’. When you sell something, you have to convince folks that they need what you are selling. If they do not need it, they will not buy it. But once you convince them of their need, it is good sense for them to buy.
You have to sell your product. That is what the Lord God is doing here. He compares Jesus Christ, and the salvation that is in him, to ‘wine and milk’.
Now ‘wine maketh merry the heart’, and Jesus Christ and his salvation is the only thing that can (and will) fill your life with joy (Philippians 4:4-8). Milk is the only food in this world that, on its own, can supply a human being with everything needed for life, health, and strength.
Wine is something rich, pure, and (frequently) old. So too the gospel of Christ sets before sinners a treasury of grace, a pure and righteous salvation, and one that was established of old, in fact in eternity (Ephesians 1:3-6).
But milk is freely available; anyone can obtain it almost anywhere. That is a good picture of the free availability of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. We do not have to climb up to heaven or descend to hell to find it. For ‘the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart ... that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’ (Romans 10:6-9).
The gospel is wine and milk. It has everything necessary for life and all the riches of the everlasting covenant. What are those riches?
First of all, pardon for sin; full pardon, present pardon and lasting pardon. Next, complete justification for sinners before a holy God (Acts 13:45). Thirdly, eternal life; ‘My sheep ... shall never perish’, says the Good Shepherd (John 10:27-28). Finally, all the fullness of grace and glory (Psalm 73:23-24).
‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth, ... come buy wine and milk without money and without price’. But there lies the catch! Are you prepared meet the price demanded? Many, sadly, will not settle for so low a price.
We all naturally want to bring to Christ something of our own making to justify our salvation. The Romanist, the ritualist, the philanthropist the ‘deep experience’ Calvinist, the High Churchman, the moralist, the mere churchgoer; all find the cost too small.
We bring our religion, our works, even our self-generated ‘faith’. But none of these avail. We must come to Christ with nothing and for everything!
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.
Helpless, look to thee for grace,
Naked, come to thee for dress.
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour, or I die!