First Reading (Opt. B): Isaiah 55:1-11

The Power of Two Invitations

1 "Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters! Come, he who has no money, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which doesn't satisfy? listen diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Turn your ear, and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. 5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you don't know; and a nation that didn't know you shall run to you, because of YHWH your God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you."

6 Seek YHWH while he may be found; call you on him while he is near: 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to YHWH, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," says YHWH. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn't return there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do."

World English Bible

This study overviews three other studies: Fifteenth, Eighteenth, and Twenty-fifth Sundays in Cycle A. Each of these studies focus on a piece of this poem. Taken together, the poem of Second Isaiah announced the divine invitations to intimate, yet communal dining and to repentance.

As was mentioned in the other studies, many biblical scholars posit a Second Isaiah who wrote his prophecy for the Jewish exiles in Babylon. After fifty years of exile, the Persian conqueror, Cyrus, would come to free the Jews and send them home to Jerusalem.

The words found in Isaiah 55:1-11 offered joy to the Jewish populace. In the dinner invitation of 55:1-5, YHWH set a royal table as a gift to all the people: fatty foods, fine grains, and wine! Just as important, the people (not just the king) would share in the love that God gave to David in his covenant. God's love would now be shared with the entire nation.

The invitation to royal table set the stage for the second call: repentance. [55:6-7] If God could be so generous with his faithful, he could also be generous with those who turned away from him. If the faithful did not understand God's mercy, that was because his logic was different that the "common wisdom" of righteous. (After all, God did not conduct "focus groups" among the believers in the pew for guidance!) [55:8-9]

But underneath the joyful news was the reassertion of God's power. Fifty years of exile made the faithful question the power of their national deity. But Second Isaiah would have nothing of that! The generous invitations made to the faithful and the fallen-away would have effect! [55:10-11]

God makes us the same offers he made so long ago. He invites us to the table, even when we stray afar. In fact, these invitations show his power, not his weakness. We can ignore these invitations. Or, we can take them for granted. Only at our own peril. If we take them seriously, we will witness the sheer power of our God. For we will see his love.

Reflect on God's invitations to you. How have you responded? How can you take his invitations more seriously this week?