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Yahweh quenches our thirst

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Yahweh quenches our thirst: through His Servant and by His Spirit (Isaiah 55:1–12)

(A study of key chapters in Isaiah: Jesus is present in the pages of the Old Testament)


“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. 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. 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. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” Isaiah 55:1–12 (ESV)

It is estimated that the word’s ocean to have contained treasures worth of 6 billions of dollars waiting to be harvested. It is crying out to all of us, as it were, “hello, treasure-hunters, come take, and be rich!” Recently, Florida treasure hunters found $4.5 million worth of Spanish Gold coins that were being transported to the king of Spain. A fleet of ships sank in a hurricane en route from Havana to Spain 300 years ago.

Likewise, Yahweh is inviting all of us saying in Isa. 55:1-2 (I have rearranged the verses after the Hebrew wordings)

Come [lit. Alas],
.        everyone who thirsts,
.                come to the waters;
.        and he who has no money,
.                come, buy and eat!
.        [yes] come, buy
.                without money and
.                without price.
.        wine and milk

Have you noticed the monotonous repetition in just one verse? Three times, Yahweh invites everyone to come. Let look each of these summons.


(If you recognize these headings, you know where I am going with these)

The first invitations, here in Isaiah 55:1 “everyone who thirsts come to the waters” focus on the spiritual condition of those who would come, namely those who are “thirsty”. That means those who think they are satisfied and have everything they need, by definition are those who reject this invitation. Those who are truly thirsty are those who know that they are so! As long as our hearts are satisfied with everything else in the world, that which is not bread (Isa. 55:2) we will not be thirsty for the Lord. We are indeed full. The beautiful life of the Christian is characterized by  unquenching hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness- to practice it and to be found as such before him. Jesus told us that those who belong in the kingdom are said to be the poor in spirit who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom and for they shall be satisfied. (Matt. 5:2-3). The kingdom of God is for thirsty people. They thirst to see God’s righteousness (his justice, his perfect rule, character) to cover the whole earth. Everything they see around them sickness them. The wickedness that is rampant, and the oppression of vulnerable outrages them. D. A. Carson puts it ably “all unrighteousness grieves them and makes them home-sick for the new heaven and new earth – the home of righteousness.” They are neither satisfied with mere personal righteousness nor mere social justice alone, they cry for both” In short, they long for the advent of the messianic kingdom”, the return of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Until the kingdom of Christ dawns, they are not satisfied with mere political justice nor personal polity” They want nothing short of the reign of Christ. Until then they are thirsty, hungry, living in a foreign land as exiles!

In the book of Isaiah, the theme of spiritual thirst is common. However, it is important to slow down our reading and recognize what spiritual condition the metaphor of thirst is describing and what solution it is prescribing (to quench the spiritual thirst). For instance, In Isaiah 32:6 we read

For the fool speaks folly,
.         and his heart is busy with iniquity,
to practice ungodliness,
.        to utter error concerning the Lord,
to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
.       and to deprive the thirsty of drink.

Description of the problem: the thirsty ones

What is being described is the injustices of the kings of Judah. The kings were supposed to act as vice reagents of Yahweh. They were under the Davidic covenant to practice righteousness and justice, on behalf of the weak, the poor, the outcasted, the widows and the foreigners like Yahweh did to Israel. Israel were under the cruel reign of Pharaoh. He redeemed them by his outstretched arms to be his covenant people. Therefore, the kings of Israel were to practice and model Yahweh’s righteous reign upon his covenant people. That is because within theocracy (people ruled under God, unlike monarchy: people ruled by a sovereign king or Democracy: people ruled by those elected by ‘we the people’) the presence of the poor among the filthy rich is in and of itself evidence of injustice. The Pentateuch as well as the book of Joshua had so many checks and balances within the life of Israel, so that the poor are well taken care and have access to a land. The kinsman-redeemer, the goel, (who guarantees the seed-line of the family continues) and the year of Jubilee (that secures the land) were such practices intended to guarantee justice in remembrance of Yahweh’s deliverance and grace in redeeming Israel. Every 49 years the Land was supposed to be returned as it was on the day Joshua allotted for each tribe, clan and family according to the instruction of the Lord. It is a day of liberty. That is the reason why Ahab taking Naboth’s vineyard brought judgement upon the house of Ahab (1 Kings 21). Israel was sold for slavery (notice the language of slavery, being sold back to Egypt as it were) as depicted in Leviticus 25. Therefore, the story of the year of jubilee and that of the story of Ruth are so vital for our understanding of redemption culminating in Christ, our kinsman-redeemer (the goel) and liberator. Likewise, land, within the agrarian society such as Israel in the Old testament, not only is a means of survival and access to wealth, but more importantly is tied with the Abrahamic covenant. The children of Israel were heirs of the blessing of Abraham. It is extremely important that we too desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one for he has prepared for us a city (Hebrews 11:16). Also Peter commends us “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13) which is reminiscent of the new heaven and new earth mentioned here in Isaiah 65-66. Yahweh will remove injustice and fill the earth with his righteousness. Thus we see an association between the thirsty and the poor. That is why Isaiah focuses so much on the poor.

Isaiah 41:17 “17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”

A fast acceptable before Yahweh is

Isaiah 58:6–7  “6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

But in the day Yahweh acts:

Isaiah 29:19 “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.”

He does that through the righteous reign of his future messianic King

Isaiah 11:1-2, 4–5 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Isaiah 61:1–2 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn”

Prescription to the problem: the thirsty will be satisfied

If you had already taken a note of the association between the poor, the thirsty ones, and the Spirit, and justice you have done well. Yahweh’s solution to the thirsty ones is going to come about through

(1) the redemptive sacrifice of the servant of the Lord who would be pierced for our transgression (Isa. 52:13-53:12), who also is the messianic king, the righteous branch
(2) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to quench the thirsty.

We saw in Isaiah 32:6, that the thirsty ones are the poor. Now down in verse 15, we find Yahweh’s solution to the problem of the oppression of the poor which points to the destitute spiritual condition of Israel under Yahweh’s judgement.

For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;

what is the solution?

until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.

what is the outcome?

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Isaiah 32:12–18 (ESV)) 
  • Fulfillment In Jesus

In the New Testament, according to the gospel of Luke, the ministry of Jesus began in Nazareth after he returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit (Luke. 4:14): a clear thematic link between Isaiah’s vision and the ministry of Jesus as the Servant-Messiah. He went to the synagogue on the sabbath day and proclaimed “

and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17–21) 

Jesus understood his mission as that of Isaiah 61. He has the Spirit (Isa. 11:1; 42:1; 61:1-2), thus he minsters to the oppressed and preach the good news of the reign of Yahweh to the poor. Now Yahweh is King through His Messiah. He is proclaiming liberty, administering justice and satisfying their needs. From then on, demons began to tremble. Salvation has dawned. People became truly free.

Jesus gives Rivers of Living Water

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. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:37-38)

The reference to ‘as the Scripture has said’ is a concatenate of references to multiple prophetic utterances made by the prophets such as: Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28 et.al. John the inspired author, then comments:

Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.John 7:39 (ESV)

John tells us the means by which Jesus was glorified. It was through the cross and the resurrection (John 12:27-34; 17:4). Thus having accomplished his mission, as the suffering servant of Isaiah (52:13-53:12) and the glorified anointed-conqueror (Isa. 53:13; Isa. 42:1; Isa. 61:1-2), he now reigns in heaven having sent his Spirit. He now gives the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him, and to those who are thirsty.

| John 4:10–14 | Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

| Revelation 21:6 | And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

| Revelation 22:17 | The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Here is an unambiguous repetition of the word ‘Come’ three times echoing the Isaianic invitation! Through Jesus the Alpha and the Omega, (Jesus is identified as Yahweh) spring of the water of life has been purchased and made available to all the nation. Through the Spirit and by means of the church this life is being given freely. Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled.

  • Personal Application

Those of us from the diaspora community, know something for sure. We left our loved ones. No matter where you are, you still dream about your childhood. You still think of your loved ones. You still plan to meet them one day. You are home-sick. The worst thing that happens to a christian is that he or she loses the sight of eternity. A soul that pants after God is the soul that understood only God’s presence quenches her thirst. When our heart is entangled with the affairs of this age so much so that it finds its ultimate satisfaction in relationships, possession, position, these blessings quickly deteriorate into idols. As one reformer puts it astutely, “the human heart is a factory of idols”. A soul that pants is a soul that is healthy for she knows only the water Jesus gives her quenches her thirst. So we are satisfied in one sense. Because Jesus has come and made available eternal life to those who believed in Him though the Spirit. On the other hand, until he returns, we still are thirsty. Thus with in this already satisfied but not yet fully understanding, let us say with the Spirit and the bride “Oh broken heart, come! He has spring of living water”

© 2016, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.

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