The Gift of God


Isaiah_55-2

And so we enter the season of peace and joy. But the hustle and bustle only elevates our level of stress and anxiety. People behave with even less civility than usual — rude, inconsiderate, impatient. I dared go out the day after Thanksgiving, and people seemed to be moving at warp-speed — running red lights, rolling through stop signs, honking their horns at anyone who got in their way. What were these people thankful for just a day earlier? To whom did they offer thanksgiving?

It was a half-century ago that my family was preparing for Thanksgiving. I was ten years old, the turkey was thawing, and I was excited to have a 4-day weekend to eat and play. But the festive expectation of that holiday season was shattered by the assassination of President Kennedy on the Friday before. I was stripped of my childhood innocence, and a dark cloud of mortality haunted my soul for years to come.

That Thanksgiving was the beginning of a long-fought battle with bulimia and anorexia. I felt no joy or thanksgiving in 1963 nor in the years that followed. By the age of 12, I had lost so much weight that the neighbors thought I had cancer. My father would sit me down at the lunch table and serve me a plate of sandwiches. I ate them only to ease his worry and concern, but then I would dig a hole in the backyard and … well, you get the idea.

My mother died last year during the holiday season — almost four years to the day that my father passed away. He suffered a stroke on Thanksgiving weekend and was gone by Christmas. So, no, I don’t really get into the year-end celebrations. I sort of look upon the season as Solomon would — it’s all vanity. The world’s revelry is all a glittering deception. It’s not about Black Friday deals — that fateful day in 1963 could not have been blacker — nor is it about Cyber Monday steals on 65-inch TV’s. By the way, who needs a behemoth sized television?

As Christians, we are called to resist the tide. The world system is based upon money and consumption. All of these gadgets that you covet and own are nothing but distractions — all are vanity. In fairness and disclosure, I do not own a car, television or cell phone. I was born in 1953, and survived comfortably without bluetooth and iPhones. If a person needed to make a phone call in those days they simply entered a phone booth and had a private conversation. Today, people stand in line at the grocery store chatting away for the whole world to hear. Gadgets are not a technical revolution, but a social devolution. It is the height of narcissistic behavior to hold up a line while answering your cell phone. We are so connected technologically, but not spiritually.

And how many hours are devoted to your coveted TV, or other electronic devices? Do you spend as much time connecting with God? If not, then it is clear to whom (or what) you worship, and the idols that you serve. Do you give thanks to God one day, and vainly spend your wages the next?

Isaiah (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ — Yesha’yahu) asks, Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)

Why, indeed? I think John and Caroline would have chosen to have their father over any number of toys and gifts that year. Material consumption never satisfies. Shopping affects your brain chemistry, but does nothing to feed your soul. That is where man’s greatest emptiness dwells. This is what the prophet is teaching — and Jesus Christ when He speaks of living water. The woman at the well had lived an adulterous life of fornication and immorality — some choose alcohol and drugs, or vain consumption — but our Lord offered her that which truly satisfies:

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst. Indeed, the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:14).

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (John 6:35).

All of our toil and labor is in vain if we squander it on worldly goods. The Lord knows that we need food, clothing and shelter — and, to correct the false prosperity gospel, that is all He promises (Matthew 6:31-32).

Albert Barnes:

For that which is not bread – The idea here is, that people are endeavoring to purchase happiness, and are disappointed. Bread is the support of life; it is therefore emblematic of whatever contributes to support and comfort. And in regard to the pursuit of happiness in the pleasures of life, and in ambition, vanity, and vice, people are as much disappointed, as he would be who should spend his money, and procure nothing that would sustain life.

And your labor for that which satisfieth not – You toil, and expend the avails of your labor for that which does not produce satisfaction. What a striking description of the condition of the world! The immortal mind will not be satisfied with wealth, pleasure, or honor. It never has been. There is a void in the heart which these things do not, cannot fill. There is a consciousness that the soul was made for higher and nobler purposes, and that nothing but God can meet its boundless desires. [1]

The wrappings and glitter of the holiday festivities are all a worldly distraction to divert your soul from the true gift of the season which is Jesus Christ. It is not the gifts we give one another — or to ourselves — but the gift of God who gave Himself that your soul may be quenched with the promise of everlasting life.

Q: How did Jesus ask us to remember Him? By His birth, or His death?

A: And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19).

Notes:

1. Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament. London, Blackie & Son, 1884. Reprint: Baker Books, 1998.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

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One thought on “The Gift of God

  1. Amen!

    As to “the season of peace and joy,” we also need to be reminded from time to time that peace is not the absence of war, it is something beyond our understanding, which he offers through Messiah. And joy is not all fun or exuberance or celebration. It is the deep, unshakable meaning that only his presence can give those who receive him.

    Isaiah 55:2 immediately follows another, very special verse that I really love: “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.”

    Money cannot purchase the new life, the eternal salvation Jesus offers. The price is ourselves, our will, our obedience, our love, our thanksgiving, our praise. When we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him, we find peace that passes understanding and joy in his presence — neither of which have anything to do with physical circumstances.

    Today in church, sitting next to me was a man who told me how his son is daily filled with joy. His son is serving a life sentence in prison for being an accomplice to a murder, but he received the Word — that is, he believed on his name — and to him was given the right to become a child of God. There is no greater joy.

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