Ho, every one that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat…
Has this no pertinency for our own day? Acquisition and expansion are the primary notes of modern life. And is there no thirst, no disquietude of spirit? Our novels and our poetry are full of the drooping leaf. Behind the droop there is the thirst. The literature only reflects the people. Business circles never abounded as they do to-day in faint and weary men. They get and spend, and spend and get, but through it all persists the inward thirst. England is thirsting for life. What we need is the infinitely gracious ministry of the Eternal Son of God. "He, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters."
I. There is to be THE DISCIPLINE OF THE EAR. There is to be a determined, resolute effort to listen to God. When I turn over the pages of the New Testament, and the Old Testament as well, I am greatly surprised at the emphasis with which is given the injunction to hear. " Hear, ye deaf. Every page sends out the cry of the herald — Hearken, listen, incline your ear. It is wonderful how often the Master repeated the injunction, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." That is not a kind of mild, kindly counsel, but an urgent, strenuous appeal to men and women in imminent peril. As though they were disinclined, or did it lazily and easily. He seems to say, Put work into hearing, make it a business, put some intenseness into it. The voices of the world are so clamorous, so fascinating, so easily enticing, that you are in great danger of being allured unless you set yourself resolutely to attend to God. "Hearken diligently unto Me;" put work into listening to Me, in the Parliament, in the Council House, on the Exchange, in the shop and the warehouse, and in the pulpit. There are many clamorous voices around you, those of Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, Mr. Pliable, Mr. Time-Server, Mr. Love-of-the-World. Then pull yourself together, says the Master and the prophet; engage yourself with such intenseness amidst all the bustling clamour, that you may catch the upward calling of your God.
II. The discipline of the ear is accompanied by THE DISCIPLINE OF THE HEART. Listen and then yield. "Let the wicked forsake his way (and then something infinitely harder), "and the unrighteous man his thoughts." I find it a comparatively easy thing to forsake a way; but I find it almost insuperably difficult to forsake a thought. Hear the Highest and then uncompromisingly obey. You say impossible! Idleness creates the impossible, says Robert South. I think perhaps one of the great needs of our time in personal and national life, is that some nation should resolutely address itself to listen to the voice of God, and when she has resolutely listened and confidently heard, then to resolutely and deliberately attempt the impossible. Let her begin by forsaking her own wicked ways. Let her hearken diligently to the Divine voice and then definitely and unwaveringly follow in pursuit, even though the way lead apparently to an impassable height. Let her return to the Lord, and let there be no longer a democracy, an aristocracy, a plutocracy, but a Theocracy willing gladly to be counselled by Jehovah.
III. "WHAT IS THE ISSUE OF THIS OBEDIENCE? Suppose the thirsty nation oppressed, turned herself to listen to Jehovah and began to interpret the voice Divine, and suppose she addressed herself with all the majesty of Divine power to the pursuit of the ideal discerned, what would happen? The issue of-such a demeanour is portrayed for us with wonderful prodigality in the chapter.
1. There is the assured promise of fuller life. "Hear, and your soul shall live." Hitherto life had been a thin existence, a mere surface glittering, a superficial movement. Now there shall be vitality, awakening and stirring in undreamed-of depths. Life shall be no longer confined to the channels of the appetites; life shall no longer be a mere matter of senses and sensations confined to the outer courts and corridors of the life, but you shall begin to live in the innermost self. The unused shall be aroused and exercised;, the unevolved shall be unpacked; benumbed instincts shall be liberated; buried powers of discernment shall come trooping from the grave; new intelligence shall be born, and the sea of iniquity shall ebb, and the sea shall give up its dead. Life shall be no longer scant and scrimpy. You shall delight yourself, not in leanness but in fatness, every tissue of yourself shall be fed, and the outer life shall bear all manner of fruit, and the leaves of the tree shall be for the healing of the nations.
2. Mark the succession, and we get an exceedingly pregnant suggestion. We have got a nation listening, we have got a nation doing, we have got a nation now living, with its powers evolved, and in active exercise. What next? "Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not." What is that'? It means that a true and glorified national life is to be followed by a true and glorified imperialism. "Nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God.' That is the true imperialism — empire by moral and spiritual sovereignty, allurement of dominion by the fascinating radiance of a pure and satisfied life. "Gentiles shall come to the light, and kings to the brightness of the rising." It is empire not merely by the aid of Maxim guns, but by great heartening: Gospels proclaimed by a great redeemed, glorified people. This is to be the shining goal of true national ambition. The mission of the great people, according to this chapter, is to be this: We are to be witnesses to the people, leaders and commanders of the people, witnesses ceaselessly reiterating the truths of the heartening Gospel, proving in the power of our own redemption our fitness to be leaders of the people, going out as path-finders amongst the benighted peoples. "They shall be called" (I want no more glorious title for the country) "the restorer of paths to dwell in."
3. Now, mark further the issue. A true imperialism, I will not say is to be succeeded, but is to be accompanied by a splendid magnanimity. When the nation has hearkened diligently unto God, and follows determinedly in the pursuit of His will, all little-mindedness has to pass away in the great spacious ambitions. The pure and the exalted people are to share the spacious thought of God, and this I take to be the meaning of the word, "My thoughts are not your thoughts." "What are Thy thoughts like?" "As the heavens are higher than the earth. God's thoughts are lofty, spacious, broad; so our thoughts must be comprehensive, full of an all-inclusive sympathy which vibrates to the interest of each, as though each contained the welfare of the other. The truly imperial people are to share this largeness of idea and ideal and all inclusive sympathy. All parochial peddling and sterile individualism shall yield to a pregnant altruism, and mean patriotism is to be supplanted by a generous fructifying cosmopolitanism. The annexation of territory will be regarded as infinitely inferior to the salvation of the world. Influence shall not be measured by mileage, but by magnanimity. Empire will not be computed by so many leagues of earth, but by the multitude of redeemed and liberated souls. And the outskirts of sovereignty will not be contained by bristling guns, but "They shall call her walls salvation and her gates praise."
4. We have an exalted, glorified empire, and according to this prophet, there is to be nothing wavering or uncertain about the moral empire of such a people. For them a help-giving ministry,, will be inevitable. "As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, etc. The rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, the bringers of the spring time; and the nation truly imperial, and filled with the living Spirit of the living God, shall be the spring-time maker amongst the children of men, and the creator of gladness and music and song. The prophet himself bursts into song: "The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." That is to be the ministry of the nation. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree." The thorn with the sharp-piercing, pain-giving spikes: instead of that shall come up the fir tree — from which were made the musical instruments, and especially the framework of the harp; "instead of the thorn, the pain-making thing, shall come up the fir tree," the music-making thing; the glorified people shall move among the scattered peoples, and shall exercise the beautiful ministry of changing the creators of pain into the makers of melody and praise. "Instead of the briar," with its bitter, poisonous sting, "shall come up the myrtle tree, with its glossy leaves, and white flowers and grateful perfume. The redeemed and consecrated nation shall exult in a missionary enterprise which shall change the poisonous enmities and jealousies of the people into the perfume of sweet and gracious sentiments, and the chastened delights of a holy and blameless life. Is not this an ambition worthy of the English people of our own day?
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.