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Our Spiritual Economy

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Text: Isaiah 55:1-5

[podcast]http://www.zion-umc.org/home/audio/sermon_07312011.mp3[/podcast]

 

A Spiritual Economy Chooses God’s Abundance

One Bible verse (of many) that will help you keep your head up in tough times is Romans 8:28: “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV84)

You gain this knowledge by making a habit of looking for signs of God at work in everyday life. As you get more experienced at doing this, you’ll even note that there are spiritual opportunities to experience God’s graces in things others only see as unpleasantness.

For example, our national economy is recovering – but very slowly.  As a result, more and more families are turning to things like budgets to help decide what’s important – which things are needs, and which things are simply “wants.”

How much money can you save? According U.S. Department of Labor statistics, quite a lot! For example:

  • An average family will save $6,372 a year if they quit buying groceries.
  • You’ll save $16,895 if you ditch your mortgage and go live in a refrigerator box somewhere.
  • If you don’t buy any new clothes, you’ll save more than $1,500.
  • Get rid of the car and you’ll save almost $2,000 in gas and oil alone, not counting the car payment.
  • Insurance? Who needs it? Drop your life, health, auto, property insurance and save another $9,000.

In case you weren’t keeping track, if you add all of this up, you’ll have over $43,000 more disposable income than you had before.

Of course, sensible people aren’t going to do those things – these are essential expenses we need to make to survive and avoid living on the street.

The point of this is to say that through the eyes of faith, a crisis can be something through which God offers help to review our priorities.  For us, today, it’s the economy.  In Isaiah’s time, the crisis was the exile of God’s people.

God gives Isaiah the wisdom to teach the people about a spiritual economy where the right answer is choosing God’s abundance over the idolatry that led to judgment and exile in the first place. In a faithful spiritual economy, there’s enough for everyone – in abundance.

The Symbols of God’s Economy: Water, Wine & Milk, and Bread

“Why spend money for what isn’t food, and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2, CEB)

Water

In America, we collectively spend around $11B each year on bottled water.  Some do need it, but for the most part, it’s no better than the tap water we have – and in blind taste tests, tap water time and time again wins hands down. The plastic bottles of water purchased with that $11B could pave a path to the moon and back more than once. So, in our earthly economy, we need to evaluate whether this expenditure is good for us and our environment.

Isaiah tells the people, “Come to the waters.” Water has symbolized more than one thing for the Israelites; In Chapters 6-8, water represents judgment on Judah. In chapter 54, water becomes a symbol of rescue and salvation: God compares the return from exile to the receding waters of Noah’s flood (54:9-10).

Now, God invites the people again to drink of the water he is offering, much like Jesus invited the Samaritan woman to drink the “living water” he was offering in John 4.

Wine and Milk

God invites the people to come and receive the grace-filled gift of staples from the abundance of God’s own stores. Wine and milk are a step up from water, and indicate that God is really throwing a feast here and not just supplying the basics. Those who had long been surviving on whatever their captors had provided now were offered a new start: a spiritual economy based on grace and abundance.

Bread

In this new spiritual economy, one is expected to live with an awareness of how to live – to make choices based on a desire for holiness in God’s sight.  “Why spend money for what isn’t food,” God asks, “and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?” (v. 2).

Bread is one of those things that you “have to have” to live.  In the ancient world, bread was often a metaphor that illustrated God’s ability to provide, and the nourishing power of His Word.  Jesus used this image in John by calling himself “the bread of life” (John 6:22-59).

Bread is a necessity, and anything else is simply a “want.” God reminds the people that his spiritual economy runs on their faithfulness on the one hand and his grace on the other. They needed to rely on God’s providence which had been there since the days when he fed their ancestors in the desert with manna from heaven.

A Spiritual Economy’s Highest Priority is God’s Eternal Purposes

God wanted the exiles who were returning to Israel to establish a spiritual economy where the highest priorities were always connected to Him and His priorities. The people were to return from the pain of exile with a new dream of what God was going to do not only for them, but for the whole creation (vv. 12-13) – a dream that would ultimately be fulfilled by a descendant of King David, who would reconcile all of creation with its God.

If we live in this dream of God’s Kingdom, where justice and peace, freedom from anxiety, and God’s reign and rule on the earth and in our lives it will radically alter our priorities.

We’ll no longer see our money and possessions as ours, but as belonging to God. We will recognize that we are not really owners but stewards, caretakers of the things with which God has entrusted us.

Living in this dream, what we acquire won’t matter as much as we give away.  We’ll begin to see that we are not alone but part of a community in which God will use our lives for eternal purposes. It’s a dream of freedom!

When God says through Isaiah, “Come, buy, and eat!” he’s saying that there’s no need to wait to receive the blessings of Heaven. You can come and be satisfied NOW.

As you look at your life, does it reflect the priorities of God’s kingdom, or are you spending your money and labor on things that do not satisfy?

Just Like the people of the exile, we must not fail to take a lesson from a crisis. May we all organize our spiritual and economic lives around the priority, purpose and provision of God!

 

“The Isaiah Economy,” Homiletics, July 2011