Weekly Bible Devotional
“Financial Freedom: The Radical Surprising Truth about Sufficiency”
November 17, 2019
Scripture for Sunday: Isaiah 55:1-9
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Notes on The Text:
In our Bible reading for today, we hear a reminder about sufficiency for the people of ancient Israel who forgot it because they were experiencing the effects of a disaster. The Israelites had been conquered by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. In 597 BCE the elite of the people of ancient Israel were sent (exiled) to Babylon by their occupiers against their will. They were forced to live there. But the strange thing that happened to them was that after a couple of generations there, they got used to it and began to give up on the dream of returning home. The text for our Scripture today from Isaiah is located in a segment of the book that addresses the people of ancient Israel in exile. A new and unexpected thing was taking place. Under the leadership of King Cyrus, the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE and this new king of Persia allowed the people of Israel to return to their homeland. He even funded their return and their rebuilding projects. He was seen by Isaiah as a Messiah, a savior for them. The problem was with the people who did not want to return. These were the grandchildren of those who were exiled. Two generations had lived in Babylon and got used to it. Some of those people did not even know the old country. Recent archeological evidence shows that by the time of Cyrus, the Jewish people had integrated into Babylonian society. They had jobs, owned homes, and even lent money to others. We can totally relate to this as Americans in a nation of immigrants. After the first generation, it is very hard for the following generations to imagine going back to the old country of their parents or grandparents. We may be very proud of our cultural heritage, but we would never consider actually moving to those countries. And so were the ancient Israelites. They kept their Jewish identity by worshipping the God of their ancestors and by telling the stories of their faith and the days of glory in Jerusalem, but leaving their lives in their new home was too much to ask. The fears of scarcity were all too real for them. Jerusalem was in ruins and the land surrounding it had not been cultivated for almost sixty years. The old days of glory for the old country were long gone. And going back to Jerusalem would have meant a lot of hard work and sacrifice. There seemed to be no guarantees that it would even work. That is why the prophet Isaiah had to speak a word of vision and hope to the people about the potential they could not see. He had to help them remember that their mission as the people of God was more important and even more rewarding than whatever security they had in their new home. He had to help them remember what could restore them to full life. Life in exile dulled their senses to the mission of their ancestors.
The prophet in these chapters between 40 and 55 used beautiful images and powerful poetry to help them remember their calling. In our passage for today we hear of an amazing banquet of living waters, wine, and milk. And the banquet is free for all. No money could buy this kind of banquet, because it is the banquet of the Lord. It is a banquet of a different kind of food, not the kind of food and drink which doesn’t satisfy our souls, but the kind which nourishes us on a deeper level of our beings. It is the kind of drink which Jesus talked about with the Samaritan woman (John 4) which he offered as a source of life. As the people of God had forgotten their calling to be witnesses to God’s love, the prophet had to remind them of their calling and that what might seem wise in their eyes was not wise by the standards of God’s vision. These poems were a wakeup call to a people who had forgotten their identity as the people of the covenant.
The prophet was trying to help the people move beyond the comfort of their exile to return to the old country and rebuild it to continue their mission as God’s people who were to live by the values of the kingdom of God and who were to be an example and a blessing to the other nations.
As we look at financial freedom this week, we are considering the invitation to embrace sufficiency which Lynne Twist defines this way: “Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough. Sufficiency resides inside each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances.”
Living by the scarcity values of the world around us is much easier than believing in God’s abundance. Everyone else is doing it and we would just fit in. The problem is that the scarcity values of the cultures around us are grounded in fear. And if we are to live by God’s vision of sufficiency, we have to be able to look at the seeds we already have and to envision an exciting future. We have to be awake to the sufficiency we already have within us so that we may be willing to take the arduous and yet exhilarating journey with God. Just like the people of ancient Israel had to be reminded of God’s vision for their lives, we always need reminders and practices that help us stay awake to God’s vision. Even if we find ourselves comfortable in the land of scarcity where we have managed to have enough material wealth and are living like everyone else, we have to trust the longing of our hearts to live in a flow of grace where the image of life is that of a banquet that is open to all. Sufficiency is about living out of a sense of our connection to God and to all of creation. It comes from within our souls. Unless we learn to access our inner sense of sufficiency, we will never have enough or feel like we are enough.
Faith opens our eyes and helps us get in touch with our thirst and deep need for connection with God. Most of the time, we are like sleepwalkers, just like the people of ancient Israel were sleepwalking through their lives in exile. They had forgotten their purpose and mission. We live on the surface of our lives and as a result often feel dissatisfied. But underneath this kind of feeling is our inner thirst for God and the things of God.
“Life is a banquet, and the tragedy is that most people are starving to death,” Anthony de Mello
In her book, The Cup of Our Lives, Joyce Rupp has a reflection on thirst. In the book, Rupp uses the image of the cup as a metaphor for our spiritual journey; our relationship with God. In her reflection on the cup that is thirsting to be filled, she notes that, “it is a rare day when we are completely satisfied. Usually we are hoping, wishing, longing, thirsting for something more, something different, something else we think will satisfy us or make our lives happier. We are often like an empty cup waiting to be filled with whatever it is we think is missing in our lives. There are many kinds of inner thirsting. Not to thirst for things of the ego such as recognition, prestige, power, and success is very difficult. Once we shake ourselves loose from these longings, our spirit will be freer to thirst for the deeper things of God. We will be much more intent on asking for the living water for our thirsty soul instead of the things that feed our thirsty ego. What are some of the thirsts of a deeper nature? What are the longings that arise from the core of our being? What are the yearnings of our heart in relation to our God? Some of these deeper thirsts or longings might be:
- Peace of mind and heart
- Healing of old wounds
- Greater acceptance of ourselves
- Justice for anyone who is exploited
- Discovery of who we truly are
- Harmony with our families and our workplace
- Wisdom to make good choices and decisions
- Forgiveness of ourselves and others
- Freedom from false messages of our mind
- Reverence and enthusiasm for life
- A willingness to hear God’s voice”
Poem by Joyce Rupp:
why you take those daily
to get your work done,
to conform to a schedule
when you end each day
with the discomfort
of not making the mark,
leaving much undone, unsaid,
how you could miss
those moments of friendship,
those invitations to compassion,
those connections to a world
not of your making.
if you could live differently,
more in tune with your true self,
more in step with your deepest desires,
more in love with cosmic beauty,
more in sync with the world’s desolate
but then you continue forward
on the same old trek of dull
repetition, karmic garbage,
and sludgy unawareness.