Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Carnival Barker

"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you — the sure mercies of David. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people. Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you." Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:1-7, NKJV)


I still recall the immediate impression this passage had on me when I heard it years ago in a Sunday School class. In the voice of the prophet, I heard the old carnival barker at the side show or the midway game calling out, targeting the people walking back and forth in front of him. Some were more creative (or persistent) than others, but the essence of the message was the same ... "I have something that you just don't want to miss!"

And we fell for it, probably far more often than we would ever want to admit. We forked over our hard-earned cash to play a semi-rigged game we had little chance of mastering or to see the bearded lady or the tattooed man, neither of which was nearly as stupendous as we were lead to believe. And the call outside continued on.

So, when I hear that type of call in the Isaiah passage, I believe it is made to wake us up from our semi-conscious drifting. It is meant to peak our curiosity about the caller and what He is offering. And in this case, his message is strange indeed. He offers the same thing as the carnival barker - something we don't want to miss but his call has a decidedly different twist. He isn't after our money ... his offer comes to us free of charge.

What an odd thing to hear, especially to our ears trained to catch the price of everything anyone is trying to sell to us. Yet the offer touts the absence of price up front. And then, the Caller even chides us as to why we would ever spend money on what can't possibly satisfy or sustain, especially when He is making this incredible offer. We are drawn to His stand and He reveals the full terms of the "deal" He is making with us.

It goes far beyond food and sustenance. It is an offering of life itself. It is a covenant with the Almighty for protection, governance, guidance, and pardon. God is engaging with man (in this specific example the Israelites) and revealing part of Himself and His enduring goodness. He wants us to stop wandering aimlessly and with dull, absent minds. He wants to be our only source for what can truly bring life and have us put aside all the rest that can never bring us more than a fleeting moment's pleasure. He wants us to let Him be God so that we can take the far easier role of being His children. And none of this will cost us one thin dime!

As I continue my walk along the Crooked Path, I am constantly inundated with calls from those carnival barkers hawking their side show. In the end, they are nothing more than temporal distractions. The Voice I need to hone in on is the one calling from the end of the path, the sound of my Father exhorting me onward, consoling my hurt, and reassuring me that He has provided all I could ever need. It may sound like just another sales pitch on the surface, but if I tune my ears to Him, I can rest assured it is far more substantive. It is a call to life in the fullest under His watchful eye.


  1. Have you heard the same call Isaiah writes about? Have you stopped your wandering long enough to really listen to what the Caller is saying?
  2. Do you find yourself distracted by the calls from the side offering something "you just don't want to miss"? Are they slowly taking your mind and heart from what is real and detaching you from the One who is calling out Truth?
  3. Do you think God's offer can really be trusted? When we live so much of life with people wanting something from us, is "food for free" really to be believed? Are you willing to turn those doubts over to Him as well?

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