A HUNGER FOR FREEDOM

Isaiah 55:1-7, 11

Our country, the United States of America, is 244 years old on this July 4th. This is quite young compared to the other countries of the world. This bold experiment in freedom has come at a great cost to many. But it was motivated by a great hunger for freedom from the political oppressions that our forefathers suffered from England in the countries of Europe.

We are privileged to know the greatest political freedom that has ever been known in the history of mankind. As we celebrate the birth of our nation this week, let us remember the extremely high price that has been paid for the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy. Not only are we to remember the historical cost, but we are to be aware of the present high cost of maintaining this freedom for future generations.

A woman walked up to a little old man rocking in a chair on his porch. “I couldn’t help noticing how happy you look,” she said. “What’s your secret for a long happy life?”

“I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day,” he said. I also drink a case of whiskey a week, I eat fatty foods, and I never exercise.”

“That’s amazing,” the woman said. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-six,” he said.

We cannot live very long if we abuse our bodies like that. It is also true that a country cannot thrive in freedom unless it takes care to be healthy.

Arnold J Toynbee, a British historian, wrote a 12 volume work entitled, A Study of History. He said, “Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state that the United States is in now.”

Will Durant, an American historian, made this observation: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, or consuming wars.”

Lord McCauley, an English writer and historian made a similar observation of the fate of democracies. He said that the average age of the world’s greatest democratic nations has been 200 years, and that each has been through the following sequence:

“From bondage to spiritual faith, from faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to selfishness, from selfishness to apathy, from apathy to dependency, and from dependency back again into bondage.”

Of all the freedoms that we hunger for there are two that are paramount.

THE HUNGER FOR POLITICAL FREEDOM

Those of us who live in the glorious freedom of America have never known the government oppression that so many of earth’s people have experienced. The background of the Scripture passage that we read from Isaiah 55 is a desire for the same political freedom. When Isaiah began his prophetic ministry, it was a time of peace and prosperity. But the international situation became threatening as Assyria became a superpower and conquered the Northern Kingdom which was comprised of 10 of the 12 tribes. They were conquered in 722 BC. The Southern Kingdom, of which Jerusalem was the capital, almost fell in 701 BC. God revealed to Isaiah that Judah, because they turned away from God, would be taken into Babylonian captivity. Our Scripture passage for today looks beyond those 70 years to the time of their return to their homeland. We do not know for sure, but there is a Jewish tradition that Isaiah was martyred by King Manasseh. We can imagine the hunger that the Jewish people had to be in their homeland again.

Isaiah’s message to Israel from God was: “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.” (Isaiah 55:3).

There is a modern-day story of the same hunger to escape governmental oppression and to find an answer to the innate hunger for freedom.

“In the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, there's a special display for a rickety, home-made aluminum kayak. This tiny, makeshift boat seems oddly out of place in the midst of displays for impressive Navy vessels and artifacts from significant battles on the sea. But a bronze plaque tells museum visitors the story behind this kayak's heroic makers.

In 1966, an auto mechanic named Laureano and his wife Consuelo, decided that they could no longer live under the oppression of Cuba's totalitarian regime. After spending months collecting scrap metal, they pieced together a boat just barely big enough for two small people. Then, Laureano jury-rigged a small lawn mower engine on the back of the kayak.

After months of planning, on a moonless September night, sitting back to back and wearing only their swimming suits, they set out in the treacherous Straits of Florida. They had only enough water and food for a couple of days. Finally, after they had floated in open water for over 70 hours, the U.S. Coast Guard found and rescued the couple just south of Alligator Reef Light in the Florida Keys.

Was it worth the risk to find freedom? Laureano thought so. Years later, he said,

‘When one has grown up in liberty, [you] realize it is important to have [freedom]. We lived in the enormous prison which is Cuba, where one's life is not worth one crumb. Where one goes out into the street and does not know whether or not one will return to one's home, because the political police can arrest you without any warning and put you in prison. Before this could happen to us, we thought that going into the ocean, and risking death or being eaten by sharks, is a million times better than to stay suffering under [political oppression].’” (Source: Matt Woodley, Preaching Today).

Have you heard the message of the Washington Monument?  “Every day when the sun rises over Washington DC, its first rays fall on the eastern side of the city’s tallest structure, the 555-foot Washington Monument. The first part of that monument to reflect the rising sun is the eastern side of its aluminum capstone, where these words are inscribed: Laus Deo, Latin for “Praise be to God.” This compact prayer of praise, visible to the eyes of heaven alone, is tacit recognition of our nation’s unique acknowledgment of the place of God in its founding and its continuance. (Source: What in the World Is Going On? David Jeremiah)

THE HUNGER FOR SPIRITUAL FREEDOM

We all want to be free from something. What is it that you hunger to be free from? Personal bondage involves unresolved conflicts from the past, addictions of the mind and body, secret sins, habits that are unhealthy, and low self-esteem.

We all have such a place in our spirit that wants to be totally free.. We are spiritual beings created with a capacity to know God. We are spirit – which is that part of us that hungers to know God; we are soul – which is made up of the mind the emotions and the whale; we are body – which is made up of the five senses. It is at the highest level of our being that we hunger to know spiritual freedom. Some people do not find God because they limit Him to only what their minds can comprehend. As great as your mind may be, it takes more than your mind to know God. As tender as your emotions may be, it takes more than your emotions to know God. As vital as your will is, you cannot know God simply by an act of your will. Our five senses equip us to live in this world, but it is our spirit that reaches to the great unseen spiritual world that touches God.

I believe that there is a strong emphasis on spirituality in our country today. Unbelievers are hungering for spiritual reality and many are searching in the wrong places – such as the New Age philosophies. You often hear someone say, “I am a spiritual person.” But that does not mean that they are Christians or that they even know God. It means that they are searching for something to fill that part of their being that only God can fill. If you try to satiate that hunger with anything else, it will not satisfy. Far as Augustine said, “God made us for Himself, and we cannot be at peace until we are at peace with Him.”

Also, there is more hunger for God, on behalf of Christians, than I have ever seen before. Church members are tired of playing church and hunger for God in their personal and family lives. There is an overpowering mood in the country that we are moving toward some great event. Because of all of this we could be on the threshold of the greatest spiritual awakening since Pentecost.

The text in Isaiah 55 is an appeal of God to Israel to return to Him. They had lost their way. They had drifted away from God and gone after the pagan gods of the surrounding cultures. Although these religions satisfied on a physical level, they could not satisfy on the spiritual level. God speaks to their thirsts and hungers and invites them to return to Him. He is offering the same invitation to America today. We realize that in our 244th year that we have gone away from God and that if we continue on this path, we will experience the removal of God’s favor on our people.

God’s invitation is addressed to our spiritual hungers. “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 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 delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55: 1-2).

Money can do just so much for us. It can feed us, clothe us, house us, entertain us, make life easy for us, but it can never bring us to a realization of the needs of our hearts. It can never give us spiritual wholeness. It can never remove our sin and give us abundant and eternal life. God has created us for a different currency. The high cost of what we want most cannot be paid with dollars and cents. He has already paid for our wholeness and health and invites us to the waters of grace for a long, life giving drink.

Speaker Mike Benson tells how one night, as his family was finishing dinner, his eight-year-old daughter left six green beans on her plate. She normally ate her veggies, and Mike did not usually allow this sort of thing to bother him, but this night he was irked and said to her, "Eat your green beans."

She replied, "Dad, I'm full to the top."

"You won't pop," he responded.

"Yes, I will pop!" she said.

"Risk it!" he said. "It will be okay."

"Dad, I could not eat another bite."

Mike knew that night they were having her favorite dessert, pumpkin pie squares. So he asked, "How would you like a double helping of pumpkin pie squares with two dollops of whipped cream on top?"

"That sounds great!" she responded as she pushed her plate back, ready for dessert.

"How can you have room for a double helping of pumpkin pie squares with two dollops of whipped cream, and not have room for six measly green beans?"

She stood up tall out of her chair and pointing to her belly said, "This is my vegetable stomach. This is my meat stomach. They are both full. Here is my dessert stomach. It is empty. I am ready for dessert!"

What we eat reveals what we hunger for.” (Phillip Gunter)

Isaiah said to the people: “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; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have compassion on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

The thirst in your soul and the hunger in your heart is put there by God to draw you to Himself. Long before you knew it, he was bringing about circumstances to bring you to Himself. That is why you must turn to Him when He is speaking to you because that is when He may be found. At this moment, the Holy Spirit may be warming your heart with a hunger for God. It is now that you must turn to Him because now He can be found. Later, on your own schedule, the Holy Spirit may have been quenched too much. You must turn to Him and call upon Him while he can be found.

He can be found now to meet the needs of your heart!

PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!