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Sermon 3/20/05 – The Brass Ring
Isaiah 55:2

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The Brass Ring

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2)

When I was a boy, we moved from Portland, Maine, to Long Beach, California, USA, a distance of several thousand miles.  In Long Beach, we often visited the “Pike,” a fun zone at the beach.  We rode the merry-go-round, which had an upright hollow tube next to the “horses.”  The horses went up-and-down within the merry-go-round, but the tube remained stationary at the side.  The upright pipe or tube contained metal rings and you were expected to grab one if you could.  All of the rings were about the size of a human ear, but round, and most were metal colored, though a few of them were brass.

Not many people got one of the brass rings.  A couple of times, I managed to snag one of the metal-colored ones, but the few that were brass always eluded me.  It’s interesting that NONE of the rings had any real value, no matter WHAT their color, which says something true about life.  We exhaust ourselves, going after situations and things that often have no real value at all, like that brass ring, except they are somewhat rare and others want them, and therefore – we WANT them, too!

In many parts of the world, today is considered to be “Palm Sunday,” commemorating the time, 2000 years ago, when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by a “great multitude” of people (Matthew 21:1-11).  They “cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road” in front of Him (verse 8).  They shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (verse 9).  But soon, everyone was denying Him.  Just a few days later, even those in His own inner circle were uttering words such as, “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:72).

Jesus’ disciples had been caught up in the excitement of His entry into Jerusalem.  It was thought that His mission would be to throw off the hated yoke of the Roman Empire and at last bring FREEDOM to Israel.  The people, the leaders of the Jews, even Jesus’ own disciples, were hoping for the “brass ring” for themselves, their families and their nation, not understanding that Jesus has something much more in mind than just personal comfort and short term goals.  Yes, He wants our circumstances to be positive, but much more He wants to change us inside where it counts – forever!

Seeing this attitude in humanity – that we have a strong tendency to mistake popularity for substance and “brass rings” for something of real value, God asked this question through the prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2).  It is incredible that often a man or woman in outwardly poor circumstances will buy alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs instead of food needed for the family.  Newspaper headlines in Europe recently spoke of a large group of parents in France who are being prosecuted because they apparently prostituted their little children, even babies, in exchange for items as small and insignificant as a carton of cigarettes!

Incredible!  But if you and I honestly look back on our lives and then look anew at the disciples of Jesus, you’ll see embarrassing instances of superficiality that make you blush, and you wonder: “How could I have done that?”  Am I any better?  Actually all humanity is desperately in need of God, and we are not unlike those who choose alcohol over food.

Isaiah the prophet called out to a people that did not trust in God or reach out to help others, but instead they wasted what they had on the whim of the moment.  Your “wages,” your income is God’s gift, no matter how hard you may think you have worked to earn what you have.  It’s time to “LISTEN diligently” to God and “eat” what is good for you in your heart where it counts – He intends to give you the REAL “soul” food, His Holy Spirit, who will cause you to understand “abundance” for the first time.

They didn’t appreciate what Jesus was talking about when He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48).  We typically don’t understand when He offers us “living water” (John 4:10).  Those in the Early Church were often accused of being “cannibals” by outsiders because of the Lord’s Supper, where the pastor would intone words like, “Jesus said, ‘This is My body…’” and many today have even less comprehension than they did.

When you attend a “traditional” church service involving communion, take a look at what’s happening.  The supplicant will go forward and receive a small piece of bread from the one officiating at the service, followed by a sip of wine.  At a Passover Seder, all present eat a whole meal, but the message is the same: We need to receive the Messiah, Y'shua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God – INSIDE ourselves; because we have cancer of the soul.  It’s called “sin” and only HE who is holy can heal us!  Just as Jesus said to the religious man in John 3:3, we need to be “born again,” which He defined as being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6).  You need HIM, deep in your heart and life.

Let’s suppose you “catch” the current “brass ring” of life – the lottery!  Unexpectedly, you can “buy” pretty much anything or anyone you want.  You think you don’t need to be afraid any longer.  You don’t live in that little apartment anymore, but instead have a roomy home with a view and a swimming pool.  Your bills are paid.  What then?

Years ago, the world watched the amazing and talented Howard Hughes unravel right before our eyes.  He invented things and flew airplanes, dated movie stars and made lots of money.  He seemed remarkable, but suddenly the world saw him as a frightened little old man, with long fingernails, longer hair, afraid of germs, living in a confined place of his own choosing, and then – he was dead!  He had (and has) literally nothing at all!

History is FULL of people who had much and then lost it.  God invented the aging process and death for just that reason – so we would see our need of HIM!  So we would see that it is illogical to buy “what is not bread” when we can have the “Bread of Life” – forever!

Father, we have been trying to get the “brass ring” all our lives, when we should have had faith in You.  Fill us, Bread of Life.  We receive You now.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
The First Church On The Net
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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