Isaiah 55 – An Invitation to Receive the Glory of the Lord’s Restoration
A. An invitation to receive blessing.
1. (1-2) An invitation to be richly fed.
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.
a. Ho! The prophet calls out, loud and clear, to all that can hear. This is an important announcement, and is therefore prefaced with this unique call.
i. “Ho! – this is the gospel note; a short, significant appeal, urging you to be wise enough to attend to your own interests. Oh, the condescension of God! That he should, as it were, become a beggar to his own creature, and stoop from the magnificence of his glory to cry, ‘Ho!’ to foolish and ungrateful men!” (Spurgeon)
b. Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters: It is an invitation to everyone – but everyone who thirsts. Only those who thirst will come to the waters. If we aren’t thirsty for what the Lord can give us, then we will never come to His waters.
i. Jesus may have had this passage from Isaiah in mind when He cried out, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. (John 7:37)
c. You who have no money, come, buy, and eat: Those who do thirst, and answer the Lord’s invitation, don’t need to bring money. Their money won’t really do them any good. They can simply bring their trust and faith and receive what God has to give them.
d. Water . . . wine . . . milk: It’s all free. It isn’t that the entrance into the Christian life is free, and then we must be charged to advance in the Christian life. It’s all free; our growth is just as much a gift of grace as our salvation.
i. “You are not permitted to drink freely of water, and then to purchase wine. You are not invited to come and eat freely that which is good, and then to spend your labor for that which is fat. No, the richest dainties of God’s house are as free as the bread he gives to hungry souls.” (Spurgeon)
e. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? In His invitation, God asks His people to ask themselves – “Why do I spend money for what can’t satisfy?” This is a remarkably relevant question, in light of all the things we can pour our time and money and effort into – things which will never satisfy they way the Lord can satisfy.
f. Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance: The invitation is clear. The offer is made, the provision is made, and everything is available – but we must still do some things.
i. First, we must listen diligently. The satisfaction God promises doesn’t come to those who don’t listen, and listen diligently. It takes time, attention, and effort to listen diligently, and some aren’t willing do this.
ii. Second, we must eat what is good. This requires some discernment. We must choose what is good, and then eat that. Many just simply eat whatever spiritual meal is set before them, without taking care to see that it is good.
iii. Third, we must let your soul delight itself in abundance. Even when we listen, even when we eat what is good, we still must let our soul delight itself in abundance. You can sit down at a great spiritual meal, but by your stubborn or bad attitude, simply notlet your soul delight itself in abundance.
2. (3-5) An invitation to be wonderfully led.
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.
a. Incline your ear: The thought carries over from the idea of let your soul delight itself in abundance. Whoever will genuinely “feast” off of the Word must consciously incline their ear towards what God will say. This explains why two people can listen to the same message, and one benefit and the other not. Often, the one who did not benefit simply did not incline their ear to the Lord.
b. Hear, and your soul shall live: The benefit from inclining your ear to God is impressive. When we do it, we have life for our soul.
c. And I will make an everlasting covenant with you – the sure mercies of David: For the one who will listen to the Lord, God promises a covenant. From Isaiah’s perspective, this covenant is still in the future (I will make). The covenant is also characterized by the sure mercies of David.
i. God showed His great mercy to David; not only by sparing David’s life when he was guilty of murder and adultery, but also in blessings and preserving and guiding David every day of his life. If God promises us the same mercy He showed to David, we are blessed indeed.
ii. As well, the mercies of David are sure. They are certain. God never gave up on David, never stopped showing him mercy. We can count on God when He promises to us the sure mercies of David.
d. I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and a commander for the people: God promises the blessing of good and wise leadership as a part of His sure mercies. God gave David and his remarkable leadership as a gift to Israel; here God promises that He will keep giving this gift according to the pattern shown in David.
i. David was a witness in the sense that he had a real relationship, a real experience with God, and could speak to Israel as a witness of what he had seen and heard in that relationship with God. Notice that David was a witness to the people. A witness to, not of the people. David did not lead through popularity polls or just giving the people what they wanted. He witnessed something from God, and he gave testimony of it to the people.
ii. David was a leader for Israel, leading them spiritually, politically, and militarily. He led both by his godly example and his shepherd’s heart. Notice that David was a leader and a commander for the people. Not a leader and a commander of the people, but for the people. He led with a shepherd’s heart that genuinely desired God’s best for the people.
iii. It’s curious that David is used here as God’s prototype for a leader. Curious in many ways, because David’s reign can be seen as quite troubled. He came to the throne of Israel through much struggle and difficulty. He slipped into terrible scandal, marked by murder and adultery. There was incest, rape, and murder among his own children. And his reign was marred by an ugly civil war, in which his own son almost deposed him. Yet David is here lifted up as a wonderful leader of God’s people! This shows that David’s heart after God meant more than outward success, comfort, and ease. It also shows that God’s best and most effective don’t necessarily have it easy.
iv. David was a commander for Israel. Even with his tender shepherd’s heart, his leadership was bold and out-front. Because he had a sense of the heart of God, being a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), he could boldly lead God’s people.
v. These prophecies are fulfilled spiritually when God gives wonderful, David-like leadership to His people. They will be fulfilled ultimately when David – literal King David in his resurrection body – reigns over Israel in the millennium, the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ over this earth. Of that time, Jeremiah 30:9 says, But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. In Ezekiel 34:23-25 the Lord promises, I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them; My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. We have indications that as God’s people rule with Jesus over the millennial earth, people will be entrusted with geographical regions according to their faithfulness (Luke 19:12-19). It seems that David’s glorious portion will be to rule over Israel.
e. Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you: Is this addressed to Israel, or to David, as the leader and commander of God’s people? Possibly both. Certainly, its ultimate fulfillment is in the millennium, when the nations will flock to Israel (Isaiah 60:5, 60:9).
f. Because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you: Why do the nations flock to David and/or Israel? Because the Lord has lifted them up, in accordance with His blessings of restoration.
3. (6-7) An invitation to be forgiven.
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.
a. Seek the Lord while He may be found: The prophet impresses a sense of urgency on God’s people. “This is the time. God can be found now. Seek Him now.” It isn’t that God is hidden, and can only be found now. It is that He can only be found when our hearts are inclined to look for Him, and that inclination itself is a gift from God! We must receive the gift, and make the most of it while we have it. Not seeking, and failing to call upon Him while He is near, means we will not receive the blessings He promises.
b. Let the wicked forsake his way: The prophet impresses the need for repentance among God’s people. Repentance is simply turning around our way – turning from our own way, turning unto God’s way. Simply, this is what it means to return to the Lord, and we can never walk on God’s way until we forsake our own way. The Lord’s glorious restoration works in and through our repentance.
i. Isaiah makes an important point when he says, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Wickedness may be demonstrated by our actions (our way); but unrighteousness can be found in our very thoughts. The battleground for a righteous walk with the Lord is often found in our minds, in our thoughts. Paul knew this also when he wrote of bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and how we must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
c. And He will have mercy on him: What a glorious promise! When we turn to the Lord, He will have mercy on us! In fact, He will abundantly pardon! The problem is never that we turn to the Lord and find that He rejects us. The problem is that we fail to return to the Lord!
B. The glorious ways of the Lord.
1. (8-9) A reminder of the difference and distance between God and man.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
a. For My thoughts are not your thoughts: God doesn’t think the way we do. We get into a lot of trouble when we expect that He should think as we do. Because we are made in the image of God, we can relate to God’s thoughts, but we cannot master them.
b. Nor are your ways My ways: God doesn’t act the way we do. He does things His way, and His ways are often not our ways. We get into a lot of trouble when we expect that God should act the way we do.
c. How far is the distance between God’s thoughts and ours? How far is the distance between His ways and ours? The distance is a great as the heavens are higher than the earth.
i. Gloriously, in Jesus Christ, heaven has come down to earth, and we can have our thoughts and ways transformed to be more like God’s thoughts and ways. This is what it means to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). The distance will never be closed; God will always be God, and we will always be human. But when our salvation is complete, and we are united with the Lord in glory, the distance will be as close as is possible.
ii. The difference and distance between God and man is revealed, not to discourage us from seeking Him, but to keep us humble as we seek. “You may conclude that it is not intended that you should understand the infinite, for you are told that his thoughts and ways are far above you; but you are required to seek him while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.” (Spurgeon)
2. (10-11) The glorious operation of the Word of God.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
a. For as the rain comes down: Using the figure of the water cycle, the Lord illustrates the essential principle that His word shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please. Rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return before serving their purpose on earth (they water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud). The rain and snow eventually do return to heaven, but not before accomplishing their purpose on earth. Even so, God’s Word, when He sends it down from heaven, does not return to Him void. Instead, it always fulfills His purpose on earth.
i. This means that God is not just “all talk.” When He talks, His words accomplish His intended purpose. The word of the Lord has power, and it never fails in His intended purpose.
b. Make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: The use of these pictures to illustrate the operation of God’s Word shows that God’s Word brings forth fruit. It also shows that the fruit has many different applications. The same grain that gives seed to the sower also gives bread to the eater.
c. It shall accomplish what I please: God’s Word has something to accomplish. God doesn’t just speak to hear Himself talk. His Word is not empty, or lacking in power. This also means that God’s Word has a purpose. He didn’t speak in unfathomable mysteries just to blow our minds, or confuse us, or leave things up to any possible interpretation. When God speaks, He speaks to accomplish a purpose.
d. It shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it: God’s Word doesn’t “barely” get the job done. It shall prosper in the purpose God has for it. It is rich and full of life. God’s Word always succeeds, and always fulfills God’s purpose.
i. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter how God’s Word is presented. Sometimes a terrible sermon has been excused by saying, “God’s Word doesn’t return void.” The principle is clear and true from this passage of Isaiah, but by the preacher’s poor preparation or preaching, there has been little of God’s Word put forth. The preacher can ignore, dilute, or obscure God’s Word so that little goes forth. When little goes forth, that little will succeed – but how much better if more of the whole counsel of God went forth to succeed!
3. (12-13) The joy and blessing of restoration.
For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
a. For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace: When God’s people turn to Him, listen to Him, and His Word does His work in them, joy and peace are always the result. The joy is so great, that even the mountains and the hills, and the trees of the field join in!
b. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree: Where before there was barrenness and reminders of the curse (the thorn), now there will be beautiful and useful trees. The picture is clear; in His glorious work of restoration, God takes away the barren and the cursed, and brings forth beauty and fruit.
c. It shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off: When the Lord restores, all the work is done for His name, and for His glory. When the Lord restores, the work is secure; it is an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
© 2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission