Live Now … and Forever

Biblical Truth: When God gives a person an opportunity to lead, He also encourages and empowers the person to lead.

God’s Offer: Receive Life to the Max: Isaiah 55:1-5.

[1] "Ho! Every one 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. [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. [5] Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, and a nation which knows you not will run to you, because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you."  [NASU]

[1]  The blessings the servant has obtained for his people have been set forth abundantly [chapter 54], and now the invitation is extended to all that are in need to come and to partake of the salvation the Lord offers. The prophet is an evangelist with a concern for the souls of men and a realization of their desperate condition without the blessings that the servant has obtained. Those addressed are described by a figure taken from everyday life. In Oriental countries where water is scarce, water is sold by a vendor, who calls out attracting attention to his ware. It is not physical water, however, of which Isaiah speaks; but like milk and wine, water is a figure of spiritual blessing, the water in particular signifying the spiritual refreshment that is offered. Not only is the one addressed thirsty, but he is also unable to satisfy that thirst [you who have no money]. In theological language we may say that he is totally depraved and totally unable to remove that depravity. Five imperatives follow: come, buy and eat, come, buy. The first implies that the needy one is not at the place of relief and must come to that place. The word for buy is used in particular of the purchase of food. But how can one buy without money? The language is evidently designed to point out that the water, wine, and milk are obtained not by human purchase but by divine grace, the free gifts of God. Indeed, there was a price paid that man might have water, wine, and milk; and that price consisted in the fact that the chastisement of our sin was upon the Servant of the Lord. As a result of that transaction one may eat and his soul will be filled. For the third time the imperative come is employed, and again emphasis falls upon the fact that the purchase is without money and without cost. As water signified the refreshment offered, so wine points to exhilaration and enjoyment, and milk to nourishment. This verse is equivalent to the divine imperative of the Gospel message, whereby men who are lost are commanded to come to Christ and in Him to find the blessings that they so desperately need and that He alone can give. But how can the lost find their way to come? And how can the thirsty buy and eat when they have no money? The emphasis is on God’s grace supplying what man cannot.

[2] By means of a question God through the prophet causes men to see the vanity of rejecting the free gift of salvation and seeking to labor to obtain it by their own efforts. In seeking to purchase bread they are deceived, for what they obtain is not bread. Those addressed are not simply seeking to obtain the necessities of life; rather their entire endeavor is to procure the fullness of life that cannot be obtained by the efforts of sinful men. Those addressed are weighing out what they have earned by toil for things that bring no satisfaction. Listen carefully to Me. Until now the people had been listening to everyone but the Lord. To listen to God, however, means to shut out all other voices and to listen in obedience. If the people listened and also ate what is good, then they might delight in abundance. The good in contrast to not bread signifies what is genuinely good. So the problem is that the people are spending their money and their wages on that which is not good; that which does not satisfy or bring delight to one’s heart.

[3]  In slightly different language Isaiah repeats the thoughts of the preceding verse. To incline the ears is to set them so that they hear only what is being spoken by the One who utters the command. There are three commands [incline, come, listen] followed by the result of obedience [that you may live]. In the concluding half of the verse the Lord announces His gracious intention to make a covenant. Note the divine initiative: it is God who approaches man in covenant. The covenant is an everlasting one, and hence is unlike that made at Sinai. Hesed [faithful mercies] designates the steadfast faithfulness that should characterize those who belong to the covenant. In the present context, which reflects upon 2 Samuel 7, the word calls attention to the faithfulness of God in giving the promises to David. These mercies are sure and constant, never failing.

[4]  The fundamental exegetical question in this verse concerns the identity of him. Behold usually refers to the future so the him does not appear to refer backwards to David. Perhaps the answer is suggested by the phrase in verse 3, the faithful mercies shown to David. These are the mercies that were promised to David, namely that his seed should ever be upon his throne. In Acts 13:34, the phrase is directly applied to Christ [compare Luke 1:32-33]. Thus the him appears to refer to the seed of David, the Messiah. In the following verse it is the seed of David who acts and calls the unknown heathen into his kingdom. Emphasis falls upon the position of the one whom God appoints. He is a witness, not in the sense of a witness in court, but as one who through his life and words proclaims the truth to the peoples. He will be a witness both against sinners [Mal. 3:5] and on behalf of the truth [John 18:37]. To the nations the truth was not known as it was to Israel, and hence it is to them that the Messiah is a witness. Two other functions are also mentioned: the Messiah is to be a leader and commander.

[5]  As in verse 4, the introductory behold points to the future. The reference is not to the nation Israel alone, but to the seed of David of the preceding verse. To call here signifies to call effectively, to bring by a call into the kingdom. The Messiah is addressed, and his work is to call a nation he does not know so that that nation becomes his people, brought into the household of faith. The expression you do not know does not mean that the Messiah was unaware of the existence of this nation, but that he had not previously known it as his own. Herein lies the wonder of the work. Not only does the seed of David redeem his people whom he had known and over whom he rules on David’s throne, but he also calls unknown nations to himself as members of his worldwide kingdom and rules over them. The verb run indicates the efficacy of the call. When unknown nations hear this call from David’s seed, they come in all haste to him [run to you]. The concluding section of the verse gives the reason for these actions: for the glory of the Messiah. The Lord is the God of the Messiah, who abides with him throughout his entire ministry of reconciliation. He is also the Holy One of Israel, who is now to include others in his kingdom of righteousness. He has glorified the Messiah. This God has done in making the Son of David the King over this eternal kingdom of blessing in which both Jews and Gentiles are included.

God’s Invitation: Turn Now and Be Forgiven: Isaiah 55:6-7.

[6] Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. [7] 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.   [NASU]

[6]  After the glorious declarations of salvation just uttered, the prophet commands all men to seek the Lord. There is no reason to restrict this invitation to one particular period in Jewish history nor to the Jews generally. Rather, it would seem, in the light of the fact that the Gentiles are to be included in the household of faith [4,5], that the invitation is universal, addressed to all who are wicked and men of iniquity. Seek is not to be restricted to sacrifice nor even to prayer, nor to a combination of both. The basic meaning is “to tread”, and the action of seeking is probably the stepping to God, or simply the coming to Him. This is to take place, however, when God permits Himself to be found. Sovereign grace is apparent in these words. God cannot be found at any time but only when He desires to be found. What is implied is that the present, when these commands are given, is the time of salvation. The thought is similar to that expressed in 2 Corinthians 6:2 and John 12:35. Parallel to seek is call upon Him. The two expressions together signify the repentance of faith and obedience. They involve an abandonment of the old way of life, the way of the wicked and the man of iniquity, and a whole-souled turning to the true God in humble repentance. And this must be done while He is near. The expression does not suggest that He is a local God who can move about from place to place at will, but rather is a forceful way of stating – similar to the parallel while He may be found – that now is the day of salvation. The implication is that there will come a time when the Lord will not be found nor be near.

[7]  The command to repentance continues. Whereas verse 6 was positive, here the commands are negative. Thus the command is full, demanding not merely a turning away from what was evil but a turning to God and a wholehearted embracing of His promises of salvation. The wicked man is the one who is guilty of sin against God, and his way is the evil course of life which he follows and upon which he walks. He is to abandon this, no longer walking upon it, but instead is to turn unto the Lord. Likewise, the unrighteous man is to abandon the thoughts, i.e. the evil designs and purposes that fill his heart. God is not addressing two classes of people; but the terms wicked and unrighteous are practical synonyms, and the command demands a complete abandonment of all evil, both of outward life and disposition and of the heart within. For if one abandons overt ways that are evil and yet regards iniquity in the heart, he has not truly repented, nor fulfilled the requirements of this verse. Having forsaken these evil ways, the unrighteous man is to return to the Lord. The verb implies that he has once been with the Lord but has departed from Him to walk upon a way of evil and to abandon himself to designs of wickedness. Hence the force of the verb, return, must be noted. And He will have compassion on him is probably to be understood as a consequent of let him return. The thought is not that one must first return in order that God may show mercy, for the very act of returning is a manifestation of the mercy of the Lord. Rather, man is to return, and having returned will discover that God has shown mercy. The suffix our reminds the hearers that Yahweh is their own God, who stands in covenant relationship to them. Even the nation which knows you not would derive comfort and assurance from the tenderness this term expresses. The compassion offered is not given in meager fashion, but God is said to abundantly pardon. In his pardon there is abundance of mercy shown, for where sin increased, grace abounded all the more [Romans 5:20].

God’s Guarantee: His Promises Won’t Fail: Isaiah 55:8-13.

[8] "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares 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. [10] For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; [11] so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. [12] For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. [13] Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to the LORD, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off."  [NASU]

[8]  The purpose of this verse is to state that God possesses thoughts (purposes and designs) and ways, and that these are not to be identified with those of man. The emphatic negative before your thoughts and your ways constitutes a full and complete denial of any identity. Emphasis is given to the statement by the concluding declares the Lord.

[9]  In what respect are God’s thoughts and ways not to be identified with those of man? The present verse answers that question. God’s ways and thoughts, unlike those of the wicked, are righteous; and for that reason the wicked must abandon his own ways and thoughts. God’s mercy and grace are such also as could never have entered the heart of the wicked man apart from special revelation, hence the wicked is to leave his own thoughts. God’s ways and thoughts are sovereignly efficacious, in that they accomplish all that they are designed to accomplish. Such thoughts, however, in contrast to those of wicked men, are as high above mankind as the heavens above the earth. Emphasis falls upon the concept of height, and the position of the verb at the beginning of each clause (in the original language) is striking. The implication is that just as the heavens are so high above the earth that by human standards their height cannot be measured, so also are God’s ways and thoughts so above those of man that they cannot be grasped by man in their fullness. In other words, the ways and thoughts of God are incomprehensible to man. Even though God reveals them to man, he cannot fully understand them; to him they are incomprehensible. It is for this reason that God’s ways are not to be identified with man’s ways.

[10]  The mention of heaven and earth suggests another comparison, which the present verse introduces. The emphasis falls not so much upon the return of the elements as upon their being sent forth and accomplishing the purpose for which they were sent. The subject is the rain and snow. Instead of returning to heaven without having accomplished their intended purposes, they fulfill the purpose for which God sends them. In the rain and snow, falling from heaven, we see the power of God bringing to completion His purposes in nature.

[11]  The introductory So refers to what has just been stated. The word is whatever proceeds from the mouth of God, and does not refer merely to some specific prophecy or utterance. The thought is the same as in 2 Timothy 3:16, in which the Scriptures are said to be God-breathed. The reference is to propositional revelation, and the origin of this propositional revelation is in God Himself. The word originates in the mind of God, goes out from His mouth, and comes to man either in spoken or written form through the divinely appointed media of revelation. There is no magical power in this word. The reason why it unfailingly accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent forth is that it is divine. It is the very expression of the truth itself and hence cannot fail. The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart [Heb. 4:12]. The word does not return to God in vain, but rather accomplishes what He has desired and succeeds in that for which He has sent it. What is stressed is the utter efficaciousness of God’s word to accomplish the purpose for which He has sent it forth.

[12]  Emphasis in this verse falls upon the two nouns joy and peace which describe the manner in which the people will go forth. Joy or rejoicing points out that there will be an absence of fear and a rejoicing in the fact that deliverance has come. Peace here sets forth the condition of being undisturbed by enemies as well as a full trust, confidence, and satisfaction in the One who leads the people along. The two verbs are striking. You will go out perhaps has its roots in a reflection upon the exodus from Egypt and signifies the departure of God’s people from the bondage of sin in which they had been held captive. The second verb, be led forth, may possibly reflect upon a processional march [cf. Psalm 45:13-15]. The verb is festive. It contributes its share to indicating that the exodus is a glorious one. Not only will there be no obstacles in the way, but the very mountains and hills, which normally are obstacles to be crossed, themselves break out into a ringing cry of joy and thus participate in the glory of the return of God’s people, for redemption is the redemption of all creation.

[13]  The glorious condition is further described by a change in nature herself. Noble trees take the place of useless and offensive plants. The verb, will come up, hints at rapid growth. The subject of it will be is the glorious change itself. The prophet is stating that the change will exist for the glory of its author. It will be a memorial in that it will ever call to mind and exalt the Name of its author. It will be also an everlasting sign, which will ever testify that God is the Redeemer. The eternity is stressed by the statement that the sign will not be cut off, i.e. destroyed. Thus the memorial to the Lord is the redemption of the creation. It will bear witness to His greatness. For He has redeemed His people, brought them out of the servitude and bondage of sin unto Himself, established them in the heavenly life, and brought about a new heaven and a new earth.

Questions for Discussion:

1.    Compare the food and drink in 55:1-2 with what Jesus offers in John 4:13-14; 6:35,51,53-58; 7:37-39. How can you avail yourself of these offers?

2.    Why would someone turn down what the Lord offers in 55:1-7, in exchange for things that don’t satisfy? Look around you at the many people who are doing that very thing today. What do you see in the Isaiah passage and the verses from John’s gospel listed in question one that indicates why this happens and what is necessary for people’s eyes to be opened so they can see their foolishness?

3.    Reflect on the implications of 55:1-2 or 55:6-7 for your life. How could you seek, call on, come to, drink from, and eat from the Lord more fully this week?

4.    Consider the implications of 55:11 for the entire life of your church: worship, education, evangelism, service, fellowship, etc. If the power to succeed is in God’s Word, what does this say about where our focus should be; about the means that we should be using?


Isaiah, Edward Young, Eerdmans.

Commentary on Isaiah, Joseph Alexander, Kregel.

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