THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
God’s Exhortation to Receive His Grace
Isaiah 55 SCC 1/5/14
Because God’s Word is sure, people can receive abundant blessings by trusting His marvelous plan to fulfill the covenant promises. Can you believe this word regardless of your circumstances?
HERE IS A CALL TO FREELY RECEIVE GOD’S GRACIOUS PROVISION OF BLESSING 1-2
Verse 1: use figures of speech to describe the blessings of God: thirsty, water, money, buy, wine, milk, without cost. What the passage is saying is that God will provide for all their needs, physical to be sure, but more importantly spiritual since it is redemption and restoration to service life in Jerusalem the holy city. And that provision will be freely given to those who respond by faith.
Verse 2: The main thrust is the call—the imperative Come, listen to me. This is a call for them to respond by faith, a faith that will leave bondage and return to the land once again to be the people of God. There they will find spiritual blessings. To do this they must come to trust in the loyal love of the Lord, believing that God will not only deliver them from Babylon (where they were separated from their God’s shrine) but would truly supply all their needs.
HERE IS THE PROMISE OF THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S COVENANT PROGRAM 3-4
Verse 3: stresses the call for a response by faith: give ear, come to me, and hear me—that your soul may live. The explanation that follows is that the covenant promise is based on God’s unfailing covenant kindness with David. No matter what the appearance of circumstances—exile, death of kings, oppression, delay—the covenant promises made to David would be fulfilled, especially in the direction God’s plan was now taking in the New Covenant in Christ. The death of Jesus posed no problem to this everlasting covenant with David; He simply said, destroy this temple (body) and in three days I will raise it up. No one could have imagined these ways of God in fulfilling the promises that He made to the patriarchs and the kings. He is not bound by time and events. Those promises were: an eternal kingdom, an eternal king, universal peace and righteousness, abundant prosperity, justice and equity throughout the world.
Verse 4: David was a witness to the covenant in that God began to fulfill His plan through him; Israel will also be a testimony to God’s promises as they return to Palestine and become a people again.
HERE PEOPLE OF NATIONS WILL BE ATTRACTED TO THE FAITH 5
Verse 5: they would summon people to them because of the work of the Lord. Nations refers to people in the nations, not nations en masse entering the covenant. Because the Lord will furnish with splendor people will see God’s gracious dealings and run to Him. But note the emphasis of the passage: Israel will summon them. Israel always was to be a kingdom of priests, a light to the nations, a channel of blessings. Here, however, he is saying that this group will have a fresh appreciation for the grace of God and so will extend it to other nations.
HERE IS THE CALL TO REPENT, TURN TO FOLLOW GOD’S WAY WHILE YOU CAN 6-7
Verse 6: stress the urgency of the moment, a window of opportunity—they must not delay in responding to God’s call to return to the land and be the people of God. The commands here are for prayer: seek and call on Him. The time was right for the deliverance, it might not come again or again be as clear; they should therefore pray for deliverance. If they believed the Word of the Lord delivered through the prophet they would change their thinking and pray expectantly for the deliverance. The expression while He is near is meant to convey that God was about to act on their behalf.
Verse 7: The wicked/evil are those in Israel who judge the Lord by the standards of their experience and mistrust Him. It would then be a rebuke of very weak faith among those who professed to be part of the covenant people. It is a call for the people to change their weak faith to confidence. People should abandon their thoughts (pessimism, skepticism, weak faith—which are evil) and their ways (resigned to exile, disobedience to covenant—which are wicked). Not only abandon, but also repent! Such thoughts and ways are sinful—but God will forgive their foolish unbelief. But their repentance must issue into faith; they must act in faith on God’s thoughts and ways—put faith into action.
HERE IS THE EXPLANATION OF THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE NATURE OF GOD 8-11
Verse 8: The thoughts and the ways of the Lord refer primarily to the Lord’s plans for the restoration of Israel in fulfillment of the covenant. Of course, the words fit any of the Lord’s plans, because they are beyond what we could ever think to ask. The people were in captivity; many of them had concluded that all was lost, that there was no future to the promise that perhaps the gods of Babylon were powerful enemies after all. They made the mistake (as we often do) of judging God’s plan and God’s word by the standard of their immediate circumstances. This section rebukes that tunnel vision and calls for them to believe the word, seize the moment, and thereby discover that the promises are true.
Verse 9: Here the contrast is made clear: the heavens are higher than the earth; and since God is in heaven and we are on earth, His ways are higher. But by higher it means incomprehensible to us. There is an entire existence of which we have no knowledge; there is an eternal plan that we can hardly grasp, and there is a divine nature that our infinite minds cannot comprehend.
NB: We are always trying to limit God with our categories and our understanding. Just when we think we have figured God out or have determined how God should act, He does something far more marvelous. We are so slow to learn that the only thing we can do is trust what He says and praise what He does.
Verse 10: provides an earthy simile using the rain that comes down, waters the earth to produce the fruit, and returns to heaven having fulfilled its purpose. So is the Word of God. Not a Word from God will be wasted or ineffective. His Word is absolutely dependable.
Verse 11: At the center of this section is the affirmation that God’s Word does not return to Him empty or void. This means that what He says will be accomplished because His Word is the expression of His powerful will. No Word from God is vain, untrustworthy, or given to deceive; nothing God plans to do can be interrupted or set aside by humans.
NB: If Christians actually believed this, how different they would be living! Naturally, as with Israel, we would pray more earnestly for that which He has promised, and we would act more confidently, trusting in Him to do His work through us. Skepticism, pessimism, resignation, unbelief—these would be “taken captive” and banished from our minds, as God’s ways and thoughts become our ways and thoughts.
NB: The bottom line is: Get into God’s Word and live it out by faith.
HERE IS THE AFFIRMATION OF THE POWERFUL EFFECT OF GOD’S WORD 12-13
Verse 12: This is what God has in store for His people. The imagery also speaks of incredible splendor: things growing to such fullness that trees are hitting each other in the wind bursting into song and clap hands means be full in growth so that they hit each other. The hope also includes the prospects of the reversal of the curse, something that the book has mentioned before with the snake and the viper being rendered harmless. Here thorns and briers will be replaced.
Verse 13: The point is that all this will be done for the name of the Lord. In other words, because God has spoken, His reputation is at stake. He will fulfill His Word to show that He is trustworthy and able to do what He has said. The evidence of that will be everlasting.
1. For Israel it meant a call to faith to those professing believers who were unsure and hesitant—much like the call that Jesus made to the disciples who followed Him but were weak in faith, often unsure, somewhat skeptical. It took the resurrection to show that no matter what happens, God can do what He said He will do.
2. So do not capitulate to your circumstances and let them keep you from stepping out by faith to become part of God’s work of fulfilling the promises must demonstrate their faith by their works. Repeated emphasis on God’s ways and God’s word should rekindle their faith, if there is any faith there. Even those who are mature in the Lord need to keep reminding themselves of the promises of God, so that they might trust His Word and discover His plan.
3. Unbelievers, too, must turn from their wicked ways and trust in His Word to receive His marvelous blessings.
1 Corinthians 2:9 But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
And just in case: Because the Word of God is reliable, we can trust its promises to us no matter what.