Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Listen from:
Chapter 55 opens with a call to “everyone that thirsteth”, and so we pass beyond the confines of Israel to consider in prophetic outline blessings that will reach to the Gentiles through the work of the Servant who has died. Illustrations of this we see in Acts 8 and 10. The Ethiopian’s thirst led him to take a long journey to Jerusalem, seeking after God: the thirst of Cornelius led him to prayer and almsgiving. In both cases, seeking for water to quench their thirst, they got more, even “wine and milk without money and without price.” Moreover they got it by inclining their ear and coming to the Fountainhead. They heard and their souls lived; just as the prophet said in these verses. Thus we can see how strikingly his words forecast the Gospel which we know today. So even Gentiles are to enjoy the blessings of “the everlasting covenant”.
Preaching in the synagogue at Antioch, the Apostle Paul cited the words “the sure mercies of David”, and connected them with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. These words connect themselves also with what we find in Psalm 89, particularly verses 19-29. In that Psalm mercies are specially emphasized, and the “David” is God’s “Holy One” (verse 19), who is to be made “My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth” (verse 27), and “My covenant shall stand fast with Him” (verse 28). Clearly the Psalm contemplates the Son of David, of whom David was but the type. All the mercies of the Psalm will only be verified in Christ risen from the dead. Foremost in those wonderful mercies are the forgiveness of sins and justification from all things, which Paul preached at Antioch, and which were so well responded to by Gentiles, as Acts 13 records.
Gentiles are definitely in view also in verse 4, since the word “people”, which occurs twice, should be in the plural. God’s Holy Servant, risen from the dead, is given as “a Witness to the peoples, a Leader and Commander to the peoples.” As the Witness He makes God known to men. As the Leader and Commander He brings men into subjection to God. This will be fully seen in the coming age, when “men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed” (Psa. 72:1717His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. (Psalm 72:17)); but the same thing is realized in principle today as men from a thousand different peoples hear the Gospel and discover in Jesus the One who has been made both Lord and Christ. Let each reader challenge his or her heart. Have I fully received His witness? Is He indeed Leader and Commander in my life?
If verse 1 gives a call to all who thirst; and verse 2 presents an argument, intended to enforce the call; and verse 3, an invitation to life and mercy; verses 4 and 5 make very definite announcements. Only the announcement of verse 4 is addressed to men, whereas in verse 5 we find Jehovah’s announcement to His Servant risen from the dead, stating in different words what had been said in verse 6 of chapter 49. This has definite application to the present age, when God is visiting the nations and taking out of them a people for His Name, and it is connected in our verse with His present glory. His people will be willing in the day of His power, as Psalm 110 predicts; but many from among the nations are running to Him in this day, and while He is glorified on high.
Verse 6 follows this by offering what we may call a word of advice, followed in verse 7 by a word of assurance. There is a time when God is near and may be found in grace, and a time when He retires from the scene to act in judgment. How often are these words uttered when the Gospel is preached, for the day of salvation is NOW. The assurance is that if any, however wicked they may be, turn to the Lord in repentance, there is mercy for him. The forsaking of one’s thoughts and way is just what genuine repentance involves. Faith, we know, is needed too, but when Isaiah wrote, Christ the great Object of faith, though predicted, was not actually revealed. Consequently faith is not brought to the fore in the Old Testament as it is in the New.
But it is true at all times that the soul returning in repentance finds mercy, and the offer here is not only of mercy but of pardon in abundant measure. As the margin tells us the Hebrew is that He will “multiply to pardon.” Such is the freeness and the fullness of the Divine mercy to the truly repentant.
Now all this is not according to the thoughts and the ways of men, as was well known to God. Hence what we have in verses 8 and 9. Indeed the whole of this magnificent prophecy concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, and the glorious results flowing therefrom, is totally opposed to human thoughts and ways. Christ, when He came, had nothing about Him that appealed to human thoughts and ways, as is stated in the opening verses of chapter 53, and what was true in Him personally is equally true of all God’s ways and of His thoughts expressed in those ways.
But fallen man, alas! is self-centered, and prefers his own thoughts and ways to God’s, ignorant of the awful gulf that lies between them, represented as the difference between the height of the heavens and of the earth. In these days of giant telescopes, which reveal the unimaginable height of the heavens contrasted with our little earth, we can perhaps better realize the force of this. God’s thoughts are revealed in His purposes, with which His ways are consistent, and now that they have come to light in connection with the Gospel, they form a lesson book for angels, as is shown in 1 Peter 1:1212Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12).
Moreover, besides the thoughts and ways of God there is His word, by which He signifies what His thoughts and ways are. Verse 10 assures us of its beneficent effect. Just as the rain descending from heaven brings with it life and fertility in nature, making man’s labor to be fruitful for his good, so the word of God acts in a spiritual way. Received into the heart it is fruitful in life and blessing; and not only that, but is full of power, never failing in the effect that God intends whether in grace or in judgment. This was exemplified in the Lord Jesus Himself. No word of His ever fell fruitless to the ground, for He was the Living Word. It is equally true of the written word of God. It is said of the blessed man of Psalm 1 That “In His law doth He meditate day and night.” Happy are we, now that we have “the word of His grace” (Acts 20:3232And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)) as well as the word of His law, if we do so likewise.
God’s coming grace to Israel is in view here, as the two verses that close our chapter show. The peace that had been announced in the previous chapter should without fail be theirs, and joy also. Creation too will rejoice when the millennial day is reached. It is guaranteed here by the unfailing word of God, and when we turn to such a scripture as Romans 8, we are told how creation will be delivered from the bondage produced by the sin of man, and brought into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God, and we are carried beyond that which will be true for Israel into the largeness of the thoughts of God for the whole creation.
Thus all through the wonderful passage that has been before us we can note that what the prophets stated in germinal form comes into full revelation when, Christ having come and died and risen again and ascended to glory, the Holy Spirit was given to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us. May we have hearts that receive them and appreciate their unique value.
Chapters 56:1—58:14