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Isaiah 55:1 Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters! Come, he who has no money, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price- LXX "wine and fat", associated with the offerings. No longer would poverty or lack of resources mean that sacrifice could not be offered. One by one, every possible excuse in the minds of the exiles was dealt with. God would provide all and overcome every possible fear and imagined problem in responding to the call of the Kingdom, just as He does today. Cyrus even decreed that he would meet the costs of all sacrifices; he let the people go "without price" (s.w. Is. 45:13), for no personal reward. The same phrase "without money and without price" is found in Job 28:15 regarding the value of wisdom; see on :2. The book of Job is full of connections to Isaiah, as it was rewritten to encourage the exiles in captivity. The greatest wisdom was to leave Babylon / Persia and return to Judah, with all the inversion of values this required. But this  appeal to the exiles wasn't responded to. And so these ideas were reapplied to the Lord Jesus, in His appeal to us: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me" (Jn. 7:37,38).

Is. 55:1-6 bids Israel seek the Lord, and then comments that His word will accomplish what He wants it to achieve; the earth / land will respond to the rain of His word which He sends upon it (:11). This seems to be saying that somehow there will always be response from Israel to the Gospel. And the following verses hint that this may be specifically so in the last days, for :12 says that the result of the land’s response to the word will be that “ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing”. Their response to the word in the last days ushers in the Kingdom.

Isaiah 55:2 Why do you spend money for that which is not bread?-
LXX "Wherefore do ye value at the price of money?". This invites them to a radical revulation of life and the things which comprise it. The monetarization and capitalisation of everything was going on even in ancient societies. God's people are asked to a radical revaluation of all things.

And your labour for that which doesn’t satisfy?- But they continued to do so; they were as greedy dogs who could 'not be satisfied' (Is. 56:11 s.w.), obsessed with personal gain. Again we detect that it was a love of the soft life of materialism in Persia which was the root cause for the exiles not responding to the invitation, and the book of Esther therefore has a sad ending, portrayin the Jews as wealthy and popular.

Listen diligently to Me- I noted on :1 an allusion to the appeal of wisdom in Job 28, and this here is a repeat of wisdom's call in the Proverbs. The way of wisdom was to accept the invitation to the free feast of fat things which Yahweh had prepared in Judah for those who quit Babylon.

And eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness- This refers to the banquet awaiting them on return to Zion, the feast of fat things of Is. 25:6- if they would say "Yes" to the Kingdom program. The Messianic banquet could then have come. It has now been reapplied, to our experience in the breaking of bread now, and ultimately to the marriage supper of the lamb when the Lord returns.


Isaiah 55:3 Turn your ear, and come to Me-
The invitation therefore was to the great feast of :1,2- all for free. The parable of the great suppor therefore alludes to Is. 55:1-3; and thereby would suggest that we can interpret the call to the supper as the call of the Gospel, and the hungry people sitting down to a fine meal as our ecclesial experience now (although this isn't to say that we can't read it as concerning the future Kingdom too).

Hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David- This everlasting covenant refers to the new covenant offered to the exiles in Jer. 31 and Ez. 20, but it would only be iven if they 'heard' in obedience and repentance. The promises to David are described as the mercy of God (Is. 55:3; Ps. 89:33,34). God having a son is the sign of His love for us, and this must elicit a response in us. David himself marvelled that such mercy had been shown to him: "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house…thou knowest thy servant" (2 Sam. 7:18-20). And yet in the very next chapters, we read of how David made a renewed attempt to show mercy to the house of Saul. Mephibosheth says that he is "thy servant…what is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such… as I am?" (2 Sam. 9:8). Mephibosheth is using the very words which David used to God; David is showing mercy to Mephibosheth in the very way in which the promises of God to him were the "mercies" shown to David. Appreciating that the promises concern us personally, and that they reveal such loving grace from the Father, can only lead to a similar response in showing love and grace through entering into the lives and destinies of others. Having expounded the deeper aspects of the promises to Abraham in Romans 9-11, Paul spins the argument round to practical issues: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [a technical term for the promises- 'the sure mercies of David', Is. 55:3], that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). The "him" of :4 is the "sure mercies of David" of :3, perhaps an intensive plural for the great mercy shown to David, which was in the promise of his Messianic seed, the Lord Jesus.

“The sure mercies of David” result in the wicked man forsaking his way (Is. 55:3,7). The description of the promises to David as “sure mercies” (1 Chron. 17:13) may perhaps be with a reference to his sin with Bathsheba; his forgiveness in that incident is typical of that which we all receive (Rom. 4:6-8). The very existence of the “mercies of / to David” therefore inspire us in forsaking sinful thoughts and wicked ways (Is. 55:7).

Isaiah 55:4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples-
LXX understands "the peoples" here as "the Gentiles". As noted on :3, the "him" is the "sure mercies of David", an intensive plural for the great mercy shown to David, which was in the promise of his Messianic seed, the Lord Jesus. The eternal covenant offered to the exiles was also going to be offered to the Gentiles, who would form a new multiethnic people of God (:5).

Isaiah 55:5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you don’t know-
As explained in :4, a new multiethnic people of God was to be formed around the new covenant being offered to all. The Jews would "call" the Gentiles by the name of their own nation, Israel. They would 'know' them in the Hebraic sense of knowing, i.e. having a spiritual relationship with them.    

And a nation that didn’t know you shall run to you, because of Yahweh your God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you- Again, the Hebraic sense of 'knowing' includes the idea of having a spiritual relationship with the other party. The remnant of the Gentile nations in the land would see how Yahweh had glorified the returned exiles, and would eagerly ["run to..."] wish to accept this God as theirs. But in reality, the exiles returned to the land and mixed with the Gentiles, worshipping their gods and marrying their women as they had done in the lands of their exile.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek Yahweh while He may be found; call you on Him while He is near-
The offer of the Messianic banquet (:1-3) and new covenant (:3) was not going to be on the table for ever. The exiles had to repent, leave exile and return to the land in order to reestablish and rebuild the things of God's Kingdom. There was no such repentance. And those who did return were motivated by personal gain and were not spiritual people, as the restoration prophets and the historical records in Ezra and Nehemiah make clear. So the window of opportunity closed, and the things of the new covenant, Messianic banquet and restored Kingdom became reapplied and deferred. The offered salvation was "near" to them, about to come (see on Is. 46:13; 51:5); but it swooped close to them, but they refused to catch it. But the same Hebrew word for "near" is translated “kinsman”. The servant songs go on to explain how Yahweh could become our kinsman through His Son, our representative, of our nature. See on Is. 49:26. The appeal is therefore urgent, because for the exiles, the amazing offer was time limited. It is therefore an appeal for repentance, hence LXX: "Seek ye the Lord, and when ye find him, call upon him; and when he shall draw nigh to you, let the ungodly leave his ways...". 

Like Israel we can seek God daily, taking delight in approaching unto Him; and yet need the exhortation to urgently seek Him (Is. 55:6 cp. 58:2). We can appear to seek unto Him in prayer and attendance at our meetings, and yet not seek Him in the real sense at all. Likewise men came to Jesus physically, at quite some effort to themselves, and yet He tells them that they have not truly come to Him at all (Jn. 6:24 cp. 35-37). We can draw near with our mouth, honour Him with our lips, “but have removed [our] heart far from me” (Is. 29:13).


Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to Yahweh-
We note that the way of a man is his thoughts. The appeal for repentance was and is essentially a call to change our thinking, our self talk; and to adopt God's thoughts, which at that time were not Judah's thoughts (:8). The return to Yahweh was to be reflected in a return to the land. We might have expected a call to forsake idolatry and other specific sins, but the appeal is to change their thinking. For that is the essential issue. We note the same juxtaposition of ideas in Is. 57:15- the exalted lofty one, dwelling in the hearts of men.


And He will have mercy on him; and to our God- "Mercy" is s.w. "compassion". Unlike the stone faced gods of the Gentiles, Yahweh had emotion and passion, and internal conflicts. And His word reveals them to us. This "compassion" was only to be shown when Israel repented (s.w. Dt. 30:3) and would not be shown if they were impenitent (s.w. Is. 9:17; 27:11; 55:7). But although they had not repented, Yahweh still felt that fatherly "compassion" toward them (Is. 49:15 s.w.). He is unafraid of appearing to contradict His word, such is the passion of His love.

For He will abundantly pardon- This is the same word as often used in the law; when sacrifice was offered, "it shall be forgiven him" (Lev. 4:31,35 etc.). But in exile there was no opportunity to offer acceptable sacrifice. A forsaking of thoughts was what was required; for our hearts are the essential sacrifice. This "pardon" would have been given had the exiles had accepted the new covenant (s.w. Jer. 33:8).


Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says Yahweh-
This is not a statement about the inability of humanity to think as God does. Rather is it a lament that Judah didn't do this, when they could have done (:7). Note the parallel between the wicked's " way" and " his thoughts" ; they are unrelated to God's thoughts/ ways (Is. 55:8). Is. 55:7 is therefore saying that after conversion there must most importantly be a change of mind, an aspiring after God's unattainable thoughts / ways.

Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts-
This is not to say that His thoughts are unattainable. The whole idea of :7,8 is that Judah could have God's thoughts. They are here being inspired to touch the sky, to rise above the mundane, earthly thoughts of the flesh. Is. 55:6,7 implies that we can find God in this life, we can return to Him. But Is. 55:9 then says that " as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are (God's) ways higher than your ways" . This seems to be one of the many Isaiah allusions to the book of Job: "Canst thou by searching find out God?" , the answer being 'No'. This shows that although ultimately we cannot find God by our searching, such is His moral infinity, yet if we seek to find Him, He will count us as if we have found Him; and we can think His thoughts (:7). Thus God will impute complete forsaking of human thinking to us. Our least response is to impute forsaking of sin to our brethren, and to think as Yahweh does.  

Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky and doesn’t return there but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater-
This statement about the power of God's word is in the context of urging Judah that they can in fact repent, and think God's thoughts (:7-9). The returned exiles, or [later] all who wished to become part of God's restored Kingdom, would be empowered by the water of the Spirit (see on Is. 44:3) to "spring up" on what had previously been dry ground (Is. 44:4). That Spirit would be articulated partly through the prophetic word (Is. 55:10 s.w. "bud", "spring up"). This will be the restored Eden, where Yahweh had caused the vegetation to "spring up" (s.w. Gen. 2:5). This sringing up or growing would be in the fulfilment of the promises to David of the establishment of the Kingdom of his seed (s.w. 2 Sam. 23:5; Ps. 132:17). But the springing up would be of a community of people, the plural seed who were "in" the singular Messianic seed, who would think God's thoughts (:7). And this is now experienced through baptism into the Lord Jesus (Gal. 3:27-29). It is "righteousness" which would "spring up" (s.w. Is. 61:11); the work of the Spirit would result in the seed becoming righteous through their mental, spiritual transformation. And yet it will also be on account of their status as "in" the "branch of righteousness" which will "spring up" (Jer. 33:15). The work of the Spirit will be, and is, to transform the plural seed in practice into what they are by status in the Messiah- righteous. And it is this power, this gift, this Divine 'causing' us to be righteous, which every spiritual person so thirsts for.

Repeatedly, later Scripture alludes to the fact that it was by the word of God that the world was created; and that same powerful, re-forming, saving word was and is that heard by His people still (Ps. 33:6,9; 104:7; 147:15-18; 148:3-5; Is. 40:26; 44:23; 48:13; 50:2; 55:10). A. Heidel comments: “The word of the Babylonian deities was not almighty. On the contrary, the word of the creator in Gen. 1 is almighty. He commands and the result is in perfect conformity to his command…there is a profound difference between the Bible and non-biblical religions” [on this point of the word being the agency of creation] (Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 126).

Isaiah 55:11 so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do-
In the immediate context of the exiles, the LXX seems to suggest that God's word of judgment on His people would not end until that word had produced the required response, which was repentance: "It shall by no means turn back until all the things which I willed shall have been accomplished; and I will make thy ways prosperous, and will effect my commands". The prospering of the prophetic word of restoration was certain, if they accepted it; see on Is. 54:17. But the context here is of thinking God's thoughts, even if His thoughts are higher than the earth (:7-9). It was His word of promised restoration which could achieve that; if they believed they would and could be restored to God, then this would affect their thinking.

We put God to endless pain and labour in order to fulfil His wish to save men, if we don’t fulfil what in prospect we could fulfil. In the context of the restoration, Yahweh truly said that “ shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (AV). His word will have fulfilment in the end, but it can have its fulfilment in us, here and now. Nehemiah twice stated that Yahweh was prospering him in his work of restoring Zion [Neh. 1:11; 2:20 s.w.]; but generally, the word of prophecy was deferred in its fulfilment. Let’s not be satisficers as Israel were, minimalists happy so long as we have our bit of land to live on, our cieled roof to dwell under... and neglect His house.

The RV translates the parable of the sower as if the seed sown is the convert: “he that was sown…” (Mt. 13:19 RV). And later on in Mt. 13:38 we are told so again: “the good seed are the children of the Kingdom”. Yet the seed was a symbol of the word of God. The parallel between the seed and the convert is such as to suggest that the word of God will produce converts in some sense; it will not return void (Is. 55:11). The apparent dearth of response to some  preaching therefore poses a challenging question. Are we preaching the word of God alone, or our own ideas? Does God withhold blessing for some reason unknown to us? Is this parable only part of a wider picture, in which somehow the word does return void due to man’s rejection? Thus the word of God was ‘made void’ by the Pharisees (Mk. 7:13 RV- a conscious allusion to Is. 55:11?)…. This is perhaps one of the most defiantly unanswerable questions in our experience. As an aside, one possible explanation is that “the word” which is sent forth and prospers, achieving all God’s intention, is in fact Messiah. The same word is used about the ‘prospering’ of the Servant in His work: Is. 48:15; 53:10 cp. Ps. 45:4. Another is to accept the LXX reading of this passage: “…until whatsoever I have willed shall have been accomplished”. Here at least is the implication that something happens and is achieved when we preach God’s word. The same idiom occurs in Ez. 9:11 AVmg., where we read that “the man clothed with linen”- representing Ezekiel or his representative Angel- “returned the word, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me”. The word ‘returned’ in the sense that someone, somewhere, was obedient to it even if others weren’t.

Isaiah 55:12 For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands-
The immediate possibility was that the exiles would leave Babylon in peace, after "the servant" negotiated their release from there with full blessing and no violence; and the natural creation would as it were burst into applause as they journey to Zion. Thus GNB "You will leave Babylon with joy; you will be led out of the city in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into singing, and the trees will shout for joy".

But this could have had a yet earlier fulfilment in Isaiah's time. As the Jews of Hezekiah's time went out of Jerusalem to a revitalized land and started to receive the tribute of the surrounding nations (the primary application of Isaiah's Kingdom prophecies), so the saints will pour forth from Jerusalem to establish the Kingdom worldwide. "Ye shall go out (from Jerusalem) with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and hills shall break forth before you into singing..." (Is. 55:12). After the surrounding of Christ in Jerusalem and the defeat of Gog, Ps. 2 describes the establishment of the Kingdom worldwide: "I shall give the heathen for thine inheritance... kiss the son, lest He be angry " (:8,12).

Even as late as the time of Esther, this could have had a fulfilment. For the same word for "gladness" is used of the joy of the exiles when they were saved from Haman's destruction (Esther 9:17). The subtext to the otherwise positive picture of good triumphing over evil at the end of Esther, with a day of feasting and gladness proclaimed, is that their day of feasting and gladness was prophetically intended to be in Zion (Is. 25:6 s.w.). They went into exile exactly because they had days of 'feasting' and didn't respond to the prophetic message (s.w. Is. 5:12). It was in Zion that they were to experience "gladness" (Is. 35:10) when they returned (Is. 51:11). They were to leave the lands of their captivity in "gladness" and thus come to Zion (Is. 55:12 s.w.). But they didn't return. The "day of gladness" was to be accompanied by the blowing of trumpets (s.w. Num. 10:10), summoning them to Zion. But there is no mention of this; because they didn't want to return there, but to remain in prosperous Persia.  

Isaiah 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to Yahweh for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off
- The myrtle (= "Esther") was a native of Persia and not Palestine. The idea is that the captives would return from Persia and be planted in the restored kingdom. The curse of thorns and thistles placed upon the eretz in Eden would then thereby be removed. But the book of Esther has a sad ending, in spiritual terms; for God's people were prosperous and accepted in Persian society, and preferred to remain there rather than do the work of the Kingdom and allow its restoration.