This chapter opens with what many call "an invitation" to come to salvation. Dear reader, the Sovereign God revealed to us in Scripture does not invite people to come to Him. We will see more of this, Lord willing, as we examine this chapter.
Isaiah 55:1-2 (HCSB) “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods."
Many people who claim the gospel is an offer turn to any of several places where God calls people to come to Him. In the first place, the English word, come, is an imperative - a command. When a mother tells her toddler "come here," she is not inviting him, she's not offering him the option; she's commanding him. When the queen of England bids an entertainer to sing for her, everybody calls it a "command performance" because the queen issued the "invitation." So many who call God sovereign posit Him as someone who offers and invites His creatures to come into His kingdom - as if He were less than the queen of England, less than a mother of small children.
How much more greater and grander and beyond our ability to comprehend is the Creator and Judge of all flesh? When the Lord of glory tells His chosen ones, "Come!" it is, as everyone who embraces the doctrines of grace knows, an irresistible call. When you and I preach the gospel, we try to persuade men - the general call we give (not knowing who the elect are) can be resisted or accepted. Yet our words, our persuasive speech is not what saves anyone. The Spirit of God moves as does the wind - no man controls nor is able to know for sure where He goes. And He gives life to that which was dead, and those called by God to come are no more able to say no than Lazarus was, being 4 days dead in the tomb. Jesus did not invite Lazarus to come forth, didn't offer him another few years in the flesh. He commanded Lazarus to come forth; and Lazarus did so.
Preach the gospel to every creature, we are told. Nothing about offering the kingdom to anyone. Nothing about inviting them - compel them to come, the master of the wedding feast said. How do we compel people to come to Christ? By being faithful with our proclamation of His gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation for those who are being saved. He compels His chosen ones to come to the wedding feast.
When YHWH calls people who are thirsty to come to the waters, He is calling His people to Himself; this is not analogous to the general call we as men - for we do not know who are His people until we see the fruit of repentance and faith. Those who answer the gospel call of men are being drawn by the irresistible call from God to come! This is the command, not invitation, that brings life eternal.
All of His people will come to Him, in due time. And they will all drink from the fount of living water, buy wine and milk (representing spiritual and physical nourishment) without money. Just as national Israel was redeemed from Babylon without cost, spiritual Israel redeemed from sin and death can buy without cost - for the redeemer has paid it all.
Yet national Israel (always not far from view in Isiah) is rebuked by the questions - "Why do you spend money on what is not food?" and "Why do you work hard to buy that which does not satisfy?" We should ask ourselves these questions. How much of what God has given us do we waste on that which is not good for our bodies and souls? God says to the Jewish nation and to us: Listen to me! I will provide that which is GOOD, the CHOICEST of foods! He gives to His people His Son, whose blood was shed and body broken to give us life eternal.
Isaiah 55:3-5 (HCSB) "Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David. Since I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples, so you will summon a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you will run to you. For the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel, has glorified you.”
Again, YHWH tells His people to listen closely and come close so they will have life eternal. The everlasting covenant with His people, based on the promises made to David; he was told he would always have a Son to sit on his throne (2 Sam 7:11b-12). David was prone to think in terms of his own fleshly lineage - this was the way of the culture he was in - but Nathan's prophecy was clear that this Son would be different. This Son would be a witness to and ruler of all people. The Jews would summon nations that did not "know" Israel nor her God. The apostles were such, those who went out to the nations with the gospel proclamation - for salvation is of the Jews, to the Jew first then the Gentile! And all who have been called of God will run to Him and His people, for the glory of God is displayed as He raises up those who were spiritually dead to new life in Christ!
Note this saints - all that is done in the redemption of sinners is primarily for the glory of God. The grand and glorious benefits we derive from being reconciled to God are secondary; what we called in the military "collateral benefits" - those which are caused by the primary mission or goal. That primary goal is that God would be glorified in all of His creation.
Isaiah 55:6-11 (HCSB) Seek the LORD while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” ⌊This is⌋ the LORD’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it ⌊to do⌋.”
The prophet calls to his kinsmen, come to YHWH today! Perhaps echoing the warning of Psalm 95 to not harden their hearts as in the days of the wilderness, Isaiah calls the wicked and sinful people to abandon their thoughts and action and seek YHWH Who will have compassion on all of His people - granting FORGIVENESS.
Who is this that forgives sin, punishing another for them? How foolish this reasoning is from a human perspective! Man is naturally hard-wired for self-justification, proving he is better than others. But the Creator and Judge of all flesh says His way of thinking is different than ours, His way of doing things is different than ours. One of the problems man has is to think too lowly of God, too highly of self. Psalm 50:21 is a good reminder that goes along with Isaiah's passage.
Look up at the stars - can you imagine the distance to them? Think about how difficult that would be without the data our modern instruments have made available to even grad school children. Far beyond our ability to think or imagine, God's ways and thoughts are beyond ours. When the angelic host declares He is thrice holy, this is what they meant; God is NOT LIKE His creation. All our inclinations to think we know better than God need to be nipped in the bud, repented of and burned up. "Mother Earth" does not control the weather; there is One Who does! It is YHWH, Creator, upholder, sustainer, king, and judge of all creation! He gave creation the covenant of Noah (Gen 9:9-17), promising life on earth to even the most reprobate person.
As the farmer learns to depend on the rain and snow to keep his soil fertile, producing much produce, so His people should depend on His Word to do likewise when we are faithful to proclaim to all people. He WILL redeem His people by the foolishness of our preaching and proclaiming His gospel. In this we CANNOT trust our ways or thoughts but must submit to Him.
Isaiah 55:12-13 (HCSB) You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap ⌊their⌋ hands. Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up; it will make a name for Yahweh as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.
Who goes out - regardless of circumstances - with joy and peace? Only those who have peace beyond human understanding, peace that brings comfort and assurance and JOY unbounded; not subject to whether we have electricity in the coldest storm on record. Creation rejoices when people are reconciled to God; the singing of mountains and clapping hands of trees reflects the joy in heaven as the angels rejoice over one lost sheep brought into the great shepherd's sheepfold.
On the new earth, the curse brought on creation by Adam's sin (Gen 3:17-18) is lifted and good trees sprout up in place of thorns and briers. This new creation testifies of YHWH even more than the current creation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1"19-20), and the new creation - new heavens and earth - will never come to an end. For there will be no more sin or temptation on that new earth where righteousness dwells. Death came through sin and the death of sin will mean the end of death. All this is the work of God in Christ, who put sin and hell and death to death by His death in the flesh. And being raised up to an indestructible life, Christ Jesus gives us an indestructible sure hope of eternal life with Him.
Again - if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Repent and believe on the Christ. If you are His, consider Him as He is - not like us in His nature. He is God the Son who gave Himself as a sacrifice to give His people eternal life. Be in awe of Him and do not allow the mountains and trees to praise Him more than you - or I - do.