Isaiah 55
Text is from the New Revised Standard Version 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.


         This chapter is rich in metaphors, which come alive in the imagination of those who listen to God speak through them. Originally addressed to those who have been torn from their homeland and forced to live in exile in Babylon, this "word" is still alive and active for any exile who longs for home, for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:6). A case could be made that here we also find a pattern for worship: call, affirmation, confession, proclamation, and sending forth.


1. Invitation

Call - The Invitation is extended to all who hunger and thirst, even those who have prospered in exile. "Water," "bread," "wine," "milk," and "rich food" are symbolic of the gifts and benefits of the covenant with God, which are both material and spiritual. However, they cannot be bought. The  operative word is "come."
{1}   Ho, everyone who thirsts,
                            come to the waters;
                and you that have no money,
                            come,  buy and eat!
                            Come, buy wine and milk     without money and without price.
{2}                                        Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
                                                                     and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
                     Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
                                                       and delight yourselves in rich food.
{3a}              Incline your ear, and
                            come to me; listen, so that you may live.


2. Covenant

Affirmation - This Covenant is not merely like, it is the realization of the covenant God made with David (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16), to be fulfilled now in the people themselves. As David was "witness," "leader," and "commander," so now are the people, and they shall call and draw the nations to them. The operative words are "listen" and "see." (cf. 1 Kings 8:22-26 and Psalm 89:27-37)
{3b}    I will           make with you  an  everlasting covenant,
                                                          my steadfast, sure love   for David.
{4}              See, I made         him                                                  a witness to the peoples,
                                                                                                       a leader and
                                                                                                       commander for the peoples.
{5}              See,                     you      shall call nations that you do not know,
                                                                  and nations that do not know you
                                                                                    shall run to you,
                             because of the LORD your God,
                                              the Holy One of Israel,
                                                                         for he has glorified you.


3. Repent

Confession - The words are eschatological - the time is at hand. Repentance is a prerequisite for admission into the new kingdom. Turn from ways and thoughts which get in God's way. The focus is upon God's forgiveness, whose thoughts and ways - what God purposes and how these designs are carried out - stand in contrast. God has a plan. The operative words are "seek" and "return."
{6}    Seek the LORD while he may be found,
               call upon him while he is near;
{7}                              let the wicked forsake their way, and
                                        the unrighteous        their thoughts;
                                    let them return to the LORD,
                                                                 that he may have mercy on them,
                                                    and to our  God,
                                                                  for he will abundantly pardon.
{8}                    For          my thoughts are not  your thoughts,
                                                            nor are  your ways
                                         my ways, says 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.


4. Rain, Word, Reign

Proclamation - God is on the move, his "word" will not be denied. As surely as the rain falls and brings growth, so God will accomplish his plan (cf. Isaiah 40:6-8). This life-restoring "word" will reign. While Isaiah focused upon the immediate need of God's people in Babylonian exile, followers of Jesus may recall his parable of the Sower (Matthew  13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9, Luke 8:5-8). Needless to say, the "word" itself here is what's operative!
{10}      For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
                                                   and do not return there
                      until they have watered the earth,
                                                       making it bring forth and sprout,
                                                                                              giving seed to the sower
                                                                                                 and bread to the eater,
{11}               so shall my word be
                                                   that goes out      from my mouth;
                                            it shall         not return    to me empty,
                                                       but it shall accomplish    that         which I purpose,
                                                                and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.


5. New Exodus

Sending Forth - The wonders of the old exodus are surpassed by the wonders of the new. All nature joins in as exiles are sent home (cf. Romans 8:18-21). It is a journey of blessing, not curse. Recall that the shepherd of Israel (Isaiah 40:11) will lead the way. God will not forget his own, their future is still an open book. The operative word is "joy."
{12}      For you shall go out in joy,
                            and be led back in peace;
                     the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
                                     and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
{13}                     Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
                             instead of the brier  shall come up the myrtle;
                                                      and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,
                                                                                               for an everlasting sign
                                                                                           that shall not be cut off.

Other resources on this passage can be found at "The Text This Week"

comments 2001 Peter L. Haynes

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