Isaiah 55:1–13comment (0)
May 11, 2006
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Isaiah 55:1–13
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
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Every true sermon must ask for decision. Whether explicitly or implicitly, it must answer the question, “So, what then must we do?”
Isaiah invited Israelite exiles to share in the free, unmerited spiritual blessings God offered, as well as in the coming restoration to the land, and called for a decision. The four grounds on which Isaiah based his appeal are still valid for modern hearers.
He Alone Can Meet Your Need (1–3a)
In Isaiah’s day, a generous man would sometimes buy up the stock of a water-carrier or a baker (or some other street vendor) and order him to give it away for nothing. The Hebrew word for “buy” has the specific meaning “buy corn.” However, the generosity here goes beyond the necessities of water and bread to include the luxuries of wine and milk. All these “goodies” speak of the spiritual food that alone can satisfy men’s deepest needs.
God offers spiritual food to all and asks for nothing in return. Indeed it is only when a person first realizes clearly not only that he need not but that he cannot — nor ever could — pay for the spiritual food God offers does he come near the kingdom of God.
Many among the exiles would have little inclination for a desert march to Judah, with who knew what at the end of it. All had been in Babylon for many years; some for all their lives. They had roots there, owned their own homes and businesses, were prosperous and secure. To them, the prophet posed a disturbing question: “Does all this really satisfy you? Is this what you are for?” Absorption in material prosperity is just another name for death: fullness (“abundance”) of life is found only in feeding on what God offers.
He Has Work for You to Do (3b–5)
In the form of an eternal covenant like the one He gave to David, the Lord offered to Israel the very tasks that He assigned her great king. His purpose for them included being God’s “witness to the nations,” “a leader” (here an expositor, one on whom the Spirit rested) and a “commander to the peoples,” i.e. one who gives God’s commandments to the world. God’s intent was to glorify Israel so that the nations would be drawn to her. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22): it was the ancient people of God that preserved God’s revelation in times past and from whom came the Servant-Messiah in the last days (Heb. 1:1–2).
Only those who accept God’s offer find the purpose for which God made them.
He Will Not Wait Forever (6)
Isaiah’s pleas to seek the Lord “while He may be found” and to “call upon Him while He is near” suggest that people must respond to God’s call in a timely manner. To miss God when it is possible to find Him may not be mere folly; it could be fatal. There is a time when God invites and everything works up to a decision whether to accept God’s offer or to reject it. If a person does not make his decision then, he may never make it at all. That opportunity may pass and nothing says it will ever come again.
He Keeps His Promises (7–13)
People can be sure that God will warmly accept (“have compassion on”) all those who turn to God from their sin and will “multiply pardon” (literal Hebrew) because God’s word is reliable. As rain and snow accomplish their purpose when they fall upon the earth so the Word of God accomplishes His purpose. God’s immediate plan was to restore Israel to the land; His ultimate plan was to transform nature, i.e. in the age to come (the messianic age). Transformed creation will serve as a lasting monument to the great power of the Lord and His faithfulness to His word.
Those who accept God’s offer will find that He keeps His word about compassion and pardon. The word of God is not “empty.” Every man has made some promises he never intended to keep. He has made other promises he simply could not keep when time came to produce. But God almighty has never made a promise He will not or cannot keep. He will perform what He has promised.