Isaiah Chapter 55 Notes
The Gospel, at no cost or threat, is for you.
1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money,
This is a warning to those who are tempted and tested to not become disgusted with this fallen life. No matter how quietly the flesh sleeps in its contentment with fallen things, we Christians must avoid the temptation to take God’s Word for granted. The people who have been trained in God’s Word are more likely to fall into forgetfulness. Pray for your pastor. Pastor’s are most prone among Christians to become negligent in God’s Word. Let us never think we have heard too much of God’s Word or accomplished much in it. Rather, let us hear the invitation again. Jesus invites us to come without anything to Him. We are beggars before Him.
Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.
The church is not a building. The church is a gathering of those who cling to God’s Word. It is the church that needs and thirsts for what Jesus gives as a gift. Who values free things? The ungodly don’t. Free means cheap. Free means of no value. The good things are costly. The ungodly want to be deceived this way. Free has no value. Expensive is priceless. Therefore the Gospel, offered to the world free of charge, is not received.
Wine and milk. Milk is for children. It is applied through Holy Scripture. It is received by children regardless of intellect. It teaches all the doctrines of God. Wine is for adults who have been trained in Holy Scripture. Yet, the adults have been agitated to weariness by many trials and temptations from the devil, death, sin, and affliction from tyrants. The wine is strong. They have been brought up in the Holy Scripture.
Come, buy...without money and without price. No one can complain that it costs too much. “Exhortation of this kind is no less necessary than doctrine, and especially by those long trained to believe the opposite. Therefore, much exhortation is necessary to keep minds in line. We see this with ourselves, who are conversant with opinions concerning works and righteousness, with what difficulty it is to understand when reason is not suspended” (Martin Luther). After the invitation, Isaiah begins the counter opposing arguments.
2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Jews and Romans and many Protestants think their opinions are bread. A Mormon missionary once said, “Every Bible verse has a hundred interpretations.” Yes, one right and ninety nine wrong. “Summary: All forms of human righteousness are not able to provide the soul with one hour of peace” (Luther). It is like being offered a king’s buffet but rejecting it to hunt scraps from dumpsters.
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Delight your soul in fatness.
3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant (promise) with you -- The sure mercies of David.
It is hard to break a habit. In this case the habit is to “not” listen to the LORD.
All other teachings and righteousness belong to death. “So Paul in the letter to the Galatians reproves this self-righteousness by means of 50 titles: Severed from Christ; fallen away from grace; Christ died to no purpose, etc. (Gal. 5:4; 2:21). With such great effort he attacks our own righteousness” (Luther).
The Lord is declaring an everlasting promise: As He was merciful to David, so also will He be merciful to you. What is mercy? It is the ‘forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.’
4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people.
The witness is not to the Jews only, but also to all people. The nation of Israel ends with Jesus.
5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you."
You will become a new people (church). The people will enter; they will run to you. This new people will suffer violence at the hands of others (Matthew 11:12). In the kingdom of Christ and in the New Testament, this people must turn down the requirements of the old people (the nation of Israel) and the disciples will always go hungry (for righteousness). We will not own this righteousness so that we may depart from the Holy One. Enthusiasm in the Lutheran Confessions is that which separates what is written from the power of the Holy Spirit. And let us remember, Jesus is glorified by what He suffered. The scars in His hands and feet are His glory.
6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
This is directed toward those who stubbornly despise God’s Word. Meaning, they don’t cling to God’s Word. “This is the place for exhortation by threatening, as if to say: “If your own welfare and uprightness do not move you to the Word, then let the coming danger move you.” Similar passages are (2 Cor. 6:2): “Behold, now is the acceptable time,” and the Word of Christ (John 12:35): “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you.” These are exhortations that contain a threat” (Luther).
Title: The Means of Grace (or, Means of the Holy Spirit). What are means?
6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found,
The LORD can be found at the present time. He is near, not far away. Now is the day of salvation.
call ye upon him while he is near:
And yet this warning is added to the ungodly. Those who think that by prayers and vigils and tithes and fastings they will be found acceptable before the Lord. The Lord is found by grace through faith in Jesus.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts:
All the rest who are not in God’s Word are ungodly. After this threat He adds the promise:
and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
The hearers think this call to repentance is for other people. They think they are ok but others need God’s grace through faith in the Messiah. However, they first need to be persuaded that they are sinners who need the grace and mercy of God. This is to shake up the ungodly no matter how gifted they may be. They still view the Word as lifeless. The godly, however, feel their imperfection and they long for the grace of God. Here is a golden text: He will abundantly pardon. The ungodly object to this statement. Like the parable of the Pharisee and Publican, the Pharisee says, “I am glad I am not like other men...or even like this tax collector.”
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Our thoughts did not come up with the Gospel that Jesus would die for the ungodly. And yet, these thoughts of God He revealed in His Holy Scripture. You can know the thoughts of God because He had them written for you. Have we discussed or defined what an Enthusiast is? It is someone who seeks God apart from the Holy Scriptures. Who does this today? Many. The Romans teach an unwritten tradition that is needed in addition to Holy Scripture (what is necessary is a priest to direct you). Pentecostals teach a direct revelation apart from what is written (what is necessary is speaking in tongues, or an inner light). Baptists teach that sacraments are not the Word of God because Jesus is not on earth (what is necessary is a confession of faith). Many other Protestants now deny that Scripture is written by God (what is needed is to seek God’s will for our day like the prophets and apostles did in their day).
neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
This puts free will before God to shame. Our wills are bound regarding the will of God and salvation. People say, ‘We want to do the right thing. We don’t seek our glory but God’s glory.’ The Lord responds, ‘If they are your thoughts then they are not my thoughts.’ It is important to note: Believing Scripture and clinging to Christ are not our thoughts but God’s. We are familiar with this. This is how we seek righteousness and salvation - hear what God wrote and add our Amen.
Free will is destroyed. There is no distinction among us. The ungodly might say: “It is true, God condemns our evil thoughts, but He accepts the good ones, the ones that pray and prepare themselves for righteousness. This is good. Bad is fornication, theft, etc.” I respond to them: “This text speaks without any distinction” (Luther).
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
There is no sin in heaven unlike on earth so heaven and earth cannot be mixed. The LORD will not allow His holiness (Himself) to be desecrated. LORD’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” May His holiness be among us - here on earth. It is beyond us to think that the Christ would allow Himself to be desecrated and killed for our salvation. But, He has made it known for us by what He has had written.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither,
Here the LORD is speaking about His thoughts and ways which have to do with what is written. He is not talking about hidden thoughts or hidden will or speculations but what is written. It is a rebuke for the stubborn and consolation for the weak. The rebuke is because it is not our thoughts, wills, and ways but by “My Word” (vs11). The consolation is because what is written seems so foolish and powerless. It would be easy for the weak to be offended at the lowliness of God who has won victory through His Word.
Rain and snow are not useless but water the earth, giving seed to the sower. We tend to think that the strength is in the earth and not the rain or snow. (Gardeners know that rainwater is better than tap water.) But the growth comes from the rain and the snow (the earth is cursed since Genesis). The same is true of the church. The church is not the strength of its growth. Rather, it is the Word of God that produces the growth.
So, what are some examples that churches use to cause their growth?
And, what are some example that the Lord uses to grow His church?
but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth (not an invisible mouth but the mouth of prophets, apostles, pastors): it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please (it will not accomplish what you please, but what God pleases) , and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (so let us pray that the Holy Spirit may accomplish and prosper this in and among us. And let us see how God speaks against the fear that His Word will not produce any fruit, as seems to be the situation the church often finds itself in.)
12 For ye shall go out with joy (Luther: in the Law, nothing is cheerful. But in the Gospel, the heart is made cheerful. And with a cheerful heart all things are happy, even the cross and persecution are bearable), and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
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 the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (Luther Summary: The Lord has His name and rule through the Gospel, which establishes the earth, so that we may cling to Christ alone as our Savior. Thus He removes our merits and righteousness and brings us back to Christ and commends His unique name to us.