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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Isaiah 55

 

 

Verse 1

Kidner stated that, in Christian terms, "The Calvary of Isaiah 53 is followed by the growing church of Isaiah 54, and the gospel call of Isaiah 55."[1] We can find no agreement whatever with commentators who try to restrict the application of this chapter to the return of the exiles from Babylon. Every word of the chapter is Messianic.

Cheyne's chapter heading here was as follows:

"An affectionate invitation to the Messianic blessings (Isaiah 55:1-5); an exhortation to put away obstacles to their enjoyment (Isaiah 55:6,7); and a renewed confident assurance of the indescribable glory and felicity which await the true Israel (Isaiah 55:8-13)."[2]

We especially appreciate Cheyne's distinguishing between the two Israels, which is the basic requirement for understanding very many portions of this great prophecy. Hailey entitled this chapter, "The Great Invitation; Free Mercy for All."[3] Jamieson entitled it, "The Call of the Gentile World to Faith, The Result of God's Grace to the Jews First."[4] Barnes named it, "A Universal Invitation for All Men to Come and Embrace the Provisions of Mercy."[5] Wardle entitled it: "The Glorious Blessings of the New Covenant which Yahweh will Make with his people."[6] There is another entitlement of the chapter which catches a very important aspect of it. Douglas identified it with, "The Kingly Office of The Servant,"[7] thus stressing the undeniable identification of the Davidic, Kingly Messiah with the Suffering Servant.

Isaiah 55:1-3

"Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."

"Everyone that thirsteth ..." (Isaiah 55:1). "It is not improbable that Jesus had his eye on this very passage when he pronounced the blessing upon those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6)."[8]

The great misunderstanding here is simply that of supposing that the wonderful blessings of the grace and mercy of God are unconditional! Another error is that of limiting the conditions to conform to human theories of salvation, as did Archer: "The price for admission into eternal life is repentance and faith plus nothing"![9] What about the new birth? of which Jesus said, "Except ye be born again, ye cannot see the kingdom of God." What about holiness, "without which no man shall see God"? What about "eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God"? of which Christ said, "Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood" ye have no life in you." And what about a hundred other things which are definitely laid down as requirements for entering into life? As Dummelow pointed out, "The exhortation (Isaiah 55:6,7) here shows that the promises are conditional."[10] People who really wish to know what the conditions are should read their New Testaments instead of listening to the theories of men.

"Water, wine, milk ..." (Isaiah 55:1). "These are symbols of spiritual sustenance afforded those who live in fellowship with God."[11] It is of interest that a literal interpretation of this, as they understood it, led "to the custom of Latin Churches (but not those in Africa) of giving wine and milk to the newly-baptized."[12]

"For that which satisfieth not ..." (Isaiah 55:2). The immortal soul of man cannot be satisfied with the most wonderful things that the world has to offer. Man cannot be satisfied, with wealth, with honor, or with pleasure. "Where is the man who was ever satisfied with wealth, and who says he has enough? Where is the man who is satisfied with pleasure, vanity, or gaiety? There is a void in the human heart which such things cannot fill"[13] On William Rockefeller's tomb in Tarrytown Cemetery, New York, there is this inscription, "Our souls, Oh God, were made for thee; and never shall they rest until they rest in thee."

"I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David ..." (Isaiah 55:3). This unequivocally identifies the kingdom and covenant of the Suffering Servant with the Davidic, Kingly Messiah, the great fact which Peter stressed on the day of Pentecost when he spoke of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the enthronement of the Son of David (Christ) upon David's throne in heaven! As Barnes noted, "This covenant would be made with all who would come to God."[14] That New Covenant would not be identified with any race or nation, but it would be between Almighty God and all mankind!

"The sure mercies of David ..." (Isaiah 55:3). These are the promises God made to David, that of his seed one would rise up to inherit an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12). "The promises to David, rightly understood, involve all of the essential points of the Christian covenant."[15]

CONCERNING DAVID'S THRONE

God's promise to David that of his seed one would sit upon the throne that would be established forever, just cited above, has led to all kinds of wild speculations about Jesus coming back to earth and sitting upon David's throne in Jerusalem. All such speculations are nullified by plain statements of God's Word. As to anyone of the seed of David ever more occupying his literal throne in Jerusalem, all that ended when God said of the last Davidic king, Coniah (Jeconiah), that, "No more shall a man of his seed prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling in Judah" (Jeremiah 22:30). He had an illegal successor, Zedekiah, but he was terminated; and again God said, "This also shall be no more, until he come, whose right it is; and I will give it to him." (Ezekiel 21:27). "Christ the Servant is the One, whose right it is; and the promise to David was fulfilled in his coming."[16]

This is the only place that David is named in Isaiah 40-66, "But this is enough to identify the kingly Messiah of Isaiah 7:14 with the Servant of Isaiah 42:1."[17]

This harmonizes absolutely with the declaration of Hosea that "in the latter days," that is, in the times of Messiah, Israel would return to their God and David their king would come, (Hosea 3:5), thus specifying the times of Jesus as when that would occur; and his ascension to heaven also harmonizes with the revelation that David's throne would not be in the literal Jerusalem at all, but "in heaven." (Psalms 89:35-37 in KJV).


Verse 4

"Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not; and a nation that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of Jehovah thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee."

The speaker in these verses is Jehovah, and the one addressed is the Christ, as indicated by the last clause, for it was God who glorified the Lord Jesus Christ.

Also, Christ was indeed the Leader and the Commander of all who would believe on his Holy Name.

"Shall run unto thee ..." (Isaiah 55:5). "This refers to the alacrity with which the Gentiles (in the future) should repair to the Messiah, that they might enjoy the blessings of his reign."[18]

Despite the fact of there being, in a sense, many covenants that God made with men, the mention here (Isaiah 55:3) of a "covenant of peace" to appear in the future applies to only one covenant. "There is no more than one gracious covenant, whose substance is this: the Servant (Christ) himself is given to us as the covenant (Isaiah 49:8; 53:6)."[19]


Verse 6

"Seek ye Jehovah, while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

The call for sinners to repent and turn to God is urgent business. Note the dramatic imperatives of this chapter: "Come to the waters," "Come ye," "Come ye," "Buy and eat," "Come, buy," "Hearken diligently," "Eat that which is good," "Incline your ear," "Come unto me," "Hear," "Seek ye Jehovah," "Call ye upon him," "Forsake the wicked way," "Forsake unrighteous thoughts," - there are twenty of these in the first seven verses! It is as if God is standing and screaming for men to heed his word and be saved.

The balance of the chapter, and beginning right here in Isaiah 55:7, is devoted to the reasons why men should heed the Divine call to repentance, there being five of these: (1) "God will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). (2) "My thoughts are not your thoughts," etc., (Isaiah 55:8). (3) A third for introduces this reason, "God's ways are superior to men's ways as the heavens are higher than the earth" (Isaiah 55:9). (4) "God's Word will accomplish its purpose anyway, regardless of what men do" (Isaiah 55:10-11). (5) The fifth and final for occurs in Isaiah 55:12, where the fifth reason for heeding God's call is cited as the everlasting joy and success which shall reward it (Isaiah 55:12-13).

"Seek ye Jehovah ..." (Isaiah 55:6). Barnes made the following deductions from this imperative: "It is implied here that: (1) men are by nature ignorant of God, otherwise they should not have been commanded to `seek'; (2) if men will obtain God's favor, they must seek it; (3) the invitation to seek God is open to all men; and, (4) the knowledge of God is of inestimable value."[20]

Cheyne noted that these verses apply to the captives in Babylon, and that they mean that, "God here urges his people to make sure that they are of the True Israel."[21]

"He will have mercy ... he will abundantly pardon ..." (Isaiah 55:7). This definitely identifies the chapter with the times of the New Covenant, because forgiveness is the hallmark of the New Covenant only (Jeremiah 35:31-35). We like McGuiggan's comment on God's willingness to forgive sinners:

"God is so different. Men (and there's a message here for all of us) are not inclined to be forgiving. Men drink in forgiveness by the bucketful, and spoon it out under pressure."[22]

These verses indicate that, "The response to Jehovah's call involves a complete change of both lifestyle and heart; one must completely renounce evil activities and thoughts; when one does that, God will pardon and forgive all of his sins."[23]


Verse 9

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so 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."

This is one of the most remarkable passages in the word of God, especially the declaration that God's Word will always accomplish the thing whereto God sent it. This is exactly the thing Paul referred to when he said, "The gospel is a savor (an odor) of life unto life in them that are saved and an odor of death unto death in them that perish" (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).

Paul's wonderful metaphor here is derived from the custom of the Roman Triumphal Processions in which tremendous quantities of incense were burned along the parade route. Those destined to die in the arena, following the triumph, and those to be released by the clemency of the triumphal Emperor, naturally viewed the tremendous odors of the day in different lights. For other interesting studies on this see Vol. 7 (1,2Corinthians) in my New Testament Series of Commentaries, pp. 324-326.

Yes, God's Word will either destroy the persons who hear it and do not obey it, or it will redeem the ones who receive it and obey it. The utmost caution, therefore, should be exercised in the study o f the Word of God. Just as the same sunshine will melt butter or harden putty, the same glorious gospel of Christ will either redeem or condemn them that hear it.


Verse 12

"For ye 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. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to Jehovah for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

When the Lord uprooted his vineyard, took away the hedge, broke the wall, and laid it waste, briars and thorns came up (Isaiah 5:5,6), the Old Israel suffered; but the New Israel under the New Covenant will be abundantly blessed. It should always be remembered that no individual of the old racial Israel is excluded from the New Covenant. Any or all of them may indeed be redeemed unto everlasting life upon exactly the same terms and conditions required of all; but no member of any race whatever, even Jews, shall ever be saved upon the basis of race alone. Race is absolutely irrelevant with regard to salvation today!

Cheyne noted that the passage here is metaphorical, and that, "All such poetic figures are presentiments of the Messiah's reality."[24]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 55:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-55.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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