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The Great Invitation
Isaiah 55:1-13 is a marvelous appendix to the fifty-second and fifty-third chapters. In discussing the fifty-third chapter we saw the marvelous story of redemption. The fifty-fourth chapter follows with God's appeal to Israel to sing because of the promise of her marvelous enlargement. God tells her she will break forth on the right hand, and on the left hand, that her seed will inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate city to be inhabited. The assurance is given to Israel that God, who is her Maker, is her Husband; He is also her Redeemer. In His wrath He hid His face from her, but in loving-kindness He will yet have mercy.
Isaiah 55:1-13 is the call of the Prophet for Israel to return to her Lord. She is asked why she is turned aside to strangers, and why she is spending her money for that which is not bread, and her labor for that which satisfieth not. God has promised to do wonderful things for His people, Israel, and yet there are some things which they must do. They must seek the Lord. They must forsake their ways and thoughts, and return to God. Then the promise is given that they shall go forth with joy. At that time the thorns shall be supplanted by fir trees, and instead of the briars there shall come up the myrtle trees.
In a previous study we failed to give any dispensational teaching. For our part we are satisfied that the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah definitely sets forth the very prayer and heart throbs of Israel toward the Lord Jesus Christ in the day of our Lord's coming to the Mount of Olives. It is then that the expression in the fifty-second chapter, "Thy God reigneth" will also be realized. It is then that He will make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all nations, and all will see the salvation of Israel's God. It is then that Israel, in the language of Isaiah 53:1-12 , will, in the anguish of her soul, cry for mercy.
When Christ was despised and rejected of men Israel hid, as it were, their faces from Him, and esteemed Him not. In the hour of Christ's Return she will cry, "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him smitten, stricken of God, and afflicted." The prophecy of these wonderful verses in chapter fifty-three will be fulfilled.
Chapter fifty-five presents God's call to Israel to return. The fifty-fifth chapter was written of the day of Israel's return, yet it has a very potent message to each lost sinner, and to each saved sinner of every age.
One of the marvels of the Bible is the fact that it gives a twofold message at one and the same time. First, a message distinctive to a certain class and race; and yet a message definitely delivered for all. This is set forth by the Spirit through Timothy where we read, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." The Word of God may have a dispensational meaning, and yet at the same time a general message. In other words, the same thing written to Israel, conveys a marvelous instruction to the Church. God's dealings with the Gentiles are along the same lines as His dealings with the Jews, for there is no difference, for "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," and all must be saved by the same Lord, and the same sacrifice.
I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF GOD'S CALL (Isaiah 55:1 )
1. God's great WHOSOEVER. "Ho, every one that thirsteth." This "every one" makes us think of John 3:16 : "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." We read of one dear man who thought it would be so wonderful to have his name in the Bible, so he had a printer put his name in this verse instead of "whosoever." When it was done, he became alarmed, "Because," said he, "there may be a hundred men who bear my name, and I might not be the one to whom God referred." Thus he decided to leave the words as God wrote them.
2. God's great "if any man." In John 10:9 we read, "By Me if any man [shall] enter in." Whosoever includes everybody. It means me, or you, or anyone else. However, in the expression "any man" there is a significance that had an appeal to some who have imagined that they were too deep in sin. They may have felt themselves not included even in whosoever, which takes on, perhaps, too general a meaning. God, therefore, narrowed it down and out of the multiplied millions of men invited, He addressed each individual personally and said, "If any man."
3. God's great "not willing that any should perish." These words are found in 2 Peter 3:9 . Here is something that shows more than God's willingness to save; it shows God's unwillingness that men should be lost. God might have put a "whosoever may come" knowing that whosoever could not come, therefore God, not willing that any man should perish, provided a way for every man and any man by which he might approach God and be saved. That way was the Cross. God's "every one," "whosoever," and "any man," in order to be saved, must come to the Waters. He must drink if he would have his thirst assuaged; he must eat if he will have his hunger relieved. The last chapter of the Bible says, "Whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely." Do not forget this: while God is willing, the sinner must also be willing.
II. A STARTLING QUESTION (Isaiah 50:2 )
As God looks at the sinner He asks him, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" We have often wondered to ourselves why a sinner would live for the things that die, that fade, and pass away. Why should he build his house upon the sand? Let us suggest three other great questions:
1. Where art thou? God asked this of Adam, as He came, walking in the garden of Eden. It is the first great question of the Old Testament Let each unsaved young man or young woman of our day hear God asking this same question. Let each consider what his response will be. Are they hiding, or running away from His call? God is still saying, "Where art thou?"
2. What hast thou done? This is the second great question of Genesis 3:1-24 . It was asked in the garden, as God laid before the woman the wide scope, and result of her disobedience. Every sinner should face this same query. When we live in sin, let us stop to consider the wreckage which our life is causing, not to others alone, but to ourselves as well. The earth is filled with heartaches and groanings, sorrows and sighings all the result of sin.
3. The third question is the first question of the New Testament. God says, in Genesis: "Where art thou?" and, "What hast thou done?" The sinner as he struggles under the answer which must be given to God, cries out, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" He is now seeking a Saviour, a refuge, a shelter from his sins. After all, the greatest question that every sinner must face, is, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"
III. A STRIKING ADMONITION (Isaiah 55:3-4 )
There are three things which God says to us.
1. Incline your ear. There are some people who are like the people stoning Stephen. They have their fingers in their ears. They refuse to listen to God's queries, or to pay attention to His warnings. They shut Him out of their lives. Every one will grant that God is calling, calling, calling, but man is refusing to hear. Christ said, "Having ears, ye hear not." Let us then "incline" our ears.
2. Come unto Me. This is the second admonition. The verse continues: "Come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live." You can almost see the Master as He stood among the weary and worn people and said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." You can almost see Him on the great day, that last day of the feast, as He cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me." Our Lord still calls. He is a Refuge from the storm, a Shadow of a great rock in a weary land; He is the "Rock that is higher than I." He is the Ark of our redemption, and He is saying, "Come unto Me."
3. Seek ye the Lord. This is the third appeal. First, it was "Incline," then "Come," and now it is "Seek." We remember the promise, Then shall ye "find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart." We remember, also, how Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." We have a seeking Saviour, for we read, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." If there is also a seeking sinner, we are sure that it will not take long for the two to come together.
IV. CONDITIONS OF BLESSING (Isaiah 55:7 )
The Lord is leading us, step by step. First of all He gave His great call to every one that thirsted. Secondly, He gave His startling query, "Wherefore?" This was to arouse the people to a sense of their need, and to the fact of their wasted lives. Thirdly, He gave His admonition calling upon them to incline their ears, to come unto Him, and to seek Him. Now, in Isaiah 55:7 , He is giving the conditions under which they may find Him, and be blessed. These conditions are threefold.
1. "Let the wicked forsake his way." In Isaiah 53:1-12 , two chapters before this study, we find a verse which reads, "We have turned every one to his own way." This expression carries with it the very essence of sin. Sin is the transgression of the Law. Transgression is taking our way, and our will, against the way and will of our Lord. Salvation is bringing us back into His will and way. In order to walk with Him, we must forsake our own path. Sin is rebellion against the Almighty, a star disorbed out of its circuit, unhelmed, wandering in its mad way. To such a sinner is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. It is for this cause the Lord says, "Let the wicked forsake his way."
2. Let the unrighteous forsake his thoughts. Our thoughts are not His thoughts any more than our ways are His ways. There is a span between the two that is as far as the heavens are separated from the earth. The thoughts of the sinful heart is only evil continually. Not only that, but sinful thoughts are self-centered, and not God-centered. It is necessary, therefore, for the unrighteous to forsake his thoughts.
3. Let them return unto the Lord. The suggestion here is that Israel once knew the Lord. However, the sinner may return unto the Lord. Even if he has never known Him personally, his progenitors knew Him. And even the ungodly of today have known much about the Lord. Yet he has been wandering from God every day, farther and farther away. Now he must turn about, retrace his steps, and follow the Master.
V. WHAT GOD WILL DO (Isaiah 55:7 )
Linked with the conditions of blessing are given the promises of blessing. Three things are stated.
1. God will have mercy. When Moses wanted to see God, God said, "I will cause my [mercy] to pass before you." Mercy is as much the character of God, as is His love or His justice. Mercy is God's spirit of forgiveness toward an enemy. The ark of the covenant, which Moses, under God's directions built, was covered with a mercy seat. It was over this mercy seat that the cherubims were placed, looking downward. It was there the blood was sprinkled. The mercy of God is not contrary to His justice. God could not be merciful to a criminal so long as his sins were upon him. God's mercy is made possible through the Blood of the Cross.
In First John we read that Christ is the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation bears the thought of the mercy seat, and might well read, "He is the mercy seat for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." The mercy seat where the blood of atonement was sprinkled, was the basis of God's mercy upon those who return unto Him.
2. God will abundantly pardon. He not only forgives the sinner, but He forgives abundantly, in large measure. Pardon is based upon mercy, and mercy is based upon the Blood of the Cross. God does not pardon because He is sorry for the sinner, but because in His mercy, Jesus Christ was made an offering for sin. We are not forcing a New Testament message into an Old Testament statement. The promise of Isaiah 55:1-13 , that God will abundantly pardon, is based upon the fact of Christ bearing our sins as our Substitute, as expressed in Isaiah 53:1-12 .
3. God will give life. We go back to Isaiah 55:3 to read, "And your soul shall live." In Ezekiel we read of Israel, polluted in her sins, and cast out to the loathing of her person. Then God said, "Live, live!" How wonderful is the story of a new life, of redemption, and regeneration. We are not only saved, but pardoned, and the life of God is richly given to us.
VI. THE CERTAINTY OF GOD'S PROMISES (Isaiah 55:10-11 )
1. The fruitfulness of His Word. The Word which cometh forth from the mouth of the Lord is likened here unto the rain and the snow from heaven, watering the earth, and making it to bring forth and bud. This very thing is stated again and again in the Bible. The Word of God is described as a life-giving Word.
The Epistle of Peter says, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." In Titus we read, "According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." This washing of regeneration is the washing of the Word. Praise God that the seed which is sown is the Word of God, and the new life which is begotten in the believer is begotten through the Divine quickening of that seed.
2. The refreshingness of His Word. The rain and the snow, which water the earth, turns a dry, barren waste into a budding, fruitful field. So is the Word which cometh forth from His mouth. The first Psalm speaks of the blessed man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord. It also describes that blessed man under the figure of a tree which bringeth forth his fruit in his season, whose leaf shall not wither. This is realized because the blessed Man is planted by the rivers of water the Law of the Lord, in which the blessed man delights.
Joshua was admonished to meditate day and night in the Word of the Lord, and he was promised prosperity and success. Who has ever failed to observe in nature the new life, after a wonderful rain has soaked the earth?
3. The effectiveness of His Word. Isaiah 55:11 tells us this Word will not return void. It is a Word which brings things to pass, and prospers in the thing whereto it is sent. If we who are ministers, and personal workers would realize more of the power of His Word we would preach His Word instead of our own ideas. In fact, we are admonished to preach the Word.
VII. THE CLIMACTIC RESULTS (Isaiah 55:12-13 )
Some one has said that the middle verses of this remarkable chapter are a wicket gate through which the sinner may pass from the thirst, the hunger, and the waste of the first two verses, into the joy, peace, and singing of the last two verses. To us this is very suggestive. The chapter opens with, "Ho, every one that thirsteth!" with the call, "Come and eat," and with the query, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?"
These verses plainly depict an unsatisfied heart and a life weary and worn. The last two verses are filled with exaltation. There is a going out with joy. The very mountains and hills are breaking forth into singing, the trees are clapping their hands. The fir trees and the myrtle trees are in full sway. This is a graphic picture, and how did it all happen? The sinner passed through the wicket gate of Isaiah 55:7 and Isaiah 55:8 . Let us pause to consider these climactic results:
1. Ye shall go out with joy.
2. Ye shall be led forth with peace.
3. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree.
We have grouped these marvelous statements together because of our lack of room, to enlarge upon them. We know by experience that this threefold statement is true. We came to the Lord through the wicket gate. We left our sorrows and sighings behind us; and went forth with joy, and with sweet peace flooding our souls. The sense of our sin was gone. We knew it was laid upon Christ. We experienced the peace of God which passeth understanding. We now have fruitfulness, where once there were thorns and thistles, when the harvest of our evil ways was upon us. We now grow myrtle trees and fir trees, and our lives are fruitful unto every good work and word.
"THE GREAT INVITATION"
"Good News of Salvation. Frank Anderson was a 'bell hop' in a Toledo, Ohio, hotel. One day while the boy was in his room two Indianapolis attorneys knocked at his door. Without trying to find out who his visitors were he ordered them to 'git away from that door.' However, they did not 'git' until they had informed the lad that a deceased aunt of his had left him $25,000 in her will.
"Christ is seeking entrance into every life, not only to impart the 'good news' of salvation, but to take up His abiding place in the heart.
"Isn't it strange that men will not welcome Him in?"
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Isaiah 55". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25