Isaiah 55:1. Ho, every one — Not only Jews, but Gentiles; that thirsteth — For the grace of God, and the blessings of the gospel; that desires them sincerely and earnestly, is active and diligent in the pursuit of them, and cannot be satisfied without enjoying them; come ye to the waters — Where you may drink and be refreshed: come and partake of the graces and comforts of God’s Spirit, frequently compared to water in the Scriptures, and here designed by the other metaphorical expressions which occur in the next clause. And he that hath no money — Even those who are most poor in the world, and those who are most worthless and wicked, if they do but thirst, shall be welcome. Come ye, buy and eat — That is, come and receive that which is freely offered to you, and which you shall as freely partake of, and enjoy as your own, as if you had bought and paid the full price for it. Buy wine and milk — Here put for all sorts of provisions, which are also to be understood of spiritual and gospel blessings, as is evident from the following words: as if he had said, These blessings shall not only refresh you, as water refreshes the thirsty, but they shall cheer you like wine, and nourish you like milk.
Isaiah 55:2-3. Wherefore do ye spend money — All your time, and strength, and cost; for that which is not bread — For those things which can never nourish or satisfy you, such as worldly goods or pleasures. Hearken diligently unto me — Unto my doctrine and counsel; and eat ye that which is good — And not such things as, though they be called and seem to be good, yet really are evil and most pernicious to men. And let your soul delight itself, &c. — In this pleasant food of gospel enjoyments. Hear, and your soul shall live — Hearken attentively and obediently to my counsels, and your immortal souls shall not only be saved from perishing eternally, but shall be eternally blessed and happy. And I will make an everlasting covenant with you — That everlasting covenant of grace and peace which I made with Abraham and his seed. The sure mercies of David — Even that covenant which was made first with Abraham, and then with David, concerning those glorious and sure blessings which I have promised to my people; one, and the chief, of which was the giving Christ to die for their sins. David here seems to be put for Christ the son of David.
Isaiah 55:4-5. Behold, I have given him — I have already appointed, and will, in due time, actually give the David last mentioned, even Christ, for a witness — To declare the will of God concerning the duty and salvation of men; to bear witness to the truth, John 18:37; to confirm God’s promises, and, among others, those which respect the calling of the Gentiles; to be a witness of both parts of that covenant made between God and men; to the people — Not only to my people of Israel, but to all people, Gentiles no less than Jews, as is evident from the following verse, from Isaiah 49:6, and divers other places; a leader and commander to the people — A sovereign prince, to give them laws and exact their obedience, and in case thereof to give them protection and rewards. Behold thou — O Messiah, of whom he spake Isaiah 55:4, and to whom he now suddenly turns his speech; shalt call — Namely, to thyself, and to the knowledge of thy truth, and thereby unto an acquaintance and fellowship with God; a nation that thou knowest not — Or, rather, didst not know, namely, with that special knowledge which implies approbation. And nations that knew not thee — That had but little knowledge of the living and true God, and no knowledge of the Messiah; shall run unto thee — Upon thy call, shall readily and speedily come to thee, to receive instructions from thee, and to follow thee whithersoever thou shalt lead them; because of the Lord thy God — Because the Lord shall, by many evident and unquestionable tokens, manifest himself to be thy God, and thee to be his Son and faithful servant. And for the Holy One of Israel — Because the God of Israel, the only true God, will highly honour thee by his singular presence with thee; by his almighty power accompanying thy word, and making it effectual for the conversion of an innumerable company, both of Jews and Gentiles; and by confirming thy word with illustrious signs and miracles, and particularly by thy resurrection and glorious ascension. These, and other similar considerations, were the arguments which convinced the Gentiles that Christ was the true Messiah, and that the religion which he taught was the true religion.
Isaiah 55:6-7. Seek ye the Lord, &c. — Having discoursed of the office and work of Christ, and showed that he should call people and nations to himself and to God, the prophet now endeavours to persuade the people to hearken to his call, and to seek the Lord; that is, to labour to get the knowledge of God’s will, and to obtain his grace and favour, neither of which could be obtained save in and through Christ. And this exhortation is general, like that Isaiah 55:1, intended for all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, implying that both of them had lost the favour and knowledge of God, and were gone astray from him. While he may be found — In this day of grace, while he offers mercy and reconciliation, which he will not always do: see Proverbs 1:24, &c.; Luke 19:44; 2 Corinthians 6:2. Call upon him while he is near — Near to you by his gracious presence and his offers in his ordinances, and ready and desirous to receive you to mercy upon the following conditions. Let the wicked — Any wicked man, either Jew or Gentile; forsake his way — His evil or wicked way; his sinful course or manner of life; called his way, as being natural, customary, and dear to him, and in opposition to God’s good way. Let him cease to do evil, Isaiah 1:16. Observe well, reader, men’s seeking God in the use of outward means, and even the calling upon him in prayer, will do them no lasting good, unless this be attended with the reformation of their lives; and the unrighteous man his thoughts — The sinful desires, intentions, and purposes of his mind. Thus he strikes at the root of all sinful actions, and shows that the heart must be changed as well as the outward conduct. And let him return unto the Lord — As he departed from God by sin, so let him return to him by sincere repentance and faith, productive of new obedience. By this he signifies, that a mere abstinence from wicked courses is not sufficient, without the exercise of the contrary graces and virtues. And to our God — To the God of Israel, who is, and has shown himself to be, a most merciful and gracious God; for he will abundantly pardon — He uses so many words and arguments to encourage and lead them to repentance, because the persons here principally addressed had been guilty of idolatry, apostacy, and many other acts of gross wickedness, which he knew, when they came to themselves, and to have a serious sense of their sins, and of the just and holy nature and law of God, would be an insupportable burden to their awakened consciences, and would make them ready to conclude that God would not pardon such horrible delinquencies; in consequence of which they would rather be driven from God, than induced to draw near to him.
Isaiah 55:8. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, &c. — My disposition and way differ vastly from yours. If any man injure you, especially if he do it greatly and frequently, you are slow and backward to forgive him. But I am ready to forgive all true penitents, how many, and great, and numberless soever their sins be; and my promises of mercy and pardon shall be infallibly made good to them: and therefore you need not fear to come to me, or question but you shall find mercy and acceptance with me.
Isaiah 55:10-11. For as the rain cometh down — To water and refresh the earth, and render it fruitful; and the snow from heaven — Which, in its season, contributes to the fertility of the earth, as well as the rain; and returneth not thither — Namely, without effect, or immediately: it is not drawn up again as soon as it comes down, but abides for a convenient time upon the earth, until it do that work for which it is sent. That it may give seed and bread, &c. — That it may bring forth store of bread-corn, both for men’s present supplies, and for seed for the next year. So shall my word be — My promises concerning the pardon of the greatest sinners, and the redemption and salvation of mankind. It shall not return unto me void — Without success. It is an allusion to an ambassador who returns without despatching the business for which he was sent. It shall accomplish that which I please — It shall have the desired effect; and it shall prosper, &c. — It shall certainly be fulfilled in the manner before expressed.
Isaiah 55:12-13 For, or therefore: you shall go out with joy — Ye shall be released from your bondage, because God hath promised, and will effect it. He alludes to their going out of Egypt, or to their release from Babylon, which deliverances were emblematical of the redemption of mankind, by Christ, from the power of sin and Satan. And be led forth — Or led onward, as Bishop Lowth renders תובלון, be conducted by the gracious and powerful presence of God, as the Israelites were in the wilderness; in peace — Safely and triumphantly, without fear of being retaken and brought back into slavery by your enemies. The mountains and the hills shall break forth, &c. — There shall be a great and general rejoicing at your deliverance. For “these are highly poetical images, to express a happy state, attended with joy and exultation.” Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree — “These likewise are general poetical images, expressing a great and happy change for the better: the wilderness turned into a paradise, Lebanon into Carmel; the desert of the Gentiles watered with the heavenly snow and rain, which fail not to have their due effect, and becoming fruitful in piety and righteousness: or, as the Chaldee gives the moral sense of the emblem, ‘instead of the wicked shall arise the just, and instead of sinners, such as fear to sin.’” — Bishop Lowth. In other words, The church shall be delivered from pernicious men and things, and replenished with sincere and serious believers, and with all sorts of divine graces and blessings. And it shall be to the Lord for a name — This wonderful change shall bring much honour to that God by whom it is wrought. For an everlasting sign — For a monument, or evident and glorious token of God’s infinite power, faithfulness, and love to his people, unto all succeeding generations; that shall not be cut off — Which shall never be abolished, but shall always live and flourish in the minds and mouths of men.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 55". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany