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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 55

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. LV.

The prophet, with the promise of Christ, calleth to repentance, and to faith. The happy state of them that believe.

Before Christ 719.

THE fourth section in this chapter contains, first, a general invitation to all people, without distinction, desirous of embracing the true religion, freely to participate of the blessings of grace, procured by the sufferings of the Messiah, Isaiah 55:1-2. Secondly, a particular application to the Jews, and to those among them who were slow of heart; whom the prophetic chorus, in the words of God, first exhorts to faith by a reason drawn from the excellence of the kingdom of God, and the privileges of it here promised to them; Isaiah 55:3 and from the example and emulation of the Gentiles, and their adherence to the church, for whom God had appointed the Messiah as their teacher, Isaiah 55:4 and who had gratefully and willingly received him, to the glory of God by the church, Isaiah 55:5. Secondly, he exhorts them to repentance from their vices and sins, the certain hope of pardon being given to all so disposed, Isaiah 55:6-7. Thirdly, he obviates a doubt, which the prejudices of the Jewish nation encouraged, namely, that it could never be, that the Gentiles should obtain that place in the kingdom of God, which they thought due to themselves: wherefore he first extols and illustrates the depth of the divine counsel, which had provided that the Messiah should not want the fruit of his obedience and passion in respect to the Gospel-dispensation through the incredulity of the Jewish nation, as the Gospel, through divine grace, would make a remarkable, and at last, universal progress among the Gentiles, Isaiah 55:8-11. Secondly, he relates the execution of this design, the Gentiles applauding it; with the remarkable effects of the divine grace among them, Isaiah 55:12-13.


Verse 1

Isaiah 55:1. Ho, every one that thirsteth It is universally agreed, that this prophesy concerns the beginning of the Gospel, in describing the attributes of which period the prophet has hitherto been particularly employed; and that in this part of it, especially, both Jews and Gentiles are invited to the communion of gospel-blessings. The Jews themselves refer these words to the times of the Messiah. Divine grace is often represented under the similitude of springs and streams of water; and in the same manner divine knowledge, the food and support of the soul, is represented under the metaphors of meat and drink. See John 6:27. The prophet exhorts men, under this metaphor, to make use of the means of instruction offered by the Gospel; and thus the words are expounded by Christ himself, John 7:37. The word buying is often used to signify in general gaining or procuring any thing; and in this sense Solomon uses the words, when he bids us buy the truth and sell it not. The prophet here adds, without money, and without price, to shew that divine knowledge is of far greater value than to be purchased with money, being the gift of God. The freedom of divine grace, and of all the blessings of the Gospel, is also strongly denoted by these words. See Romans 3:24. Revelation 22:17 and Vitringa.


Verse 3

Isaiah 55:3. Incline your ear, &c.— Vitringa is of opinion, that these words are immediately addressed to the Jews, and he paraphrases them thus: "O ye Jews, who ought to be ashamed of refusing that grace, and the blessings accompanying it, which, offered equally to the Gentiles and to you, will be received by them with avidity; apply yourselves diligently, laying aside the prejudices that you are under, to know the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, and to consider prudently the wonderful appearances, which will render the beginning of the kingdom of God remarkable among you." The sure mercies of David, mean those promises and blessings of the new covenant, which were to be fulfilled by the Messiah, who sprung from David. There are some who by David here understand the Messiah: an opinion which they ground particularly upon the next verse. See Psalms 89:2.


Verse 4

Isaiah 55:4. Behold, I have given him, &c.— The witness and leader here spoken of, unquestionably, is the Messiah, whom God declares that he had given, not to instruct the Jews only, but also the people of the Gentiles. Instead of commander, Vitringa reads instructor. Christ is the faithful and true witness. See Revelation 3:14.


Verses 8-11

Isaiah 55:8-11. For my thoughts are not your thoughts This whole period consists of two comparative sentences; the one of which sets forth the height and sublimity of the thoughts and ways of God, above the thoughts and ways of men; the other, the undoubted power of the word of God, sent forth by him to effect the salvation of mankind. The former is grounded upon the perfect knowledge of God; the other, upon his infinite power. This passage is well connected with the whole argument of this and the former section, as well as with what immediately precedes, respecting the calling of the Gentiles. Concerning the metaphor in the 10th verse, it should be observed, that the word of God, especially his prophetic word, is usually compared in Scripture to rain. See Deuteronomy 32:2. Job 29:22-23. When the inspired writers, therefore, intend to describe the certain completion of any prophesies, they represent it frequently under the image of rain, which impregnates and fertilizes the earth. Isaiah, having in the long prophesy from chap. 40: and especially in Isaiah 55:3-5, of this chapter, displayed the covenant of God with the Israelites, and the due performances of his mercy towards David, established by an oath, wherein he promised that there should never be wanting a king to sit on his throne, and that the person peculiarly designed for this high office, should be teacher and king of the Gentiles; in order to convince any one who should think this incredible, he bids them consider, that the ways of God are immensely higher than those of men; and that those things are easy to him, which are difficult to us. He adds, that the completion of the prophesies, however wonderful, would be inevitably certain; that the prophetic word of God was like unto snow or rain, which, as they do not return to heaven till they have answered the end in watering, impregnating, and fertilizing; in giving bread to the hungry, and seed to the sower; so likewise the prophetic word would accomplish its end, that is to say, its predictions. See Michaelis and Vitringa.


Verse 12

Isaiah 55:12. For ye shall go out with joy The prophet, in words and ideas which seem borrowed from the departure of the Jews from Babylon, here represents the first preachers of the Gospel going forth to preach the glad tidings of salvation to the Gentiles together with the good success of their expedition, in the 13th verse. See ch. Isaiah 41:19. The meaning of the last clause, and it shall be to the Lord for a name, is, "it shall be a striking argument of the divine favour, most honourable to God, and to continue for all ages; so that whoever shall compare the state of the renewed world, under the influence of divine grace, with its former state, shall acknowledge and celebrate the everlasting power and goodness of God." The memory of excellent men and teachers in the church, says Vitringa, as proofs and monuments of the divine grace, is never abolished: they are palms, cedars, and myrtles, flourishing in perpetual verdure.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. A gracious invitation to sinners in general, to come and partake of the benefits and ordinances of the Gospel. Ho, every one that thirtieth; no exception is made; the invitation is general and universal to sinners of all ranks and degrees: if they thirst for pardon, righteousness, and salvation, as those who see themselves perishing without it, then they may come to Jesus Christ, and find welcome: come ye to the waters, Christ is the fountain of living waters, his spirit is usually represented by this emblem, and his ordinances are the pools; in these the soul maintains communion with the Saviour, and he dispenses out of his fulness to the thirsty: and he that hath no money; free and gracious is the salvation of the Gospel, requiring no meritorious qualifications, nothing of our own to recommend us to the divine favour, for indeed we have nothing worth his acceptance; we are by nature utterly corrupt and sinful, and our spiritual poverty most abject and miserable; yet that is no discouragement: no, it is such, and such alone, whom Christ invites, and who will be persuaded to come to him to buy and eat. As food eaten and digested nourishes the body, so do the promises of the Gospel, when mixed with faith, profit our souls. Christ in his ordinances is to be fed upon, his word is the bread of life; and in his sacraments we eat his flesh and drink his blood, the sweetest and most nourishing food for our souls; called, therefore wine and milk: come, buy wine and milk; the invitation is repeated, because of our stupid backwardness; and Christ urges our acceptance of his mercy, as if it were a favour done to him, instead of an unutterable obligation conferred on us. And lest we should hesitate, because mention is made of a purchase, and we have nothing to pay, the whole is offered without money, and without price; Christ, indeed, hath paid to the full for all the blessings that he bestows; but to us they come free as the light which shines on us, or the air we breathe.

2. Christ expostulates with those who seek righteousness and comfort out of him. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? all the toil and pains of the worldly-minded can never procure them solid satisfaction; corroding cares leaven their gains and corrupt their enjoyments; the pleasures that they seek in present vanities, are found husks instead of bread, and disappointments perpetual bid them seek a better and more enduring portion. And they who, by their doings and duties, would fain establish a righteousness for acceptance before God, labour but in the fires; their bread is poison, their toil their ruin; the more they seek thus to enter into life, the farther they advance in the path of death; for out of Christ there is no justifying righteousness; and all worldly enjoyments, without his love and favour, are but flattering dreams; and death, too late, will awaken the soul to perceive the fatal delusion. Happy they who are led to seek their happiness from Christ alone, and from him to expect righteousness and salvation.

3. He exhorts them to hearken to his word, and embrace the true good, which he offers to bestow upon them. Hearken diligently unto me, with such serious attention as the importance of the salvation of an immortal soul demands, and eat ye that which is good; the good things, which the word of truth in the Gospel proclaims, such good things as pass man's understanding; and let your soul delight itself in fatness, in the pardon and peace, righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost, which are provided as the richest feast for the believing soul. Incline your ear, and come unto me, Jesus would kindly, would earnestly court the sinner to taste the riches of his grace: Strange! that we should need intreaty to come to him and be happy! hear, and your soul shall live, or that your soul may live; life spiritual and eternal being derived from the word of Jesus, and they who hear and perseveringly believe in him in the way of holiness can never die: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David; to strengthen our faith, God condescends to bind himself under a covenant with the faithful. The blessings of the covenant are called mercies, because man's desert is utterly excluded; and mercies of every kind, whether respecting grace or glory; the mercies of David, that is, of Christ his Son, by whom they were obtained, through whom they are dispensed, and in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. Blessed, for ever blessed be God, for Jesus Christ!

4. Christ is promised for a witness to his people; him hath God the Father sent, to bear witness to the truth, and he is faithful and true. He came in the flesh, to publish to all nations the great salvation of God, and by his works and miracles sufficiently proved his divine mission: him we are commanded to hear and obey, for he is a leader and commander to the people; a leader, as he instructs and guides his people to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness: a commander, the captain of our salvation, who will subdue all our enemies before us, and make his faithful people more than conquerors; who bids us follow him, and leads the way to victory and everlasting triumphs. Note; They, who perseveringly with the heart receive Christ's word as true, will follow his example as their pattern, and manfully fight under his banners, win through his grace, and wear the crown of righteousness.

5. Vast and numerous shall be the converts who at the invitation of Jesus shall come to him. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, the nations of the Gentile world, that before were not acknowledged as God's people; and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee, denoting the eagerness with which the Gentiles would receive and embrace the Gospel; because of the Lord thy God; because of the demonstration of the Spirit and power accompanying the word, and the grace and love of God in the Gospel, which are mightily constraining; and because they now perceive that there is no approaching a holy God but through a Saviour; and for the Holy One of Israel, trusting on his faithfulness; or to the Holy One of Israel, to Christ the holy Saviour; on whose atonement, merit, and grace, they alone depend; for he hath glorified thee; God the Father hath exalted his Son Jesus, given him to be head over all, committed all power into his hands; and he is glorified when sinners come to him, out of his fulness to receive an abundant supply of all their wants; and this is an encouragement to draw near to him, since our salvation is his glory.

2nd, We have the same subject of the return of sinners to God, farther prosecuted.

1. They are urged to seek God, from the consideration of his rich grace and readiness to receive the miserable that fly to him for mercy. [1.] The persons addressed are the wicked and righteous, for such we all are by nature, and such Christ Jesus came to seek and save; they who know not this to be their natural character, have no part nor lot in his salvation. [2.] The way in which they are directed to proceed. In penitence, prayer, and faith. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near; God will be found of them that seek him; this is his promise: therefore on our knees we must cry for the pardon and mercy which we need and he offers to bestow, and this without delay, before his abused patience cast us off, and say, my Spirit shall no longer strive; or death carry us to the tomb, when it will be too late to knock, because the door is shut. Oh, how should this awful consideration awaken our importunity, while the day of life and mercy lasts! Let the wicked forsake his way, let him turn from the paths of sin with loathing and abhorrence, nor spare one darling lust; and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let not one allowed desire of evil remain; the views of promised grace must constrain the sinner to part with all readily, cheerfully, unreservedly, and to cleanse the temper as well as reform the practice; and let him return unto the Lord, from whom he had so greatly departed; to stand before him as a criminal seeking pardon, as a helpless worm to find grace, and as a redeemed soul now engaged in his service, and desiring to follow him in all his holy ways; whoever thus seeks, will find. For, [3.] God promises that he will have mercy upon him; yea, will abundantly pardon; no guilt so great, no iniquity so aggravated, but that there is with him grace abounding to the chief of sinners. And this is mentioned, not as the condition and reward of our repentance and prayers, but as the argument to engage us thereto; seeing we can neither repent nor pray, till in some sense we see this mercy and grace extended towards us. [4.] He answers an objection which their fears might raise, guilt being ever ready to drive us to despair. They, indeed, who have never known the burden of sin, think it easy to believe in God's mercy; while they who have once felt it, are soon convinced of the unbelief of their hearts. My thoughts, says God, are not your thoughts, in general with regard to sin, Christ, happiness, &c. and particularly which seems here intended respecting the manner of the sinner's acceptance: for when we scarcely dare believe he can receive such vile wretches as we are, he knows how to glorify himself in being the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus; neither are your ways my ways; ours are perverse, his pure; ours lead to death and hell, his to life and glory: we never could forgive one who had offended us as we have God, yet he can and doth freely and fully both forgive and forget it. Thus, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so incomparably transcendant are his thoughts and ways of mercy and grace beyond all that we can ask or think.

2. The Lord engages to make his own word effectual to all that believe. For as, in the kingdom of nature, the rain and snow, directed by Divine Providence, water the earth, and cause its fertility, accomplishing God's purposes of mercy in providing food for men's bodies; So, says he, shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth, the word of the Gospel, of which Christ is the sum and substance; it shall not return unto me void, but, accompanied with divine energy, it shall accomplish that which I please, be effectual to the conversion of numbers that yield to be saved by grace: and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it, producing a plenteous harvest of converted souls, and leaving those inexcusable who reject it. Note; It is a great encouragement to all the faithful ministers of Christ, to be assured that they shall not labour in vain in the Lord: to some they will be a favour of life unto life; to others a favour of death unto death: and in both God will be glorified.

3. The word, being made effectual to the conversion of men's souls, will produce great joy in the hearts of the faithful; as was the case with the Jews when released from Babylon, to whom this may primarily be applied, and who herein represented the people of God going forth from the slavery of sin, their bands loosed, and they rejoicing in the glorious liberty of the sons of God, while the mountains and hills break forth into singing, as if congratulating their deliverance, and all the trees of the fields clap their hands for joy; which may express the delight of the apostles and ministers of the word, when they saw their labours so abundantly blessed, and so many converted by their preaching, who rejoiced with them at so blessed an event; but more especially and particularly refers to the glory of the latter days. And in consequence of this a wondrous change will take place in men's tempers and dispositions. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree; and, being thus renewed in the spirit of their minds, it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Such is the infinite mercy and love of God towards all his faithful people!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 55:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-55.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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