Isaiah 54-58 So shall my word not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose

From Isaiah 54-58

23 Isaiah kneelingThe word of the LORD is powerful and will accomplish the LORD’s purpose. In today’s passage Isaiah calls Israel back to the LORD and promises a bright future. He ties the Davidic covenant and the future restoration of all creation together. How will he fulfill his covenant to David? How will he restore creation? Through his word who becomes flesh.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The passage begins inviting anyone who thirsts and hungers.

55 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Is 55:1–2)

Isaiah gives a good offer for all his audience. Everyone needs food and water to live. Normally it costs money to gain these. The free offer is generous.

Isaiah questions why anyone would spend money and works for things that do not satisfy and nourish a person. He calls them to eat things that are good and are satisfying. To delight in rich food.

What kinds of ‘foods’ do you delight in? List three things that satisfy you?

One might think Isaiah is speaking literally. People do naturally thirst and hunger. Usually those who have no money. However, in what follows Isaiah reveals he is speaking about spiritual things. The physical needs of food and water also reflect the spiritual needs of life.

3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 

5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. (Is 55:3–5)

Isaiah says they should listen and if they do their soul may live. He refers to the spiritual connotations of what he is saying. Isaiah speaks the word of the LORD.

People need to hear the word of the LORD to live, to be sustained through life.

The LORD will make an everlasting covenant with those who listen. In 2 Sam 7 God promised David that his son, a descendent of his would have an everlasting kingdom.

“Here Deutero-Isaiah shows clearly what has been implicit in all his teaching: that the eternal covenant with the royal house, with all its mythology, hopes, and traditions, has been transferred to the whole people.” (Barker, M. (2003). Isaiah. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson (Eds.), Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (p. 535). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.)

David will be their leader. The LORD has made him a witness to the peoples, he will be their leader and commander. Isaiah believes David rules over all nations, not just Israel.

Then Isaiah looks forward into the future. When Israel will call a nation they do not know and they will run to them.

Gentiles will run to the people of Israel when they hear the LORD has glorified them.

Since this happens in the future, I think as well Isaiah could possibly be alluding to a future messiah in David’s line.

In line with this wonderful promise, Isaiah exhorts his audience.

6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 

7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have  compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is 55:6-9)

They need to call on the LORD and turn to him in repentance. If they do this the LORD will have compassion on them and pardon them.

Using a series of comparisons Isaiah says why they should do this. The reason they should do this is because the LORD is greater and wiser than they are.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is 55:10-11)

Using imagery of creation and the processes of nature, Isaiah says the word of the LORD is powerful and will achieve its purpose.

We work with our hands and our bodies. God speaks and his word carries out his purposes in creation.

The LORD’s purpose is to give life to his world (Isa 55.10) and his people (Isa 55.3). This is what the everlasting covenant the LORD made with David is about.

12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Is 55:12–13)

Isaiah describes what will happen to them in the future provided they seek the LORD and return to him. They will experience peace and joy.

Creation will respond in joy. The mountains and hills will break out into song. The trees will clap their hands. Nature will be in harmony. Clearly Isaiah is using colourful imagery to describe the future. Mountains and hills don’t have mouths to sing. Trees don’t have hands to clap.

However God’s creation does have a strong connection to the fate of mankind.

When Adam and Eve sinned, the land was cursed (Gen 3). Now creation groans and waits with longing when it will be set free from bondage (Rom 8.19f). Creation and mankind are both part of the LORD’s redemptive purposes. All he needs do is speak.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Israel has had a long history of being reminded of the LORD’s word.

They know from Moses the LORD spoke and creation was formed in six days (Gen 1-2; Ps 33.6). The LORD spoke and he gave them the law (Ex 20, Dt 5). In the wilderness the word of the LORD sustained them and disciplined them (Dt 8:2–3). Sometimes they rejected the word of the LORD and paid for it. Other times there was a famine of the word (Amos 8.11).

At many times and in many ways God spoke to Israel by the prophets (Heb 1.1).

Story of Jesus

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Heb 1.2).

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (Jn 1:1–18)

In these last days the word of the LORD shall not return to him empty. It shall accomplish that which he has purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. He will give life.

Jesus, the word of the LORD, gives life.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.