Isaiah 55-56

 Isa 55:1 “Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come! Buy and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk  without money and without cost! 

F: Who is being called? All who are thirsty. That is, all who are willing to come (Isa 53:6). reminds me of the living water (John 7:37-39). What makes them thirsty? It’s Christ drawing them to himself. Notice without cost. You cannot earn your salvation: God offers it freely. How do you buy it then? Through faith in Christ. (John 6:25-70).

  1. Jesus says to believe in Him as the “work” that God requires: John 6:28-29

  2. Jesus says He is the bread of life but as He told them they have seen Him and still do not believe (John 6:34-40)

  3. The Jews grumble because He said He is the bread that came down from heaven and that they know Him (John 6:41-42).

  4. Jesus goes back to talking about who can be saved. It is only those who the Father sent to Him. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him (i.e. God’s words didn’t fall on deaf ears) will come to Jesus. If the people Jesus is addressing were true believers in God then they would believe in Jesus. As for who has seen the Father, only Jesus has done that. If you believe in Jesus you will have eternal life. When the Jews ate the manna in the wilderness, it sustained them but they died at least in an earthly sense. If you believe in Jesus, however, it is eating the living bread (believing in His atonement for your sins) and you will live eternally after your earthly death. (John 6:43-51)

  5. The disciples have a hard time hearing that they must “eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood”. They asked “who can accept it?” (John 6:60) and Jesus answered them literally.

  6. Jesus points to the words He has spoken and says they are full of Spirit and life (remember God’s word never returns void). Despite this fact, some of the disciples don’t believe. (John 6:63-64). It goes on to say that Jesus knew from the beginning which of the disciples did not believe and who would betray Him. (John 6:64). 

  7. Jesus tells the disciples the conclusion from John 6:64: that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father has enabled them (John 6:65).

  8. Many of Jesus disciples turn away after He says this (John 6:66). Peter responds in faith saying that Jesus has the words of eternal life (John 6:68-69). 

  9. Jesus then says that He has chosen the twelve (John 6:70). This was right after Peter states that he and the disciples have come to believe.

The conclusion from this passage is that God the Father gives people to Jesus and He will never lose any of them. Instead, they will be raised up on the last day and given eternal life. In fact, no-one can come to Jesus except those the Father draws them (like a fisherman draws a net). It’s sometimes hard to see this with all the side notes that Jesus makes (that John wrote down). It’s also hard if you go into the text with a presupposition. The disciples and the Jews apparently had the presupposition that Jesus was talking about literally eating His flesh and blood (though I’m not sure if they actually thought that. The text doesn’t indicate that but just that it was a hard teaching for them).

Isa 55:2 Why pay money for something that will not nourish you? Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing! Enjoy fine food!

F: Why would you pursue worldly things that moth and rust will destroy (Mat 6:20)? Listen carefully to God: read the Bible. Eat the bread that does not perish: Christ’s sacrifice. Don’t be like those who ate the bread in Jesus miracles but didn’t receive the bread of life He offers freely. Someday, we will all sit at the Lord’s table and all the sin will be gone. In Exodus, God provided mana from heaven but Israel longed for food from Egypt. They longed for slavery in exchange for earthly food. God’s response was to destroy them but Moses interceded. God knew this would happen and He planned it as a shadow of Christ interceding for us. As a side note, I heard in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus explicitly lifted the dietary restrictions. It wasn’t just in Acts when the sheet was presented to Peter.

Isa 55:3 Pay attention and come to me!  Listen, so you can live! Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.

This is quoted by Paul in Acts 13:34 and is revealed to be referring to Jesus’s resurrection. Through Christ, the promises of this passage are fulfilled eternally.

F: Recall that both conditional and unconditional covenants were made with Abraham. Conditional is “do this and I will do this” but unconditional is “I will do this”. There is no fine-print at the bottom of God’s unconditional covenants. They are a work that He will do no matter what. Jesus Christ saving us is the ultimate unconditional covenant. Jesus promises never to leave nor forsake us and to let nothing pluck us out of God’s hand (reference verse). There’s a whole sermon by Phil Johnson I recommend talking about how those of us who are truly saved will never lose our salvation.

Isa 55:4 Look, I made him a witness to nations, a ruler and commander of nations.

F: The “him” is talking about the Messiah. Some day He will rule the whole world.

Isa 55:5 Look, you will summon nations you did not previously know;  nations that did not previously know you will run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,  for he bestows honor on you.

F: Because of Jesus, all kinds of nations will not just walk but run to the Lord. 

Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while he makes himself available;  call to him while he is nearby!

F: Is this indicating prevenient grace granted to everyone as the Arminians claim? Once again, we cannot read this verse in isolation and assume that He is granting the opportunity to be saved which must be taken based on a “free-will” human choice. What is this verse saying? It is saying that: 1) the Lord makes himself available 2) Israel should call to Him while He is nearby. In what way is God nearby? Isaiah, God’s prophet, is speaking to them. This itself is an act of God’s grace. There is the implication that the opportunity to believe in Him is fleeting. There is no indication as to who is able to take that opportunity though. There are other verses that indicate when some do not have the opportunity to repent even though they are called to repent because they are dead in their sins and the Lord did not grant them repentance. 

  1. granting repentance

    1. Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25, Romans 2:4

    2. What about 2 Peter 3:9?

      1. Think: who is Peter addressing? Is it a group of unbelievers? No. Peter is addressing believers. The beginning of the letter is Peter addressing his “dear friends” (2 Peter 3:1). He says “dear friends” four times in this chapter. In the beginning of 2 Peter, he tells us who he is addressing (2 Peter 1:1-2).

        1. but wait: can it be that Peter is addressing a congregation that is full of true believers? Churches are typically filled with a mix of believers and unbelievers (perhaps not such a heavily persecuted church?). This would be an attempt to interpret through historical context which should take a back seat to the literary context (remember the hermeneutics diagram). This makes sense to our minds but it is not what is being said in the text.

      2. The “any” in the context of this verse, according to the NET Bible translation notes, means “any of you”. This is because it is linked to the “being patient toward you”.

      3. On the other hand, the “wish” in “He does not wish for any to perish” often means a mere wish. The NET Bible notes say:

 It often represents a mere wish, or one’s desiderative will, rather than one’s resolve. Unless God’s will is viewed on the two planes of his desiderative and decretive will (what he desires and what he decrees), hopeless confusion will result. The scriptures amply illustrate both that God sometimes decrees things that he does not desire and desires things that he does not decree. It is not that his will can be thwarted, nor that he has limited his sovereignty. But the mystery of God’s dealings with humanity is best seen if this tension is preserved. Otherwise, either God will be perceived as good but impotent or as a sovereign taskmaster. Here the idea that God does not wish for any to perish speaks only of God’s desiderative will, without comment on his decretive will. 

  1. The takeaway is that God’s desire about something is being represented aside from His ability to make something occur. It would be a mistake to use this verse to claim that God can’t save people because he doesn’t want any of them to perish. That would be going beyond the text.

  2. I do think the Scriptures clearly teach that God chooses to save only some: John 6:37, 44–45, 65; 10:16, 26; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29–30; 9:1–23; Eph 1:4–5, 11, etc.

F: Why is there a sense of urgency in calling to God while He is nearby? It is so important to stop rebelling against God and being saved that it should be done right away. To wait and say “I’ll do it later” is pretty wicked if you think about it. As mentioned before, at this time, God, sending His prophet, is showing His grace. Should His grace be rejected and rebelling stopped at a time of our choosing? No. I think that’s the point being made here. We are repeatedly reminded that life is fleeting and that the Lord will return soon. However, notice this verse makes no mention as to what is going on behind the scenes. It is not addressing God drawing some people towards Himself and not others. He is simply making the call and saying it’s urgent so once again we shouldn’t read into the verse. 

Isa 55:7 The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle  and sinful people their plans.  They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them,  and to their God, for he will freely forgive them.

F: repentance must accompany saving faith. This is, once again, the Gospel in the Old Testament. It is sovereign God Who grants repentance: 2 Tim 2:25-26, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18. The 2 Tim verses in particular show that those “opponents” of God are held captive by the devil and perhaps God will grant them repentance. It’s sometimes difficult for us to understand God’s king-like qualities -- having grown up in a Democratic-Republic. God is not an elected official, however, and He is not an impotent ruler. He has the power to grant repentance and life to those in rebellious opposition to Him. 

Isa 55:8 Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,  and my deeds are not like your deeds,

F: in contrast to the sinful people’s plans (previous verse), God’s plans are good and perfect. The next verse makes a simile.

Isa 55:9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth,  so my deeds are superior to your deeds  and my plans superior to your plans.

F: this is how much higher and superior God’s plans are than the plans of the sinful people.

Isa 55:10  The rain and snow fall from the sky  and do not return,  but instead water the earth  and make it produce and yield crops,  and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat.

F: God is setting up to make His point in verse 11.

  • Deut 32:2 compares rain to God’s word

  • The purpose is to provide food; nourishment (“fruit”)

  • The only important factor excluded in terms of providing food is the sowing of the seed which Jesus provides in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-20

  • see also Hebrews 6:7–8 which uses the same imagery 

Isa 55:11 In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing.  No, it is realized as I desire  and is fulfilled as I intent

F: The comparison to the previous verse is that God’s Word does not return void just like the rain doesn’t fall upward but rather downward only and produces fruit. This verse is another emphasis on God’s sovereignty. Prov 19:21 also states this truth. Also Ecc 3:14-15. WBC commentary says the following:

2. labor cannot alter god’s immutable, inscrutable providence (ecc 3:1–4:3)

The argument in this section revolves around the repetition of the word “time” in ecc 3:1–8, ecc 3:11, ecc 3:17 and other repeated phrases such as “I have seen” or “I saw” (ecc 3:10, ecc 3:16; ecc 4:1), “I know” (ecc 3:12, ecc 3:14), and “I thought” (ecc 3:17–18). Solomon argued that God has appointed a time for everything (ecc 3:11), even for injustice (ecc 3:16–17) and oppression (ecc 4:1–3). All this is part of the eternal (ecc 3:14), immutable (ecc 3:14), inscrutable (ecc 3:11) providence of God which renders a person’s toil profitless (ecc 3:9).

Isa 55:12 Indeed you will go out with joy;  you will be led along in peace;  the mountains and hills will give a joyful shout before you,  and all the trees in the field will clap their hands.

F: To be more specific, God’s plan is for Israel to go out in peace and joy and all creation will rejoice.

Isa 55:13 Evergreens will grow in place of thorn bushes,  firs will grow in place of nettles;  they will be a monument to the LORD,  a permanent reminder that will remain. 

F: The curse of Adam will be lifted (Gen 3:17-18). The curse of Adam brought thorns and thistles but this is an undoing of that. (Rom 8:19-23)

Isa 56:1 This is what the LORD says,  “Promote justice! Do what is right!  For I am ready to deliver you;  I am ready to vindicate you openly.

F: promoting justice and doing what is right are not the cause of God’s great salvation but the effect: it is the appropriate response made possible through the Holy Spirit’s regeneration. John the baptist baptized for repentance (Matt 3:1-2) and called on people to produce fruit that proves repentance (Mat 3:8) which looks forward to the Holy Spirit’s baptism (Mat 3:11).

Isa 56:2 The people who do this will be blessed,  the people who commit themselves to obedience,  who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it,  who refrain from doing anything that is wrong.

F: this is a continuation of the previous verse about doing good in response to God’s deliverance.

Isa 56:3 No foreigner who becomes a follower of the LORD should say,  ‘The LORD will certainly exclude me from his people.’  The eunuch should not say,  ‘Look, I am like a dried-up tree.’ ”

F: This is re-emphasizing that God’s salvation will be extended to not just Israel but all the nations -- even to societal outcasts such as Eunuchs. Although scorned by the world, those who are faithful to God will be exalted. Eunuchs were excluded from participation in the worship system (Deut 23:1-8) but now they would be exalted under the new way of worshipping in Spirit and in truth

Isa 56:4 For this is what the LORD says:  “For the eunuchs who observe my Sabbaths  and choose what pleases me  and are faithful to my covenant,

F: just a reminder: works never save (Rom 3:20, Eph 2:8-9) so this is an effect from being saved through faith which itself is a gift (just like repentance is a gift).

Isa 56:5 I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument  that will be better than sons and daughters.  I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain.

F: Ironically, the eunuchs who referred to themselves as a “dried up tree” (bearing no fruit=children) would be honored with a “monument” that will be better than sons and daughters (Prov 17:6).

  • the word for monument means “hand and a name”

  • the Masoric Text reads “I will give him an everlasting name”

Isa 56:6 As for foreigners who become followers of the LORD and serve him,  who love the name of the LORD and want to be his servants—  all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it,  and who are faithful to my covenant—

Isa 56:7 I will bring them to my holy mountain;  I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me.  Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,  for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.”

F: once again, all nations = gentiles.

Isa 56:8 The sovereign LORD says this,  the one who gathers the dispersed of Israel:  “I will still gather them up.” 

NICOT: God will not be finished with his gathering of Israel’s outcasts after the return from the exile.

Isa 56:9 All you wild animals in the fields, come and devour,  all you wild animals in the forest!

F: it’s not clear but seems to be telling all the beasts of the fields (domesticated animals on farms and pastures) to devour all the wild animals of the forest. It might mean all you sheep (people of the Lord who have bad shepherds) overcome the wolves who seek to devour the flock -- for the shepherds are useless: blind, impotent (unable to bark), lazy, complacent, etc.


There are, however, times that leaders are called upon to take a less gentle posture. First, Paul told Timothy that elders in the church who are hardened in sinful ways (not just stumbling and getting back up) must be rebuked:

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” — 1 Timothy 5:20 ESV

This posture is a kindness toward the elder in moral rebellion as he needs to be shocked out of his complacency, and it is a needful posture to help maintain a godly fear of sin within the church.

Heretics, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, are also to be sharply rebuked:

…Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” — Titus 1:13-14 ESV

Paul tells Timothy that rebuke is a legitimate aspect of ministry:

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” — 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV

Isa 56:10 All their watchmen are blind,  they are unaware.  All of them are like mute dogs,  unable to bark.  They pant, lie down,  and love to snooze.

Isa 56:11 The dogs have big appetites;  they are never full.  They are shepherds who have no understanding;  they all go their own way,  each one looking for monetary gain.

Isa 56:12 Each one says,  ‘Come on, I’ll get some wine!  Let’s guzzle some beer!  Tomorrow will be just like today!  We’ll have everything we want!’