Isaiah 55 closes a section of Isaiah that began with chapter 40. Yahweh promised forgiveness (40:2), and now He has brought it (55:6-7). He promised return form exile (40:3-5), and it’s happened (55:12-13). He promised that His word would stand (40:8), and it has (55:10-11).
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? . . .” (Isaiah 55:1-13).
BREAD AND WATER
Zion has been restored (Isaiah 54), and restored Zion opens a food bank. She offers water to the thirst, wine and milk gratis, bread that truly satisfies (55:1-2). Isaiah draws the imagery from the wilderness period, when Yahweh provided bread and wine in the desert, but he also draws on the promises concerning the land of abundance, a land of milk, honey, and wine. It is a feast that renews the covenant with David (v. 3), and even sets a Davidic king up as leader and commander (v. 4). Already during the Davidic monarchy, Gentiles were incorporated into Israel, but when the Lord restores Zion unknown nations will come running (v. 5a; cf. Isaiah 2:2-4). Glorified Zion will be a bright city on a hill, to attract all peoples to the Holy One of Israel (v. 5b).
The Lord offers Himself and His food to anyone who seeks and calls Him (v. 6; cf. Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:2). Seek and you will find. God pities everyone who turns from his wicked ways and thoughts. God forgives everything (vv. 6-7). Verses 8-9 are often quoted to stress God’s superiority to man, but we should notice the context. What makes God’s thoughts and ways higher than ours is the fact that He shows compassion and pardons. We hold grudges and nurse our bitterness; we keep records of wrongs. But God is Love, and Love keeps no record of wrongs. God is mysterious, but what is most mysterious is His incredibly mercy toward sinners.
God differs from us too because His words always have the effect that He intends (vv. 10-11). Rain and snow come down from heaven to water the earth, nourish plants, provide bread. So the Lord’s word comes from heaven to give life to the world, to turn the world into a flourishing garden. In context, Yahweh is speaking about His promises to barren Zion. His word performs what it says: He speaks a return from exile, and it happens. He tells Zion to expect numerous children, and the barren rejoices over a full house (54:1-3).
When Yahweh’s word is fulfilled and Zion’s children return, the whole creation will join in. High places – mountains and hills – will shout for joy (55:12), as the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem (52:8-9). Trees will clap along as part of the procession of returning exiles (55:12). During the exile, weeds, thorn bushes, and nettles had taken over the city (v. 13). But when the exiles return, cypress and myrtle trees, the wood of the temple, will spring up (v. 13). Once a desert, Zion becomes a garden and a grove, a continuous memorial to the faithful word of Yahweh.