Devotional Commentary on Isaiah 55


Isaiah described in this panel the Word of God, its importance, its extent, its necessity, its success, its effectiveness.


Comparing chapter 54 with Revelation on the New Jerusalem event and chapter 55 with the gospel of John extending the hand of appeal for conversion while there is still time was the message of J. D. Smart in 1965 on this section. John 3:16 was seen by him as tied into this bargain sale.


The threefold come is followed by the threefold listen and there is the threefold guarantee, the covenant (verse 3c), the king (verse 3d-5b) and the Lord (verse 5c-e) (see J. Mortyer 1993: 452). Westermann said it reminds him of street-vendors who urgently wants to sell something (Westermann 1966 page 282). It is as if Isaiah is imitating an ancient supermarket. Here in the Orient they still scream from the vegetables, the fish and beef supplies for customers to come and buy. Verses 1-5 can be seen in that light.


This hostile world is separated from God “for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (v. 9a-c). For this reason, with such a gap between sinful humanity and the Righteous God “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, My ways” (v. 8a-b).


Commenting on this separation as an “abyss” J. D. Smart 1965 220-222 said that “the deadly abyss between themselves and God that can be bridged only by their responding with their whole being to God’s offer of forgiveness.”


It is across this infinite gulf that the voice of God (6-7) calls to repentance” (J. Mortyer 1993 page 457).


That is why humans suffer spiritual thirst and hunger and God says they need to “come to the waters” (v. 1a) and “come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (v. 1c-d).


M. L. Andreasen in 1929 described this need of water for spiritual thirst as follows: “‘Every one that thirsteth.’ The condition for receiving the blessings of God is not riches, for you may come without money. It is not condition, or rank, or learning. It is simply your need. Are you thirsty? Then come. Thirst is perhaps the greatest and most compelling of physical desires. A man who is hungry will, after a while, quietly lie down and die; the thirsty man will spend himself in mad strivings. His whole nature is burning up. He must have water. This strong desire is compared to spiritual thirst.“


Ellen White calls water as symbol for Christ, the Word, emblem of divine grace, spiritual life, Wine is not alcohol drinks since alcohol or yeast is a symbol of sin in the Bible. That is why the unleavened bread is important as sacred symbols. In Isaiah 25 it was already explained that at Persepolis economic texts were found from the days of Darius the Great and Walther Stolper of the Oriental Institute who looked at food items in these texts. Wine was a ration provided for horses? Scholar in the past have indicated that wine can mean: jam, grapejuice, grape sauce, dried cooked grapes, raison drinks and so forth.


They are spending money on non-essentials, fashion, cars, digital devices and smartphones, but it cannot satisfy spiritually.


About useless spending in our lives Ellen White said: “Spending money uselessly is sin. In this day when there are people suffering for the necessities of life, when there is an even greater spiritual need, we must be careful in the expenditure of every penny. ‘Money is a trust from God. It is not ours to expend for the gratification of pride or ambition. In the hands of God's children it is food for the hungry, and clothing for the naked. It is a defense to the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, a means of preaching the gospel to the poor. You could bring happiness to many hearts by using wisely the means that is now spent for show. Consider the life of Christ. Study His character, and be partakers with Him in His selfdenial.”— Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 287.


About hungry that should eat, Ellen White says: “’Eat ye that which is good.’ God demands that the appetites be cleansed, and that self-denial be practiced in regard to those things which are not good. This is a work that will have to be done before His people can stand before Him a perfected people.”— Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 9, pp. 153, 154.


God wants them to “listen carefully to Me” the spoken Word (v. 2c). If they listen, they will “delight yourselves in abundance” (v. 2d). They need to come to God “listen [to the spoken Word] that you may live” (v. 3b). If they do, the Lord will “make an everlasting covenant with you” which compares to the faithful mercies shown to David (v. 3c-d). The one who listens to the Word of God, receives salvation when he/she inclines the ear, “I have made him[her] a witness to the peoples” (v. 4a).


About the everlasting covenant in verse 3 M. L. Andreasen in 1929 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 7 summarized with Ellen White: “’An everlasting covenant.‘ This covenant of grace was first made in Eden. Gen. 3:15. It was renewed to Abraham. Gen. 22:18; 26:4, 5; 17:7. It was ratified by Christ on the cross.“ (See Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 370, 371.) ”And "in the last days of this earth's history, God's covenant with His commandment-keeping people is to be renewed.“— Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 299.


Global evangelism is the keyword here. “Behold you will call a nation you do not know and a nation which knows you not will run to you” (v. 5a-b). This will happen because of the “Lord your God even the Holy One of [spiritual] Israel” (v. 5c). He “has glorified you”.


On the matter of calling of nations (gôy = world outside) in verse 5, M. L. Andreasen indicated in his 1929 Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 7: “The thought in this verse is that Christ shall call nations with whom He had not hitherto made any covenant, that is, the Gentiles. These would be drawn to Him because God would glorify His Son. In the death and resurrection of Christ, God did glorify the Son. John 17:1; Acts 3:13-15.”


Verses 6-7 consists of a three-part call to repentance followed by a three-part substantiation of the call (I: 8-9; II: 10-11; III: 12-13). All three parts begins with the Hebrew particle “for”. Each substantiation contains an illustration drawn from nature (Mortyer 1993 page 456).


While we are this side of the Latter Rain of Worldwide evangelistic success and before the Time of Trouble and Second Coming, “seek the Lord while He may be found” (v. 6a).


Seek is not in the sense of looking for what is lost but of coming with commitment to one known to be there” (Mortyer 1993 page 456). “While He is near…implies urgency, a limited time of opportunity” (ibid).


The wicked should forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. When the sinner return to the Lord “He will have compassion on him and to our God [which is Christ the Advocate, Who is also God, Who’s request on behalf of the sinner’s plea for forgiveness] for He will abundantly pardon” (v. 7c-f).


We come to the Lord as we are, but not to stay as we are” (Dowsett 1987 lecture at Christ Church, see Mortyer 1993 page 456).


The Word of God is necessary in all of this because God is on High separated from sin and Christ is that Word that brings sinful man in touch with a sinless God. The effectiveness of this Word is described like rain falling from heaven on earth and making things grow supplying seed and bread to humanity (v. 10) so also the Word of God that “goes out from My mouth” (v. 11a), shall not return to Me empty “without accomplishing what I desire” (v. 11c).


God can already see the success and effectiveness of His Word. It will succeed “and without succeeding for which I sent it” (v. 11d).


Ellen White said about this sowing of the seed that will be prosperous in verses 10-11: “’It shall prosper.‘ ’The work of the sower is a work of faith. The mystery of the germination and growth of the seed he can not understand; but he has confidence in the agencies by which God causes vegetation to flourish. He casts away the seed, expecting to gather it manyfold in an abundant harvest. So parents and teachers are to labor, expecting a harvest from the seed they sow.‘ Ellen White, Education,” p. 105, cited by M. L. Andreasen in 1929 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 7-8.


Delitzsch agrees with Ellen White here in thought in Vol. II 1890 page 330 on the confidence in the agencies by which God causes vegetation to flourish in verses 10-11 when he said: ““...the proper point of comparison is the energy with which the word is transformed into an effectively operating power.”


The effectiveness of verse 10-11 is seen by J. Mortyer 1993 page 458 as follows: “As the rain furnishes both seed and bread, so the word of God plants seed of repentance in the heart and feeds the returning sinner with the blessed consequences repentance produces.”


Then Isaiah opened the panel of the Resurrection event and says “for you will go out [of the graves] with joy and be led forth with peace” (v. 12a-b). The mountains and the hills will echo with the joy of the resurrected remnant (v. 12c). All the trees of the [after a thousand years] will clap their hands (v. 12d).


We know it is after the Hell event for the re-creation of this earth and its heaven will only occur at that time “instead of a thorn bush the cypress will come up” (v. 13a). Instead of the nettle, the myrtle.


Paradise Regained” said J. Mortyer in 1993 page 458 on verses 12-13.


This new earth and new heavens will be “a memorial to the Lord” and it will be an “everlasting sign which will not be cut off” (v. 13d). All the unfallen worlds will know this new earth and its inhabitants forever since this great history included the Son of God, the Creator, in its drama.


The set-up of a memorial by the Lord is described as follows by J. D. Smart in 1965 page 228: “The transformed earth would be a memorial of God’s victory …forever a sign of the power of the living God…a transformed earth, a transformed community, a transformed humanity….” (cited from Mortyer 1993 page 458).


While Adventists stop with a high note here, the preterist S. R. Driver 1893 page 157 is still sitting in the Babylonian exile with Isaiah’s message in his view addressed to their joy of return.


Two views, two ways. It reminds me of Raphael’s painting of “The School of Athens” between 1509-1511, with Plato on the viewer’s left and Aristotle (his younger student) on the viewer’s right. Both in the center of the picture with their students and followers spread out on each side. Plato points with his finger to heaven and Aristotle is pointing with his hand down. Heaven is up there and that is where reality is, thus Plato. No, says Aristotle, heaven is down here and that is where reality is, thus: let us eat, drink and be happy, for tomorrow we may die.” Ellen White, Andreasen and other Adventists are standing on Plato’s side on this chapter but S. R. Driver et al. is standing on Aristotle’s side.


Dear God

Thanks for the intercession of the living Word of God on our behalf. Gratitude to You for giving us the Word of God on paper and in Text to supply us with the conceptual Image of Your Son and our Savior. Amen.