Isaiah 55:11
So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) So shall my word be . . .—The point of the comparison is that the predominance of fertility in the natural world, in spite of partial or apparent failures, is the pledge of a like triumph, in the long run, of the purposes of God for man’s good over man’s resistance. It does not exclude the partial, or even total, failure of many; it asserts that the saved are more than the lost. Comp. Isaiah 53:11.

55:6-13 Here is a gracious offer of pardon, and peace, and of all happiness. It shall not be in vain to seek God, now his word is calling to us, and his Spirit is striving with us. But there is a day coming when he will not be found. There may come such a time in this life; it is certain that at death and judgment the door will be shut. There must be not only a change of the way, but a change of the mind. We must alter our judgments about persons and things. It is not enough to break off from evil practices, we must strive against evil thoughts. To repent is to return to our Lord, against whom we have rebelled. If we do so, God will multiply to pardon, as we have multiplied to offend. But let none trifle with this plenteous mercy, or use it as an occasion to sin. Men's thoughts concerning sin, Christ, and holiness, concerning this world and the other, vastly differ from God's; but in nothing more than in the matter of pardon. We forgive, and cannot forget; but when God forgives sin, he remembers it no more. The power of his word in the kingdoms of providence and grace, is as certain as in that of nature. Sacred truth produces a spiritual change in the mind of men, which neither rain nor snow can make on the earth. It shall not return to the Lord without producing important effects. If we take a special view of the church, we shall find what great things God has done, and will do for it. The Jews shall come to their own land; this shall represent the blessings promised. Gospel grace will make a great change in men. Delivered from the wrath to come, the converted sinner finds peace in his conscience; and love constrains him to devote himself to the service of his Redeemer. Instead of being profane, contentious, selfish, or sensual, behold him patient, humble, kind, and peaceable. The hope of helping in such a work should urge us to spread the gospel of salvation. And do thou help us, O Spirit of all truth, to have such views of the fulness, freeness, and greatness of the rich mercy in Christ, as may remove from us all narrow views of sovereign grace.So shall my word be - All the truth which God reveals is as much adapted to produce an effect on the hard and sterile hearts of men as the rain is on the earth.

It shall not return unto me void - It shall not return to me without accomplishing that which Iintend.

And it shall prosper - (See the note at Isaiah 52:13). This proves:

1. That God has a design in giving his Word to people. He has as distinct an intention in his Word as he has in sending down rain upon the earth.

2. That whatever is his design in giving the gospel, it shall be accomplished. It is never spoken in vain, and never fails to produce the effect which he intends. The gospel is no more preached in vain than the rain falls in vain. And though that often falls on barren rocks, or on arid sands; on extended plains where no vegetation is produced, or in the wilderness 'where no man is,' and seems to our eyes in vain, yet it is not so. God has a design in each drop that falls on sands or rocks, as really as in the copious shower that falls on fertile fields. And so the gospel often falls on the hard and barren hearts of men. It is addressed to the proud, the sensual, the avaricious, and the unbelieving, and seems to be spoken in vain, and to return void unto God. But it is not so. He has some design in it, and that will be accomplished. It is proof of the fullness of his mercy. It leaves people without excuse, and justifies himself. Or when long presented - apparently long in vain - it ultimately becomes successful, and sinners are at last brought to abandon their sins, and to turn unto God. It is indeed often rejected and despised. It falls on the ears of people apparently as the rain falls on the hard rock, and there are, so to speak, large fields where the gospel is preached as barren and unfruitful of any spiritual good as the extended desert is of vegetation, and the gospel seems to be preached to almost entire communities with as little effect as is produced when the rains fall on the deserts of Arabia, or of Africa. But there will be better and happier times. Though the gospel may not now produce all the good effects which we may desire, yet it will be ultimately successful to the full wish of the widest benevolence, and the whole world shall be filled with the knowledge and the love of God.

11. (Mt 24:35). Rain may to us seem lost when it falls on a desert, but it fulfils some purpose of God. So the gospel word falling on the hard heart; it sometimes works a change at last; and even if so, it leaves men without excuse. The full accomplishment of this verse, and Isa 55:12, 13, is, however, to be at the Jews' final restoration and conversion of the world (Isa 11:9-12; 60:1-5, 21). So shall my word; my promises before recited concerning the sending of the Messiah, and the blessing of his labours with such wonderful success, and concerning the reconciliation and pardon of the greatest sinners, and concerning the redemption and salvation of his people.

It shall not return unto me void; without success. It is an allusion to an ambassador who returns without despatching that business for which he was sent.

It shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it; it shall have that effect which I intended; it shall certainly be fulfilled in manner before expressed. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth,.... My good word, as the Targum; this may either be understood of Christ, the eternal Word, who is called the Word of God, and may be said to go forth out of his mouth, being spoken of by all his holy prophets, since the world began, whose coming was like the rain or snow, Hosea 6:3, he came from heaven, from his Father there, and as a free gift of his, and in consequence of a decree, as the rain does; the manner of his coming, like that, was suddenly, gratefully, and with great efficacy, watering his people with his grace, through the ministry of the word, and making them fruitful; and though he returned to heaven again, yet not empty, without fruit and effect; he produced a large harvest of souls, and procured all blessings of grace for them, and accomplished the whole will and pleasure of God, in effecting the salvation of his people; and the pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hand: or else it may be interpreted of God's word of promise; the promises are made in heaven, and come from thence as the rain and snow do; are the gifts of God's grace; are very refreshing and reviving, as rain to the earth; and are always effectual, being yea and amen in Christ Jesus; and being made good, fulfil purposes, or the good will and pleasure of God; particularly promises concerning Christ, pardon and peace through him; such as are given forth in this chapter: or rather it may be meant of the word of the Gospel, which is of God; comes from heaven; is a blessing grace; falls according to divine direction here and there; tarries not for the expectations, desires, or deserts of men; falls in great plenty; and is a blessing wherever it comes: it is the means of softening the hard hearts of men; of cooling the conscience set on fire by the law, and allaying the heat of divine wrath there; and of refreshing and reviving drooping, disconsolate, and weary souls: it is the means of the first buddings of grace in the Lord's people, and of the larger exercises and flourishings of it, and of all fruitfulness in good works: it is productive of seed to Christ the sower, and fruit to his ministers who labour under him, and of bread to the eater, the believer, whom it furnishes with the bread of life to feed upon by faith:

it shall not return to me void; it is accompanied with a divine energy; it is the power of God to salvation:

but it shall accomplish that which I please; in the conversion of sinners, and comfort of saints:

and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it: whether it be the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death; whether for the quickening of sinners, and reviving of saints; or whether for the hardening of men, and leaving them without excuse to perish in their sins, both in the Jewish and Gentile world.

So shall my {m} word be that proceedeth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

(m) If these small things have their effect, as daily experience shows much more will my promise which I have made and confirmed, bring to pass the things which I have spoken for your deliverance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. return … void] empty, having achieved nothing, as 2 Samuel 1:22.

but it shall accomplish] without having accomplished, as in Isaiah 55:10.Verse 11. - So shall my word be. God's word is creative. With the utterance the result is achieved. Hence the sublime passage, which even heathenism could admire (Longin., 'De Sublim.,' § 9), "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). Hence, too, the more general statement, "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Psalm 33:6; comp. Psalm 148:5). But it shall accomplish; rather, unless it has accomplished. There is a mixture of two constructions, "It shall not return void," and "It shall not return unless it has accomplished," etc. It shall prosper. Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God has a prosperous course. It is endued with life from God, and (as Delitzsch says) "runs like a swift messenger through nature and the world of man, there to melt the ice, as it were, and here to heal and to save; and it does not return from its course till it has given effect to the will of the Sender. "The special "word" which the prophet has here in mind is the promise, so frequently given, of deliverance from Babylon and return in peace and joy to Palestine. But he carries his teaching beyond the immediate occasion, for the benefit of the people of God in all ages. And in this way it is possible to obtain not only the satisfaction of absolute need, but a superabundant enjoyment, and an overflowing fulfilment of the promise. "Incline your ear, and come to me: hear, and let your soul revive; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the true mercies of David. Behold, I have set him as a witness for nations, a prince and commander of nations. Behold, thou wilt call a mass of people that thou knowest not; and a mass of people that knoweth thee not will hasten to thee, for the sake of Jehovah thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel, that He hath made thee glorious." The expression "make a covenant" (kârath berı̄th) is not always applied to a superior in relation to an inferior (compare, on the contrary, Ezra 10:3); but here the double-sided idea implied in pactio is confined to one side alone, in the sense of a spontaneous sponsio having all the force of a covenant (Isaiah 61:8; compare 2 Chronicles 7:18, where kârath by itself signifies "to promise with the force of a covenant"), and also of the offer of a covenant or anticipated conclusion of a covenant, as in Ezekiel 34:25, and in the case before us, where "the true mercies of David" are attached to the idea of offering or granting involved in the expression, "I will make an everlasting covenant with you," as a more precise definition of the object. All that is required on the part of Israel is hearing, and coming, and taking: let it do this, and it will be pervaded by new life; and Jehovah will meet with with an everlasting covenant, viz., the unchangeable mercies of David. Our interpretation of this must be dependent chiefly upon whether Isaiah 55:4 is regarded as looking back to the history of David, or looking forward to something future. In the latter case we are either to understand by "David" the second David (according to Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:24), so that the allusion is to the mercies granted in the Messiah, and according to Isaiah 9:7, enduring "from henceforth even for ever;" or else David is the son of Jesse, and "the mercies of David" are the mercies bestowed upon him, which are called "the true mercies" as mercies promised and running into the future (Psalm 89:50; 2 Chronicles 6:42), in which case Isaiah 55:4 explains what David will become in the person of his antitype the second David. The directly Messianic application of the name "David" is to be objected to, on the ground that the Messiah is never so called without further remark; whilst the following objections may be adduced to the indirectly Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 55:4 (David in the Messiah). (1.) The change of the tense in Isaiah 55:4, Isaiah 55:5, which requires that we should assume that Isaiah 55:4 points backwards into the past, and Isaiah 55:5 forwards into the future.

(Note: F. Philippi observes that הן, which refers to the future in Isaiah 55:5 at any rate, must be taken as referring to the same sphere of time as that which immediately precedes. But hēn in Isaiah points sometimes backwards (Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 64:4), sometimes forwards; and where two follow one another, of which the one points backwards and the other forwards, the former is followed by the perfect, the latter by the future (Isaiah 50:1-2). But if they both point to the future, the future tense is used in both instances (Isaiah 50:9). A better argument in favour of the prophetic interpretation of Isaiah 55:4 might be drawn from the fact that נתתּי הן may mean "I give (set, lay, or make) even now" (e.g., Jeremiah 1:9). But what we have said above is sufficient proof that this is not the meaning here (if this were the meaning, we should rather expect נתתּיו הן).)

(2.) That the choice of the expression in Isaiah 55:4, Isaiah 55:5 is designed to represent what Israel has to look for in the future as going beyond what was historically realized in David; for in Isaiah 55:5 the mass of the heathen world, which has hitherto stood out of all relation to Israel, answers to the לאמּים. (3.) That the juxtaposition of the Messiah and Israel would be altogether without parallel in these prophecies (chapters 40-66), and contrary to their peculiar character; for the earlier stereotype idea of the Messiah is here resolved into the idea of the "servant of Jehovah," from which it returns again to its primary use, i.e., from the national basis to the individual, by means of the ascending variations through which this expression passes, and thus reaches a more comprehensive, spiritual, and glorified form. The personal "servant of Jehovah" is undoubtedly no other than the "Son of David" of the earlier prophecy; but the premises, from which we arrive at this conclusion in connection with our prophet, are not that the "servant of Jehovah" is of the seed of David and the final personal realization of the promise of a future king, but that he is of the nation of Israel, and the final personal realization of the idea of Israel, both in its inward nature, and in its calling in relation to the whole world of nations.

Consequently Isaiah 55:4 and Isaiah 55:5 stand to one another in the relation of type and antitype, and the "mercies of David" are called "the true mercies" (Probably with an allusion to 2 Samuel 7:16; cf., Psalm 89:29-30), as being inviolable-mercies which had both been realized in the case of David himself, and would be realized still further, inasmuch as they must endure for an everlasting future, and therefore be further and further fulfilled, until they have reached that lofty height, on the summit of which they will remain unchangeable for ever. It is of David the son of Jesse that Jehovah says in Isaiah 55:4, "I have given him for a witness to peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples." So far as the sense is concerned, נגיד is as much a construct as מצוּה. In the application to David of the term עד, which never means anything but testis, witness, in these prophecies, we may clearly see the bent of the prophet's mind towards what is spiritual. David had subdued nations by the force of arms, but his true and loftiest greatness consisted in the fact that he was a witness of the nations - a witness by the victorious power of his word, the conquering might of his Psalms, the attractive force of his typical life. What he expresses so frequently in the Psalms as a resolution and a vow, viz., that he will proclaim the name of Jehovah among the nations (Psalm 18:50; Psalm 57:10), he has really fulfilled: he has not only overcome them by bloody warfare, but by the might of his testimony, more especially as "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1). What David himself was able to say in Psalm 18:43, "People that I did not know served me," will be fulfilled to a still wider extent in the experience of Israel. Having been presented with the promised "inviolable mercies of David," it will effect a spiritual conquest over the heathen world, even over that portion which has hitherto stood in no reciprocal relation to it, and gain possession of it for itself for the sake of Jehovah, whom it has for its God, and to the Holy One of Israel (ל of the object, in relation to which, or at the instigation of which, anything is done), because He hath glorified it (His people: פארך is not a pausal form for פארך, cf., Isaiah 54:6, but for פארך, פארך, hence equals פארך, cf., ענך, Isaiah 30:19); so that joining themselves to Israel is the same as joining themselves to God and to the church of the God of revelation (cf., Isaiah 60:9, where Isaiah 55:5 is repeated almost word for word).

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