Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Isa 55:1-13. The Call of the Gentile World to Faith the Result of God's Grace to the Jews First.
1. every one—After the special privileges of Israel (Isa 54:1-17) there follow, as the consequence, the universal invitation to the Gentiles (Lu 24:47; Ro 11:12, 15).
Ho—calls the most earnest attention.
thirsteth—has a keen sense of need (Mt 5:6).
waters … wine and milk—a gradation. Not merely water, which is needed to maintain life at all, but wine and milk to strengthen, cheer, and nourish; the spiritual blessings of the Gospel are meant (Isa 25:6; So 5:1; Joh 7:37). "Waters," plural, to denote abundance (Isa 43:20; 44:3).
no money—Yet, in Isa 55:2, it is said, "ye spend money." A seeming paradox. Ye are really spiritual bankrupts: but thinking yourselves to have money, namely, a devotion of your own making, ye lavish it on that "which is not bread," that is, on idols, whether literal or spiritual.
buy … without money—another paradox. We are bought, but not with a price paid by ourselves (1Co 6:20; 1Pe 1:18, 19). In a different sense we are to "buy" salvation, namely, by parting with everything which comes between us and Christ who has bought it for us and by making it our own (Mt 13:44, 46; Lu 12:33; Re 3:18).
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
2. not bread—(Hab 2:13). "Bread of deceit" (Pr 20:17). Contrast this with the "bread of life" (Joh 6:32, 35; also Lu 14:16-20).
satisfieth not—(Ec 1:8; 4:8).
hearken … and eat—When two imperatives are joined, the second expresses the consequence of obeying the command in the first (Ge 42:18). By hearkening ye shall eat. So in Isa 55:1, "buy and eat." By buying, and so making it your own, ye shall eat, that is, experimentally enjoy it (Joh 6:53). Compare the invitation (Pr 9:5, 6; Mt 22:4).
fatness—(Ps 36:8; 63:5).
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
3. me … live—by coming to me ye shall live: for "I am the life" (Joh 14:6).
everlasting covenant—(Jer 32:40; 2Sa 23:5).
with you … David—God's covenant is with the antitypical David, Messiah (Eze 34:23), and so with us by our identification with Him.
sure—answering to "everlasting," irrevocable, unfailing, to be relied on (Ps 89:2-4, 28, 29, 34-36; Jer 33:20, 21; 2Sa 7:15, 16; 2Co 1:18-20).
mercies of David—the mercies of grace (Isa 63:7; Joh 1:16) which I covenanted to give to David, and especially to Messiah, his antitype. Quoted in Ac 13:34.
Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
4. him—the mystical David (Eze 37:24, 25; Jer 30:9; Ho 3:5). Given by God (Isa 49:6).
witness—He bore witness even unto death for God, to His law, claims, and plan of redeeming love (Joh 18:37; Re 1:5). Revelation is a "testimony"; because it is propounded to be received on the authority of the Giver, and not merely because it can be proved by arguments.
commander—"preceptor" [Horsley]; "lawgiver" [Barnes].
to the people—rather, "peoples."
Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
5. thou—Jehovah addresses Messiah.
call … run—God must call, before man can, or will, run (So 1:4; Joh 6:44). Not merely come, but run eagerly.
thou knowest not—now as thy people (so in Mt 7:23).
nation … nations—gradation; from Israel, one nation, the Gospel spread to many nations, and will do so more fully on Israel's conversion.
knew not thee—(Isa 52:15; Eph 2:11, 12).
because of … thy God … glorified thee—(Isa 60:5, 9; Zec 8:23); where similar language is directed to Israel, because of the identification of Israel with Messiah, who is the ideal Israel (Mt 2:15; compare with Ho 11:1; see Ac 3:13).
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
6. The condition and limit in the obtaining of the spiritual benefits (Isa 55:1-3): (1) Seek the Lord. (2) Seek Him while He is to be found (Isa 65:1; Ps 32:6; Mt 25:1-13; Joh 7:34; 8:21; 2Co 6:2; Heb 2:3; 3:13, 15).
call—casting yourselves wholly on His mercy (Ro 10:13). Stronger than "seek"; so "near" is more positive than "while He may be found" (Ro 10:8, 9).
near—propitious (Ps 34:18; 145:18).
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
7. unrighteous—Hebrew, "man of iniquity"; true of all men. The "wicked" sins more openly in "his way"; the "unrighteous" refers to the more subtle workings of sin in the "thoughts." All are guilty in the latter respect, thought many fancy themselves safe, because not openly "wicked in ways" (Ps 94:11). The parallelism is that of gradation. The progress of the penitent is to be from negative reformation, "forsaking his way," and a farther step, "his thoughts," to positive repentance, "returning to the Lord" (the only true repentance, Zec 12:10), and making God his God, along with the other children of God (the crowning point; appropriation of God to ourselves: "to our God"). "Return" implies that man originally walked with God, but has apostatized. Isaiah saith, "our God," the God of the believing Israelites; those themselves redeemed desire others to come to their God (Ps 34:8; Re 22:17).
abundantly pardon—Literally, "multiply to pardon," still more than "have mercy"; God's graciousness is felt more and more the longer one knows Him (Ps 130:7).
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
8. For—referring to Isa 55:7. You need not doubt His willingness "abundantly to pardon" (compare Isa 55:12); for, though "the wicked" man's "ways," and "the unrighteous man's thoughts," are so aggravated as to seem unpardonable, God's "thoughts" and "ways" in pardoning are not regulated by the proportion of the former, as man's would be towards his fellow man who offended him; compare the "for" (Ps 25:11; Ro 5:19).
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
9. (Ps 57:10; 89:2; 103:11). "For" is repeated from Isa 55:8. But Maurer, after the negation, translates, "but."
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
10. The hearts of men, once barren of spirituality, shall be made, by the outpouring of the Spirit under Messiah, to bear fruits of righteousness (Isa 5:6; De 32:2; 2Sa 23:4; Ps 72:6).
snow—which covers plants from frost in winter; and, when melted in spring, waters the earth.
returneth not—void; as in Isa 55:11; it returns not in the same shape, or without "accomplishing" the desired end.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
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).
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
12. go out—from the various countries in which ye (the Jews) are scattered, to your own land (Eze 11:17).
led—by Messiah, your "Leader" (Isa 55:4; Isa 52:12; Mic 2:12, 13).
mountains … trees, &c.—images justly used to express the seeming sympathy of nature with the joy of God's people. For, when sin is removed, the natural world shall be delivered from "vanity," and be renewed, so as to be in unison with the regenerated moral world (Isa 44:23; Ps 98:8; Ro 8:19-22).
Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
13. thorn—emblem of the wicked (2Sa 23:6; Mic 7:4).
fir tree—the godly (Isa 60:13; Ps 92:12). Compare as to the change wrought, Ro 6:19.
brier—emblem of uncultivation (Isa 5:6).
myrtle—Hebrew, Hedes, from which comes Hedassah, the original name of Esther. Type of the Christian Church; for it is a lowly, though beautiful, fragrant, and evergreen shrub (Ps 92:13, 14).
for a name … everlasting sign—a perpetual memorial to the glory of Jehovah (Jer 13:11; 33:9).