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.
We have here an exhortation from Almighty God to those who have sinned against Him, and the principle of the exhortation is so clear that it is impossible not to believe that it is the general principle of all God's exhortations to sinners; and the principle is this, that whoever feels his need of pardon can find pardon, that the sense of thirst is a sufficient warrant that God will give to the thirsty the water of life freely, that to be sensible of our poverty and to acknowledge it is a certain means of obtaining the supply of all our needs.
I. No simple-hearted man reading the life of our Lord Jesus Christ could have any doubt as to His extreme love to mankind and deep desire that all men should be saved; but unfortunately this simple view of the Gospel has been obscured by the theories of ingenious men, and a system of theology has been framed depending upon what is called the doctrine of election. It is held that, in the eternal councils of God, certain persons have been chosen by His mercy as heirs of eternal salvation; these are the elect; these are they for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died. When the ministers of Christ preach His gospel, the great end of their preaching is to call out and separate from the rest of mankind these chosen vessels of God's mercy.
II. This doctrine not only seems to modify the Gospel, but utterly to abolish and destroy it. Grant that there are millions upon millions of the race of mankind saved by this discriminating electing grace of God, still, so long as there is one human being who misses eternal life for want of such election, salvation must be that which no noble heart could desire; the notion of salvation being rendered valuable in a man's eyes because it is a free gift to him and is denied to his brother, is one which implies that the man so saved is a creature full of base selfishness, one who can rejoice because he is better off than his brother,—one who could pretend to love a Being of infinite power, who, according to this showing, is also a Being of infinite injustice.
III. The difficulty arising from the consideration of the freedom of man's will on the one hand, and the omnipotence of God's grace on the other, is one which is philosophical rather than religious, and with which the religion of Christ as such has nothing whatever to do. It is enough for us to know that Christ did die for all, to know that God's offers of mercy through Him are free, and that when the thirsty are invited to drink freely the invitation is to be taken in its simplest and fullest meaning.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 153.
I. The state of the persons addressed: (1) a state of want and privation; (2) a state which man has no power to rectify or remove.
II. The provision prepared. (1) Its nature. Food. The benefits of salvation through Christ. (2) The persons for whom it is intended. Of all ages, of all nations.
III. We are induced to come: (1) by the extent of the call; (2) by the freeness of the supply; (3) by the sufficiency of the provision; (4) by the impossibility of finding redemption elsewhere.
G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 140.
References: Isaiah 55:1.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. 1., p. 9; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 140; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 199, vol. xx., No. 1161, vol. xxix., No. 1726; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 41. Isaiah 55:1, Isaiah 55:2.—D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3278. Isaiah 55:1-4.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xviii., p. 19. Isaiah 55:1-5.—C. Short, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 141.
Isaiah 55:2Consider what are some of the good investments in life, which bring in solid advantages.
I. First among the gains of life is peace of mind, and for that the investment is simply and alone acts of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must commit your whole self, as a poor, miserable sinner, absolutely to His grace and power. Do it fearlessly, and the result is sure; there will come back a sense of pardon; and the interest of that pardon, if I may so call it, pays you every day and every moment. And peace is that "meat to eat which the world knows not of;" it satisfies.
II. The next thing which you will do well to traffic in is truth, the clear knowledge of God's truth. I do not say that any man can get truth without labour. It is the wages of severe work. And you will have your recompense in that delightful feeling of the discovery of new truth.
III. Next to peace and truth as the gains of life, I have to place the affections of our fellow-creatures. Every affection is a real possession, and well worth the purchase, cost it what it may, so we do not barter truth. That you may have much-love, you must go out of yourself, you must cultivate and show sympathy. Christ's sympathy did more than Christ's miracles. If you feel, not for a person, but with a person, it is astonishing how it will make itself felt in a way you cannot trace. There will be a knitting together of your common manhood, and to have it is a very pleasant thing, and it makes life's food.
IV. Everything which we give or do for God is actually laying up for us in heaven, transferred from this insecure and bankrupt world to the high places of that safe bank, and it is gone before and awaits us there against the time we come; every day we may increase that hidden treasure within the veil, and we shall receive it all back again at last a hundredfold.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 192.
Isaiah 55:2-3I. We have here an invitation, addressed to us by Jehovah Himself, to hearken diligently unto Him, to incline our ear, and to come to Him. There is something peculiarly touching in the invitations of the Word of God, which, if men would but pause and reflect, could not fail to make an impression upon their hearts. "Hearken diligently unto Me," God says; "incline your ear." He would take you, as it were, each one separately by himself, and reason and counsel with you. The matters of which He would treat with you are too important to be handled in a crowd, too sacred to be discussed amid the noise and bustle of worldly avocations. The Lord will have sinners come to Him; He will have all distance annihilated between your souls and Him; He will have you brought into the closest relationship and communion with Himself; He will have you not only within hearing of His voice, but in His very embrace.
II. The reasons for our closing with this invitation are two, and each of them is very weighty. (1) You will be vast gainers if you follow the leadings of the Divine Spirit, and go into conference with God, and embrace His terms. "Hear, and your soul shall delight itself in fatness; hear, and your soul shall live." The life of the believer is the only life of real enjoyment upon earth. What will it be when he dwells with God Himself? (2) To refuse the offer is to lose the soul. "He that sowed to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption," and that for ever. He who will not embrace Christ must stand before God with all his guilt upon his head—guilt that cannot then be pardoned; for there remaineth now no more sacrifice for sin.
A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 472.
References: Isaiah 55:4.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1507; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 144.
Isaiah 55:6I. Consider what we are to understand by seeking the Lord. It is in His double aspect, combined but not contradictory character, as at once just and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus, as a God of justice to punish sin in the surety, and as a God of mercy to pardon it in the sinner, that we are to seek the Lord, and all the blessings which in that gracious character He has and He promises to bestow. Thus, to seek the Lord is just to approach Him by faith.
II. Inquire when the Lord is to be found, and we remark, (1) that the Lord, as bestowing the pardon of sin and salvation on the soul, is to be found in this world, not in another; (2) that the Lord is not to be found on a deathbed; (3) that the Lord is more likely to be found now than at any future time.
III. The shortness and uncertainty of life are strong reasons for seeking pardon and salvation now.
T. Guthrie, The Way to Life, p. 78.
Reference: Isaiah 55:6.—Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words, 2nd series, p. 47.
Isaiah 55:6-7I. Observe the order of the steps of grace. You are first to feel after God in your own heart, "if haply you may find Him;" and when this has brought you a little near, then you are to call out—then you are to pray; then you are to give up some known sin—every wicked way, and every wrong thought. That is an indispensable condition. Then comes the meeting of a pardoned soul with God, and next the appreciation of the Lord as our own covenanted God; and then the sweetness of that perfect love and forgiveness of the Father.
II. Notice, further, that at each step there is an opportunity of finding God, and these opportunities are limited. We are to expect answers to prayer as we give up outward sins, which it is easy to do, and inward sin, which is the more difficult. What is nearness? Is God always near? The Holy Ghost makes nearness. He unites us to God. That presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul is nearness. If the Holy Ghost were to leave you, you would never find God—the life in the Spirit would be over. Hence the tremendous emphasis of the words, "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found."
III. How can the wicked forsake his way? By prayer, by occupation, by filling the mind with what is good, by having more of the Holy Spirit, by new and better pleasures, higher objects, worthier influences, more fixed motives, by loving constant thoughts of Jesus—this leads on to the end.
IV. There are crises in life. Whatever account you have to settle with God, settle it now. There are two "nows" in the Bible which ought never to be separated. One stands out in the brightest rays, the other retires into the deepest shadows. "Now is the accepted time." "Now they are hid from thine eyes."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th series, p. 29.
References: Isaiah 55:6, Isaiah 55:7.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 38. Isaiah 55:6-9.—C. Short, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 158.
Isaiah 55:7I. Look, first, at the Counsellor. (1) He who speaks to the wicked man, and to the unrighteous man, is He who made all things. The Father of the wicked is here speaking to the wicked. (2) He who speaks knows every wicked man and unrighteous man. (3) He who speaks hates evil. (4) He who speaks has power to destroy the wicked in hell. (5) It is the redeeming God who here addresses the wicked man.
II. Look, secondly, at His counsel. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him come back. The advice requires (1) self-inspection; (2) the admission of truth as to the character of the way, and as to the nature of the thoughts; (3) the resistance of an inclination to go on; (4) submission to the conviction that the way is evil, and the abandonment of every unrighteous purpose, with actual departure from the path of open and actual transgression; (5) appeal to God's mercy, and for help and reconciliation.
III. The counselled. The wicked and the unrighteous man. God has singled out particularly three classes: (1) the thirsty; (2) the impoverished; (3) the disappointed.
IV. The promise. "He will abundantly pardon." (1) The promise is conditional, yet it is sure. (2) The promise is made to characters. There is, therefore, an indefiniteness which may well encourage us. I may address these words to every wicked man, no matter what his wickedness consists of; and to every unrighteous man, no matter what his evil purposes may be.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 2nd series, No. 16.
References: Isaiah 55:7.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 40; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, pp. 256, 259; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1195; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 141; D. L. Moody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 341. Isaiah 55:8.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 23; W. M. Taylor, Old Testament Outlines, p. 231.
Isaiah 55:8-9I. The errors, in opposition to which the doctrine of the text is to be asserted, are those connected with what has been technically termed anthropomorphism.
II. The testimony of the text is not to be overstrained. There are qualifications and limitations that must be practically observed in applying it. (1) We are expressly taught to judge of the heart of God by what is in the heart of man. "Like as a father pitieth his children," etc. (2) But for such a liberty and warrant as we now contend for some of the most affecting of the inspired pleadings and promises of the Bible would be cold and heartless. (3) There is a great truth to be brought out here, that the perfection of God, in respect of which He is to be contrasted with man, consists not in the absence of sensibility, but in its very intensity and purity and power.
II. The applications of this truth are as manifold as are the exigencies of human experience. (1) It is because His thoughts are not your thoughts that God justifies freely. (2) For the same reason the pardon He dispenses is very free, unreserved, as well as unconditional. (3) But most peremptory, authoritative, sovereign, is the Gospel call, as a call to repentance as well as to reconciliation. (4) The promises of God are and must be most faithful, because His thoughts are not our thoughts.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 264.
I. The mystery of Christ's birth and of our new birth. As in many other places of the prophet Isaiah, so here in the text, the Almighty commends to us this thought, that we should learn from the very sight of the heaven above us, not to lose, in our sense of God's mercy, the deep trembling awe and reverence with which we ought to regard all His doings; not to dream that we understand them; nor to conclude that they fail because we do not yet see the fruit of them,—but to labour diligently in the way of our duty, and for the rest to be silent before Him, and wait on Him with adoring patience.
II. This same lesson, which the very height of the heaven was intended to teach all mankind, seems to be brought before us Christians in a wonderful, unspeakable way, when we are called on to remember our Lord's nativity. The very thing by itself, God Incarnate, was the wonder of all wonders—a matter surely as much above the thoughts and conjectures of man as the heaven is higher than the earth: that the Creator should become a creature; that the Lord most holy and true should join Himself to a sinful race and become one of them, to deliver them from the evil consequences of their sin. But even suppose the thought of God's becoming man had entered into any man's heart, the circumstances of His coming into the world were far unlike what we should have imagined. Consider the quietness of this great event. How in the silence of the night, in a town of no great size or wealth, in an outhouse of an inn, the great God came visibly among His creatures, as it had been prophesied concerning Him. How poor and lowly was everything around Him who was come to bring us all the treasures of heaven!
III. From this great event we learn: (1) Not to doubt that God's purposes, however to us unlikely, will be one way or another accomplished. (2) Not only in the great concerns of the world and of the kingdom of God, but also in what relates to each of us particularly, we are to be quite sure that the Almighty has His own purpose concerning us, and that He is working around us and within us even in the most ordinary things. (3) The Collect for Christmas Day teaches that our Lord's taking our nature upon Him, and His birth on this day of a pure virgin, answers in some remarkable way to our being regenerate and made His children by adoption and grace, i.e., our baptism. As Christ at His nativity showed Himself in our human nature, so we at our new birth, St. Peter tells us, are made partakers of His Divine nature.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. iv., p. 302.
References: Isaiah 55:8, Isaiah 55:9.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 27; C. Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 60; J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 129. Isaiah 55:8-10.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 13; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 676, vol. xxiii., No. 1387. Isaiah 55:10, Isaiah 55:11.—T. P. Boulver, Old Testament Outlines, p. 232; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 272; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 201; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 204; Ibid., Sermons, 1870, p. 149. Isaiah 55:10-13.—C. Short, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 173. Isaiah 55:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 162; D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 349.
Isaiah 55:12To the Jew in Isaiah's time this promise doubtless bore reference to three things: the return from the seventy years' captivity; their ultimate restoration, first to their own land, and then to Christ; and God's way of dealing with each individual's own soul. To us it stands only in the last reference; to us the words are simply spiritual.
I. The "going out" appears to relate to that great moral exodus when a man emerges from a state of nature into a state of grace, from bondage to liberty, from darkness to light, from the world to Christ. This is indeed to be with joy. The being led forth denotes the further experiences of the Christian,—God's conduct of him by the way; his future courses, and especially the manner in which he is brought out at last—out of this life into a better; and all this is to be "with peace."
II. What is joy? (1) Novelty of perception. It is a wonderfully new feeling when a soul first tastes the promises and grasps its own interest in Christ. (2) Keenness of perception. Keen is the first sense of sin to a penitent, and keen is the first sense of pardon to a believer. In that early dawn the soul's atmosphere is so clear that every object stands out in its distinctness. (3) Sweetness of perception. Sweeter are those perceptions than they are keen. Are they not the touches of the Holy Ghost? They are all about beautiful things—saints and angels, a holy heaven, and a perfect Jesus.
III. "And be led forth with peace." As we go on in the spiritual life the sense of sin grows deeper and deeper; and a deep sense of weakness, nothingness, and guilt, combining with a fuller sense of pardon and love, makes joy peace. To a mind led and taught of God all the changes and chances of life lend themselves to peace. A great affliction is a deep fountain of peace; the very agitation hushes, and it makes all troubles afterwards so very small. Another and another promise fulfilled every day is always enlarging the rock underneath our feet. Another and another answer to prayer is always strengthening the arguments for the future. Another and another new drop of the knowledge of Christ is always swelling the tide, till the "peace flows like a river," because we see the "righteousness of Christ" as the waves of the sea.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 281.
References: Isaiah 55:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 833; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 20.
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.
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.
Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
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.
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
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.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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:
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.
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.
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.