Ho, every one that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat…
I. THE INVITATION. "Ho!" A cry arousing attention (Isaiah 1:4) or expressing pity (Isaiah 17:12).
1. It is addressed to thirsty ones. The figure occurs in Isaiah 44:3 also. What more powerful figure can there be for desire, and for the pain of unsatisfied desire? It is especially Oriental. It brings up the image of the hot, sandy waste, and by contrast that of the cool, bubbling fountain. Hunger and thirst are the "eldest of the passions," and it may be added, in a sense, the youngest; for age cannot still them, nor constant satisfaction take off their edge. They are daily, they are recurrent, they are the expression of life itself. Hence they may well symbolize the ardent desire for salvation (cf. John 7:37; Psalm 42:2; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 143:6). And what can better represent salvation than water - the well that springs up into everlasting life? Waters, floods, overflowing streams, or copious showers, are often used to denote abundant blessings from God, especially blessings under the rule of the Messiah (Isaiah 35:6; Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 44:3).
2. It is addressed to each and all. The invitation is bounded only by the thirst - the felt need. Not the rich, the noble, the great; not the select and the few; but those who partake of a common want, and are capable of a common satisfaction. "It proves that provision has been made for all. Can God invite to a salvation which has not been provided? Can he ask a man to partake of a banquet which has no existence? Can he ask a man to drink of waters when there are none? Can he tantalize the hopes and mock the miseries of men by inviting them to enter a heaven where they would be unwelcome, or to dwell in mansions which have never been provided?" (cf. Matthew 9:28; Mark 16:15; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17). It is addressed especially to the poor. "No man can excuse himself for not being a Christian because he is poor; no man who is rich can boast that he has bought salvation."
II. THE BLESSINGS DESCRIBED. "Buy." The word is properly used of grain. "Its use here shows that the food referred to can be called equally well 'bread' or 'wine and milk,' i.e. it belongs to the supernatural order of things" (Cheyne). And the buying is to be understood spiritually. The blessings are only to be obtained for "that which is not money and not a price." It is faith, or the hearing of the inner ear (ver. 3), which is meant. In the wine we may find a symbol of gladness (Judges 9:13; 2 Samuel 13:28; Psalm 104:15). The blessings of salvation cheer men amidst their sorrows; and one of the firstfruits of the Spirit is joy. Milk, again, is the symbol of nourishment (Deuteronomy 32:14; Judges 4:1; Judges 5:25; John 7:22; 1 Corinthians 9:7). It is joined with "wine" and with "honey" in Song of Solomon 4:11; Song of Solomon 5:1. These blessings are rich and satisfying as compared with the pleasures of the world. The latter may be emphatically described as not-bread - less satisfying. Happiness is our being's aim. But men seek it in erroneous ways. Bread is the support of life, and stands as the symbol of all that conduces to support life in the spiritual sense. "In ambition, vanity, and vice, men are as disappointed as he who should spend his money and procure nothing that would sustain life." Men toil for that which defeats their aim, because it does not satisfy. The blossom of pleasure "goes up as dust;" the fruits are those of the Dead Sea, "turning to ashes on the lips." The desire of the human soul is as insatiable as the grave. Where is the man who has been satisfied with ambition? Alexander wept on the throne of the world, and Charles V. came down from the throne to private life, because he had not found royalty to satisfy the soul. In one respect we are all like Alexander - our happiness is disproportioned to our appetites. Nature seems scanty, and, though we have never so much, we still long for something or other more. But to those who hearken to God, there is promised a perfect luxuriation (Isaiah 66:11) in good things. "Fatness" stands for the richest food (Genesis 27:28-39; Job 36:16; Psalm 65:11), and hence for the abundance of blessing flowing from the favour of God (Psalm 36:9; Psalm 63:5). "Man seems as boundless in his desires as God in his Being: and therefore nothing but God can satisfy him." All else is "love lost" - is part of "the great lie or cheat that overspreads the world."
III. THE EVERLASTING COVENANT. Mention of it is made seven times in Isaiah. The idea of the original covenant, broken by Israel and renewed by Jehovah, is specially characteristic of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-33; 32:40; 50:5). The loving-kindnesses shown to David by Jehovah are meant (cf. Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 89:49; Psalm 107:43; Lamentations 3:22). "David is probably to be understood in a representative sense; he is radiant with the reflected light and spirituality of the Messianic age." These loving-kindnesses are "unfailing" (Psalm 89:28). For Jehovah's word cannot be broken, and the reward of piety extends to the latest posterity (Exodus 20:5, 6). David is termed a "witness to the people," apparently in the same representative sense. God, then, binds himself by solemn promises to be their God, their Protector, and their Friend. The promise was not to be revoked, was to remain in force for ever; and he would be their God to all eternity. Let them, then, hear, and their soul shall live. Religion is life (John 6:33; John 5:40; John 8:13; John 20:31; Romans 5:17, 18; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:6; 1 John 5:12; Revelation 2:7-10). Hearing is the means whereby the soul is enlivened (John 6:45; John 5:25; Acts 2:37; Matthew 13). - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.