These are some of my notes for Sunday May 3, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.
Books referenced in these notes include:
1.)Brevard Childs, Isaiah, Westminster John Knox Press, 2000
2.) The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary by Alec Motyer, InterVarsity Press, 1993
3.) John N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NIV Application Commentary), Zondervan, 1993
4.) Jewish Study Bible, edited by Berlin, Brettler, and Fishbane, Oxford University Press, 2004
Chapter 55 is the culmination of the unit of Isaiah 40-55, and 52-55 form a little mini unit:
Chp 52 announces coming deliverance
Chp 53 details the means of deliverance
Chp 54 declares the accomplishment of deliverance
Chp 55 summons the people to participate in the deliverance
Imperatives make the first three verses intense: come, buy, eat, listen, pay attention. These verse are in general a call to Israelites to partake in the promised gifts of God, but more specifically the call relates back to Is 54:17 “servants of the LORD”, and 54:9 “days of Noah”, speaking of a new covenant.(Childs)
Jewish exegetes (Radak, ibn Ezra) think the first three verses might apply to any one seeking God, but verses 12-13 seem directed toward the Israelite exiles. “Water” is in Jewish thought a metaphor for Torah.(JSB)
Commentators have long debated whether the described gifts are physical or spiritual, but it’s more likely both spiritual and physical are meant, as in Deu 8:7, 12:15, where eating and drinking before God is delight.(Childs)
The purpose of the invitation in v. 1-3 is to gain life (v.3). What brings life is only later defined in 55:11, the divine word. This brings to mind Deu 8:3, memorably quoted by Jesus in his temptation.(Childs)
Note verse one is a bit paradoxical, for it speaks of buying, but without money and without cost. And what is bought for free is rich, for it includes wine, milk, and actual food, not just water.(Motyer)
What then is rich fare? What you learn from listening to God, as verse 2 shows. Man lives and prospers on the words from God’s mouth, Deu 8:3 again. God calls people to Himself, and those who come and listen gain spiritual life, as the more literal KJV’s “hear and your soul shall live” implies. (Motyer)
Verse 3 then explains these gifts are bestowed because of God’s “everlasting covenant” (Heb. Berit olam), a term used in Gen 9:6, Ex 31:16, Lev 24:8, Is 61:8, Jer 32:40 and 50:5, Ezek 16:60 and 37:20. “Enduring mercies to David” is only used elsewhere in 2 Chr. 6:42, but seems very tied to the language of Ps 89, which speaks of an eternal dynasty of David, a promise spoken of also in 2Sam 7; Jer 33:20-22; Ps 18:51; and 2 Chr. 6:42.(Childs)
The shocker in verse 3 is that these Davidic promises are widened, from just David and his descendants, to the whole people, and that the promise becomes not just a past promise, but a present and future one as well.(Childs)
It is good to remember that “David” in the OT frequently is shorthand for the Messiah.
David is labeled here a “witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples”. But David himself doesn’t exactly seem to have been that, so what does the passage mean? It seems to be a new envisioning (or a more clear version of the original) role for the anointed one. David’s role was to act as witness to God’s wonders (Ps 89:6-7; 9:11-12, 18:49-50, 57:9-11, 108:3-4) And who is David? Here he is the Suffering Servant, the Messiah.(Childs, Motyer)
In v. 5 this office of David as witness is expanded to the whole people. It is the Suffering Servant of this section of Is. (chp 40-55) , who has created a seed, servants of God, who then inherit this same duty as David and the Suffering Servant: to proclaim the wonder of God to the world (Is 54:17, 65:8-9, 13,15). Again there seems to be a definite link between the Is 40-55 section with Ps 89, right down to quoting Ps 89 and its metaphors numerous times over the fifteen chapters of Isaiah.(Childs)
Verse 6 speaks of “seeking the LORD”, not in the sense that he is lost, but rather that the seeker needs His aid, and God is not available forever. There is a limit to the time one may ask God’s aid. Thus “call to him while He is near”.
Verse 7 then explains what “seeking” and “calling” the LORD entails: repentance, a change of lifestyle. The wicked and sinful must desire to be righteous. Then the LORD will freely forgive the sinful and wicked.
Here is the affirmation of the two calls made previously. Those who come to the LORD’s banquet, those who give up their sinful ways, are assured they will be rewarded with God’s forgiveness and joy. How do they know? Because God is God. One might read v.8-9 as an affirmation that God does not change His mind, that what he says He will do, unlike mankind. Then verses 10-11 compare God’s word, His action, His decree, to rain and snow. Both water and God’s word come from heaven, and both make the world flourish.(Oswalt)
Another affirmation of the good that comes from following God, a sure thing, as v.8-11 have declared. “Go out” is exodus language, leaving one bitter place for a better one. “Peacefully guided” is also reminiscent of the Exodus, with its cloud and pillar of fire. Verse 13′s contrast of thorn bush vs cypress, brier vs myrtle, might be further Exodus language, representing the discipline God imposed on the Israelites as they wandered for forty years, unable to enter the Promised Land. Or it might be simply descriptive language for the normal problems and struggles of life, as compared to the joys found in a life obeying God. (Motyer)