As we count up the cost of discipleship, we should also ask ourselves, “What do we stand to gain?”
Isaiah 55 (CEB, Common English Bible)
Key verse(s) are bolded
1 All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
2 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts.
3 Listen and come to me; listen, and you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful loyalty to David.
4 Look, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a prince and commander of peoples.
5 Look, you will call a nation you don’t know,
a nation you don’t know will run to you
because of the Lord your God,
the holy one of Israel, who has glorified you.
6 Seek the Lord when he can still be found;
call him while he is yet near.
7 Let the wicked abandon their ways
and the sinful their schemes.
Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them,
to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.
8 My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans.
10 Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky
and don’t return there without watering the earth,
making it conceive and yield plants
and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater,
11 so is my word that comes from my mouth;
it does not return to me empty.
Instead, it does what I want,
and accomplishes what I intend.
12 Yes, you will go out with celebration,
and you will be brought back in peace.
Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 In place of the thorn the cypress will grow;
in place of the nettle the myrtle will grow.
This will attest to the Lord’s stature,
an enduring reminder that won’t be removed.
Unpack it! The book of Isaiah is a collection of prophecies that have to do with the Babylonian exile. Isaiah 55 is written towards the end of the exile, after King Cyrus of Persia conquers Babylon and allows the Israelites to return to Judah, their homeland. The “water” referred to in verse 1 is considered to be a metaphor for the Torah, according to ancient Jewish commentaries. This chapter is ultimately a call upon the Israelites to return not only to their physical homeland in Judah, but their spiritual home as God’s people who serve God, not an earthly king.
Discussing the Text
When the prophet calls upon Israel to “come to the water,” he is calling them back to their faith tradition. What are the “waters” in your faith? What are the places, scriptures, songs that you return to when you need to rediscover God again?
In verse 3, the prophet tells Israel that God’s covenant with David is now extended to all of Israel. God’s desire is that Israel serve God, not a king. Have you ever felt like you were serving someone or something other than God in your life? How did God get your attention back?
In verses 8-9, the voice of God reminds the Israelites that God’s ways and plans are better than their own. They had long believed the secret to success as a nation would be an exalted king, but God was revealing to them that this plan would not work. Have you ever seen God’s plans for your life work out better than your own? Are you struggling with understanding God’s plan right in your life right now? How can we trust God to lead us on a path that we don’t always see clearly?
Questions for a Deeper Faith
It can be comforting or frustrating to know that God always sees and knows more than we ever could. How do you react when you hear that God can see and understand what you cannot?
We don’t read this in Isaiah 55, but the fact is that many of the Israelites never returned to Judah following Babylonian exile. Have you ever chosen to run from God? What was the result? How do you feel like God responded to that choice?
In a culture that values independence, how can we try to grow more dependant on a loving God? What is something you could depend on God for today or this week?
Isaiah reminds us to “come to the waters.” What is a regular spiritual practice you would like to try and improve during these next few weeks of our Series? (Prayer, scripture reading, worship attendance, fasting, etc.)
Thank you for the reminders in our life of your love for us.
Thank you for teaching us of your love for us through Holy Scripture.
Teach us to be more aware of the “waters” in our life that help us return to you.
Sustain us as we seek to become more dependent on you.