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Song of Solomon
Isaiah 55 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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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.
- AN EXHORTATION TO SPIRITUALITY AND REPENTANCE. The prophet passes from the ideal to the actual, from the glorious future to the unsatisfactory present. The people are not ripe for the blessings of the Messianic kingdom - they do not sufficiently value them. Hence a tender exhortation is addressed to them by God himself, inviting them to become more spiritually minded (vers. 1-3), and fresh promises are held out to the obedient (vers. 3-5). The disobedient are then somewhat sternly exhorted to turn from their evil ways and repent (vers. 6, 7).
Ho, every one that thirsteth!
Though the mass are gross and carnally minded, there will ever be some who have higher aspirations - who hunger and thirst after righteousness" (
), and desire spiritual blessings. These are invited, first of all, to come and partake of the good things provided for them in Messiah's kingdom
. Come ye to the waters
(on the spiritual symbolism of water, see the homiletics on Isaiah 44:3, 4). Here the "peace" and "righteousness" of the Messianic kingdom (
Isaiah 54:13, 14
) are especially intended. Our Lord's cry on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (
) is clearly an echo of this.
. These are not symbols of temporal blessings, as many have thought. "Wine, water, and milk are," as Delitzsch says, "figurative representations of spiritual revival, re-creation, and nourishment."
Without money and
. God's spiritual gifts are freely given to men; they cannot be purchased. Being in their own nature "more precious than rubies," their value transcends human means of payment. They cannot even be earned by man's best works; for man's best works are comprised in his duty to God, and have, therefore, no purchasing power. God may choose to reward them; but if he does it is of his free grace.
Wherefore do ye spend money for
that which is
not bread? and your labour for
satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye
that which is
good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Wherefore do ye spend money?
wherefore do ye weigh silver?-
silver being the ordinary currency, and money transactions, in default of a coinage, being by weight (cf.
For that which is not bread
"for that which has no real value - which cannot sustain you, which will do you no good." The affections of the great mass of the Israelites were set on worldly things, on enriching themselves - adding field to field, and house to house (
). They did not care for spiritual blessings, much less "hunger and thirst" after them. That which satisfieth not. Worldly things can never satisfy the heart, not even the heart of the worldly. "
had ye then in those things," says St. Paul, "whereof ye are now ashamed?" (
Hearken diligently unto me
hearken unto me.
The phrase is one of earnest exhortation. It implies the strong disinclination of Israel to listen, and seeks to overcome it (compare the opening words of the next verse).
Let your soul delight itself in
). The spiritual blessings of the Messianic kingdom are richer dainties than any that this world has to offer. The soul that obtains them "delights" in them, and is satisfied with them (
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the sure mercies of David.
Come unto me
(comp. ver. 1, "Come ye to the waters"). God dispenses the waters (see
I will make an everlasting covenant with you
. That the "everlasting covenant" once made between God and man had been broken by man, and by Israel especially, is a part of the teaching contained in the earlier portion of Isaiah (
). We find the same asserted in the prophecies of his contemporary, Hosea (Hosea 6:7). It would naturally follow from this that, unless God gave up man altogether, he would enter into a new covenant with him. Accordingly, this new covenant is announced, both in Hosea (
) and in the later chapters of Isaiah, repeatedly (
Isaiah 56:4, 6
). Having been thus set before the nation, it is further enlarged upon by Jeremiah (
) and Ezekiel (
). Almost all commentators allow that the Christian covenant is intended - that "new covenant" (
) under which man obtains pardon and salvation through the Mediatorship of Christ
. Even the sure mercies of David
. The "sure mercies of David" are the loving and merciful promises which God made to him. These included the promise that the Messiah should come of his seed, and sit on his throne, and establish an everlasting kingdom (
Psalm 89:2-5, 19-37
), and triumph over death and hell (
Psalm 16:9, 10
), and give peace and happiness to Israel (
). The promises made to David, rightly understood, involve all the essential points of the Christian covenant.
Behold, I have given him
a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
Behold, I have given him for a witness
. By ordinary rules of grammar, the pronoun "him" should refer to David; and so the passage is understood by Gesenius, Maurer, Hitzig, Ewald, Knobel, Delitzsch, and Mr. Cheyne. But, as Isaiah frequently sets aside ordinary grammatical rules, and as the position to the person here spoken of seems too high for the historical David, a large number of commentators, including Vitringa, Michaelis, Dathe, Rosenmuller, Umbreit, and Dr. Kay, consider that the Messiah is intended. It is certainly difficult to see how the historical David could be, at this time and in the future, a "leader and commander to the peoples" who were about to flock into the Messianic kingdom.
witness... a leader and commander.
Christ was all these. He "came to bear witness to the truth" (
), and "before Pilate witnessed a good confession" (
1 Timothy 6:13
). He "feeds and leads" his people (
), and is the "Commander" under whose banner they serve (
2 Timothy 2:3, 4
). What he is to his people, he is also of the "peoples" generally; for they have been called into his kingdom,
Behold, thou shalt call a nation
thou knowest not, and nations
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.
Thou shalt call a nation that
thou knowest not
). The object of address in this verse appears to be the Messiah. He, at his coming, will "call" into his kingdom "a nation," or rather, "people," with whom he has had no covenant hitherto; and they will readily and gladly obey the call. Thus God's kingdom will be enlarged, and Israel's glory will be increased
, Because of the Lord... for he hath glorified thee
. The great cause of the attraction will be the "glory" which God the Father has bestowed upon his Son, by raising him from the dead, and exalting him to a seat at his right hand in heaven (
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Seek ye the Lord
. Again the strain changes. The people are once more addressed, but in a tone of reproach. Israel must "seek the Lord" without delay, or the opportunity will be past; God will have withdrawn himself from them. He "will not alway be chiding, neither keepeth he his anger for ever" (
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.
Let the wicked forsake his
his mode of life. A general promise of forgiveness of sin upon repentance and amendment of life was first given to Israel through Solomon (
2 Chronicles 7:14
). The doctrine is largely preached by the prophets; but is nowhere more distinctly and emphatically laid down than in this place. God's will is to "multiply pardon," if man will only turn to him.
For my thoughts
not your thoughts, neither
your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
- A FRESH ASSURANCE or DELIVERANCE FROM BABYLON. Man can scarcely conceive of the deliverance which God designs; but God's thoughts are not as man's (vers. 8, 9). God's word, once pronounced, is potent to effect its purpose (vers. 10, 11). Deliverance from Babylon, having been promised, will take place, and will be accompanied by all manner of spiritual blessings (vers. 12, 13).
Verses 8, 9.
My thoughts are not your thoughts
. Though man is made in God's image (
), yet the nature of God in every way infinitely transcends that of man. Both the thoughts and the acts of God surpass man's understanding. Men find it hard to pardon those who have offended them; God can pardon, and "pardon abundantly." Men cannot conceive of coming changes, when they pass certain limits. God knows assuredly what changes are approaching, since they are his doing.
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:
As the rain... and the snow
. The rain and the snow are God's ministers (
), and go forth from him, just as his word does. They have an appointed work to do, and do not return to him, whose ministers they are, until they have done it. It is best to translate, with Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne, "As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, except it hath watered the earth," etc. The writer is, apparently, aware, as the writer of Ecclesiastes is, that the water which falls from heaven in the shape of rain does return thither again in the shape of vapour (see
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.
So shall my word be.
God's word is creative. With the utterance the result is achieved. Hence the sublime passage, which even heathenism could admire (Longin., 'De Sublim.,' § 9), "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (
). Hence, too, the more general statement, "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (
). But it shall accomplish; rather,
unless it has accomplished.
There is a mixture of two constructions, "It shall not return void," and "It shall not return unless it has accomplished," etc.
Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God has a prosperous course. It is endued with life from God, and (as Delitzsch says) "runs like a swift messenger through nature and the world of man, there to melt the ice, as it were, and here to heal and to save; and it does not return from its course till it has given effect to the will of the Sender. "The special "word" which the prophet has here in mind is the promise, so frequently given, of deliverance from Babylon and return in peace and joy to Palestine. But he carries his teaching beyond the immediate occasion, for the benefit of the people of God in all ages.
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
Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with
Isaiah 43:3-6, 19-21
, etc.). A strong contrast is frequently drawn between the exodus from Babylon and that from Egypt. On the former occasion all was hurry, alarm, disquiet, danger. The later exodus will be accompanied with "peace" and "joy" (see
Isaiah 51:9 - 16
, etc.). (For the fulfilment, see
Ezra 1, 2
, and 7, 8.)
The mountains and the hills shall
break forth before you into singing
. All nature shall rejoice at your deliverance, especially the noblest and the grandest parts of nature - "the mountains and the hills." Isaiah's admiration of mountains continually reveals itself throughout the work (
Isaiah 13:2, 4
Isaiah 30:17, 25
Isaiah 40:4, 9, 12
Isaiah 42:11, 15
, etc.). It is quite in his manner to speak of nature as bursting forth into singing (
All the trees of the field shall clap their hands
. The metaphor is not found elsewhere in Isaiah, but appears in
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
shall not be cut off.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree
. "Briars and thorns" were to overgrow the unfruitful vineyard, according to
; and to cover the land of God's people, according to
. This would be literally the case to a large extent, while the land was allowed to lie waste. The literal meaning is not, however, the whole meaning, or even the main meaning, here. "Briars and thorns" represent a general state of wretchedness and sin. The "fir" and "myrtle" represent a happy external condition of life, in which men "do righteously."
It shall be to the Lord for a name.
This "regenerated creation" will show forth the glory of God to mankind at large, and "get him a name" among them (comp.
For an everlasting sign
. It will also he to God himself an enduring sign of the covenant of peace which he has made with his people, not to hide his face from them any more, but to have mercy on them "with everlasting kindness" (
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