I have to admit, this is one of those chapters in Isaiah I particularly love. So too, did John in the book of Revelation — as we read this chapter, look and listen for threads and connections to God’s promised future not only for an Israel returned from exile but the deepest homecoming for all who will trust in God’s invitation to return to the LORD.
Consider all the invitations God extends in Isaiah 55:
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price!
Come, eat, drink – a feast we cannot buy or earn, a feast given by the loving grace and provision of God.
Notice the invitation in Genesis 2:16 to humanity in the garden: “And the LORD God commanded the man “you may freely eat of every tree of the garden” (we tend to focus on the one thing God said was off-limits)
And the invitation in Revelation 22:2b “On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.“, and Revelation 22:17
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
Isaiah 55 is a promise of God’s effective provision for the people – for a gift, a mercy we cannot afford, but given to us.
Isaiah 55 is also an invitation that recognizes a deeper need.
We spend our lives and our energy working for things that are not “food” — they do not bring life, to us or to others. It doesn’t satisfy what we are created for.
Instead, we hear the invitation not just for physical food – but to listen to God, and live. To seek the LORD while he may be found, to call on him while he is near.
We find a call for the wicked to forsake their way and the unrighteous their thoughts – in other words, to recognize that the path apart from God isn’t going to lead to life, and to change our direction, our thinking. Which, literally, is what it means to repent.
This invitation to changed thought, focus, action, is at the heart of Jesus’ kingdom message – it’s time;
“From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 4:17
It’s time to return to the LORD, so that he may have mercy, to God, for he will abundantly pardon.
It’s here in Isaiah 55, and in this context that we find the verse where God declares “my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.” I’ve heard this used to justify all kinds of theologies that are frankly, monstrous, waving away any objections as just being examples of God’s ways being mysterious.
And yes, God’s ways are mysterious – but that mystery is revealed in Christ; which is why I believe any theology that doesn’t hold up in light of the self-sacrificial love and theology of the cross, doesn’t reflect who God really is. But the point here in Isaiah is to insist that our thinking and focus and ways of operating and treating each other isn’t God’s way. Part of our repentance is to allow God to redirect our thinking so that we begin to see one another, see ourselves, through God’s eyes and purposes.
For all the challenges the exiles faced, for all the seeming power of those who seek to destroy, for all the depressing things we hear about in the news; things that have a real impact on people and on this world — they will not have the last word.
God’s word will not go out without accomplishing its purpose. There is hope, that rests upon the ways of God, and an invitation to life.
Will we seek it?