Isaiah 55 is one of those monumental chapters in the bible. In his typical majestic style, Isaiah the prophet calls upon anyone who is thirsty to “come and drink” from the waters that God provides. He looks upon a people who were so preoccupied with going about their daily business that they had no time to “incline their ear” and “listen diligently” to what God had to say.
Isaiah 55 picks up a theme that is often spoken of in Scripture – an appeal to people who are so focused on the present and so involved in “today” that if only they realized how futile and vain it all is; that in the larger scheme of things, all their success and prosperity will ultimately be of no use to them, for they will die and leave it all behind. But if they would listen to God, then “your soul shall live” and they will become the beneficiaries of an “everlasting covenant” which God describes as “the sure mercies of David”.
So what exactly is this “everlasting covenant” that God speaks of in Isaiah 55 and what connection does it have to the “sure mercies of David”?
In 2 Samuel 7, God gave King David a promise that one day after he had died, a descendant of his would sit upon his throne. This son God said, “will build an house for MY NAME” because, says God, “I will be his Father and he shall be my son”. God went onto to tell David, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom FOREVER” and continued “and your house and your kingdom shall be established forever BEFORE YOU”.
Even though David initially saw this prophecy as partially fulfilled in his son Solomon, the New Testament writers are clear that it referred to the promised Messiah, Jesus. When the angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she would give birth to the Saviour, she was told “and the Lord God will give to him (Jesus) the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32-33).
These are “the sure merices of David” – the lovingkindness that God promised him. David would one day rise from the dead and witness in person, the everlasting establishment of his dynasty in the person of Jesus, who was “made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but marked out as the Son of God with power” (Romans 1:2).
So getting back to the main theme of Isaiah 55, God is asking his people to shift their focus from the present, to a time when the kingdom of David would be established forever and all the promises of God would be fulfilled. The investment of time in understanding and believing this would be far more valuable in the longer term, than pursuing personal gain in the present.
Isaiah 55 – Seek Ye the Lord
Isaiah continues his flow of thought by reminding the people that it takes effort to find God. There must be a “seeking” and a “calling upon” Him, as well as a forsaking of wicked ways and thoughts. It is this matter of “ways and thoughts” that leads the prophet into a very beautiful connection of thoughts about what God is actually offering us.
He says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, for as the heavens are high above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways”. I’ve often heard these words from Isaiah 55:8-9 quoted in public prayers in a way that is designed to emphasize the greatness of God in comparison to our mortal state. But that was not their original intent. Let’s get the link in thought flow here.
1. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts
2. My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.
God is actually contrasting the way He thinks about life and all matters important, with the way Israel were thinking in the times of Isaiah the prophet. Their ways and thoughts were wicked while God’s were holy. The extent of this difference in thinking was illustrated by the contrast between “heaven” and “earth”.
And yet . . .
Isaiah 55 goes on to say this:- “the rain comes down from heaven . . . and waters the earth” (v10) so that it may bring forth fruit.
This idea of the heaven giving up the rain so that it may fall upon the thirsty ground to nourish it, brings us back to the opening words of Isaiah 55 “Ho! You who thirst, come to the waters” so that you may drink and be satisfied … and live.
See what God is doing here? He is offering His “ways” and his “thoughts” to Israel as an alternative form of sustenance to what they were so focused on. It would be like rain falling from heaven upon the thirsty ground, causing the wicked to forsake evil and produce fruit instead. “So shall my word be that goes out of my mouth” says God (v11). The result would be joy, peace, singing and clapping. Their evil ways, likened to “thorns” and “briers” would be replaced by delightful trees like the fir and the myrtle – the good produce of a well watered ground.
The Lesson From Isaiah 55
Let us make time to seek after God, thirsting for knowledge about Him and his ways, investing our energies in learning all about Him by reading “the word that goes out of his mouth”, forging a relationship with Him that produces the “fruit of the spirit” within us. If we do this, then He will take care of all our needs and in a time yet to come, will share all that is involved in the “everlasting covenant” and “sure mercies of David” with us.