Studies in Isaiah 55: 1. A Call to the Thirsty
Isa 55:1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Overall Approach: Whether this chapter flows on from the previous one or stands on its own, I leave you to decide. I am going to take it as it stands, on its own, for the moment at least. Reading the whole chapter, it seems that most of the time Isaiah is linking thoughts in pairs, two verses at a time, although because there is a steady flow of thought from one piece to the next, that is not always the case. I’m going to suggest from the outset the following structure:
v.1 Call to come
v.2,3a Consider & listen
v.3b,4 The covenant of David
v.5 The outcome – victory
v.6,7 Call to seek the Lord & live righteously
v.8,9 The Lord’s way of thinking
v.10,11 Confidence in the Lord’s word
v.12,13 Promise of blessing
The studies in this small series within Isaiah 55 will be as follows:
- A Call to the Thirsty Isa 55:1
- Reject the Fruitless Life Isa 55:2
- The Example of David Isa 55:3b
- Getting Right with God Isa 55:6
- Getting a God Perspective Isa 55:8,9
- The Accomplishing Word Isa 55:8,9
- Transformation Isa 55:12
Fourfold invitation: Let’s note, first of all, what is here in v.1 and then when it means. There are two separate ‘calls’ here with a fourfold invitation to ‘come’. Interestingly, both the ‘calls’ are to those who are needy. The first are those who are thirsty and the second are those who are poor, without money, and yet both end up offering provision. The first two invitations are to come to a place where you can drink. The first one acknowledges need – thirst – and the second one the means of satisfying that need – water. The second two invitations are more intriguing because they take us beyond merely drinking, to first of all buying food without money, but then drink without money. The twofold acknowledgment of absence of money is what must surely grab our attention. How can you buy when you have no money?
Further clarification? Let’s recap what is here. The call is to needy people, those who are thirsty and (by implication within the text) who also have no food. The call is to change the circumstances by first of all finding water to drink, but then buying wine and milk. Perhaps we should also note a progression here. Water is a basic need, a fundamental need to sustain life. Wine and milk are the products of farming and are indicative of a higher standard of living than just sustainability. The twice use of the word ‘buy’ implies taking action to barter or purchase, i.e. taking action to legitimately obtain the required provisions.
The Twofold action. The first is a call to acknowledge your need – thirst – and then simply seek the resource that satisfies that particular need. It is that simple. What are the ‘waters’ that are initially referred to? Well, rather than make unfounded assumptions, let’s just hold on to these thoughts and see how the chapter opens up. Finding the waters is the first thing. But then there is this call to buy (without money) food and drink that makes life more manageable. Somehow this requires a greater action than simply finding water and drinking. ‘Buying’ requires interaction with another, the provider of the resource. Who is that provider? If you jump to the conclusion, the Lord, why? Imagine you have never seen the Bible before and all you have is this chapter. To whom does it guide you?
The Provider: We have to assume, surely, that the provider is the one speaking and making these calls. Is the speaker just Isaiah or is it one beyond him, the one inspiring him to prophesy? In verse 3 we find, “come to me” and this person says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you,” and then goes on to speak about how He (yes, it has to be God) made David a witness to Him to all the peoples. The verses that follow are a real mix in terms of origin and the best one can say is that the prophet is so attuned to his Lord that it is difficult to know when one begins and the other ends. But it is God!
Eating & Drinking? Now here’s the strange thing: there are no further references to eating or drinking in the rest of the chapter except in verse 2 where it is as if the whole picture pivots about and the eating and drinking is transformed into listening: “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” If you listen to God, “you will delight in the richest of fare.” i.e. what you hear will act as wonderful food that will (by implication in the light of what has gone) utterly satisfy you. So how do you drink? You come to the Lord acknowledging your thirst and wait on Him and listen to all He says. How do you ‘buy’? You give Him your attention, your will, your time. That is the cost if you are to receive from Him.
Water, Wine & Milk: Note the three provisions that picture the work of God’s words in our lives. Water provides the basics for life. Wine makes the heart merry, the scriptures say. Milk provides nourishment. When we listen to the Lord, His word provides sustenance, the basics we need. But it also fills us with joy as the wonder of it captures our hearts. But is doesn’t stop there, it feeds us, it nourishes us and it builds us up and strengthens us. Pray as you come to Him, as you read His word, as you seek to hear, pray that the reality of it will sustain you, bring joy to you and feed you so that you are stronger. May this be so every time we do that.