"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts" (Isa 55:6-7a).
What happens after the shocking salvation of Isaiah 53? There is a time (for God) to be found. Don't miss it.
"Isaiah 54 - 55 constitute one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the entire Bible." John Oswalt, Isaiah, The NIV Application Commentary.
"Try and suck all the sweetness that you can out of (Isaiah 54) while we read it. The personal application of a promise to the heart by the Holy Spirit is that which is wanted. This chapter is ... drip with virgin honey. Sip: taste, and be satisfied." Charles Spurgeon.
Why we might be slow to respond: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis.
"Isaiah looks at the (shocking salvation of the crushed man of sorrows in Isaiah 53) and has one thing to say to us: "burst into song, shout for joy" (Isa 54:1). In other words, "Let joyful song explode out of you!" We resist that. Isaiah 54:1 may be one of the most disobeyed commands in the Bible. Our exaggerated sense of decorum is the last bastion of pride holding out against the gospel (of freedom and joy). Some churches make it a virtue. But God doesn't. In his exuberance he's creating a new world of boisterous happiness through Christ. We must rejoice with him, or we risk making our hearts impervious to salvation, because that holy but raucous joy is salvation.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem to the loud praises of his followers, the Pharisees didn't like it one bit. But Jesus said, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40). Enthusiasm offends religious people, because breaking forth into singing and crying aloud entails loss of control. It brings us down to the level of children, even the vulgar who never learned their manners. So be it. "If there when Grace dances, I should dance." (W. H. Auden, English poet.)
As we savor the shocking salvation of the Servant in Isaiah 53...we learn to enthuse. The gospel of a suprising salvation can only make us laugh, sing and cheer. John Calvin understood this.
"The Church is the place where the Gospel is preached; Gospel is good news; good news makes people happy; happy people sing. But then, too, unhappy people may sing to cheer themselves up."
vEvery church should put a notice on its front door: "All face-saving moralists, take warning! Within these doors your chilly pride is in danger of melting into exuberant joy. Enter at your own risk. But all sinners depressed with guilt are welcome." Christianity throbs with holy joy for bad people. God made it that way.
The gospel demands a carefree spirit. If we aren't going to Hell anymore, if we stand to inherit every blessing Almighty God can think of, if nothing can stand in the way of our restored humanness because it's all ours through the merit of Christ, the friend of sinners -- if that can't make us smile, what can?" Raymond C. Ortland Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Chapter 40: When Grace Dances (54:1 - 55:13).
I. Command - Be Happy (Isaiah 54): Sing
- A barren woman having many kids (1-3).
- A lonely woman loved by the man of her dreams (4-10).
- A broken city rebuilt with jewels (11-17).
II. Invitation - Be Even Happier (Isaiah 55): Come
- You're gonna get free food and drinks at a gourmet restaurant (1-3).
- You're gonna be gorgeous (4-5).
- You're gonna be forgiven (6-9).
- You're gonna flourish (10-11).
- You're gonna dance (12-13).
Questions (Isaiah 54-55):
- (54:1-10) [In 49:1–52:12, the dominant note was Yahweh’s encouragement to believe that he was going to deliver them. What is the dominant note in the chaps. 54–55?] How is God's promise to Israel related to how she was (1, 4, 6; 1:21)? How should they respond? Why are some Bible people unhappy about this (Lk 19:39-40)?
- What five things are said about God (5)? What should they mean to us?
- How does Yahweh’s anger contrast with his love and compassion (7-8; Ps 30:5)? What does “covenant of peace” connote (Num 25:12; Ezek 34:25; 37:26; Rom 5:1, 10)? How many times does “compassion” appear (7–10)? What does it mean for God to have compassion on someone? [Both “everlasting love” (8) and “steadfast love” (10) are translations of hesed. “Steadfast, sure love” (55:3) is literally “the dependable heseds of David.”] What is the difference between compassion and everlasting/steadfast love (chesed)?
- (54:11–17) What do precious stones signify (Rev 21:11, 18–21)? What three things is God saying about Zion’s future security (13–17)? [There promises describe the new Jerusalem and are unconditional have not been fulfilled.]
- What does "established in righteousness" mean (14; Rom 1:17)? [The word translated “vindication” (17) is also translated “righteousness” (14).] What might the promise in 54:17 be saying if we translated “righteousness” there?
- (55:1–5) What is God inviting them to come and receive for free (1)? What does not satisfy (2)?
- What did God promise David? Why did God call David (4)? What will this covenant promise mean for Israel (5a; 2:1–5; cf. 52:5b; Rom 2:24)? What draws them (5b)? What would cause God's people to fail (cf. 2:5; 29:13)?
- (55:6–11) What does “…while he may be found” and “…while he is near” imply (6; Jer 29:13; Dt 4:29)? How is this both a promise and a caution? What will cause us to "miss" the Lord (7)? Why should this be obvious and radical?
- Why is repentence needed urgently (7-9; Ps 94:11; 145:3)? Give examples of our “wicked ways” and “unrighteous [not-right] thoughts.” [Don’t exclude “good folks.”] How does Yahweh’s scheme of salvation differ from one that we might derive (1:11-15; Mt 18:3; Eph 2:8-9)? Why is that a problem for us (64:6)?
- Does Egypt and Babylon need rain (10)? What about Canaan? How is the “word” (11; 40:8; Jn 6:63) like rain (10)?
- (55:12–13) What is the renewed creation doing (12-13; Rom 8:20-21; cf. 1:2)? Why does our “going out in joy” and “being led forth in shalom” (12) “make a name—an everlasting sign—for Yahweh” (13)? What is the "everlasting sign" that signifies "the Lord's renown" (13b)?
- How are these two chapters the result of 52:13–53:23?