Isaiah 54–55. After the Servant's Sacrifice, the New Body and a New Invitation.
Key Notes: Free drinks. The sure mercies of David. The water cycle and the Word.
Isa.54 is difficult to interpret in the light of Israel's coming exile. It promises lasting peace and security. In order to understand it, we begin with the last word: "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, says the Lord." (Isa.54:17). This passage indicates that the chapter concerns the Israel of God rather than Israel of the flesh.
54:1–3 Israel up to now has been barren, having failed to attract the nations to the Law of God, and having fallen into idolatry as bad or worse than the pagans around them. (Ezek.16). She had not brought forth salvation in the earth. (Isa.26:18). But God promises her many children (converts) so that her descendents will possess the nations. Paul interprets this text to refer to the Christian believers. Gal.4:27
54:4–8 Israel therefore would be abandoned (exiled in Babylon for 70 years) because of her sins but then will be restored to God's favor.
54:9–10 As God made a covenant with Noah not to destroy the earth a second time with flood, so his covenant of peace--between Him and them--would not be removed from Israel.
As we know, there have been many floods since Noah, but none universal. So there would never be another "flood" such as that which washed Judah out of the Promised Land in 586BC. Then the whole Jewish community was in one place and was decimated and captured. There was a second exile in 70AD, but by then many of the Jews were scattered around the Empire and were not part of the judgment. At Pentecost Jews from 15 different geographic locations were identified. Acts 2:9–11
Indeed, Jerusalem has been sacked 8–9 times, but only a token population lived there.
54:11–12 God will make the walls of Jerusalem beautiful with antimony-mounted precious stones. This will be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem. Rev.21:18–21
54:13–17 Her sons will all be taught by JHWH. This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus' ministry. "It is written in the prophets 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." (Jn.6:25).
Prosperity and peace will be their gift. God, who controls the weapon-makers, will assure them that no weapon made against them will succeed. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, a theme reminiscent of Jesus' promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. (Matt.16:18). Note that we have turned from the Servant to the servants of the Lord, presumably from Christ to Christians.
Some interpreters believe that the promise of survival ("no weapon formed against you shall prosper") also applies to Israel as a regathered nation. When the nations are gathered to fight against Jerusalem, Christ will return to direct the last battle.
"Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when He fights on the day of battle. On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives...." (Zech.14:3)
In summary, almost all of the material in this chapter applies to Jewish and Christian believers except 54:4–8 which applies to the Remnant. It appears that Isaiah is separating the Israel of God (the seed) from Israel of the Flesh (the husk).
Chapter 55 is full of invitation.
55:1–2 Everyone is welcomed to the feast, to receive freely from God refreshing water, nourishing milk and enjoyable wine. The word "buy" implies a price, but it is one which the Servant has already paid.
Human religions are futile because they are all works-oriented rather than gift-oriented.
55:3–5 God promises "the sure mercies of David" as well. Paul quotes this verse in connection with Jesus' resurrection (Acts.13:34), which seems remote. There are, however, some connections between David and Jesus Resurrected.
•Jesus is from David (Jer.23:5). He is the root (origin) and offspring of David. (Rev.22:16). He is David's Lord. (Psa.110:1–4). He is even called "David". Jer.30:9, Hos.3:5
•The promise to David was for an everlasting kingdom. IISam.7:13–16
Isa.9:6–7 sums it up: The Child born to us, of David's line, is named... "Mighty God".
*His Deity was announced by the Resurrection, "...descended from David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead". (Rom.1:4). Hence He is everlasting, and is given the Kingdom that is without end. The resurrection of Christ proves His deity.
•He is a witness (martyr), a leader and commander for the peoples.
"The sure mercies of David" is a metaphor for Christ's gifts to the world.
In summary, David's Son, the Resurrected Lord Christ, bestows the sure mercies--the Kingdom, the blessings, and the forgiveness of sins.
55:6–9 The invitation to seek and call is repeated with urgency, stressing conversion (turning back) and repentance (forsaking unrighteous thoughts). God's method of salvation is different from religious inventions. They are all human efforts reaching toward God. Christ is God reaching down to us.
55:10–11 The water cycle. God's word (spoken and written) is like the rain, which comes down from the heavens and nourishes the earth, returning to the heavens after it has accomplished its purpose. We speak the Word with confidence that God will use it for His purposes and our work will to be wasted.
The Living Word, Christ, can also be seen in this cycle.
55:12–13 The end will be joy and peace for the believers, a memorial to God.
The promise that God will use His word effectively is the basis of a strategy: get the Word out to the world and into the heart of people. God has not promised to honor my words, but has assured us that He will honor His word.
It sets our evangelistic strategy.
•Expository preaching is better than topical preaching.
•Gospel portions are better than tracts.
•Memorized Scripture is better than slogans.
•Putting the Scripture into the hands of Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists gives them a perspective undistorted by our culture or their hear-say impressions. When they read the Bible in their heart-language the impact is powerful.
One of the most effective ministries of the last 50 years has been lay-led Bible studies, often around coffee or a meal. In this setting, Scripture is slowly unveiled, so that the person is solidly grounded when the decision to follow Christ comes.
Give out the Word in any way you can.