Word accomplishes God’s purpose
- Main Text: Isaiah 55:1-13
- Accompanying text: John 4:13-14
For the exiles in Babylon and for those still in Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, daily living was thirsty work. Clean, potable water from wells and springs was not always readily available. “Since Jerusalem took her place in history as a city no problem has more constantly troubled her successive generations of rulers than that of her water supply. Situated as Jerusalem is, on one of the highest points along the backbone of a country which has no rain for half of the year, her natural conditions are not favourable for the support of a large population…Almost all the villages in the land were built originally near a spring, though not infrequently the village has in successive ages ascended to higher ground for greater protection” (1). It is against this background that many scholars ascribe the opening line of Isaiah 55 to the call of water vendors on the streets and in the markets of Jerusalem or Babylon who would shout out, “Say there! Is anyone thirsty?” (TLB).
In the chapter’s concluding verses (12-13) Isaiah expresses the hope of the Babylonian exiles for a joyful and assured deliverance, one which would neither happen in haste nor in flight as it was at the time of the Exodus. In so doing, it echoes the sentiments of Psalm 126:1-2, “When Jehovah brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! How we laughed and sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them’”.
Thoughts re application today
“Did anyone listen? Was anyone won for Christ?” Perhaps we might think those words when giving a sermon or when we’ve been involved in mission and evangelism. “Of course, that is never the whole story, but some days it seems so — and when those days come, where are we to turn? Turn to Isaiah 55:11. Let it never be so true that we tried to share the Word of God and saw nothing for it, and our opportunity is now gone and irrecoverable: the Word we shared is not ours but his; our chance is gone, but not his. No one loves the Word of God more than the God whose Word it is, and he, the eternal, almighty, impeccably faithful Lord, has pledged that his Word will never be fruitless, never come back empty handed” (2).
Of note in this passage is the contrast between abundance and emptiness. The abundant supply of water and food, the richness of God’s covenantal mercies, the generosity of God’s Word, the increase of joy, etc are all contrasted with the spiritual poverty of our own choices, the futility of our own ways and our own thoughts, the emptiness of life without the Word, the barrenness of the unrepented life, etc. God provides an abundance — not a paucity — of grace: sinners are called to “turn to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon!” (55:7).Jesus, of course, declared that his “purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10), and “glory be to God, who”, in his abundant grace and “by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20).
God’s call to salvation is as far-reaching it is inclusive. It is for “everyone who thirsts” (55:1). We may not realize it but all of us are spiritually hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have the money to buy the spiritual nourishment we need. It can’t be bought anyway by money or by the works we do to gain it — it is the gift of God. Jesus has paid the price for us. The vast supply of the spiritual water of life is alluded to in John 7:37-38 when Christ spoke at the “the Tabernacle Ceremonies, one of the annual Jewish holidays” (John 7:2). “Jesus was in attendance in Jerusalem, and on the last climactic day he stood up and made the claim that is suspiciously close to what God has to say about himself in Isaiah 55:1-3. This naturally caused a huge stir…the crowd was confused and divided. The chief priests and the Pharisees were sufficiently angered that they ordered his arrest…Jesus had claimed to be the living water promised by God to his people” (3).
- John 7:37-44
- Revelation 21:6; 22:1,17
- Psalm 36:5-9
- Psalm 126
Footnotes and references
- E W G Masterman, The Water Supply of Jerusalem, Ancient and Modern – https://www.jstor.org/stable/3137039?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
- Alex Motyer, Isaiah Day by Day: A New Devotional Translation, Christian Focus Publications, UK, 2011:269.
- Kenneth E Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, published by SPCK, UK in 2008:231.