AN EXHORTATION TO SPIRITUALITY AND REPENTANCE . The prophet passes from the ideal to the actual, from the glorious future to the unsatisfactory present. The people are not ripe for the blessings of the Messianic kingdom—they do not sufficiently value them. Hence a tender exhortation is addressed to them by God himself, inviting them to become more spiritually minded ( Isaiah 55:1-3 ), and fresh promises are held out to the obedient ( Isaiah 55:3-5 ). The disobedient are then somewhat sternly exhorted to turn from their evil ways and repent ( Isaiah 55:6 , Isaiah 55:7 ).
Come unto me (comp. Isaiah 55:1 , "Come ye to the waters"). God dispenses the waters (see Isaiah 44:3 ). I will make an everlasting covenant with you . That the "everlasting covenant" once made between God and man had been broken by man, and by Israel especially, is a part of the teaching contained in the earlier portion of Isaiah ( Isaiah 24:5 ). We find the same asserted in the prophecies of his contemporary, Hosea ( Hosea 6:7 ). It would naturally follow from this that, unless God gave up man altogether, he would enter into a new covenant with him. Accordingly, this new covenant is announced, both in Hosea ( Hosea 2:18-20 ) and in the later chapters of Isaiah, repeatedly ( Isaiah 42:6 ; Isaiah 49:8 ; Isaiah 54:10 ; Isaiah 4:3 ; Isaiah 56:4 , Isaiah 56:6 ; Isaiah 54:1-17 :21; Isaiah 61:8 ). Having been thus set before the nation, it is further enlarged upon by Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 31:31-33 ; Jeremiah 32:40 ; Jeremiah 11:5 ) and Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 16:60-62 ; Ezekiel 34:25 ; Ezekiel 37:26-28 ). Almost all commentators allow that the Christian covenant is intended—that "new covenant" ( Hebrews 9:15 ) under which man obtains pardon and salvation through the Mediatorship of Christ . Even the sure mercies of David . The "sure mercies of David" are the loving and merciful promises which God made to him. These included the promise that the Messiah should come of his seed, and sit on his throne, and establish an everlasting kingdom ( Psalms 89:2-5 , Psalms 89:19-37 ), and triumph over death and hell ( Psalms 16:9 , Psalms 16:10 ), and give peace and happiness to Israel ( Psalms 132:15-18 ). The promises made to David, rightly understood, involve all the essential points of the Christian covenant.
The Messianic blessings.
I. THE INVITATION . "Ho!" A cry arousing attention ( Isaiah 1:4 ) or expressing pity ( Isaiah 17:12 ).
1 . It is addressed to thirsty ones. The figure occurs in Isaiah 44:3 also. What more powerful figure can there be for desire , and for the pain of unsatisfied desire ? It is especially Oriental. It brings up the image of the hot, sandy waste, and by contrast that of the cool, bubbling fountain. Hunger and thirst are the "eldest of the passions," and it may be added, in a sense, the youngest; for age cannot still them, nor constant satisfaction take off their edge. They are daily, they are recurrent, they are the expression of life itself. Hence they may well symbolize the ardent desire for salvation (cf. John 7:37 ; Psalms 42:2 ; Psalms 63:1 ; Psalms 143:6 ). And what can better represent salvation than water—the well that springs up into everlasting life? Waters, floods, overflowing streams, or copious showers, are often used to denote abundant blessings from God, especially blessings under the rule of the Messiah ( Isaiah 35:6 ; Isaiah 43:20 ; Isaiah 44:3 ).
2 . It is addressed to each and all. The invitation is bounded only by the thirst—the felt need. Not the rich, the noble, the great; not the select and the few; but those who partake of a common want, and are capable of a common satisfaction. "It proves that provision has been made for all. Can God invite to a salvation which has not been provided? Can he ask a man to partake of a banquet which has no existence? Can he ask a man to drink of waters when there are none? Can he tantalize the hopes and mock the miseries of men by inviting them to enter a heaven where they would be unwelcome, or to dwell in mansions which have never been provided?". It is addressed especially to the poor. "No man can excuse himself for not being a Christian because he is poor; no man who is rich can boast that he has bought salvation."
II. THE BLESSINGS DESCRIBED . "Buy." The word is properly used of grain. "Its use here shows that the food referred to can be called equally well 'bread' or 'wine and milk,' i.e. it belongs to the supernatural order of things" (Cheyne). And the buying is to be understood spiritually. The blessings are only to be obtained for "that which is not money and not a price." It is faith, or the hearing of the inner ear ( Isaiah 44:3 ), which is meant. In the wine we may find a symbol of gladness ( 9:13 ; 2 Samuel 13:28 ; Psalms 104:15 ). The blessings of salvation cheer men amidst their sorrows; and one of the firstfruits of the Spirit is joy. Milk, again, is the symbol of nourishment ( Deuteronomy 32:14 ; 4:1 ; 5:25 ; John 7:22 ; 1 Corinthians 9:7 ). It is joined with "wine" and with "honey" in So 4:11; Isaiah 5:1 . These blessings are rich and satisfying as compared with the pleasures of the world. The latter may be emphatically described as not-bread— less satisfying. Happiness is our being's aim. But men seek it in erroneous ways. Bread is the support of life, and stands as the symbol of all that conduces to support life in the spiritual sense. "In ambition, vanity, and vice, men are as disappointed as he who should spend his money and procure nothing that would sustain life." Men toil for that which defeats their aim, because it does not satisfy. The blossom of pleasure "goes up as dust;" the fruits are those of the Dead Sea, "turning to ashes on the lips." The desire of the human soul is as insatiable as the grave. Where is the man who has been satisfied with ambition? Alexander wept on the throne of the world, and Charles V. came down from the throne to private life, because he had not found royalty to satisfy the soul. In one respect we are all like Alexander—our happiness is disproportioned to our appetites. Nature seems scanty, and, though we have never so much, we still long for something or other more. But to those who hearken to God, there is promised a perfect luxuriation ( Isaiah 66:11 ) in good things. "Fatness" stands for the richest food ( Genesis 27:28-39 ; Job 36:16 ; Psalms 65:11 ), and hence for the abundance of blessing flowing from the favour of God ( Psalms 36:9 ; Psalms 63:5 ). "Man seems as boundless in his desires as God in his Being: and therefore nothing but God can satisfy him." All else is "love lost"—is part of "the great lie or cheat that overspreads the world."
III. THE EVERLASTING COVENANT . Mention of it is made seven times in Isaiah. The idea of the original covenant, broken by Israel and renewed by Jehovah, is specially characteristic of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 31:31-33 ; Jeremiah 32:40 ; Jeremiah 50:5 ). The loving-kindnesses shown to David by Jehovah are meant (cf. Isaiah 63:7 ; Psalms 89:49 ; Psalms 107:43 ; Lamentations 3:22 ). "David is probably to be understood in a representative sense; he is radiant with the reflected light and spirituality of the Messianic age." These loving-kindnesses are "unfailing" ( Psalms 89:28 ). For Jehovah's word cannot be broken, and the reward of piety extends to the latest posterity ( Exodus 20:5 , Exodus 20:6 ). David is termed a "witness to the people," apparently in the same representative sense. God, then, binds himself by solemn promises to be their God, their Protector, and their Friend. The promise was not to be revoked, was to remain in force for ever; and he would be their God to all eternity. Let them, then, hear, and their soul shall live. Religion is life ( John 6:33 ; John 5:40 ; John 8:13 ; John 20:31 ; Romans 5:17 , Romans 5:18 ; Romans 6:4 ; Romans 8:6 ; 1 John 5:12 ; Revelation 2:7-10 ). Hearing is the means whereby the soul is enlivened ( John 6:45 ; John 5:25 ; Acts 2:37 ; Matthew 13:1-58 ).—J.
It has often been remarked of the criminal population that, if they would only give to honest and honourable pursuits the same patient attention, the same untiring energy, the same keen ingenuity, which they now devote to illegal schemes, they would soon rise to competence and honour. Perhaps the essence of this great mistake may be found in those who are very far removed from the criminal class; there are many in all vocations and positions of life who are wasting their strength on that which is unprofitable, who might be effecting great things for others or for themselves if they would only "labour for that which satisfies." This principle will apply to—
I. THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE . What immense pains were taken by the scribes of our Lord's time in mastering the minute points of Old Testament Scripture! It ended in a barren and guilty formalism which called down the severest condemnations that came from the lips of Christ. If they had only spent their strength on gaining the heavenly wisdom with which those sacred pages are enriched, they would have been much better men, and would have received the Messiah in a very different spirit. We, too, may expend a vast amount of unprofitable labour on the Scriptures, trying to secure their sanction for our fancies or foibles, and leave untouched their springs of truth and power and life.
II. THE WORK IN THE MASTER 'S VINEYARD . We shall certainly not include in wasted strength or unsatisfying labour the energy spent in laying, the foundation, although the workman may not live to see the walls of the building use; this may be the most honourable, remunerative, profoundly satisfying work of a man's life: this, indeed, was the work of the Saviour of mankind. But we shall include:
1 . Labour which is merely superficial, which the wind of changing circumstance soon "driveth away."
2 . The deliverance of one-sided truth—a statement of doctrine which is so partial as to be practically false. This must issue in disappointment; it is building of "wood, hay, and stubble," which will be burned.
3 . Irreverent activity, on which the blessing of God is not sought, and on which, consequently, it does not descend.
III. THE PURSUIT OF PERSONAL WELL - BEING .
1 . All men seek happiness; they give freely of their various resources to obtain it—money, strength, ingenuity, patience; they endure hardship and even suffering in order to secure it.
2 . A very large proportion of mankind is bitterly disappointed. What promised to be bread turns out to be chaff; what looked like satisfaction in the distance proves to be weariness and heartache in experience.
3 . The disappointment is due to one fundamental mistake— they adopt a false method. They risk everything on some one object—wealth, fame, power, pleasure, friendship—which either eludes their grasp or proves unsatisfying and vain. They should become the active servants of God, listening when he speaks , accepting what he offers, going whither he directs. In the earnest, faithful service of a Divine Saviour is happiness of the truest kind—blessedness, well-being, life; the pure, lasting satisfaction of the soul.—C.