Key Verse: 55:6, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”
Read verse 1. Who is being addressed here, and what is repeatedly urged? Why “without money and without price”? What kind of satisfaction is promised (2a)? Read verses 2b–3a. How does this explain what this invitation means?
What is promised to those who come and hear (3b)? What was the “everlasting covenant” and God’s “steadfast, sure love for David” (Ps89:1–4,28–33)? How did he foreshadow the Messiah (4–5; Ps18:43–45)? What does God promise and why (5)?
Read verses 6–7. What does God call us to do? How and why is the time emphasized? What does it mean practically to “seek” the Lord? What does God promise (7b), and what does this show us about God (see also 54:7–8,10)?
How else is God described, and what more can we learn from this about repentance (8–9)?
Read verses 10–11. What does this imagery tell us about God and his word, and how can it help us listen to him?
Read verses 12–13. To what does this look forward (35:10; 51:11)? How can we have this hope?
What are you seeking? Often, we’re not sure. We may just be hungry and thirsty for a meal, or to finally get a little peace and quiet. We may be seeking someone’s love or approval. We may be seeking a more secure life, or even our own honor and glory. The Bible asks us, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” (Jer45:5). So, then, what should we seek?
Last week we studied the final servant song in Isaiah. It described the glory of the innocent servant of the Lord, who suffered quietly and gave his life to heal us and restore our relationship with God. Chapter 54 celebrates how God restores and revives us through his servant. Now, in chapter 55 God invites us to respond. Because of what the servant has done for us, God gives us such a gracious and hopeful invitation. He uses 12 imperative verbs here, urging us to accept his invitation. There’s only one thing we need to do. It’s God’s main point: “Seek the LORD” (6a). We’ve heard it many times, but what does it even mean? Why is it so urgent? And how can it be possible for sinners like us? May God open our hearts and speak to us through his living words today.
God’s promises (1–5)
Read verse 1a. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” Who’s saying this? It’s God. And who’s he talking to? He says “Come, everyone!” “Everyone!” Wow! But here he’s speaking to some particular people. Who are they? They’re desperate: it says they’re thirsty, they have no money, and they’re hungry. And God has something so good to give them. He says, “Come to the waters!” It’s fresh, cold water that can quench any dry, parched person. Waters for thirsty people–what is this? God promised back in 44:3: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” There God tells us it’s the water of the Spirit. In John’s Gospel, Jesus called it “living water,” which he gave to a thirsty Samaritan woman (John 4:10–14). Later, he offered it to a crowd, saying: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” He was talking about the Spirit (John 7:37b–39a). Through what his servant Jesus has done, God is offering all spiritually thirsty people these waters of the Spirit. In verse 1b he expands the imagery to include wine and milk, too. In other words, God is not just offering cold water—he’s so generous! But how do we receive his gift?
God says we have to “buy” it, but it’s “without money and without price.” What does this mean? God is ready to give his gift to us freely. It’s the free gift of his grace (Rom.3:24; Eph.2:4–8). Still, we need to receive it. How? Read verses 2b–3a. “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” There are three related verbs here: “listen diligently,” “incline your ear,” and “hear.” We buy what God offers by listening diligently, by turning our ear to hear what he’s saying. It’s not passive or detached hearing; it’s intentional—we need to get interested in what God is saying. We need to turn away from our unbelief and rebellion and start listening to God again. Just as the servant focused on the ministry of the word (49:2; 50:4), so God is inviting us to listen to his word. And what’s he saying?
Read verse 2a. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” With these questions, God is like a compassionate father. He knows we’ve been spending our hard-earned money on things that don’t satisfy. He knows our dissatisfaction and frustration. He wants us to “delight…in rich food.” The “rich food” is literally fat portions roasted on the fire. It’s like we’ve been feeding on junk food, but now God is offering us delicious ribeye steak. This isn’t about literal food. God is talking about a real relationship with him. In verse 1 he said “Come to the waters”; now in verse 3 he says, “come to me...that your soul may live.” When our soul grows in a real relationship with God himself, we’re truly satisfied; we truly “live.”
What does this relationship with God look like? Read verse 3b. “...and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” God says more about David in verses 4 and 5. God calls him a “witness” to the peoples and a “leader” and “commander” for the peoples (cf. Ps.18:43). And God urges us to “behold” what he will do through him: nations that have no personal relationship with God will “run” to him for his help. But what stands out most is the “everlasting covenant” God promises to make with us (3b). God calls it his “steadfast, sure love for David.” What does this mean? In Hebrew, “steadfast love” is “khesed,” and here the word is plural, so it’s literally “loyal loves” or “faithful mercies.” David himself used this word when, after his lifelong friend Jonathan had died, he wanted to do something for him (2Sam.9:1). This word really comes to life in Psalm 89, where “steadfast love” repeatedly refers to a descendant of David (1–4,24,28,33,49).
God’s “steadfast love” is fulfilled in the ultimate offspring of David, our Lord Jesus Christ (Rev.22:16). God is offering us his loyal loves, his faithful mercies, over and over again, in “an everlasting covenant” with us in Jesus. This is no dry, theological covenant; it’s a living relationship of loyal loves, of faithful mercies. In the first servant song God said: “I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations…” (42:6b). He said it again in the second song: “I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people…” (49:8). Jesus embodies God’s covenant, his steadfast love, his loyal loves and faithful mercies to us. This covenant is based not on our performance but on God’s steadfast love. Honestly, in this relationship we fail all the time; our hearts so easily turn to various idols. But if we would just start listening and seek him again, we find that he still has “steadfast love” for us. This love of God is so reliable. Isaiah 54:10 reads: “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” God’s steadfast love for us, his covenant of peace in Jesus, his compassion on us, even in all our sin and failures, is so encouraging.
God’s call (6–13)
God has made some amazing promises to us in Jesus. Now, in the second part of this chapter, God calls us to action. What does he want us to do? Read verse 6. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…” What these phrases “while he may be found” and “while he is near” mean is not so obvious. But in light of what the servant of the Lord has done, it’s very clear. Later God says, “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name” (65:1). Why is God now so ready? Through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, God is, in a most profound way, near to all sinful human beings, ready to save us.
Isaiah calls it “a time of favor” and “a day of salvation” (49:8a). It’s that time right now. Apostle Paul applies Isaiah’s prophecy to us: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2Cor.6:2). It means there’s an opportunity in our lives to respond to God’s grace. We may think the opportunity will always be there. But actually, we don’t know how much time we’ve got. If we’re presumptuous and entitled, one day we may find ourselves like the virgins in Jesus’ parable, who show up late, demanding to be let in, but who will be told, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Mt25:11–12). To seek the LORD, we’ve got to wake up and respond to his grace right now.
But how? Read verses 6–7. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” To seek him means to call on him, to cry out to him in prayer, begging his mercy and help. It also means to come to God, forsaking our wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts. “Forsake” means “leave it behind,” “abandon it,” “let it go.” He means to repent. God knows all about the many people who seem to come to him. Isaiah talks about it later in chapter 58. These people seem to seek God, even daily. They seem to delight to know God’s ways, to delight to draw near to God. They even hold a day of fasting and bow their heads. But it’s all just for a show. In fact, on the very day of their fast they seek their own pleasure and pursue their own business. They oppress their workers and quarrel and fight. To truly repent, God calls us to let the oppressed go free, to start sharing what we have, to clothe those who have nothing, to stop pointing our finger at others, to pour ourselves out for the hungry, and stop talking idly (58:2ff.). To seek the LORD in repentance is not about putting on a show or rituals, but to change how we’re treating people, and how we’re talking.
Here in Isaiah 55, repentance is especially about our way of thinking. Read verses 8–9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Why is God emphasizing how much higher his thoughts are than ours? It’s because our thinking tends to be quite proud. We even think we know better than God. We rely on our own thoughts. We want to control everything. We think we’re so clever. But God knows far better than we do. To repent means to stop trusting in our own thoughts, our own wisdom, and start seeking to know what God thinks.
Read verse 7 again. “...let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” When we repent and return to God, we find he’s not full of anger and ready to scream at us. His anger for our sin lasts only a brief moment (54:7–8). He’s full of compassion and ready to abundantly pardon. What’s on our mind is often anger and wicked criticism of others. But God’s compassion, his abundant pardon, are what are on God’s mind.
How can stubborn and proud sinners like us change and start truly seeking the LORD? Read verses 10–11. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” We can change when we start paying attention to the word of God. It expresses God’s ways, God’s thoughts, God’s heart. His word nourishes and produces the fruit of repentance within us. Some people say we’re studying the Bible too much. That depends on what kind of Bible study we’re doing. If when we’re studying the Bible to listen and learn, his word works to help us truly start seeking the LORD.
Today’s passage concludes with a beautiful image. Read verses 12–13. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Those who seek the LORD in true repentance experience his joy and peace in Jesus. They were sorrowful and anxious, but now they’re truly changed and redeemed. What’s more, even all creation starts rejoicing when God redeems human beings through Jesus. In our fallen state we caused so much trouble to this earth, bringing death and curse and all kinds of misery. It’s no wonder even the mountains and hills and the trees will start singing and clapping! God’s redemption ends with his removing the curse of thorns and briers and replacing them with beautiful trees like the cypress and the myrtle. God’s redemption of all creation points to the everlasting nature of his glory. God wants us to see his glory and declare his glory among the nations (66:19b).
Let’s read verse 6 again. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…” Thank God for his compassion and steadfast covenant of love for us in Jesus. May God help us repent of our wicked thoughts and ways and show us how to come back to him humbly. May God help us experience the living water of his Spirit and the deep satisfaction of a love relationship with him. As we listen diligently to his words, may God fill us with true joy and peace and hope.
 The author of Hebrews calls it “Today” and urges us not to harden our hearts toward this grace of God (Heb.3:7,13; 4:7).
 As James warns us: “...yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).