Isaiah (Part 65): Invitation to the Blessings – Part B (Ch 55)
A slight shift occurs in the first five verses of Isaiah 55. In verse 1, God is clearly speaking to people who may come take advantage of the work of the Servant. By verse 5, God is clearly speaking to the Servant who will “summon a nation” and who has been glorified by the Holy One of Israel. As we get into the second half of the chapter, we find that God returns to speaking to the people. What is the purpose of this shift?
The shift has to do with prophetic emphasis. This is a fairly common practice of prophecy in which a description switches to address for emphasis and then returns to description. The covenant mentioned in verse 3 is a covenant for the people who, in verses 1 and 2, were called to come. God says he is making an everlasting covenant for these people to be assured the promises under David’s kingship. The promises to David we find fulfilled in Christ. Thus, the promise to the people is to reap the benefit of the promises fulfilled in Christ. But as God discusses this benefit, he switches to a direct address to Christ, saying he will summon a nation.
Notice that God says Christ will summon a nation “you do not know” (55:5a). Why does the Servant not know this nation? If we go back to thinking about the immediate prophetic fulfillment, we remember that Cyrus, as the Servant, had not been familiar with Judah prior to defeating Babylon. So we can see that Cyrus summons Judah, a nation he had not known, for their release back to their land.
In the prophecy’s ultimate fulfillment through Christ, we find that the nation not known had not been known because it is a new nation. It is a nation newly composed of those who are born to the Messiah-Redeemer. This calls to mind Isaiah 49:21 in which Zion had thought herself abandoned, but then suddenly she is with children: “Then you will say within yourself, ‘Who fathered these for me? I was deprived of my children and unable to conceive, exiled and wandering—but who brought them up? See, I was left by myself—but these, where did they come from?’” Thus, Christ the Servant summons this nation—one not known before—from the nations of the world.
In the second half of the chapter, God concludes a theme mentioned several times in earlier portions of the prophecy. At the end of chapter 52, God talked about the Servant being lifted up—first being lowly to the point of the world being appalled at him, but then kings stunned to silence as he is raised up. Again in Isaiah 53, the unimpressive Servant, who is despised and rejected by people, in the end receives the mighty as spoil. Here in Isaiah 55, God explains that his ways are not our ways. God shows in the lifting up of the lowly Servant to become reigning king of all the world that he is faithful and trustworthy to care for us no matter in what lowly position we believe ourselves to be.
God presents the picture of the rain falling to accomplish purpose in growing plants as an analogy depicting how his Word goes out to accomplish his purpose. God’s word is always effectual. He will accomplish that which he sets out to do. God’s sovereignty does not obliterate human responsibility. Rather, in the foreknowledge and brilliant coordinating activity of God, he works in and with human characteristic and responsibility in a complex interweaving to accomplish his purpose.