We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John, as well as a firm conviction that in this book are many clear doctrinal truths around which all believers may rally. We still have a long way to go in our study. You can read the commentary to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.
We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapters 8-9. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3, 4-5, or 6-7, links are provided as well.
If you’re a follower of this blog, you know that we’ve been slowly working our way through the Book of Revelation (and with great fear and trembling, especially since this is such a challenging piece of Scripture). We still have a long way to go. You can read the posts to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book, and we would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together,we have captured a number of blog posts into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the link below to capture notes on chapters 4-5. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3, a link is provided as well.
PODCAST: Isaiah 55 – God’s Higher Thoughts and Ways
Where we are:
|Part 1: Judgment||Part 2: Historical Interlude||Part 3: Salvation|
|Chapters 1-35||Chapters 36-39||Chapters 40-66|
When this takes place:
Chapter 55 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.
Isa. 55:8-9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Because the Servant has accomplished His mission, all who are thirsty are invited to drink from the waters of salvation. But there is urgency in this invitation. “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near,” the reader is admonished in verse 6. All are welcome – Jew and Gentile alike – but they must forsake their wicked ways and abandon their pride. In so doing, they will find great joy. Even the ones unsure of their ability to proclaim God’s truths are assured that His word “will not return to Me empty” (v. 11).
The word “thirsty” in verse 1 is used throughout Scripture as a metaphor for spiritual longing. Here are a few examples:
- Ps. 42:1-2: As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
- Ps. 63:1: God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
- John 4:13-14: Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”
- John 7:37-39: On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been received, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
- Rev. 21:6: And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift.”
An Invitation (Isa. 55:1-2)
The Lord issues an invitation to “everyone who is thirsty” to come to Him and be satisfied. Water is a precious commodity in many parts of the East, and an abundance of water is a special blessing (Isa. 41:17, 44:3). In addition, wine, milk and bread are dietary staples. People labor to provide these for themselves and their families, digging wells, tending crops and watching over their livestock. Yet many continue to go hungry and thirsty – an apt analogy for the busyness of religious works that fail to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. While many gladly would pay for the food that sustains spiritual life, Yahweh beckons us to come and buy “without money and without cost” (v. 1). Salvation is God’s gift to mankind. It may not be earned, bought, traded for or stolen; it is available freely to all who receive it in faith (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
Warren W. Wiersbe notes, “In Scripture, both water and wine are pictures of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37–39; Eph. 5:18). Jesus is the ‘bread of life’ (John 6:32–35), and His living Word is like milk (1 Peter 2:2). Our Lord probably had Isaiah 55:2 in mind when He said, ‘Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life’ (John 6:27, NKJV)” (Be Comforted, An Old Testament Study, S. Is 55:1).
An Everlasting Covenant (Isa. 55:3)
By coming to the Lord, people will have life and enjoy the benefits of the Davidic Covenant, in which God promises that David’s line will continue forever (2 Sam. 7:11b-16). Some interpreters say this is a reference to the New Covenant (Jer. 32:40; Heb. 13:20). While this may apply in some respects, the immediate context specifically mentions David. Of course, the Davidic Covenant is fulfilled in the Messiah (Luke 1:30-33; Acts 13:34-39), who reigns forever and who, through His blood, provides eternal life for all who enter into the New Covenant by faith. That’s why Jesus makes it abundantly clear that eternal life is found only in Him: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The Nations and Messiah (Isa. 55:4-5)
The reference to “him” in verse 4 speaks not of David, but the Messiah, who will be the world’s “leader and commander.” The word “you” in verse 5 likely means the people of Israel, who will summon the nations to worship the one true and living God. “Isaiah 55:5 indicates that God will use Israel to call the Gentiles to salvation, which was certainly true in the early days of the church (Acts 10:1ff; 11:19ff; 13:1ff) and will be true during the kingdom (Isa. 2:2–4; 45:14; Zech. 8:22). Jerusalem will be the center for worship in the world, and God will be glorified as the nations meet together with Israel to honor the Lord” (Wiersbe, S. Is 55:1).
Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset and David Brown make an interesting observation about the order of Isaiah’s words in verse 5, which states, “so you will summon a nation you do not know, and nations you do not know will run to you.” They remark, “God must call, before man can, or will, run (So 1:4; Jn 6:44). Not merely come, but run eagerly” (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 55:5). Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Unless He takes the initiative to send His Son; unless the Son pays our sin debt through His death, burial and resurrection; unless the Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to Christ; and unless God grants saving faith to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, there is no hope of redemption for any human being.
Salvation Offered to All (Isa. 55:6-13)
Isaiah calls on his fellow countrymen to seek the Lord while He may be found, for when judgment falls it will be too late. While this plea has an immediate application for Judah, it also speaks to individuals in all generations concerning salvation. Although the Jews are God’s covenant people, they are granted forgiveness of sins and eternal life only by trusting in Him. The message is the same today to all people, as the apostle Paul writes: “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:12b-13). But God’s gracious invitation is limited in time. “[I]t is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment,” writes the author of Hebrews (9:27), so it is crucial for sinners to receive the Lord by faith today, for tomorrow is promised to no one. “Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
The wicked who turn from their evil ways and abandon their sinful thoughts will find the Lord compassionate and forgiving. Because all people are natural-born sinners, their thoughts and deeds are independent of God and lead to earthly distress and eternal judgment. But Isaiah has a message from the Lord: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” [This is] the LORD’S declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
Believers today are assured of higher thoughts and ways because we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). No longer enslaved to sin, we have the freedom to be the eyes, ears, mouth and hands of our Savior, encouraging one another in the faith and testifying of God’s power to a lost world. The apostle Paul goes ever further in describing the power and promise of the Christian life: “So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
The Lord also reminds us that just as the rain and snow water the earth, resulting in an abundance of food, His word brings life and peace to those who receive it: “My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do” (v. 11). Jamieson, Fausset and Brown note, “Rain may to us seem lost when it falls on a desert, but it fulfils some purpose of God. So the gospel word falling on the hard heart; it sometimes works a change at last; and even if so, it leaves men without excuse” (S. Is 55:11). John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck add: “In the Near East dry hard ground can seemingly overnight sprout with vegetation after the first rains of the rainy season. Similarly when God speaks His Word, it brings forth spiritual life, thus accomplishing His purpose” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1111).
The chapter closes with a description of the joy of the exiles when they go out of Babylonian captivity and, longer term, the joy of Israel in the Messianic age. When Christ sits on the throne of David and His people are gathered before Him, all nature will rejoice in the Lord (see also Isa. 35:1-2, 44.23). After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, thorns and thistles grew up and the earth yielded her fruit grudgingly. With the return of Christ, however, the effects of the fall will be reversed and instead of the thornbush, a cypress will spring up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will grow. The creation itself will rejoice in the redeeming work of our great God and Savior.
Matthew Henry comments: “What is the qualification required in those that shall be welcome – they must thirst. All shall be welcome to gospel grace upon those terms only that gospel grace be welcome to them. Those that are satisfied with the world and its enjoyments for a portion, and seek not for a happiness in the favour of God – those that depend upon the merit of their own works for a righteousness, and see no need they have of Christ and his righteousness – these do not thirst; they have no sense of their need, are in no pain or uneasiness about their souls, and therefore will not condescend so far as to be beholden to Christ. But those that thirst are invited to the waters, as those that labour, and are heavy-laden, are invited to Christ for rest. Note, Where God gives grace he first gives a thirsting after it; and, where he has given a thirsting after it, he will give it, Ps. 81:10” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 55:1).
LISTEN: Isaiah 54 – I Will Take You Back (mp3)
Where we are:
|Part 1: Judgment||Part 2: Historical Interlude||Part 3: Salvation|
|Chapters 1-35||Chapters 36-39||Chapters 40-66|
When this takes place:
Chapter 54 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.
Isa. 54:7-8 – “I deserted you for a brief moment, but I will take you back with great compassion. In a surge of anger I hid Myself from you for a moment, but I will have compassion on you with everlasting love,” says the Lord your Redeemer.
Israel is encouraged to burst into song because her punishment is over and the Lord, like a loving husband, is taking back His wayward bride and showering her with blessings. Her exile in Babylon was necessary because of her grievous sin, but it was only a temporary banishment because the Lord is faithful to His promises. Just as God honored His covenant with Noah, He will honor His “covenant of peace” with Israel. These verses await their complete fulfillment in the messianic kingdom.
The imagery throughout this chapter is that of Yahweh, the faithful husband, forgiving Israel, the unfaithful wife, restoring her to her home and bestowing her with undeserved blessings. Warren Wiersbe comments: “Isaiah has used the marriage image before (50:1–3) and will use it again (62:4). Jeremiah also used it (Jer. 3:8), and it is an important theme in both Hosea (chap. 2) and Ezekiel (chaps. 16 and 23). The nation was ‘married’ to Jehovah at Mt. Sinai, but she committed adultery by turning to other gods; and the Lord had to abandon her temporarily. However, the prophets promise that Israel will be restored when Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom” (Be Comforted, S. Is 54:1).
Israel’s Numerical Growth (Isa. 54:1-3)
Israel is likened to a barren woman who experiences the shame of childlessness and knows full well the void it brings to her life. But the Lord promises that days of gladness lie ahead and that her tents will be expanded to accommodate the children who will be born to her. The image of expanding the tent reminds the people of God’s covenant with Abraham, who dwelled in tents and was called outside to count the stars as a sign of the Lord’s promise of offspring. In similar fashion, this ragtag band of post-exilic Jews will re-inhabit the Promised Land and fill it. God will do for them what He did for Abraham and Sarah (Isa. 49:18-21; 51:1-3).
“Jerusalem, once desolate and mourning (Lam. 1:1-5), will be revitalized and teeming with people. Also like a nomad who has so many children he has to enlarge his tent to accommodate them all, Israel’s descendants will increase and even settle in the cities of foreign nations because there will not be enough room for them in their homeland” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1109). The complete fulfillment of this prophecy awaits the messianic kingdom.
Paul quotes Isa. 54:1 in Gal. 4:27 and applies the spiritual principle to the church. As God blesses Sarah and the Jewish remnant with children, He will bless His church, even though at present it is only a small company of faithful followers in a wayward world.
Israel’s Regathering (Isa. 54:4-8)
The Lord promises Israel He will take her back the way a gracious husband takes back an unfaithful wife. The people are urged not to fear for they will not be put to shame, and not to be humiliated for they will not suffer disgrace. While deserving of such consequences for their spiritual adultery, the Israelites will be welcomed into the arms of a faithful and forgiving Husband. And who is this Husband? Their “Maker – His name is Yahweh of Hosts … the Holy One of Israel … Redeemer … the God of all the earth” (v. 5).
Yahweh will not destroy the people He has created for His own glory. “He is their Redeemer and cannot sell them into the hands of the enemy. He is their Husband and will not break His covenant promises. As an unfaithful wife, Israel had forsaken her Husband; but He had not permanently abandoned her. He only gave her opportunity to see what it was like to live in a land where people worshiped false gods. God would call her back and woo her to Himself (Hosea 2:14–23), and she would no longer be ‘a wife deserted’ (Isa. 54:6, NIV). She felt forsaken (49:14), but God did not give her up” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 54:1).
The husband / wife analogy is used frequently in Scripture to describe God’s relationship with Israel. Israel is the unfaithful wife who runs after pagan deities. In anger, God abandons Israel, but only for a time (see Jer. 31:31-34). He is faithful and compassionate. He will remain true to His promises. He will restore His people. In much the same way the New Testament writers refer to Christ as the bridegroom and the church as His bride. Unlike Israel, the church is not yet married to Christ. Rather, she is espoused, or engaged, and is expected to remain chaste and pure until the Bridegroom comes for Her. The apostle Paul, as a friend of the groom, urges his fellow believers to resist false teachings so they will not be enticed to embrace “another Jesus” and thus commit spiritual adultery (2 Cor. 11:4). Ultimately, a great day is in store for Christ and His church when they sit down together at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
Israel’s Security (Isa. 54:9-10)
The Lord reminds Israel that His love, mercy and covenant promises remain even though the stinging memory of exile is fresh in the people’s minds. Yahweh has kept His word not to destroy the earth by flood again (Gen. 9:11-17), so His people may count on Him to faithfully carry out His promises of future national blessing. “Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” He assures them (v. 10). This does not mean the Lord will withhold future discipline from Israel, for we see the temple destroyed again in 70 A.D. and the Jews dispersed among the nations as a result of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. But even then, the Lord has preserved a believing remnant, restored the Jews to their homeland (in 1948) and will bring about a spiritual revival in the land when the people He has chosen finally trust in Jesus as His Son and their Savior.
Israel’s Peaceful Future (Isa. 54:11-17)
Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem has experienced many sorrows, prompting the Lord to call her “storm-tossed, and not comforted” (v. 11). However, in coming days the Lord will build up the city with stones made of precious gems as a symbol of her great value. This also may be seen as foreshadowing the New Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven and is beautifully adorned with precious jewels (Rev. 21:9-27). The children will be taught by the Lord, experience great prosperity and stand securely on a foundation of righteousness. The people no longer will fear oppression from without or corruption from within, for the Lord will protect them.
No doubt this is a preview of the Millennium, during which time no nation will be allowed to defeat Israel. “If anyone attacks you, it is not from Me,” says Yahweh in verse 15, contrasting God’s use of Assyria to punish the northern kingdom (722 B.C.) and Babylon to discipline the southern kingdom (587 B.C.). Further, the Lord assures His people that “whoever attacks you will fall before you.” He continues in verse 17: “No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, and their righteousness is from Me.” It is always the righteousness of God that saves, not man’s own “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). We see this stated plainly and illustrated beautifully in the New Testament. In Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1-14), an invited guest is bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness because he has refused to wear the wedding garment providing by the king. This shows that no one’s own righteousness merits entrance into the kingdom, only the righteousness of Christ. And in Rev. 7:9-17, an innumerable host of people, robed in white, stands before the throne and the Lamb. Their robes are white because “they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
D.A. Carson writes that “the righteousness of v 14 and the impregnability of vs 15–17 are deep rooted in personal discipleship, which is one of the marks of the new covenant. This is the true strength of God’s city, which is promised not immunity from attack but the unanswerable weapon of truth” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 54:11).
Lawrence O. Richards comments about the covenant of peace in verse 10: “[T]he focus of this covenant is on security. God throws a protective covering over His people so that they will be safe. While this is an eschatological covenant, it has present application to you and me. God’s protective covering has been thrown over us as well. God the Holy Spirit is Himself ‘a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession’ (Eph. 1:14). Because we are God’s own we are safe and secure” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., Logos Research Systems, S. 440).