The Holy One is Inviting You
Series: Isaiah: Hope in the Holy One
This morning we have the esteemed privilege of hearing from our very own Pastor Paul as we close out our journey through the book of Isaiah. Our big idea is simply this: The Holy One is Inviting You. Greater than any invitation you’ve ever received, the Holy One – God Himself – is inviting you to join him. In our passage,
the Holy One is inviting you to…
1. Come, and be satisfied (55:1-5)
2. Return, and be forgiven and transformed (55:6-13)
ESV Study Bible
New Bible Commentary
Alec Motyer, Isaiah by the Day: A New Devotional Translation
Ray Ortlund, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners
John Oswalt, Isaiah
What’s the greatest invitation you’ve ever received?
Many of you know that Shanell and I have 3-year-old twin daughters – Evie and Joey – whom we adopted after over a decade of longing to be parents.
Our girls were born in March of 2020, which may ring a bell for you. That’s the month the world shut down. That will give some context for why the invitation to come to the hospital the day they were born is not the greatest invitation I’ve ever received. Because of pandemic restrictions, I wasn’t allowed into the hospital yet – their biological mom was only allowed 1 guest, which was Shanell.
For me, the greatest invitation I’ve ever received came 3 days later. As I’d done the day before, I dropped Shanell at the hospital to go be with the girls in the NICU, except this time I planned to return a few hours later as I’d actually be allowed to meet our girls for the first time. But you may remember, in those early days of the pandemic things were changing daily. About 10 minutes after I dropped Shanell off at the hospital, she called me – as soon as I picked up the phone, she said, “Come back to the hospital right now!”
Apparently, when Shanell arrived in the NICU, one of the nurses updated her on the new visitor policy: effective immediately, they were limiting the visiting hours, and only 1 parent would be allowed to visit per day. Shanell’s heart sank. The day we were finally going to be with our daughters together was just taken away, and with uncertainty about how long they’d be in the NICU, we didn’t know how many weeks would pass until we could be in the same room together with our girls.
Right there and then, she broke down. She was heartbroken at the thought that we wouldn’t be able to be with our babies together, and the tears started to flow, and all of her swirling thoughts started to come out in a jumbled mess before this poor NICU nurse. All of that was enough for the nurse to pull some strings and make an exception, just for that day, and only for the remaining window of the visiting hours.
That call from Shanell was the greatest invitation I’ve ever received, because that was the day I got to meet our daughters for the first time. The lifelong desire I had to be a dad was finally being fulfilled, but the window was short and I needed to get back to the hospital immediately.
Here’s the thing: Even that life-changing invitation holds nothing to the invitation before us this morning in Isaiah 55.
This morning we’re wrapping up the 2nd book that the prophet Isaiah wrote to God’s people who would be exiled in Babylon. As you may recall, Isaiah has 3 parts, geared toward 3 different audiences, but all prophetically written at the same time. While the 1st book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, proclaimed God’s just judgment of his people for turning their backs on him, the 2nd book, chapters 40-55, is a word of hope and consolation to those who would be in exile, with a promise to rescue them from exile. This morning’s passage is the culmination of a message of hope.
Our big idea this morning is simply this: The Holy One is Inviting You. Greater than any invitation you’ve ever received, the Holy One – God Himself – is inviting you to join him. In our passage, the Holy One is inviting you to…
Come, and be satisfied (55:1-5)
Return, and be forgiven and transformed (55:6-13)
Let’s jump into this together. The first invitation is…
Come, and Be Satisfied (55:1-5)
Over the past few months, in our journey through Isaiah, we’ve seen a people who are desperate and needy, dissatisfied and discontent by their current state, and tempted to look to lesser things to find the satisfaction only the Lord can provide.
Can you relate to any of this? How many of you this morning are desperate for help? Struggling with discontentment in your current circumstances? Tempted to look to the things of this world to satisfy your desires, even though you’ve seen over and over again that they’re unable to do so?
Are you desperately hungry, yet unable to put food on the table? Are you thirsty, but going to empty wells?
In verse 1, the Lord extends his first invitation (Isaiah 55:1):
Come, everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
Come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
You know what this reminds me of? An Italian grandmother, saying, “Eat! Eat! Eat!” – “Mangia! Mangia!” – with a sense of forcefulness and urgency, escorting you to a chair at the table. The Lord is inviting anyone who will listen to come.
This imagery of food and drink that truly satisfies us is nothing new for God’s people. In Israel’s history, this is perhaps most clearly evident in the Exodus. As Moses led Israel through the desert – leaving behind slavery in Egypt and leading them to the Promised Land – God provided daily manna from heaven to sustain them. And when they were thirsty, God miraculously provided water from a rock to quench their thirst. The people of God were fully dependent on him to meet these most basic needs, and the Lord provided.
Now Isaiah takes this same imagery to another generation of God’s people, who are also longing for rescue and in desperate need of satisfaction – they hunger and thirst, and are fully dependent on God to meet their need and sustain them. But they’re not simply offered daily provision, they’re invited to feast! Look at how Isaiah continues to describe the invitation in verses 2-3:
…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…
This metaphor of coming to a feast is an invitation to listen diligently to the Lord – to enjoy His presence and feast on His Word. Try to imagine yourselves in their shoes: living in exile, removed from the opportunity to worship the Lord where His presence dwelt in the temple, feeling hopeless. But now, you’re invited into God’s presence once again to feast with Him, to hear His voice again – everything they’ve missed and have been longing for is promised to be fulfilled. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
Then it’s as if Isaiah says, “but wait, there’s more!” In verse 3, he shifts to another familiar theme: covenant. And not just any covenant; the everlasting covenant with David:
…and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
God’s people would recognize this as a restatement of God’s everlasting covenant to King David, which was given hundreds of years earlier and is recorded in 2 Samuel 7. God promises to David that after he dies, the Lord will establish a throne and a kingdom forever through his offspring. A descendant of David would reign forever!
But if you look carefully at this passage in Isaiah, you’ll notice something changes halfway through. It moves from past tense in verse 4 to future tense in verse 5; from “I made him a witness,” to “you shall call a nation.”
The Lord is walking his people through their history – from Moses in the Exodus, to God’s covenant with David – to show them the abundance of his faithfulness, and even the promise yet to be fulfilled. The offspring of David – the Messiah – Jesus – will extend God’s covenant faithfulness beyond the people of Israel to the nations – gentiles like you and me!
God’s promised faithfulness to his people, which we’ve been learning about throughout Isaiah 40-55, is ours in Christ. In fact, we find a similar invitation from Jesus himself in John 6:35. Jesus, the one who would fulfill this everlasting covenant with David, says:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Whoever comes to Jesus, will not hunger and shall never thirst. Jesus is the living water, available to everyone who thirsts, and he invites us into his very presence and offers to dwell with us by his Spirit. He alone is able to truly and ultimately satisfy us!
But let’s return to the question in Isaiah 55:2,
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and you labor for that which does not satisfy?
What are you looking to for satisfaction? Think about that for a moment, and if you’re taking notes write down your answer. What are you looking to for satisfaction? If you were to say to yourself, “If only [fill in the blank], then I’d be satisfied, I’d have what I need, I’d be content” – what would it be?
We all have things that we hunger and thirst for – even good things – that we look to for satisfaction apart from Jesus.
Maybe it’s the next major life stage
To be married
To have a child (I can relate to that one)
To land the job you want
Maybe it’s a level of stability or status that you’ve yet to experience
Success and advancement in your vocation
Maybe the satisfaction you long for always seems to be right around the corner, yet you never seem to get there.
Or maybe you’re experiencing some other form of suffering – physically, relationally, emotionally, mentally – and you just long for the season to end, for whatever’s causing the suffering to end.
What is it for you? “If only [fill in the blank], then I’ll be satisfied.”
Perhaps in your quest for satisfaction you look to escape into things that aren’t good: sin patterns, substance abuse, addiction.
Friends, why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which does not satisfy? Even these good things will not truly satisfy you. And even without these good things, you can be satisfied.
Are you dissatisfied? Discouraged? Weary? With the empty hands of faith, accept the Lord’s invitation. Come into his presence and be satisfied. Jesus himself has promised that whoever comes to him shall not hunger, and whoever believes in him shall never thirst.
Whatever it is that came to mind earlier for you – take that to Jesus. Confess your understanding that even that will not truly satisfy the deepest longing of your heart and admit to him that you’re longing for something only He can satisfy. Dwell in His presence by feasting on His word and being refreshed through prayer and worship. Ask God to help you keep your good desires in their rightful place, and ask Him to satisfy you with Himself.
Over the many years Shanell and I desired to have children – over a decade of struggles with infertility and waiting on the Lord for his provision of a child through adoption – we certainly struggled. For each of us, in different ways and at different times, this good desire became the thing we looked to for satisfaction.
It may sound trite, or like a Sunday school answer, to encourage you to simply read your Bibles and pray when you consider the weight of your deep longings. Some of you know that before we adopted Evie and Joey, there was another adoption that at the very last minute fell through – we were receiving discharge instructions from the hospital when the mom changed her mind, and the child we’d longed for was literally taken out of our arms. Friends, that could have completely wrecked us had we not been assured of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to us through being in His presence, trusting in His Word, taking our desires to Him in prayer, and inviting our community around us to support us with those same means of grace. It was only God, by His grace, bringing us to a point of satisfaction in Him that kept us from being utterly shattered by that experience.
Come, and be satisfied. Dwell in His presence and find hope in his promised faithfulness to you.
The first invitation is to come and be satisfied. And the second invitation, starting in verse 6, is to…
Return, and be forgiven and transformed (55:6-13)
There’s an urgency to both of these invitations, but that’s especially true here.
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.
This is a call to repentance, and the time is short. For the Babylonian exiles, this is a last call to turn from the idolatry and sin that landed them in exile in the first place. But the same invitation applies to us as well: for the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man to forsake his thoughts.
Repentance, at its most basic, is turning from our sin and turning back to the Lord. Martin Luther, in the first of his 95 Theses which sparked the protestant reformation, said the whole life of the Christian is to be one of repentance. Turning from our sin and to the Lord is how we start our Christian life, but it’s through a continual turning from our sin and to Jesus that we continue our walk with Jesus.
And for those of us who turn to the Lord in repentance, there are two related things we’ll experience: forgiveness and transformation. We’re going to unpack these one at a time.
If you turn from your unrighteousness, the Lord will forgive you. Again, in verse 7, we read, “let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” For the person who returns to the Lord, God freely offers compassion and abundant pardon.
But notice what the Lord calls us to turn from: “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” Repentance is deeper than what we do or don’t do – it’s a change of both mind and direction. Our wickedness and unrighteousness isn’t just a matter of not checking the right boxes, it’s a heart posture that is turned away from the Lord. It’s rebellion against a perfectly holy God.
It’s from here, in verses 8-9, that Isaiah goes on to write,
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 my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For many of you, these verses are familiar. This is one of the classic “right truth, wrong text” passages in scripture. Out of context, we often apply this passage to wisdom, recognizing that God’s thoughts and ways are better than ours and we can trust Him. That is a true and right thing to believe, but that’s not what this passage is saying.
The Lord calls us to repent of our ways and thoughts, declaring that his are higher than ours. This is a statement of the gospel: even though our wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts deserve eternal judgment, the Lord has compassion on those who turn to Him in faith and he abundantly pardons us. In these verses, the Lord is saying, “I’m forgiving you because I’m not a human being.” While it would be human to write us off, cancel us, and punish us for our rebellion, God is no human being. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways and thoughts higher than ours.
And repentance requires faith. It requires us admitting that we don’t know better – that God is God and we are not. The Lord reminds us that His thoughts are so far above ours, and His ways are so far above ours – as far as the heavens are than the earth. It reminds me of my daughter Evie. Sometimes, if we’re outside in the evening, she’ll notice the moon in the sky, point it out, and then reach out and jump, and say “I can’t reach!” It’s cute, but it’s also pretty ridiculous.
But isn’t it amazing that we can think our ways and our thoughts are higher than the Lord’s? Somehow we can convince ourselves that we know better than the Lord, and that we can do better than the Lord – we take things into our own hands and pursue our desires apart from the Lord, somehow not recognizing how much higher His thoughts and ways are above ours.
But we have the promise from the Lord that if we seek Him, if we call upon Him – if we turn from our ways and thoughts and turn to Him – He will have compassion on us. He will welcome us back with open arms when we return from our prodigal ways.
Yet the Lord isn’t satisfied to only forgive us. Certainly that would be enough for us! But the Lord, in His goodness, also promises to transform us.
Look with me at Isaiah 55:10-13,
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 it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
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.
God’s promises are certain. Even more certain than the rain and snow that water the earth and bring forth vegetation is God’s Word to us. It will not return to Him empty. It will accomplish everything He intends.
When you turn to the Lord in repentance, He will not only forgive you – with absolute certainty – but He will also transform you with that same certainty.
Where there were once thorns and briers – dry plants in arid places – the Lord will raise up strong and healthy trees – a mighty and evergreen cypress, and a beautiful, flowering myrtle. Where there was once little sign of life, there will be abundant life. When we seek the Lord in repentance, He transforms us through the effective power of His Word.
We know it’s certain because it’s for His glory – all of this is to “make a name for the Lord,” to be an “everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” God, in his goodness to us, displays his glory through our forgiveness and transformation. You can be certain that when you turn to Him, He will forgive you and transform you. He will not only rescue you from the just penalty of your sin, but he will bring new life where there once was death.
Friends, what’s holding you back from turning fully to the Lord – either for the first time or the thousandth?
For some, maybe you’re afraid of what it will cost you if your sin comes into the light. You’re worried about the status, respect, or relationships you’ll risk, or even the short-lived gratification you get. It’s easy to convince ourselves that our thoughts and ways are so much more satisfying and, if we’re honest with ourselves, turning to the Lord in repentance may not seem that appetizing, so we put it off for another day.
Look back with me at verse 6,
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near
Friends, the opportunity to turn to the Lord will not be available forever. If you’re here this morning and haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, seek Him now while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. You don’t know what tomorrow holds – and quite honestly – you don’t know what’s going to happen 5 minutes from now. Time is shorter than you think. Forsake your thoughts and ways and fall on the Lord’s compassion for you. Receive the promise of new life in Christ, which can be yours now and into eternity. If this is the intention of your heart this morning, you can find language to pray on the bottom of the connect card on your seat – seek the Lord while He may be found.
Or maybe you’re here this morning, you’ve already trusted in Jesus for salvation, but in some area of your life you’ve been able to convince yourself that you somehow know better – that your thoughts and your ways are superior to the Lord’s. Maybe you’ve already known you’re on the wrong path, but the thought of coming into the light has felt too daunting. You’re afraid of what repentance might cost you, so you’re putting it off. Instead, you keep hiding, you keep coddling your sin. Or maybe you’ve wandered away – you’ve sought after other things to satisfy and they’ve disappointed you, but you’re afraid of coming back or worried it might be too late.
Friends, seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; turn from your ways and your thoughts, return to the Lord, and receive his compassion on you. He will abundantly pardon you and he will bring new life.
Look with me at a similar promise in 1 John 1:5-9,
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Until today, you may have been able to convince yourself that staying in the darkness is safer, but the light is where the Lord is. And he promises that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Come into the light through repentance, receive his forgiveness, and be transformed for his glory.
In the end, these invitations from the Holy One are invitations to rejoice. In Isaiah 55:12 we read,
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 the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
For those of us who come to the Lord and are satisfied, and those of us who return to the Lord for his forgiveness and transformation, there’s only one fitting response: rejoice! You’ve been extended the greatest invitation you can imagine, and all you have to do is accept it.
As I studied this passage, with themes of the Lord inviting us to a great feast and rejoicing in our salvation, I couldn’t help but think of the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
The Holy One is inviting you to join him. Come to him, and be satisfied. Return to him, and be forgiven and transformed. And rejoice! Even now, as you experience true satisfaction and transformation in the Lord – sing songs of praise. But know that one day, all of us who have been satisfied and have been transformed will all be welcomed to a great feast for eternity.