Isaiah 55 exhorts people to "come and receive"

What meaning does Isaiah 55 have for us today?

All you who are thirsty

Isaiah 55:1-3

55 1 "Come, all you who are thirsty,
   come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
   and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
   and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
   listen, that you may live."

Week 23 (June)

Isaiah 55 is perhaps the most beautiful expression to be found anywhere of the divine offer of free mercy to fallen mankind.

Here, in lofty poetic imagery, Isaiah describes the fullness, freeness, and excellence of God's invitation. The lesson to be learned from Isaiah 55 is that everyone that is thirsty — men and women, young and old, sinners or backsliders, from nations great or small — is invited to come and receive the blessedness of God's mercy and abundant pardon. [ Can people "lose" their salvation? ]

It is indeed appropriate that Isaiah 55 is included in the "Classic Devotional Passages" series of the Enduring Word Bible study lessons.

Down across the centuries, Isaiah's ringing cry comes today to each and every one of the earth's more than 7 billion inhabitants. Isaiah's plea for everyone to share personally in the everlasting covenant needs to be heard today more than ever. Our world needs to hear and heed Isaiah's call: "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord."

What a thrilling thing it is to share with others who have responded to this invitation to everyone that is thirsty.

In the early part of the twentieth century, an Italian emigrated to the U.S. from his home near Naples. He dreamed of getting rich in America. Well, years passed, and he didn't become rich. But someone pointed him to where he could eat and drink without money and without price. And that Italian responded by forsaking his unrighteousness and turning to the Lord.

In a letter back to his sister, Vincenza, he wrote a glowing testimony of his conversion. It would have been natural for her to respond as do many nominal Italian Christians to that kind of testimony: "I think you're on the right track. But I was born into this religion (Roman Catholicism), and it's too late for me to change now."

Tragically, though Italy is known as the home of Christianity's largest denomination, that country is steeped in spiritual darkness. For far too many Italians, religiosity is simply part of their cultural heritage, and with that comes the feeling that the religious traditions that have been handed down in their family must not be exchanged for anything else. So, the profound message of Isaiah 55 goes either unheard or ignored.

Vincenza could easily have responded in that vein. But alone in her home, the Holy Spirit began to deal with this woman. She began to sense how thirsty she really was and, on her knees, she responded to God's invitation. When I met her at 80 years of age, Vincenza Granese was one of the spiritual pillars of the Florence Church of the Nazarene.

It happened in a different way with Piero Barbieri. While in prison in Florence, Piero began to sense this thirst while reading a gospel tract. It had been put in the mailbox of his home by a Swiss missionary who was pastoring the Florence Church of the Nazarene. Piero's wife then took the tract to him during one of her visits to the prison.

Piero sent for the pastor, Fritz Liechti, and with his help, prayed through to victory. Piero became part of the Florence Church of the Nazarene, totally "rehabilitated" at no expense to the state by the Grace of God!

Our own stories of how we responded to this great invitation may be more or less dramatic than those of Piero and Vincenza. But the infinite blessings which we have received are the same. "Listen, listen to me . . . and you will delight in the richest of fare."

Discussion questions

  1. How well do you think the invitation in Isaiah 55 conveys the message of divine mercy and parson to contemporary society?
  2. How might the message of Isaiah 55 speak to the perceived spiritual needs of people today?
  3. How can Christians effectively communicate the message of Isaiah 55 to those who have not yet heard it?
  4. In what ways might the idea of God's abundant pardon challenge our understanding of justice and punishment?
  5. How does the wording of Isaiah relate to how you responded to God's invitation?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It was published in Standard, a Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes produced by The Foundry.

"God's love for humanity and theme of redemption can clearly be seen from Genesis to Revelation. So, we must be faithful and consistent in carrying out the Great Commission." -- Theresa Brown, Northwest Nazarene University student


Isaiah 55:1-3 presents a profound invitation and promise from the Lord, urging all who are thirsty to come and receive freely the waters of life. It emphasizes that true satisfaction and fulfillment can only be found in God. The passage exhorts people to forsake their futile pursuits and come to the Lord, who offers abundant and everlasting sustenance. It speaks of a covenant of mercy and love and assures people that God's ways are higher than human ways, and His thoughts are beyond comprehension. Ultimately, the opening verses of Isaiah 55 convey a message of hope and redemption. They invite all to partake in the richness of God's grace and the everlasting covenant that He offers to those who are His people.

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