If you grew up in one of the metropolitan city of Ethiopia, you have encountered street vendors. Alas, their persuasion, for you to buy their products, was almost a nag. Before you get from point A to point B, they would interrupt you several times yelling, “Sir. come here, Ma’am, buy this…”. Likewise, here in New York city, you cannot cross 47th street between fifth and sixth avenue without encountering a mob of jewelry sales persons.
It is more likely that Isaiah employs the voice of a street vendor, metaphorically, here in our text. Isaiah resembles Yahweh’s plea to that of street vendors (as we shall see Jesus also alludes to Isaiah in Revelation 22:17). He writes:
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.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. (Is 55:1–2)
Isaiah 55 is the conclusion of the second major section of the book of Isaiah and the beginning of a series of prophecies following the work of the suffering servant. In this book of Prophecy there are two agents of Yahweh’s deliverance: Cyrus (Isa. 44:24-48:22) and the suffering servant of the Lord (Isa. 49-55) who likewise is depicted as the anointed mighty conqueror.
First, we saw the monotonous repetition to “come” in just one verse. Three times, Yahweh invites everyone to come. That means those who think they are satisfied and have everything they need, by definition are those who reject this invitation. We also noted the theme of the Davidic covenant in this chapter (55:3-5). God appointed the Davidic King to administer justice and righteousness on behalf of Yahweh. The Pentateuch as well as the book of Joshua had so many checks and balances within the life of Israel, so that the poor are well taken care and have access to a land. The kinsman-redeemer, the goel, (who guarantees the seed-line of the family continues) and the year of Jubilee (that secures the land) were such practices intended to guarantee justice in remembrance of Yahweh’s deliverance and grace in redeeming Israel. Every 49 years the Land was supposed to be returned as it was on the day Joshua allotted for each tribe, clan and family according to the instruction of the Lord. It is a day of liberty. That is the reason why Ahab taking Naboth’s vineyard brought judgement upon the house of Ahab (1 Kings 21). Israel was sold for slavery (notice the language of slavery, being sold back to Egypt as it were) as depicted in Leviticus 25. Therefore, the story of the year of jubilee and that of the story of Ruth are so vital for our understanding of redemption culminating in Christ, our kinsman-redeemer (the goel) and liberator. Likewise, land, within the agrarian society such as Israel in the Old testament, not only is a means of survival and access to wealth, but more importantly is tied with the Abrahamic covenant. The children of Israel were heirs of the blessing of Abraham. It is extremely important that we too desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one for he has prepared for us a city (Hebrews 11:16). Also Peter commends us “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13) which is reminiscent of the new heaven and new earth mentioned here in Isaiah 65-66. Yahweh will remove injustice and fill the earth with his righteousness. Thus we see an association between the thirsty and the poor. That is why Isaiah focuses so much on the poor as the recipient of the Spirit and redemption to come.
The second invitations, focuses on the spiritual poverty and bankruptcy of the thirsty ones: “whoever has no money come”. In the Hebrew language the form of the words: “come/לְכ֤וּ, buy/שִׁבְרוּ֙, and eat/וֶֽאֱכֹ֔לוּ” are all in the imperative form. That is to say, these are not suggestions, “would you come? would you buy?” but a kind of command: “You must come, You must Buy…”. ‘Coming to Yahweh’ is the means by which one survives.
It is such a powerful poetry that communicates an important biblical theme of divine grace. Have you noticed the subtle transaction? The invitation is for people who have no money (Isaiah uses the word silver) and yet they are commanded to buy. Isaiah writes:
And then concludes
One could ask, how is it possible for a person without money to be able to buy anything? The answer is Yahweh prepared both the table and the means. First, these people are those who understood their bankrupt state and their need for Yahweh. Second, they are people who recognize their spiritual poverty and He is the only one who is able to meet it. They have no money. They are dirt poor before Yahweh. So, where would they get money to buy?
That is to say, by coming to Him empty-handed, they show their trust that He will pay a price on their behalf in order to meet their spiritual need. Yahweh has a prepaid card! He will let them buy without Money and without price. They only need to come trusting in Yahweh’s provision. Yet the fact that a payment is paid on their behalf remains true, not only in chapter 55 but in Isaiah as a whole. For instance, look Isa. 40:1-3; Isa. 52:1-12, et.al.
Yahweh’s prepaid debit card
This way of speaking, a price paid on behalf of a repentant and believing remnant is very common in the prophecy of Isaiah. For instance,
The redemption was not by money. Nevertheless a payment has been paid. What was this payment? Isaiah’s poetic prophecy makes it clear in verses 13-15; 53:1-12
Revelation 22:17 | The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. May we never stop being thirsty. Christians are by definition those whose thirst has been quenched already and yet continue to thirst for more until the age to come. © 2016, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.
Fulfillment In Jesus
Revelation 22:17 | The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
May we never stop being thirsty. Christians are by definition those whose thirst has been quenched already and yet continue to thirst for more until the age to come.
© 2016, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.