Seminary Viewpoints

Personal Reflections for Hard Times- Isaiah 55

Jim Berg | November 19, 2020
Viewpoint Blog

The coronavirus, civil unrest and violence, looming national and personal debt, strained family relationships, and corruption within political parties have provoked a rising tide of fear and an increasing sense of vulnerability in the peoples of the world. So, what are God’s people to do?

God calls us to reflection in times like these. Consider Ecclesiastes 7:14:

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

One of the main themes of Ecclesiastes is that God injects our lives with intentional mystery to foster our dependency upon Him. He has even given us entire chapters in His Word to call us to reflection, repentance, and dependence during such times. One such chapter is Isaiah 55.

Though the book of Isaiah was written to Israel, it has wonderful implications for believers today because it reveals the character of God and His disposition to His people. God is speaking to a discouraged people in captivity whose future was uncertain and whose life was hard. These verses unfold His path for moving His people from their thirst and longings to fulfillment, peace, and joy.

Take the time to seriously reflect on the message of this chapter. Perhaps the following guide will assist you in that reflection. Focus on the message of this chapter and its application to your situation.

Reflect (1-2a)

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.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Isaiah 55:1-2

God is saying, “Think honestly about the unfulfilled desires, emptiness, and agitation inside your own soul.”

What are the losses you have sustained during the pandemic (i.e., job/financial losses, fragmented relationships, personal failures, indulgence in sin habits, etc.)? How would you describe the state of your soul in response to those losses (i.e., anger, fear, shame, agitation, bitterness, guilt, despair, etc.)?

Return (2b-6)

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 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.
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near
. Isaiah 55:2-6

God is saying, “Realize that your only solution is to return to Me. I have everything you need. I have already covenanted with you that I will restore everything through David (and for us, David’s heir, Jesus Christ). In fact, My plan is to not only restore you, but also use you to draw the nations to Me. Restoration and revitalization in your soul start with seeking Me as your solution and calling upon Me to help. I honor humility.”

Is “returning to the Lord” in Bible reading and prayer a part of your daily experience? How would you describe the activities of your daily quiet time with God? If this is not your practice, what changes do you need to make in your schedule and activities to seek the Lord? Who have you been listening to and following instead of listening to and following the Lord?

Repent (7)

7 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.
Isaiah 55:7

God is saying, “You must see that you have forsaken Me in your quest for something to satisfy your thirst. You must return to Me in repentance for going your own way and for thinking your own thoughts. You can be sure that I will abundantly pardon your waywardness. I am a God who delights in mercy!”

Is this a step you need to take? If so, what must you “confess and forsake” (Proverbs 28:13)? If you have been neglecting daily Bible reading, prayer, and local church attendance, the neglect of these practices must be repented of. He commands us to “seek” Him and to forsake going our own way.

Rebuild (8-11)

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “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,
11 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 shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8-11

God is saying, “This is where you have work to do. You see, My thoughts aren’t anything like yours. I think differently about everything that happens in your life. My way out of your troubles is different than you would expect, too.”

“Because I love you, I have given to you all the words you need about My ways and My thoughts. I delivered them to you in My Word. My Word will do exactly what I intend it to do. If you will make My thoughts your thoughts and will choose the paths that are My paths, I will do My part. I will use My Word to deliver you.”

Think through this carefully and honestly. Do you have a regular, daily time with the Lord seeking Him and His ways through His Word and interacting with Him in prayer about what He taught you? If so, is that time with God in His Word making a difference in how you live; are you changing? If you are not spending quality time learning about God’s ways and thoughts, are there lifestyle choices and schedule changes you need to make to increase your personal pursuit of God through His Word?  

Rejoice (12-13)

12 “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.
13 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.”
Isaiah 55:12-13

God is saying, “Here’s what I have planned for you: joy and peace! When you have both, you will have satisfaction in your soul instead of thirst, and fulfillment and contentment instead of emptiness. When you walk outside, it will seem that ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music!’ You will interpret everything differently when you know My thoughts and walk in My ways. Instead of the scrubby desert plants in the parched soul of your heart, you will be like stable and useful trees. Your changed life will be a testimony to My name because only I can do these things for you!”

If you are not living in contentment currently, was there a time in your walk with God when you were filled with joy and peace? If so, what was going on in your walk with God that brought about that contentment, joy, and peace? If you are not experiencing contentment, joy, and peace right now, what needs to happen for that to be true for you? Think very honestly and deeply about this.

Godliness is not accidental but intentional. In order to have a fulfilling walk with God, live victoriously over sin, and have an impact for His name in the lives of others, we must deliberately pursue time with God in His Word and in prayer. We must also make it our weekly routine to assemble with God’s people for instruction, community, and worship. Otherwise, we will default to handling life by following our own thoughts and our own ways. Reflecting upon and heeding Isaiah 55 will lead us to the flourishing life God intends His children to have.

Jim Berg (DMin) is a professor of Biblical Counseling at BJU Seminary. He has published eleven books and workbooks and numerous articles regarding leadership and, counseling, and discipleship.

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