Nearly every time I preach the Word I extend an invitation for my listeners to do something. It may be an invitation to kneel and pray, to respond in faith to the gospel, or to make a commitment to some action. It’s not that I don’t know another way to end a sermon. When I extend an invitation it is based on a conviction that merely hearing the truth of God’s Word is not enough; it demands a response (see James 1:22).
Chapter 55 is the “invitation” of Isaiah’s prophecy. It begins with the words, “Come, everyone” — a call to action, an appeal for Israel to make a move spiritually. God was calling them out of a place of idolatry and spiritual indifference and into His presence. “Come to Me…that your soul may live,” He said (v.3). In God’s presence there is life in exchange for death, there is satisfaction in exchange for disappointment, and there is fulfillment in exchange for need.
The invitation takes on a tone of urgency in verse 6: “Seek The Lord while he may be found.” We do not come to God on our own terms and in our own time. We come when He calls or not at all. For Israel, God’s invitation to repent and turn to Him was a time-sensitive opportunity. Verses 8 and 9 give the subtle warning that it is foolish to assume that we can make God conform to our schedules — we must respond and fit into His plan.
Israel had drifted far away from God in their sin, but in His grace He was offering another chance for them to return to Him. God was not calling them back to be punished, but to be pardoned (v.7). If they would return to Him they would find a loving, merciful God who is full of compassion. They would find the joy and peace that they searched for but never attained outside of God’s will (v.12). And all that God promised to give if they returned, He would do. He doesn’t make empty promises (v.11). His invitation carries the force of His faithfulness.
When I read this chapter I can hear the voice of Jesus echoing the invitation 700 years later:
Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.