Sing, expand, and take heart (54.1, 2-3, 4). God’s people can sing, and look to the future with confidence and purpose, because God is her husband (v.5). Yes, God says that He had abandoned her, but it was ‘for a brief moment’ (v.7); now, chastened for her sin, she has been brought back to know His embrace, His compassion and everlasting kindness (v.8).
No wonder that the New Testament tells us that the love of God in Christ is that of a groom for his bride. Jesus loves His bride to the extent that He laid down His life for her (Eph. 5.25). The bride is the church. He lays down His life so that she might have life, in discovering the pardoning and the transforming love of God. And this is the great love announced back in the Garden of Eden: God will send a rescuer to defeat sin and evil (Gen. 3.15). Christ rescues lost, rebellious people, bringing them God’s compassion and everlasting kindness. And it is all of His grace. Look at v. 10: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” And then ask yourself, ‘do I earn that love, or ever make myself more desirable to God as a person loved Him?’ Hopefully you know that the answer is an emphatic no! to both of these questions. God’s love in Christ has no cause in us but our wretchedness and need. His love’s loyalty to us has no perseverance to us based on anything expect His covenant loyalty. Yet what delight He takes in loving us! And what delight we discover, as we taste this love, and live confidently in it, as the years go on.
It’s because this love is so wonderful that God calls loudly to us, so that we might encounter it. He calls, bidding the thirsty to drink, and the hungry poor to eat for free (55.1). He urges us not to squander what we have on what is so obviously not the food our starving souls need, and promises us that we will “delight in the richest of fare” (v.3). And all of this is possible – and spread before us – because of Jesus: the ‘you’ in v.3 is singular, referring clearly to the One in whom God offers His covenant love, the summoner of nations, and the One “endowed with splendour” (v.5), Jesus. At the cross He goes thirsty so that we might drink, He spreads His arms wide so that He might spread the feast before us. We turn at His command, and we find that He has turned to us already (vv.6-7).
All of this is so totally against what we might expect, and against what we deserve, that v.8 at last makes sense: ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” Our response to being offended by others is to long for justice, and often, to try to achieve it. The Lord is gently showing us there that He, the offended One, must punish sin, because He is holy, but has worked out a way to show grace to sinners. He is so unlike us, therefore! And He is so determined to get through to sin-hardened people, that He sends the Word of the Gospel to them, to achieve this miraculous change of heart and salvation in them (vv.9-11). Receive this Word, and there’s peace, joy, and the promise of entering a new world in the love of Christ (v.12-13). Who would settle for anything less; and who could ever wish for anything more?