The context is that of the coming of the suffering servant of the Lord, the Messiah, and His all-sufficient work on the cross where He bore our sins in His body, where He was wounded for us, the innocent dying as a substitute for the guilty. Because of what Messiah has done, the offer of this passage can be made.
“Hey.” This particle is an emphatic way to get our attention.
“All.” This is a universal invitation. No one is exempt; it applies to all. It is available to all and all need it.
“Who are thirsty.” Thirsts indicates an intense desire, but also an intense need. It calls attention to the futility of life to really satisfy the innermost needs of man. This is an invitation to those who, experiencing the dryness of the world, are looking for something more and are open to the salvation of God.
“Come.” Three times this word is used to highlight God’s offer of salvation and of a life that is truly satisfying and meaningful. God says “come.” He says, “I have what you need and I want you to have it.”
“To the water.” This is emblematic of abundant blessing and of the fact that only the salvation of God as revealed in the person and work of Christ and the Word can truly satisfy the thirst and needs of man.
“You who have no money, come! Buy and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk without money and without cost!” What is this saying? How can one buy without money?
God’s offer is absolutely free. Neither money, power, position, nor prestige can purchase what God has to offer us. It is the free gift of His grace through the gift of His Son who purchased man’s redemption (Rev. 21:6; 22:17).
The word “buy” is used in the sense of acquire or get, but, as we are told, we may buy without money. The word “buy” is the Hebrew, shabar. It meant, “to break” and then, “to purchase.” It was used of grain as that which was broken in the mill, or of food which breaks hunger (compare our word breakfast for “break your fast”). So God calls us to not only to buy or acquire, but to eat. The idea here is get bread and eat.
As the next verses make clear, God is calling man to come, listen, and feed on the living Word which in turn will produce faith (Rom. 10:17). Peter, remember, tells us faith is more precious than gold which perishes (1 Pet. 1:7). Why? Because faith is the channel by which we acquire or obtain the salvation of God and its manifold blessings (Eph. 2:8, 9).
“Wine and milk.” God’s salvation and its blessings are portrayed under these two symbols. Wine was often used at special feasts and portrays the joy and exhilaration which God’s salvation brings. Milk portrays sustenance, that which nourishes and is nutritious and healthful.
By means of a question and through the prophet, the Lord calls upon us to see the futility of life and the efforts of people to find happiness or salvation apart from the free gift of His grace and a life lived out of the fullness of Christ through the Word where we can hear the voice of God.
“Spend.” This word literally means “weigh.” It referred to the counting out and weighing of silver or gold as the price paid for something.
“For something that will not nourish you.” Literally, the Hebrew says, “why do you weigh out money for the not-bread.” This is emphatic and dramatic. Bread is emblematic of the support of life or of whatever contributes to man’s support, happiness, and comfort. But in this regard, what man finds is really not-bread, it is futility. The Apostle Paul warns us against this same futility in a context that stresses the importance of the Word (Eph. 4:17).
The choice of the verb in Isaiah 55:2a and this negative noun, not-bread, dramatizes the difficulty and the futility of man’s ability to find or procure that which will supply his real needs apart from God and His plan (cf. Deut. 8:3).
“Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy?” “Wages” is literally, “toil or labor.” Our wages are the result of our toil or work.
People are habitually weighing out what they have earned by toil for that which does not, in the final analysis, truly satisfy. Man, therefore, is left running on the gerbil wheel of fortune in hot pursuit of things—position, power, pleasure, possessions—looking for happiness in all the wrong places and things which are simply incapable of giving it. Is man ever satisfied with what he has? How much money is enough? More! How much pleasure? More! How much power? More!
Compare these verses: Proverbs 27:20; Ecclesiastes 1:8; 4:8; 5:10. There is a void in man which only God can fill, so we naturally have the next point in Isaiah 55.
Verses 2b and 3a call us to an investigation of God’s Word, which, far in excess of the purest of gold, reveals and provides the real values of life.
“Listen carefully to me and eat …” Where do we listen to God? In His Word. The idea is, that by attending to God’s Word and by feeding upon its truth, men will find, without money or price, that which they were seeking at so much expense, toil, and pain. Finding and experiencing God’s truth will lead to resting in and enjoying the blessings of God’s covenant which offers salvation to all men with all its consequent blessings of life. Here and here alone is the source of real security, satisfaction, and significance in life.