Here’s the good news: God offers us the “something more” our souls are seeking. He offers that which truly satisfies the soul. From our text in Isaiah 55, God says, Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good… Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live. God offers nourishment for the soul. There is a deep yearning in our souls for connection, for intimacy, for meaning and purpose. Yet too often we seek to satisfy these soul cravings with the wrong kinds of things; some of which we discussed in the previous post. That’s why we’re so restless.
Too often, we settle for happiness. But happiness is fleeting. Instead, God promises an everlasting covenant. Just as man cannot live on bread alone, it is also true that the soul cannot live on happiness alone. We need something deeper, something even more meaningful. And here it is: we need joy. And that’s exactly what God promises here in the next verses.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 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. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth…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.
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…Isaiah 55:6-12
This is the deeper invitation: seek the Lord while he may be found. There is an eternal yearning in every soul. Ecclesiastes 3:11, God planted eternity in the human heart. When we seek to satisfy that eternal yearning with something fleeting like happiness or sex or power or a boyfriend or a wife, we inevitably grow restless because these could never satisfy our eternal yearning. Only something eternal could satisfy an eternal yearning.
Isaiah counsels us to forsake our ways: to abandon these fleeting pursuits and to call upon the Lord while He is near. Return to the Lord, Isaiah says, and He will have compassion on you; He will pardon abundantly. God’s heart is overflowing with compassion and abundant grace. We need only to return to Him, which simply means to turn to Him in repentance.
God’s invitations align perfectly with our soul yearnings: He says, Come, all who are thirsty. Come, all who are hungry. Come, listen to my words, that your soul may live. And now again, God says, Come to me, that I might have compassion on you.
Look at the final two verses of the chapter:
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 fields shall clap their hands. 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 says, You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace. The picture here is certainly a joyous one: mountains and hills praising God for what He’s done, trees clapping their hands in worship. There is a great reversal at work here: thorns and briers have been replaced by cypress and myrtle. God transforms the desert space into a blooming garden. What an awesome God we serve!
Everyone is looking for this kind of joy — because joy is one of the deep yearnings of the soul. Do you see how this kind of joy is so much deeper than mere happiness? Whereas happiness is often dependent upon our life circumstances, joy is constant. And this is what God promises — to those who seek the Lord, to those who let themselves be led.
Isaiah envisions One who is out front, One who goes before God’s people and lead them in this joyful procession of worship:
- He is the One who paid the price for those who cannot buy their own food. And no one can buy the kind of food He offers, the kind that truly nourishes the soul. It is given only by grace.
- He is the One who transforms thorn and brier; by His grace, He turns the desert places into lush gardens.
- The rocks and hills cry out His name; the trees of the fields clap in His honor.
His name is Jesus. And He invites us into His eternally joyous communion! You shall go out in joy! This is an invitation to something far greater than mere happiness. It is an invitation for your soul.
May you go out in joy today; may you be led forth in peace.