Isaiah 55: “Stretching Out His Ear to Hear Our Cry”


by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler

“Hoi kol-tza-mey l’ku la-may-yim va-a-sher eyn-lo ke-seph l’ku shiv-ru ve-e-kolu ul-ku shiv-ru b’lo-ke-seph uv-lo m’hir ya-yin v’cha-lav.” “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the water, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

So opens the 55th chapter of Isaiah. After the Messianic promise of forgiveness and atonement through Messiah in chapter 53 and the offer of blessing and growth in 54, all provided by the nurture of the God of Israel, the question is raised as to why Adonai’s covenant people look for hope and help from any other source. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread? Your wages for what does not satisfy?” Israel, and mankind in general, tends to run to the tangible, like idols or human resources, to meet needs instead of turning to the supernatural God of the scriptures, Creator of the Heavens and earth. The results always fall short, yet, man keeps making the same mistake and reaps the same disappointing harvest. Instead, Elohim urges a different resort as He continues in verses 2 and 3: “Shim-u, sha-mo-a e-lai v’ik-lu-tov v’tit-a-nag ba-de-shen naph-sh’kem.” “Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” The repetition of the imperative of “sha-ma” is a classic Hebraic way of stressing the intent, in other words, “pay close attention”. If one does, the results will pay off in big ways. “Tit-a-nag” comes from the verb to exquisitely delight; the time of food and fellowship following a shabbat service is appropriately called “oneg shabbat”, or, “exquisite sabbath pleasure”. Adonai urges that listening to His invitation will delight in the greatest pleasure. “Ha-tu az-n’kem ul-ku e-lai shim-u ut-chi naph-sh’kem v’ak-r’tah la-kem b’rit olam chas-dey David ha-ne-e-ma-nim.” Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, so that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the trustworthy loyalty to David.” God’s relationship with David was one of grace sovereignly shown him, which David never earned. He merely trusted in Adonai, Who took him from a shepherd to a military hero to commander of all Israel’s armies to king to patriarch of Israel’s royal dynasty to ancestor and tupe of Messiah Himself. The price David paid, and which in our text is called for from all of us, is hearing the invitation and responding, coming. “Ha-tu”, imperative to “na-tah”, is used in Psalm 116 to describe God’s “stretching out His ear” to hear our cry. In Isaiah 55:3, we are urged to be so trusting of God’s willingness and desire to deliver us that we stretch out our ears to hear anything Adonai might be saying. The payoff is similar generosity to that shown David.

We are then urged to turn from our previous ways and thoughts and seek the Lord’s. “Seek Adonai while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous one his thoughts, let him return to Adonai, so He may have compassion (parental mercy; the verb “y’ra-cha-me-hu” is the imperfect tense of “ra-cham”, from which comes one of the Hebrew words for “womb”, and implies parental bond, with the imperfect tense referring to continuous mercy.) on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (verses 6,7).

Verses 8-11: “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without having watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to sow and bread to eat, so My word will be that goes out from My mouth. It will not return to Me in vain, but will accomplish what I intend, and will succeed in what I sent it for.” The point is for us to trust in Adonai’s higher words, ways, and thoughts, then, adopt them ourselves.

The payoff then is huge. Verses 12-13 relate, “Yes, you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace. The mountains and the hills will break forth before you singing, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands! Instead of the thorn bush, a cypress will come up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to Adonai, as an everlasting sign that will never be cut off.” It will seem as if all the world is in song!

Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.