God’s Unexpected Journey: Isaiah 55

by | Mar 9, 2023 | Bible Study | 0 comments

Many people claim to know what God has coming next, but the reality is that God’s plan is almost always a very unexpected journey.

Expect the Unexpected

Have you ever met someone who seems completely certain that they both know God’s plan for their life and are walking in his will? Is their day ordered and predictable? Do you feel like you must be off somewhere because while you believe you’ve heard God’s voice on the direction you are to go, things aren’t going the way you expected?

The fact that you don’t know what is coming next does not mean that you are off track. That is sometimes exactly the way God works. He does things in ways that we would not expect.

Isaiah touches on this passage in Isaiah 55

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.

The chapter begins with the LORD offering to fulfill our needs without cost or price to us. He offers to quench our thirst and to satisfy our hunger.

As human beings, we all have needs that need to be satisfied. God knows this, but he is saying to seek him, to listen to him, to go to him first to be satisfied. If we are going first after security and making sure our own needs are filled, end the end we still will not be satisfied. A single-minded focus leads to avarice, whatever one has will never be enough. The LORD is saying here to come to him first and not only will he provide for our needs, but we will be satisfied in what we have.

Jesus taught on this.  He said that he is the living waters and in Matthew 6 to seek him first rather than worrying.[1] When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, he did feed his followers “without money and without cost.” The guests at the wedding of Cana did delight in the “richest of fare” when he turned the water into wine. Jesus provided for physical needs, but he also promised a peace that would last.[2] (John 14:27)

3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”

The LORD is reminding his people that he has made an everlasting covenant with them and a promise to David that he will be a witness as well as a ruler and commander of the peoples. That nations they didn’t even know will come to Israel … they would not have to go out to conquer those nations, the nations would come “running to you.”

David lived 1000 years before Christ; Isaiah 300 years later. By the time of Isaiah, Israel was just a small nation caught in a tug-of-war between the major powers of Assyria and Babylon. Israel had not played a role of prominence since the days of Solomon. Claiming any sort of national prominence would be like the U.S. still riding on victories from the time of the Revolutionary War.

In the natural way, a nation becomes great through conquest, through forceful acquisition. The LORD is giving the Israelites a heads-up here that things just are not going to happen that way. Israel gained a brief independence during the time of the Macabbees shortly before the time of Christ, but they never again achieved a position of influence among the nations. The Jewish people were dispersed and without a homeland until 1948.

The modern state of Israel holds a position of influence among world powers, but would it have any influence at all if it were not for Jesus of Nazareth? I don’t think so. If it weren’t for the Messiah they deny and the Christians among the nations acknowledging him as King of the Jews and providing support to his countrymen, Israel would have most likely been absorbed into the surrounding Arabic nations long ago.

God did perform his word in a very unexpected way.

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

The time of judgment was standing at the door for Israel and the LORD was giving them a last chance to repent. God is always ready to have mercy on us, but we have to have the humility to acknowledge that we need him and turn back to him.

If we continue to resist him, he will leave us to our own devices and redemption will be beyond us.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”



Coming Soon! Straight Pathways: Knowing God's Plan

This Bible study is part of Straight Pathways.  

A Good Destination: Crazy Road

God is promising a good end, but it will be a long road for his people.

Isaiah’s theology included the sometimes comforting view that God shapes history, traditionally entering the human scene to rescue his people from national peril. But, according to Isaiah’s discomfiting surmise, God could intervene quite as properly to chastise his own aberrant nation, and he could employ a human agent (e.g., a conquering foe) to that end.[3]

When we ask God “why?”: why did he allow this to happen, why did we have to go through a particular thing, or why the trial wasn’t shorter — the answer is that is what was needed to get to the good he has for us. As we covered in the previous chapter, our process is part of the plan, God can’t bring us to a good end that we aren’t prepared and equipped for.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Expectations

When God gives you a promise, trust him for it, but don’t get hung up on your expectations of how he is going to bring that about. God promised Abraham that he would make him the father of many nations. Abraham believed, but he thought he needed to help God along and bring it about in his own way by having a child through Hagar. Saul knew enough to see God before he went to battle, but he impatiently side=stepped God’s designated order and process and offered the sacrifice himself rather than waiting for Samuel. Jeroboam was told he would be given the nation of Israel;[4] but, he thought he needed to bring that about and secure the kingdom in his own way leading Israel into apostasy.[5] Both Saul and Jeroboam lost kingdoms because of disobedience.

There is a cost when we try to do God’s will our own way.

This is something that I’m trying to remember as the Afghan Christians and I work through their immigration process. I know the end goal and I can see God moving in the situation, but there are way more detours and seeming delays than I would like. Things that don’t work out the way or in the timeframe that I would like or people that don’t participate in the way I would expect.

But these obstacles and obstructions have happened often enough, things that are seemingly “bad” or an inconvenience, that in the end turns out to be a benefit that I know that I need to trust God through it … both in his plan and in his process.

It isn’t only in this situation that I’ve seen this. I’ve been involved in other big projects where I’ve seen God bring about a result that people who knew better told us couldn’t happen. I’ve also been through times when trying to push the process brought about expensive consequences.

One of those times was in the planning of the 2013 Holocaust March of Remembrance in Houston. The inaugural march for the Houston area was the year before. The vision for the march came just six weeks before the date it was held and planning didn’t really start until two weeks after that. In those four short weeks, I saw the synchronicity of God at work. Things that just came about and fell into place to bring about an event that should have taken months to plan. “Problems” turned into promotion and “mistakes” opened doors to unexpected blessings. The average attendance for local marches for the organization was 50 people while the national march typically hosted 200. Between the opening ceremony at Kingwood United Methodist Church, the march with prayer points sponsored by seven churches, and the service hosted by St. Martha’s Catholic Church, we had over 1,000 participate. We, as organizers, didn’t even know what to hope for. The leaders of the national organization and seasoned organizers said, “What did you do?” We said, “We asked the local churches to participate, and they said yes.”

That’s all we did. We asked. People said yes … and they were happy to do it.

For the following year, 2013, the plan was to hold seven marches in different locations across Houston over two days, six on Saturday around Houston and one on Sunday in central Houston. We started doing the same thing we had the first year in gathering participation for the single march, we just asked pastors and their churches to participate by hosting the march and rallying support in their community.

Once again, the “yes’s” started rolling in: Northeast in Kingwood, Southeast in Baytown, North in Spring, Northwest in Brenham, Southwest in Missouri City, and our Central location. All of them, we just asked and the “yes” came without hesitation. The pastors were happy to be asked and happy to do it.

But then we came to the South location. A few of the organizers thought that a specific person was the one to host that location. Not only did they think the person would host the South march, but that they were going to play a significant role in the march as a whole and wanted them to speak at a fundraising event.

They asked the person, but didn’t get an answer.

Time passed.

They followed up. Nothing.

Again a wait.

At this point, I was beyond the time where I wanted to move on. To begin with, I had never heard of this person before and I really didn’t think they would be a draw one way or another. We didn’t have an answer from the person and we should have already sent out the invitations for the fundraising event. Everyone else wanted to wait for their “yes.” I said, “No response is a response. We don’t need their name on the invitation to send it. This isn’t what a ‘yes’ looks like.”

I got the “God told me” response … so we waited.

Finally, the person says they will speak at the fundraiser … but no commitment yet for hosting the march. The invitations go out — late. So late, some people didn’t receive them until after the date of the event. There were people RSVPing within hours of the start.

And guess what? That person we were waiting for to send out the invitations so their name could be on it was a no-show. They backed out at the very last minute. I received the forwarded email after midnight the night before, less than 24 hours before the event.

Like I said, no response is a response.

People were absolutely certain that one individual was going to participate in a specific way. That didn’t happen and it cost us. It cost us in time and responses to the fundraising events. It cost us in time in securing a host church for that particular march location. While we were waiting for a response from the nonresponder, the assistant to our local priest offered to have him contact the Catholic church down in Pearland. I told her to hold off because I didn’t want to be going in two different directions. By the time we knew that the other person was not going to be the host. We didn’t have time to arrange with a volunteer host, we ended up paying for a place to host the South location. That was the one and only location that we paid for the location. Every other location was hosted by a church that wanted to be a part of it.

The entire drama around the South location Is one that I have never forgotten and one that I try to keep in mind as I’ve been helping the Afghan Christians. Focus on the end, trust God for the outcome, and don’t get hung up on how it will come about or who will participate. It probably won’t look like the way you expect.


[1] Matthew 6:28-34

[2] John 14:27.

[3] “Isaiah – Isaiah’s Theology | Britannica,” last modified February 1, 2023, accessed February 23, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaiah.

[4] Jeroboam 11:29-40

[5] 1 Kings 14