Biblical prophecy can be perplexing at times, but there is one thing it makes abundantly clear: Our God is a gracious God. His grace is consistent and unending. It overcomes our sins and gives us the sure hope of eternal blessing. Indeed, His ways are infinitely higher than ours.
Prophecies about the Amazing Grace of God
On our last Wisdom Journey here in Isaiah’s great prophecy, we came face to face with the suffering Messiah who was pierced for our transgressions, who was crushed for our iniquity (Isaiah 53:5).
Now, in chapters 54 through 59, the focus is on the theme of grace. Isaiah continues to invite the rebellious people of Israel to accept God’s grace and put their faith in the Messiah, who would suffer and die so they—like every one of us today who trust Him—could be forgiven.
As chapter 54 opens, Isaiah shows us what we will call grace illustrated. In the opening verses, he refers to Israel as a barren woman. They had been charged by God to represent Him to the nations, but they had rebelled and ended up spiritually barren—they had no spiritual fruit. Here God calls them, on the basis of their repentance, to “break forth into singing and cry aloud!” (verse 1).
But what is there to sing about? Their past might have been barren, but now God promises a very different future. Note verse 3:
“For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.”
This prophecy points ultimately to the millennial reign of the Messiah, His thousand-year kingdom on earth, which will be centered in Jerusalem.
Frankly, I cannot even imagine how Israel has suffered over the centuries because of their unbelief, but look at the future God promises them:
“For a brief moment I deserted you [that is, sent you into exile], but with great compassion I will gather you . . . with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. (verses 7-8)
Then look at their future here in the coming kingdom as God regathers them—verse 13: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” And down in verse 17, we read, “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed . . . [your] vindication [is] from me, declares the Lord.” This is the grace of God illustrated in Israel.
Now from Isaiah 55:1 to 56:8, we have grace expanded.
First, notice that grace will be expanded in scope. God’s grace began with the Jewish people, but it expands to the Gentile (non-Jewish) people of the world as well. The apostle Paul restates this truth in Romans 1:16, where he writes that the gospel of Christ came “to the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentile].”
So, now we have this global invitation of grace in Isaiah 55:1, as God says here through Isaiah, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” And in verse 3 He adds, “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.”
Let me ask you something: Are you thirsty? Are you thirsting for something that will satisfy your heart and your soul? Listen, the world can offer you only muddy water—polluted, unhealthy water. Only Christ can satisfy you with clean, satisfying water.
Now in chapter 56, all who put their trust in the Lord are promised in verse 5 “an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” The Lord then gives this promise in verse 7:
“I will bring [them] to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer . . . for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
This future celebration includes Gentile believers as well as Jewish believers. This is God’s grace expanded to the whole world.
I believe Paul had Isaiah’s prophecy in mind when he wrote Ephesians 3:6:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs [that is, heirs of the kingdom promise along with the Jewish people] . . . partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
So, first, grace is expanded in scope. Second, grace is expanded in understanding.
Let me go back to chapter 55 for a moment, where Isaiah is attempting to explain the uniqueness of God’s grace. As one author wrote, “We tend to project our [flawed assumptions] about who God is onto Him instead of [letting] the Bible surprise us [with] what God Himself says.”
The truth is, beloved, the concept of grace is naturally foreign to us—we can hardly begin to understand the grace of God. That’s why we are often determined to earn His love and forgiveness and why we often worry we are not good enough to be accepted by the Lord.
Listen as the Lord straightens our thinking out, here in verse 6-7:
“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.”
Now wait a second; you mean all I have to do is come to the Lord and confess my sin and He will pardon me? You mean the grace of God is free? Forgiveness is free of charge? The answer is YES, though that’s not what we naturally think.
That is why Isaiah goes on to quote God here in verses 8-9:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
A woman sat in my office not too long ago; and as I explained the gospel to her, this religiously devout woman began to weep. I asked her why she was weeping, and she said with a big smile and tears running down her face, “I can’t believe it’s free.” She bowed her head and trusted the promise of Jesus Christ to save her if she would only ask—and she did.
Grace leaves us nothing to do but praise Him for paying the price, so that we can accept what the apostle Paul described in Romans 6:23: “The free gift of God [which] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is grace illustrated and grace expanded; now here in chapter 56 we see grace rejected.
Starting with Israel’s prophets and spiritual leaders, Isaiah condemns them all, saying in verse 11, “They are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain.”
Idolatry at every level of society is condemned in chapters 57 and 58. The people are constantly backsliding, and the materialism of the proud and greedy religious leaders is the norm. Justice is nonexistent. It seems that on every street corner and in every house, grace has been rejected.
But thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways. He does not wipe out the human race when He sees His grace being rejected over and over again. Instead, He offers hope.
That hope, Isaiah prophesies, arrives not in some government program or some self-improvement plan. No, hope arrives in a Person. Here is our only hope today, or ever—revealed in Isaiah 59:20: “A Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, declares the Lord.” This is grace confirmed.
Beloved, everything about our past, present, and future depends entirely upon the grace of God. And every Jew and Gentile alike who trusts the Messiah for forgiveness is promised—indeed, guaranteed by the promise of God—a future with their Redeemer forever.
 Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Crossway, 2020), 155.