Old Testament: Isaiah 55:1-5 (Pentecost 10: Series A)

Reading Time: 4 mins

God had always planned on a free and full salvation, and He always deliberately gives it through means, even such means as we see are in our text.

Isaiah 55 is the summary abstract for the closing chapters of Isaiah (56-66). What is interesting is it does not prescribe Israel’s response to Yahweh’s restoration of Zion. Instead, the work of detailing the appropriate response to this mighty action of God is left to chapters 56-66. Here in chapter 55, Isaiah uses commands and rhetorical questions to invite Israel to have faith in the future deliverance of God and to trust in the finished work of His “suffering servant.”

In the first verse of our reading, you hear the mimicked cry of the marketplace crier calling out with the staples of life, “Water, bread, milk, and wine!” These things would normally always cost you something and you, without a doubt, needed them to survive. However, the grace filled revelation in our text is that we get them completely free. The Suffering Servant Messiah in Isaiah has already paid for them in 53:11-12. Curiously though, these things which you normally take by eating are, instead, received by listening in verses 2-3. Indeed, they may be getting food and drink, but they are obtaining them in a curiously passive way only. Our text closes with the realization that this invitation is for all nations and especially those who are as of yet unknown (Matthew 28:19-20). This is not a new idea for God’s people. Ever since God called Abram in Genesis 12:1-3, we have known that the mission of God was to bless all families of the earth (Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) through the Messiah (Genesis 3:15). God’s mission in Egypt through Moses was not just for one nation but for all nations (Exodus 9:14-16), which meant salvation for every people (Exodus 19:5-6). So, it is no surprise for us to see the same mission of God for all repeated here in Isaiah. God had always planned on a free and full salvation, and He always deliberately gives it through means, even such means as we see are in our text.

What is great about this text is how it uses the three images of food, water, and promise to describe salvation. The universal nature of these redemption gifts keeps the character of the images fixed in the mission of God for the salvation of the world through the Messiah. The food and the water come free of charge, without money and without price (verse 1). So, if you are broke or a beggar (“Wir sind Bettler. Das ist wahr”) you are free and welcome to the generosity of God (verse 1). Now, this is no ordinary, complimentary taste as you might expect. Instead, this free gift is a “delight” (verse 2) to all who have it and everlasting (verse 3) and eternal. What an exceptional gift! However, this is something God promised to all people long ago, even as far back as King David (verses 3-4).

The universal nature of these redemption gifts keeps the character of the images fixed in the mission of God for the salvation of the world through the Messiah.

With this in mind, the gospel-based images you can develop for the sermon are “water, bread, wine, and milk.” Isaiah saw these as means of talking about God’s salvation, but where we can take these illustrations is perhaps farther than Isaiah intended. The term “telescoping” refers to the means and method by which the prophets, through the power of the Holy Spirit, could see things near that meant something more to those far away in the future of God’s plan of salvation. It is defined as “a description of the way several successive events (or in this case images) share a theologically conceptual alignment.”

So, for the sake of preaching this text as a message centered in the death and resurrection of Christ for the benefit of the hearers’ faith or life, we can see here a connection to the Means of Grace. “The Means of Grace are the instruments which the Holy Spirit uses to give us the forgiveness of sins and to create and strengthen faith. God has promised to act through these things. Specifically, the Means of Grace are the “Gospel,” and those applications of the Gospel known as the Sacraments. Through the life-giving Word of the Gospel, baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper, the Spirit conveys the grace of God to people.”

An IMAGISTIC STRUCTURE which is a DYNAMIC STRUCTURE using MULTIPLE IMAGE can be useful for this sermon. The “Multiple Image Sermon Structure” uses two or more images in the sermon to signal movement or development to the hearers during the course of the sermon. Each image is associated with a particular thought or experience for the hearers and the sermon moves from one section to another by moving from one image to another as the text lays it out.

In this case, while working with more than one image, you will need to demonstrate that the set of images are grounded in the text of Isaiah first. Moving from the experience of Isaiah’s hearers to our own experience of the means of grace will hold the sermon experience together as one intentional meditation on God’s Word.

Furthermore, be sure to have a coherent movement between images during the sermon. That is, as you move from one image to another, there should be a logical or experiential appropriateness to such movement. For our purposes in this text, typological movement is likely best in this kind of sermon as it will help the hearers see the inspiration of the Word as the means by which the truth came to be for them more vividly in the Word and Sacraments rather than trivializing the Old Testament by turning our text into a mere allegory whose meaning had to be discovered through a slight of rhetorical hand by the preacher.

Finally, as you integrate the images into the sermon, you can choose to work inductively, leading from an image to the statement of an idea (which also connects to the text, to the theological confession, to evangelical proclamation, or to the lives of the hearers), or deductively, beginning first with a statement of the idea and then entering into the image as a way of developing it for the hearers. A variety of inductive and deductive movements can generate a continuing interest in the flow of the sermon.


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Isaiah 55:1-5.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 55:1-15.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 55:1-5.


[1] Nicholas G. Piotrowski. In All the Scriptures: The Three Contexts of Biblical Hermeneutics. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2021. 269.

[2] Steven P. Mueller, ed. Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to Doctrinal Theology, vol. 3, Called by the Gospel. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005. 312.

[3] Incorporated and quoted in part for purposes of our discussion from the description of this sermon structure found at https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/dynamic/imagistic-structures/multiple-image/