Isaiah 55:1-3, Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. NRSV
Isaiah 55:6, Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; NRSV
Amos 5:4, For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: Seek me and live; NRSV
Isaiah asks why "spend your money for that...which does not satisfy?" This is an important question and the solution Yahweh gives is equally important. Similarly Jesus told the woman at the well that if anyone was to drink of the water He will give they shall never thirst. Isaiah records that both Jew and Gentile must "Seek the LORD..." This is God's answer for how to find that which truly satisfies. It is the condition of obtaining any spiritual benefit.(1) Ezekiel informs us that even Israel was allowed to enquire or "ask" of the LORD (Ezekiel 36:37). Indeed, we must "Ask...it will be given...search...you will find; knock...the door will be opened...everyone who searches finds..." Luke 11:9, 10 NRSV
The searching and seeking however must be done as Luke later described. He records "Strive to enter through the narrow door..." Luke 13:24 NRSV Our seeking and searching must be sincere and honest. This searching is more than mere intellectual inquiry but cannot be done without our use of the thinking equipment the LORD has provided us. Mere intellectual inquiry in such a search will probably produce no saving relationship between God and man. Honest and sincere seekers however will go where the evidence leads.
Isaiah doesn't leave us without reason. In fact, he gives us good reasons for seeking the LORD. 1) our thoughts and ways are not those of God and we are therefore unable to dictate the terms (55:8). 2) With implied reference to the Hydrology Cycle of the created world Isaiah compares rain and snow (moisture) with that of the Word of God. As the rain and snow come down from heaven they do not return until they have watered the earth and generated life. The word of God does not return empty or without effect but accomplishes that which the LORD has purposed. 3)Those who seek will "go out with joy" and be "led forth with peace." Seeking and searching brings joy and peace. Instead of a "thorn" bush a "cypress" and instead of "brier" up shall come the "mytrle". J.E. Smith notes that this means:
Happiness and contentment (“cypress” and “myrtle”) replace bitterness and sorrow (“thorn bush” and “nettle”) in the lives of obedient believers. (3)The NRSV, ESV, NASB, NIV, and the NET begin Isaiah 55:6 with "Seek the LORD..." Brenton's rendering of the LXX starts like this, "Seek ye the Lord..." The LXX is also different from the other translations when it continues with, "and when ye find him" instead of ""while he may be found" (NRSV, ESV, NASB, NIV). The NET renders it "while he makes himself available..."
In 55:6 the word for "seek" is a Hebrew verb (דָּרַשׁ) which is derived from the word 'record"/midras (מִדְרָשׁ). It means to seek with care. Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon suggests its meaning is a command to "seek deity in prayer and worship...the true God".(4)
In the book, A Rabbi's Search for the Messiah, Rabbi Isidor Zwirn outlines his search to find the messiah. Rabbi Zwirn, who never found the trinity dogma in his search, did "through personal investigation of the Scriptures alone, came to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah." Zwirn notes that he "followed the Prophet isiah's admonition..." He then goes on to provide his rendering of 55:6 as "Research (doresh) the LORD, for he can be found, research him, for he is near."(5) Note the words of Charles Simeon on this subject:
Nor is it in a cold indifferent manner that we must seek; we must strive as persons in earnesti, and if once we get access to God, we must detain him, as it were, by force, and take his kingdom, as it were, by violence. And it is for want of this holy zeal in our endeavours, that so many of us seek him throughout our lives, and never obtain a saving “acquaintance with him.” We must also seek him in and through Christ: for it is by Christ only that we can ever come unto the Father. (2)Seek the LORD while He may be found.
1. "The condition and limit in the obtaining of the spiritual benefits (Is 55:1–3): (1) Seek the Lord. (2) Seek Him while He is to be found (Is 65:1; Ps 32:6; Mt 25:1–13; Jn 7:34; 8–21; 2Co 6:2; Heb 2:3)." Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Is 55:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
2. Simeon, C. (1832-63). Horae Homileticae Vol. 8: Isaiah, XXVII-LXVI (464–465). London.
3. Smith, J. E. (1992). The Major Prophets (Is 55:6–13). Joplin, Mo.: College Press.
4. Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (electronic ed.) (205). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
5. Zwirn, Rabbi Isidor and Owen, Bob. A Rabbi's Search for Messiah. (c) 2003 Published by Good News for Israel. pg. 75