55:1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
55:2 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.
55:3 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.
55:4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
55:5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
The author of Isaiah 55:1 (presumably Isaiah, or a student) chose to start the first verse with an exclamatory word; “Ho” (הוֹי). Few modern translations (other than the NASB and NRSV) treat this word with the emphasis that it deserves. The underlying Hebrew word is also used to for the cautionary warnings that Isaiah and Jeremiah gave to the Israelites, which manifests in English as “woe!”. It can also mean “alas!”. But in all occasions, the word is emphatic. Thus, the Lord, speaking through Isaiah, is saying,
STOP! PAUSE! LISTEN! everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (JHV)
The very next verse we see partly why God uses such a strong word. Verse two is a call for reform, much like Jesus called for reform of the Pharisees with the equivalent word in Greek,
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! (Matthew 23:13)
But nary has there been a more fitting word for God to use when calling His people to repent and turn to Him. Stop whatever you are doing. Incline your ear to the Lord. Be faithful to the covenant of grace which we were given.