By Christina M Wilson
… continued from Devotional 2.58
Descriptors of Faithful Israel
Chapter 40 indicates that God does not intend to bless “all Israel.” Rather, he chooses to bless those who hunger and wait on him. To “wait” in this sense, means to trust steadfastly in God alone. Often, as Christians, we pray to the Lord for our need. When a solution does not appear immediately, we may quit waiting for God and undertake ourselves. The matriarch Sarah abandoned her waiting upon God and convinced her husband Abraham to do so as well. Ishmael resulted from their impatience and lack of trusting God. Obedience to the Lord often involves quiet trust and waiting. (See also Isaiah 64:4.)
God in chapter 41 does not at first glance seem to make distinctions among Israel. He appears mostly to speak to the people as a whole.
- 14 Fear not, Jacob, and you Israel few in number; I have helped you, says your God, he that redeems you, O Israel.
- 27 I will give dominion to Sion, and will comfort Jerusalem by the way.
But then, a slow and careful reading reveals verses that may cause readers to pause and think that God does have a particular profile in mind.
- 8 But you, Israel, are my servant Jacob, and he whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraam, whom I have loved: 9 whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and from the high places of it I have called you, and said to you, You are my servant; I have chosen you, and I have not forsaken you. 10 Fear not; for I am with you: wander not; for I am your God, who have strengthened you; and I have helped you, and have established you with my just right hand.
—Paul, as interpreter of Abraham and his seed, argues that “the seed of Abraham” includes those and only those who placed their faith in God. He explains this in Romans 4:16-18; 9:6-8; and Galatians 3:26-29.
- 17 And the poor and the needy shall exult;
–The context of the statements in Isaiah 41:14-19 flows continuously from verse 8 above. Notice that God does single out the “poor and needy” for particular mention.
The first of four Servant Songs appears in Septuagint chapter 42:1-7. Verse 1 reads, “Jacob is my servant, I will help him: Israel is my chosen, my soul has accepted him; I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” This verse adds a new layer of meaning to Septuagint Isaiah 41:8, “But you, Israel, are my servant Jacob, and he whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraam, whom I have loved.” Matthew quotes 42:1-4, although he appears to do so from the Masoretic. The Masoretic writes, “Behold, my servant,” leaving out the label “Jacob,” which the Septuagint includes. (See Matthew 12:17-21 ESV.)
One of my principles of scriptural interpretation is that Christ taught his disciples to apply the light of his life, death, and resurrection upon Old Testament prophecy (Luke 24:27, 44-47). Therefore, Matthew’s application of the Isaiah passage is highly relevant. Now, Matthew didn’t merely apply the Isaiah passage to Christ, as though there were a different, original meaning. Rather, Jesus’s words in Luke indicate that the details the Old Testament prophets gave originally referred to himself. When he opens his disciples’ minds to “understand” and tells them that “it is written that the Christ should…,” he unequivocally means that these prophecies concerned himself in their original meanings and intent. The Septuagint bible brings these meanings forward to a greater extent than the Masoretic.
All this applies to our topic in a special way. God in Isaiah 41 and Isaiah 42 funnels his blessings to Israel through his Servant. The New Testament reveals the identity of God’s Servant as Jesus the Christ, Messiah.
A PARENTHESIS TO DISCUSS GENTILE INCLUSION IN CONTRAST TO A “MILLENNIAL” KINGDOM
My intention is to gather into a future post the many scriptures concerning God’s inclusion of Gentiles within the Servant’s flock. Here, however, I want to mention one point. If God intends special, exclusive blessings to “all Israel” as a nation (e.g., to rule the world in his name during a millennial kingdom), why would he consistently introduce the topic of Gentile inclusion in the multitude of prophecies concerning the Servant? Chapter 42 is filled with such references.
As a Christian, I read the verses below from Isaiah with the light Jesus supplies in Luke 24:45-47, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures… “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer… 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” These words in Luke are among the very first which Christ spoke to his disciples after his resurrection. Minimally, a reasonable conclusion would be that God’s blessing of Gentiles weighed far more heavily on Christ’s resurrected heart than any supposed millennial kingdom. In fact, the resurrected Lord Jesus spoke so little, if at all, about a “millennial” kingdom that his disciples began to grow impatient. They asked him point blank just before his ascension when the kingdom would be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6). I believe it fair to say that he avoided replying directly (Acts 1:7).
DESCRIPTIVE LABELS IN CHAPTER 42
Here are some verses from Septuagint Isaiah 42 that indicate whom God will bless.
- 1 Jacob is my servant… Israel is my chosen… I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
- 4 … and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
- 6 I the Lord God… have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles:
- 7 to open the eyes of the blind, to bring the bound and them that sit in darkness out of bonds and the prison-house.
- 10 Sing a new hymn to the Lord: you who are his dominion, glorify his name from the end of the earth: you that go down to the sea, and sail upon it; the islands, and they that dwell in them. 11 Rejoice, you wilderness, and the villages thereof, the hamlets, and the dwellers in Kedar: the inhabitants of the rock shall rejoice, they shall shout from the top of the mountains. 12 They shall give glory to God, and shall proclaim his praises in the islands.
- 16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not… I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight… and will not forsake them.
And here is how God chastises those among his own people who refuse to see, hear, and obey.
17 … be you utterly ashamed that trust in graven images, who say to the molten images, You are our gods. 18 Hear, you deaf, and look up, you blind, to see. 19 And who is blind, but my servants? and deaf, but they that rule over them? yes, the servants of God have been made blind… 24 For what did he give to Jacob up to spoil, and Israel to them that plundered him? Did not God do it against whom they sinned? and they would not walk in his ways, nor listen to his law. 25 So he brought upon them the fury of his wrath; and the war, and those that burned round about them, prevailed against them; yet no one of them knew it, neither did they lay it to heart. (Isaiah 42:17-25)
… to be continued