By Christina M Wilson on 05-31-2022
God’s Victory: Chapter 60 Flows from Chapter 59
Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 is one of the more amazing verses in all of Isaiah. It follows upon chapters and chapters of judgment upon both the nations, the two kingdoms of Israel, and most recently, God’s remnant people themselves (Septuagint Isaiah 59:2-10). Then Isaiah repents on behalf of God’s people (59:13). The exact translation, “We have sinned,” occurs only here and once again in 64:5. (The Greeks words for “sin” differ in these two verses.)
The Lord in chapter 59:15 responds to Isaiah’s heart of repentance by searching for someone to restore judgment (a strong and accurate sense of right and wrong in every dealing, followed by doing what is right.) The Lord finds no one (verse 16). So, he decides to “do it himself.”
16 And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy. 17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries. 19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:16-19)
God Loves Gentiles
In this portion of Isaiah (Volume 2), God does not “hate” Gentiles. Gentiles, per se, are not the enemy God deals with. As in Ephesians 6:11-18, the enemy is spiritual. God welcomes repentant Gentiles into his Israelite family. It is, I believe, this basic misunderstanding of God’s intention for his people, as concerns the inclusion of Gentiles, that leads so many to think that the above passage deals with the Lord’s coming a second time to overpower them for the sake of Israel.
No, the enemy, remember, is sin. As developed so carefully and extensively in previous posts, God’s intention is to fill out the numbers of Israel’s believing “remnant” by summoning multitudes of like-minded believers from the “isles,” or the Gentile nations (1). The enemy is sin, nourished by Satan’s wicked activities. Sin is spiritual. It is not a concrete-physical item that can be touched.
It will profit us at this point to look back on what Isaiah writes elsewhere concerning inclusion of Gentile believers.
Septuagint Isaiah 51:4 Hear me, hear me, my people; and you kings, listen to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not fail.
Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
Victory Over Sin
Isaiah 53 develops in great detail how God’s Servant conquers sin. This is not a military battle. It is an infinitely mysterious sacrificial death of God himself that brings victory. One of the magnanimous consequences of God’s victory in his Servant is God’s new covenant with his people (2 Corinthians 3:6; 3:16-18; Hebrews 7:22; 8:6), The elements of the covenant are “My Spirit” and “the words which I have put in your mouth,” “for ever” (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21).
The Very Next Thing
The very next thing to happen in Isaiah is this wonderful victory celebration over God’s splendidly glorious achievement through his Servant on behalf of his repentant, believing people (chapter 60). Why would God immediately jump from his once-in-all-of-creation achievement (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21) through his Servant to a “second coming,” as though his first were insufficient for Israel? Readers of Isaiah, and most especially, those who lived in his own day, have barely begun to grasp the significance of the incarnation, let alone immediately to jump to something which some 2,500 years later still has not occurred. It is this fixation on the physical, concrete military victory for Israel which obscures the brilliance of the spiritual.
2 Corinthians 3:10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
A Personal Statement of Belief
Yes, I believe that Israel is very special. I agree with the Apostle Paul when he writes:
Romans 9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
I also believe strongly that God’s Servant/Christ is coming again.
Revelation 22:11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” 12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done… 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price… 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
What I do not believe is that Isaiah writes about a “second coming” here in Isaiah 60. Here, he celebrates the first coming.
Words that Celebrate Victory Already Achieved
God’s victory is not yet complete. There is eternity yet to come. This is the “already not yet” so popular in Christian writing today. But the major portion, the most difficult part, has already been achieved.
John 19:30 … “It is finished” …
Let us give God our “selah” and pause to celebrate with him and Isaiah in chapter 60.
…to be continued
By Christina M Wilson on May 30, 2022
Septuagint Isaiah 60:1–Discipline and Glory Combine
Isaiah the prophet writes:
Shine, shine, O Jerusalem, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Septuagint Isaiah 60:1 NETS)
(φωτίζου φωτίζου Ιερουσαλημ [fo-TEE-zoo fo-TEE-zoo Ee-er-oo-sa-leem])
Readers often consider this important question: when do the events in Isaiah’s prophesy occur?
Isaiah’s poetic command, “Shine, shine, O Jerusalem” is fourth in a series that stretches all the way back to Septuagint Isaiah 51:9.
Awake, awake, O Jerusalem, and put on the strength of your arm; awake as in the early time, as the ancient generation. (Septuagint Isaiah 51:9 )
Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, that have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury: for you have drunk out and drained the cup of calamity, the cup of wrath… (Septuagint Isaiah 51:17)
Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and o you put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city… (Septuagint Isaiah 52:1)
Shine, shine, O Jerusalem, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Septuagint Isaiah 60:1 NETS)
Isaiah’s purpose throughout all these chapters is to comfort his people, whom he calls Sion and Jerusalem, with the sure knowledge that he will soon send his very own Servant to “do it for them.” Their own failed labors will soon cease, as they focus their eyes upon the Servant (see Septuagint Isaiah 52:13-53:12). He will obey their God in ways they never could. This is good news for a weary people. This is why the fourth direct command of Isaiah to Jerusalem is a peal and shout of gladness–Shine! Shine! for your light has come.
The New Testament picks up on Isaiah’s them of light.
John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (ESV)
Discipline and Glory Combine
New Testament writers apply Septuagint Isaiah 60:1 to the incarnation of God’s Servant Jesus Christ. In the life of God’s Servant, we see discipline and glory combined. To emphasize the one and ignore the other is to misread Scripture (1). God’s harshest discipline is at one and the same time his greatest glory. This refers, of course, to the unfathomable “tough love” God displays when he pours his wrath upon the Son of his love (Colossians 1:13) (2), nailed upon the cross. We will consider several Scriptural supports for these statements one at a time.
I. Handel’s Messiah: Discipline and Glory Combine
Handel finished his symphony in 1741. Its music and lyrics ring down through the centuries. Thousands of Christians listen to these lyrics every year. The church as a whole receives and approves Handel’s gospel message. Handel’s lyrics, as reproduced below, clearly proclaim the gospel of Israel’s Servant/Messiah in his incarnation. Notice how Handel combines verses from Isaiah and Malachi. While Malachi focuses on the discipline of the Servant’s appearing, Isaiah focuses on the glory (1).
Notice in Handel’s lyrics that “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” God’s Servant/Messiah, Jesus Christ, came to his temple multiple times during the ministry which the four gospel accounts record. He went there to teach (Mark 12:35; John 8:20; 18:20), to heal (Matthew 21:14), to cleanse (John 2:14-17) and to prophesy (Mark 13:1-2). But by far, the “com[ing] to His temple” which attracted the greatest attention was his grand entrance on what we call Palm Sunday, barely a week before his crucifixion (Matthew 21:5-15).
Next, the “messenger of the covenant” refers to the Servant, not John the Baptist. John the Baptist in Malachi 3:1 is the messenger who surveys the way before the Lord. But right after that, “the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come…even the angel [messenger in Greek] of the covenant.”
1 Behold, I send forth my messenger, and he shall survey the way before me: and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come into his temple, even the angel of the covenant, whom you take pleasure in: behold, he is coming, says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:1)
What covenant is this? This is the covenant which Isaiah presents in Isaiah 59:1, immediately before he commands Jerusalem to “Shine! Shine! for your light is come!” (See Isaiah Devotional Journal 2.77.) It is the New Covenant, the subject of the New Testament in Scripture.
But also notice that this divine messenger of the covenant “shall purify the sons of Levi.” The lyrics do not say, “shall purify the sons of the nations” (3). This Jesus did repeatedly as he answered the challenges to him by the religious ruling elite. He, in turn, challenged and corrected them (Matthew 9:3-7; 12:38-39; 15:1-9; 16:21; Matthew 22:2-34; et al.)
Every Scripture that Handel joins together in such a coherent and flowing whole applies to God’s Servant/Messiah/Christ in his incarnation, the incarnation that the four gospels of the New Testament describe. Here are the lyrics Handel writes.
Handel’s Messiah Lyrics
Tenor Recitative—Isaiah 40:1-3 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness; Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Tenor Air—Isaiah 40:4 Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.
Chorus—Isaiah 40:5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Bass Recitative—Haggai 2:6-7; Malachi 3:1 Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come.
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Alto Air—Malachi 3:2 But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
Chorus—Malachi 3:3 And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
Alto Recitative—Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
Alto Air and Chorus—Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 60:1 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain. O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
II. The Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul writes a composite quotation from Isaiah in a context suitable to Malachi. The quotation follows.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14 ESV)
The context of Paul’s quotation from Isaiah, situated in the center of Ephesians 5, is a context of discipline. The discipline extends from verse 3 through verse 18. Here Paul explains how believers in Christ should and should not behave. The thrust of Paul’s argument is that Christ is light and believers therefore should not commit the actions of darkness, but the actions of light.
III. The Gospel of Luke
The gospel of Luke gives a full interpretation of Septuagint Isaiah 60:1. Zechariah, who is prophet, priest, and father, speaks these words at the circumcision of his son, John the Baptist.
Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (ESV)
1 “God’s glory, rather than His discipline, will rise as the sun upon her. Like a city gleaming in the light of the risen sun, Israel will shine with a glory that is not her own” (Isaiah 60 – Dr. Constable’s Expository Notes – Bible Commentaries – StudyLight.org). Dr Constable places the timeframe of this chapter far into the as yet unfulfilled future. The notes of at least one popular study Bible do the same. But neither the text of Isaiah himself nor the witness of New Testament writers provide warrant for this claim. In simple language, Isaiah 60:1 is not “millennial.” Rather, in line with all of Isaiah to this point, this verse rejoices in the astounding, amazing, spectacular, and mysterious incarnation of God himself.
2 “τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ” (The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition, copyright © 2010 Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software).
3 To my knowledge, the “millennial” portrait doesn’t include the Servant’s purifying the “sons of Levi.”
…chapter 60 to be continued
By Christina M Wilson on 2022-05-28
Septuagint Isaiah 59
“Covenant” is a huge word in Christian history. Enormous doctrines have grown out of it. And here Isaiah slips in the new covenant quietly, within a single verse.
And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)
With Whom Is the Covenant?
The text states that God makes a covenant with “them.” Clearly, “them” is plural and refers to his people. These are the people on behalf of whom Isaiah repents (Septuagint Isaiah 59:11-15). Isaiah elsewhere calls these people “the remnant” (Septuagint Isaiah 4:2-3, for example). They are also the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 (1).
God does not address the people in the first phrase of 59:21. Rather, he speaks about them. The word “them” is plural. If God addresses “them” directly, wouldn’t the text read, “And this shall be my covenant with you (plural)”? God in the first phrase makes his covenant with “them,” his repentant people. Yet he speaks to someone else. This other person to whom God speaks about “them” he addresses as “you.”
Who Is You?
The second portion of God’s statement includes “you” and “your.” The word “you” (“My Spirit which is upon you”) is singular. The same sentence uses the word “your” three times. All these uses are singular. Therefore, God addresses directly someone he calls “you” about someone he calls “them.” Who is this person whom God addresses as “you”?
Only two main possibilities exist for who “you” might be.
1. “You” might be God’s special Servant.
2. “You” might be “them” of the first phrase. If this were the case, then God would change from speaking to someone about “them” and turning, speak directly to them.
Grammatically, “you” might refer either to God’s special Servant or to God’s people as a whole. In Isaiah’s overall context, and in the context of the totality of Scripture, it seems highly likely that “you” refers to God’s Servant. The Servant in Isaiah exists on a par with God. More specifically, verse 17 (just previous to verse 21) refers to God’s Servant. God himself rescues his people when he takes on the form of his Servant (Septuagint Isaiah 59:17; Philippians 2:5-7).
“MY SPIRIT WHICH IS UPON YOU”
The most obvious reason why “you” cannot refer to God’s people is that up to this point God’s Spirit is not upon them. Verses 2 through 16 of this chapter amply demonstrate this truth. Verse 13 below provides just one example from the whole.
59:13 We have sinned, and dealt falsely, and revolted from our God: we have spoken unrighteous words, and have been disobedient; we have conceived and uttered from our heart unrighteous words. (LXE)
Contrary to the above statement of fact, 59:21 states, “My Spirit which is upon you and the words which I have put in your mouth” (LXE). The Spirit of God and the words of God are already upon the person and in the mouth of the person God addresses as “you.” This person cannot be the people. But the Servant in Isaiah speaks with God in the timeless past, because he is divine.
And he said to me, It is a great thing for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth. (From the “Second Servant Song”, Septuagint Isaiah 49:6)
The words God speaks to his Servant in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 find their ultimate fulfillment when the Servant begins his public ministry during the time of his incarnation.
John 1:32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” (cf. Luke 3:21)
Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.
The Words of God
John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
John 17:8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
God’s people are those who repent and believe according to his will. As the discussion concerning the barren woman (1) amply demonstrates, the seed of the believing remnant includes Gentiles.
The nature of the covenant God presents in Isaiah is spiritual. It is not based upon ethnicity but upon belief in God and in the redemptive work of his Servant. The guarantee of the covenant is God’s word and the trustworthiness of the Savior to completely carry out the mission of God with total reverence and submissive obedience.
The Servant/Christ amply fulfills his covenantal role when he lives, dies, lives again, and ascends into heaven.
John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do… 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world… 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. (ESV)
Through his death on the cross, he became the mediator of the covenant God speaks of in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21.
Matthew 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV)
Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (ESV)
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant… 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant… (ESV)
Just as Adam was created first among all human beings, Christ the God-man is firstborn among many brethren (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:11-13; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18). The Servant/Christ is now the head of the believing remnant of God’s special people and the Gentiles who join with them. All believers are the seed of the Servant/Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)
When Is the Covenant
And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)
The covenant begins as soon as God speaks it, “… for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever.” The Servant exists in the timeless realm with God. In him, the terms of the covenant specify “now and forever.” It appears to be a genuine wedding vow without the caveat, “until death do us part.” There will be no death for those who partake of God’s covenant.
Some who write about Isaiah specify an ethnic element to the covenant. They say that fulfillment of the covenant awaits a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel. But 2,000 years of Spirit-filled Christianity that hugs the word of God and dies for it speaks against an interpretation which appeals to the flesh only. For clearly, the very terms of the covenant are spiritual.
Elements of the Covenant
The two elements of the promise God makes to all the seed (both Jew and Gentile) of the believing remnant of God’s people Israel are God’s Spirit and God’s word. The covenant states that these two will abide among believers from now and forever. The New Testament bears witness to the fulfillment of these promises.
First, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came as a rushing wind and abides still. The Spirit’s presence indwells every believer (John 3:5-8; 4:19-26; Romans 8:8-11) both Jew and Gentile alike. Second, Christians around the world (many of whom are of ethnic Jewish descent) seek out and wrestle daily to understand God’s word for them. Paul emphasizes the spiritual nature of the understanding of God’s word.
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (ESV)
Finally, this prophecy of the “new” covenant in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 interlocks well with Jeremiah’s prophecy.
Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (ESV) (Cf. 1 John 2:27)
A Small Peek Ahead
Taking a small glance forward into the next chapter, readers may perceive that nothing there contradicts what Isaiah has said to this point.
By Christina M Wilson.
Septuagint Isaiah 59
The Spirit and the Covenant
And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)
The New Testament does not speak much of God’s land promises to Abraham and Jacob. However, the Servant/Deliverer/Messiah extends the land promise to include the entire “earth” (Matthew 5:3 and 5). The Apostle Paul associates the “blessing of Abraham” with “Gentiles” who will receive “the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Septuagint Isaiah 59:19 and 21 provide warrant for both of these.
17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries. 19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. 20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (LXE)
ELEMENTS WITHIN ISAIAH’S STATEMENT
Readers will find seven elements in the verses quoted above.
1) First, there is the Lord (verse 21).
2) Next, there is the deliverer/Servant (verse 17-18, 20, and 21–“you”).
3) There are Gentile believers (verse 19).
4) The word “Sion” indicates ethnic believers of Israeli descent.
5) Fifth, there is the Lord’s Spirit (verses 19 and 21).
6) Sixth, the Lord announces his covenant (verse 21).
7) Finally, the Lord places his “words” in the mouth of the Deliverer and the mouth of his seed, for ever (verse 21).
Readers will without too much difficulty find the Deliverer in the above set of verses. “He” is the Servant (verses 17 and 18), according to Isaiah’s entire context, both near and far (1). Following these verses, verse 20 explicitly names “the deliverer.” Further, in verse 21, the grammar and overall sense and context of Isaiah allow the “you” (singular) and “your” to refer to the Deliverer. Verse 20 names “Sion” and “Jacob.” With verses 19 and 20 combined, the words “them” and “your seed” in verse 21 would include both Sion and Gentiles.
Context of Mercy
The Septuagint emphasizes that the context of chapter 59 is God’s “mercy.” Verses 2 and 16 in the Septuagint both contain the word “mercy.”
Septuagint Isaiah 59:2 Nay, your iniquities separate between you and God, and because of your sins has he turned away his face from you, so as not to have mercy upon you.
Septuagint Isaiah 59:16 And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy.
God’s ultimate actions in chapter 59 proceed from his “mercy”. Summarizing the chapter, because of Israel’s sin God had turned his face away. The prophet Isaiah on behalf of the people repents in verses 12-15. Following this, God apparently turns his face toward them again. The text reads that he “saw” (verse 15) and he “looked” and “observed” (verse 16). Then, contrary to verse 2 (where God has no mercy), in verse 16, God uses his mercy to establish his people.
In the Septuagint, God’s motive for making a covenant with his people (verse 21) is his mercy. The Masoretic, on the other hand, appears neither to contain nor emphasize this point.
Isaiah 59:2 ESV but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Isaiah 59:16 ESV He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.
God’s Mercy Drives the Action
Within the context of Isaiah 59, Gentiles are not the reason that the people of Israel suffer. Verse 2 states that it is their own iniquity that separates them from God. Who is the father of iniquity? Is it not the Lord’s great enemy Satan? Wouldn’t Satan then be an “adversary” of the Lord? For the most part, Volume 2 of Isaiah from chapter 40 to this point concerns itself with God’s relationship with his people, rather than his dealings with Israel’s enemies. Volume 1 deals with Israel’s enemies. Volume 2 deals with Israel’s own sins and poor relationship with their God.
After Isaiah’s confession in verses 12-15, God concludes that his people cannot save themselves. It is just not in them. “There was no man” and “no one to intercede” (verse 16). God saves Israel himself by sending the Deliverer (verses 16 and 20). Readers need always to remind themselves that when the Deliverer comes, he dies as a sacrificial Lamb for Israel’s sin (Isaiah 53). Likewise, God’s Servant/Messiah, as revealed in the four Gospel accounts, does not avenge himself on Israel’s political adversaries. Far from it, he includes the Roman centurion in his ministry of healing (Matthew 8:5-13). Nor does God avenge himself historically against Israel’s political foes. Rather, he allows Rome to sack Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.
But does this mean that Isaiah’s prophecy “stands still” and remains unfulfilled? Far from it. There are adversaries whom the Servant conquers by means of his sacrificial death. And, the events prophesied in verse 21 began with the Servant’s incarnation and continue to this day.
17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries… 21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (LXE)
A Millennial Kingdom?
But perhaps these verses refer to a millennial kingdom? No. The content of verse 21 speaks emphatically of the Servant’s incarnation. The Deliverer establishes a covenant.
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20 ESV)
And the Deliverer sends God’s Spirit.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5 ESV)
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 ESV)
Therefore, even though verses 16-19 speak of wrath, adversaries, vengeance, recompence, and reproach, I propose that these words refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit, rather than to actions against Gentiles.
The Septuagint uses the word “fear” in verse 19. But, Gentiles shall “fear” the “name of the Lord” and “his glorious name.”
19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. 20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (LXE)
In many portions of Old Testament Scripture, “fear” is a positive emotion of reverence, awe, respect, and worshipful obedience to the Lord. (As one example only, see Psalm 111:10). Other examples follow.
Sanctify you the Lord himself; and he shall be your fear. (Septuagint Isaiah 8:13)
1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: 2 and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness shall fill him; 3 the spirit of the fear of God. He shall not judge according to appearance, nor reprove according to report: 4 but he shall judge the cause of the lowly, and shall reprove the lowly of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he destroy the ungodly one. 5 And he shall have his loins girded with righteousness, and his sides clothed with truth. (Septuagint Isaiah 11:1-5)
The verses above demonstrate that when Septuagint Isaiah 59:19 speaks of those from the west and east fearing the glorious name of the Lord, the meaning can quite easily indicate the reverence and humility of salvation.
And, there are places in Scripture that speak of God’s Holy Spirit in connection with wrath and water. We will look at some of these below.
Clearly, verse 21 names the Lord’s Spirit with the phrase, “My Spirit.” Additionally, I propose that within the context of the Deliverer, when verse 19 speaks of “the wrath of the Lord” coming as “a mighty river” with “fury,” the Greek words indicate the Holy Spirit. Before examining the Greek of the Septuagint, consider the Masoretic of verse 19.
So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. (Isaiah 59:19 ESV)
… For he comes like a rushing stream driven on by wind sent from the LORD. (Isaiah 59:19 NET)
Readers may recall that the Spirit fell upon those disciples gathered together on the day of Pentecost. Scripture reports that, “There came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).
And what was the first result of the Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost? In brief, the disciples who received the Spirit in the form of tongues of fire spoke openly in other languages. Many people had gathered in Jerusalem in celebration. These heard the disciples praising God in their own languages.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together… each one was hearing them speak in his own language… 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians– we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:5-11 ESV)
Then Peter began preaching.
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, (Acts 2:17 ESV)
Many Gentiles from many nations received salvation.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41 ESV)
In other words, the coming of the Holy Spirit ushered in the missionary age. And the New Testament is clear throughout its pages that Gentiles also receive God’s Spirit. It seems unlikely that Isaiah would prophesy against Gentiles as adversaries in verses 17-19, and then suddenly include them in covenant blessings in verse 21.
What About the Wrath?
Septuagint Isaiah 59:19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury.
Malachi foretold the cleansing nature of the Servant’s ministry (Malachi 3: 1-5). The Lord’s Servant Jesus fulfilled all of Malachi’s descriptions as he tore into the sins of the Pharisees, lawyers, scribes, and religious leaders of the land. He cleansed his Father’s house of prayer by overturning the tables of the deceitful money changers.
John the Baptist foretold that Jesus (God’s Servant) would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). In describing the work of the Holy Spirit, the Servant himself speaks of its judgmental nature.
John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (ESV)
The “ruler of this world” (John 16:11) indicates Satan (see also John 12:31 and John 14:30). The coming of the Deliverer destroys the power of Satan.
Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (ESV)
GOD’S WRATH POURED UPON HIS SERVANT
But with the coming of the Lord, God pours out his greatest wrath upon the Servant himself.
“… his souls was given over to death, and he was reckoned among the lawless, and he bore the sins of many, and because of their sins he was given over.” (Isaiah 53:12 NETS)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– (Galatians 3:13 ESV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah (Psalm 88:7 ESV)
As a result of God’s wrath poured upon his Servant, God invites everyone from the west to the east to “fear” (honor, respect, and reverentially obey) “the name of the Lord… his glorious name” (Septuagint Isaiah 59:19).
The Spirit, Water, and Wind
Scripture often associates the Holy Spirit with water. Earlier in Isaiah, the prophet uses poetic symbolism to describe the rebirth and renewal of the Spirit.
17 And the poor and the needy shall exult; for when they shall seek water, and there shall be none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord God, I the God of Israel will hear, and will not forsake them: 18 but I will open rivers on the mountains, and fountains in the midst of plains: I will make the desert pools of water, and a thirsty land watercourses. 19 I will plant in the dry land the cedar and box, the myrtle and cypress, and white poplar: 20 that they may see, and know, and perceive, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has wrought these works, and the Holy One of Israel has displayed them. (Septuagint Isaiah 41:17-20)
Perhaps Isaiah 41 seems a bit too early in the book to forsake an entirely literal interpretation? Well, in chapter 59 the text openly uses explicit simile to describe the coming of the Lord. Notice the similarity between the images of Isaiah 41:17-20 above and 59:19 below. I’ve quoted this verse from both the Masoretic and the Septuagint.
Isaiah 59:19 So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. (ESV)
So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. (LXE)
New Testament Scripture often associates the Holy Spirit and water. Examples can be found in John 3:5; 4:5-14; Titus 3:4-7.
Wind is another motif the New Testament associates with God’s Spirit. See John 3:8 and Acts 2:2-4.
The Lord’s Covenant
…to be continued
By Christina M Wilson
Septuagint Isaiah 59
The Deliverer and the Spirit
Septuagint Isaiah 59 hides quietly behind its poetic images. Yet it presents the entire Gospel message of Jesus Christ, God’s Servant. This gospel message is: 1) Every person needs deliverance from sin. 2) God himself, through his Servant, is the Deliverer. 3) Everyone is invited. 4) God sends his Spirit to those who embrace the Deliverer. The four points below expand upon this message of the Deliverer and the Spirit.
I. God gave Isaiah an assignment to present the Deliverer and the Spirit. During the span of centuries which Isaiah covers, Israel’s history demonstrates the incapacity of humankind to deliver themselves. This is point one of God’s message. Isaiah begins to deliver this message in the very first chapters. Septuagint Isaiah 59 develops this theme through poetic images and metaphors (59:1-16a).
The Lord had given his people Israel every advantage. These include his presence with them in many times, forms, places, and situations, his law, godly leaders strategically placed, and multiple rescues from their enemies. Nevertheless, as chapter 59 demonstrates, even after the return from exile, “… there was no judgment. And he [the Lord] looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help (59:15-16).
II. Point two of God’s gospel message through Isaiah is that God himself will deliver Sion from her sins. He will send his divine Servant to drive out sin for him (59:16b-20).
The Deliverer and the Spirit in the New Testament
The New Testament delivers the same gospel message as Isaiah in chapter 59.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (ESV)
Titus 3:3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (ESV)
John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)
The Deliverer and the Spirit in John 4
John 4 demonstrates the love of God for all people. In this chapter, the Servant/Messiah/Deliverer speaks of sending his Spirit. Septuagint 59:16 likewise displays God’s love. There, the word is “mercy.” Following this, verse 21 tells of the Spirit.
And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy. (Septuagint 59:16)
20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint 59:20-21)
God, the speaker, connects mention of “My Spirit” (the Holy Spirit) with “my covenant with them.” What covenant is this? This will be the topic of the next post, Lord willing.
… to be continued
By Christina M Wilson
Septuagint Isaiah 58:1-59:21
The Ins and Outs of Living with God
No Time Markers
Once again, Septuagint Isaiah 58:1-59:19 displays no verbal “time markers.” That is, the text contains no words or phrases that might specifically indicate where in a span of many hundreds of years before or after the exile these prophecies might be most applicable. Obviously, the unrighteous conditions God specifies apply in Isaiah’s day. And further, the Servant/Christ applies them during the days of his incarnation (Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 11:38-54). Paul the Apostle quotes from this and from passages of Psalms and Proverbs in Romans 3:9-18. Then comes the destruction of the physical city of Jerusalem with its temple in 70 C.E. In all this time, the religious rulers and leaders of Israel the nation never repent from the behaviors God in Isaiah specifies.
God Accuses–Part One
In Septuagint Isaiah 58:1-5 God spells out the “sins” of “my people… and to the house of Jacob their iniquities” (58:1). The phrase “house of Jacob” most likely indicates that God addresses the nation as a whole. The phrase “my people” indicate that special group of people who later repent and turn back to God. The text assigns the word “sins” (τὰ ἁμαρτήματα) to “my people.” This word is equivalent to “transgressions.” Then, it gives the word “iniquities” to “the house of Jacob.” The Greek word differs here. This word means “acts of lawlessness” (τὰς ἀνομίας). ]
As for the first word, those who live under the law–that is, those who acknowledge the validity and righteousness of God’s law–may still sin. They transgress the law. Then, they may repent of their sins. All this they do within the boundaries of God’s law. Paul’s portrait of the sinful man in Romans 7 provides an example of this kind of person. In the realm of the second word are those who act with “lawlessness.” These are they who do not even acknowledge God’s law but completely “do their own thing.” How can someone repent, who does not even acknowledge God’s right to govern?
In these verses from chapters 58 and 59, God uncovers the following failures in the nation as a whole, including those whom he calls “Sion” in past chapters.
1. They plead with God to bless them, as though God were the one at fault. In other words, they pretend to be a holy people who honors the difference between right and wrong, performing the former and not the latter. Why, then, does God ignore them when they fast and pray? (58:2-3).
2. But these people ignore and harm those whom God cares about–the lowly, even striking them with their fists. They quarrel among themselves. Though they fast outwardly by denying food to their stomachs, this is not the kind of “fast” that God desires.
What God Desires
God makes his desires known in Septuagint Isaiah 58:6-7, 13
1. First, God wants the house of Jacob to “loose every bond of injustice; undo the knots of contracts made by force; let the oppressed go free, and tear up every unjust note” (NETS). It is interesting to note that those who consider themselves to be above and beyond the law use the legality of written contracts to unjustly keep the “bruised” and oppressed in bondage. This is the opposite of what God desires.
2. Second, God commands those with means, “Break your bread to the hungry, and lead the unsheltered poor to your house: if you see one naked, clothe him, and you shall not disregard the relations of your own seed.” The last phrase is interesting. In paraphrase the text states, While you are off doing good for those across town and around the world, do not neglect the poor among your own relatives.
3. Finally, God desires that his people honor and obey his Sabbath, “If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, so as not to do your pleasure on the holy days, and shall call the sabbaths delightful, holy to God; if you shall not lift up your foot to work, nor speak a word in anger out of your mouth, then… ” (58:13).
God’s Servant incarnate, Jesus Christ, did all these things and more during his ministry among the people. He especially clarified what “work” was and was not acceptable to God on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-5).
If you do these things, says God, then you shall have reward. The list of rewards is utterly amazing.
- your light break forth as the morning
- your health shall speedily spring forth
- your righteousness shall go before you
- the glory of God shall compass you
- you [shall] cry, and God shall listen to you
- while you are yet speaking he will say, Behold, I am here
- your light [shall] spring up in darkness
- your darkness shall be as noon-day
- your God shall be with you continually
- you shall be satisfied according as your soul desires
- your bones shall be made fat
- and shall be as a well-watered garden
- and as a fountain from which the water has not failed (Septuagint Isaiah 58:8-11)
- your old waste desert places shall be built up
- your foundations shall last through all generations
- you shall be called a repairer of breaches
- you shall cause your paths between to be in peace
- you [shall] trust on the Lord
- he shall bring you up to the good places of the land
- [he shall] feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father
- for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. (Septuagint Isaiah 58:12-14) (1)
Confer the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
A Challenge for Us as We Read
Slowly, but slowly, as I read through chapters 58 and 59, I begin to perceive that what God is after is a way of life. He wants his people to follow his heart, day in and day out, in both the large and the small. The reward reveals itself as more than a piece of property (58:14). The reward is an ongoing relationship and fellowship with God (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)–to abide where he abides in the heavenly places. This relationship with God must be sufficient in and of itself. Being close to God carries its own reward. Otherwise, the wait would be too long and the work too difficult.
1 Notice that the two sets of blessings appear to be different. The first deals with personal and corporate blessings as concerns people (their spirits). The second set of blessings names characteristics of God’s first covenant blessings upon Jacob and his progeny. I’m going to postpone further discussion of these two sets of blessings until we reach Septuagint Isaiah 59:21.
… to be continued with Chapter 59
By Christina M Wilson
Before moving on to Isaiah’s next theme of condemnation versus blessing in Devotional 2.73, let us consider a brief recap. Isaiah has carried us deep into the vision of God’s heart for the future of his people. Ceasing to be angry, he will forgive their transgressions and shortcomings. He will send his Servant to them as a sacrifice (Isaiah 53:4-9). The prophet speaks of resurrection for his Servant and the victory of justification (Isaiah 53:10-11). He will inherit many children (Isaiah 53:12), largely from among the Gentiles (Isaiah 54:1-3). (See also Septuagint Isaiah 53 and 54.) The good news of God’s favor and blessing upon his reconciled children continues through all of chapters 54, 55, and up through 56:8. Then, quite suddenly, the comfort ends. The text picks up once more the strain of condemnation for Israel’s stubbornly rebellious leaders, which the prophet develops in previous chapters. Here is where we begin the section for today, Septuagint Isaiah 56:9-57:13a (LXE).
Sadly, the text returns to the theme of condemnation for Israel’s stubbornly rebellious leaders in Septuagint Isaiah 56:9-57:13a. Isaiah uses no “time markers” in this portion. That is, he makes no statements, such as, “Now we look forward to what comes after the Servant… ” Or, “This looks backward to just before the exile into Babylonia.” In fact, the text presents not a single transition word or phrase. The prophet simply shifts gears abruptly. Therefore, the reader must read, reread, compare text with text within Isaiah, and prayerfully consider to what time this portion refers (see 1 Peter 1:10).
Bearing these thoughts in mind, it would appear that Isaiah returns to the time just before the exile. The leaders sacrifice to idols and erect memorials to their false gods. They even sacrifice their children “in the valleys among the rocks” (LXE, 57:5).
Who Is the Speaker?
The Lord himself speaks throughout the section immediately preceding 56:9 (LXE). Readers must go all the way down to 57:10 to find definite indications that the Lord continues to speak. This, however, appears to be so. It is the Lord who describes the infidelity of the “lawless children.”
57:3 But draw you near hither, you lawless children, the seed of adulterers and the harlot. (LXE)
Twice, the text refers to the ones whom the Lord condemns as “children” (See 57:3 just above). These are not “foreigners” or “Gentiles” or “immigrants” (proselytes). Hear what Isaiah writes.
57:4 … are you not children of perdition? a lawless seed? (LXE)
The Lord further describes these false children and names their actions.
56:10 See how they are all blinded: they have not known; they are dumb dogs… 11 Yes, they are insatiable dogs, … and they are wicked, having no understanding: all have followed their own ways, each according to his will. (LXE)
57:8 … Did you think that if you should depart from me, you would gain? you have loved those that lay with you; 9 and you have multiplied your whoredom with them, and you have increased the number of them that are far from you, and have sent ambassadors beyond your borders, and have been debased even to hell. 10 … you said not, I will cease to strengthen myself: for you have done these things; therefore you have not supplicated me. 11 Through dread of whom have you feared, and lied against me, and has not remembered, nor considered me, nor regarded me, yes, though when I see you I pass you by, yet you have not feared me. (LXE)
As so frequently in Isaiah, the Lord sifts his people Israel into two groups. In the first group are those who will die horrible deaths and not receive mercy for eternity.
57:13a When you cry out, let them [the idols you worship] deliver you in your affliction: for all these [the idols] the wind shall take, and the tempest shall carry them away… (LXE)
In the second group are those upon whom he will display his mercy.
57:13b … but they that cleave to me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain. (LXE)
The text returns to the second group in verses 13 through 19.
Blessings for Those Upon Whom God Shows Mercy
Verse 13b, the transitioning sentence, is written above. Verse 14 mildly echoes Isaiah 40:3-4.
57:14 And they shall say, Clear the ways before him, and take up the stumbling blocks out of the way of my people. (LXE)
The First Blessing
God will send his first blessing to all those willing to receive it. The first blessing is his Servant, who will suffer as a sacrifice for their sins.
The Septuagint differs from the Masoretic in 57:14. Notice that the Septuagint (see above) includes a personal object phrase, “before him.” In this entire section of Isaiah, focused as the Lord is on the Servant, “him” would refer to the Lord’s Servant. In paraphrase, “Clear the ways before my Servant.” The literal meaning of “clear” is “cleanse” (New English Translation of the Septuagint, NETS), or “purge” (a translator’s note in Brenton). This is exactly what John the Baptist does when he calls the people of the land to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord (Matthew 3:1-3). The stumbling blocks the verse mentions are literally “thorns” (NETS).
Then, after the above verse, notice below how beautiful is the comfort God gives to both his sacrificial Servant and the people.
57:15 Thus says the Most High, who dwells on high for ever, Holy in the holies, is his name, the Most High resting in the holies, and giving patience to the faint-hearted, and giving life to the broken-hearted: 16 I will not take vengeance on you for ever, neither will I be always angry with you: for my Spirit shall go forth from me, and I have created all breath.
The Septuagint text above does not exclude the possibility that the first occurrence of the word “you” in verse 16 is God speaking directly to his Servant. The Servant is ever-present in Volume 2 of Isaiah (beginning in chapter 40). He is either directly in the text or hovering over it. God says, “I will not take vengeance on you for ever.” The word “you” is singular. This statement accords completely with the entirety of chapter 53. God did take vengeance on his Servant as a sacrifice unto death for the sins of his people (53:8). Yet, it was not forever. Septuagint Isaiah 53:10-12 describes what later comes to be known as Christ’s resurrection.
The Second Blessing
The second occurrence of “you,” almost immediately after the first one in 57:16, is plural. This “you” refers to the people. God will send his Spirit upon them. This is exactly what happens on the day of Pentecost in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4; 17-18). Having the Holy Spirit of God dwell among us restores what was lost in the Garden–life in God’s presence. And, the New Testament teaches that the blessing God gives to believers after the Servant’s sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension is even better than what Adam and Eve have in the Garden. There, God walks with them (Genesis 3:8-10). In the New Kingdom of God’s Son, the Holy Spirit lives in them.
A Third Blessing
A third blessing is comfort and peace. Verses 17 and 18 summarize Chapter 53. They refer to the Servant.
57:17 On account of sin for a little while I grieved him, and struck him, and turned away my face from him; and he was grieved, and he went on sorrowful in his ways. 18 I have seen his ways, and healed him, and comforted him, and given him true comfort; (LXE)
After these, verse 19 refers to the people who receive the Servant.
57:19 peace upon peace to them that are far off, and to them that are near: and the Lord has said, I will heal them. (LXE)
It is possible that the phrase, “the Lord has said,” in verse 19 refers to the Servant. Indeed, part of the Servant’s ministry includes healing.
Outcome for the Unrighteous
God, as speaker, closes chapter 57 with a summarizing statement of doom and gloom for the “ungodly.” These are they whom he describes and addresses in verses 56:9-57:13a. These are the “lawless children, the seed of adulterers and the harlot” (LXE).
57:20 But thus shall the unrighteous be tossed like waves, and shall not be able to rest. 21 There is no joy for the impious [ungodly], said the Lord God. (NETS)
An Unusual Tense
Notice that the translation just above says, “… said God.” This tense is unusual in Isaiah. It occurs in 39:6; 54:6; 57:19, 20; and twice in 66:9. The aorist translation “said” represents a “snapshot,” rather than the continuous nature of present tense. A “snapshot” is like a summary. In a sense, it expresses finality more than the present tense. For example, if a speaker “says” something in present tense, even though the statement may occur in the past, there seems to be an option that the speaker might change his mind. Present tense indicates ongoing speech. But if a speaker speaks (or spoke) in aorist tense, then that’s it. That statement sums up the long and short of it. In other words, it appears that God is not going to change his mind about this one. He speaks directly, clearly, and simply concerning the outcome for the ungodly.
An Important Conclusion
The Septuagint text presents in plain speech two different types of people within Israel. These are the ungodly (57:20), as distinguished from “the faint-hearted” and “the broken-hearted” (verse 57:15). This portion of Isaiah clearly teaches two distinct outcomes, mutually exclusive, for these two groups of people. One group will receive blessings of forgiveness, peace, comfort, and the Holy Spirit. The text indicates that God will not bless the other group.
The Apostle Paul writes a single, isolated, cryptic comment in Romans 11:26, “all Israel will be saved.” This statement protrudes like an hermeneutic thorn that creates in its wake immeasurable havoc among Christian denominations. But I think it fair to say that Paul does not draw his stated conclusion from this portion of Isaiah. Up to this point in the entire book, God does not make “blanket” promises that apply to “national” Israel as a whole.
Here in chapters 56-57, God through the prophet clearly presents two types of Israelite. He will save the one, but not the other. God applies his promise of blessing to the broken-hearted of his people, those who are amenable to his Servant. The other group he labels with the harshest of terms and appears to cast out of his kingdom. Please, I am not arguing with Paul, I am merely stating that in this portion of Isaiah, there is no statement to the effect that “all [national] Israel will be saved.”
Consistently in Isaiah, “Israel” appears as a heterogenous group. God in Septuagint Isaiah does not give promises of salvation as a blanket statement to the nation of Israel as a whole. Rather, he gives his promises to his people. Sometimes he calls these people “Israel,” or “Zion.” But chapters 56-57 indicate in plain speech that God does not welcome into his assembly everyone found to be of Israelite descent. And, in Septuagint Isaiah 56:3-8, God welcomes among his people the eunuch, the foreigner, and worshipers from “all nations” (all those whom “national Israel” formerly excluded). The “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) is not an ethnically or socially identifiable group identical with national Israel. Rather, the “Israel of God” are those who submit to God’s salvation through the sacrifice of his Servant. Some of these are ethnic Israelites, and many are not.
By Christina M Wilson
…continued from Devotional 2.71
Strangers and Eunuchs
3 Let not the stranger who attaches himself to the Lord, say, Surely the Lord will separate me from his people: and let not the eunuch say, I am a dry tree. (LXE)
In Septuagint Isaiah 56:3-8, the Lord welcomes strangers and eunuchs into his place of worship.
Points of Interest
I. “Stranger” is a different word than “Gentile”
God through Isaiah has already spoken a great deal about Gentiles being the ones who would increase his people (LXX Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; 54:1-3; and 55:4-5.) The Greek word used in all these texts is “ETH-nos, ἔθνος,” meaning “a people” “nation” or “race.” It is sometimes translated as “nations” and more often in the Septuagint, as Gentiles. The Greek word Septuagint 56:3 uses is “allo-gen-NEES, ἀλλογενὴς.” It means “other-born,” that is, a foreigner, a stranger.
Eunuchs are males who cannot procreate. Often, their bodies have been altered so that physical procreation becomes impossible (Matthew 19:12).
III. Old Testament Law Concerning Eunuchs and Strangers
Old Testament law states that eunuchs “shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1 LXE). Thus, they were excluded from Israel’s worship of Jehovah. The law also required that strangers (foreigners) receive circumcision before they could enter into fellowship with those of God’s people who were native born (Exodus 12:48). The issue of whether or not Gentile converts to Christianity needed to receive circumcision loomed large in the New Testament (Acts 11:1-3; 1-18; Acts 15:1-31; Galatians 2:2-14f; 5:1-12; 6:12-15).
God’s Will for Eunuchs and Strangers
Isaiah clearly states God’s intention for eunuchs and strangers. He welcomes them!
To the eunuchs, God says:
56:4 Thus says the Lord to the eunuchs, as many as shall keep my sabbaths, and choose the things which I take pleasure in, and take hold of my covenant; 5 I will give to them in my house and within my walls an honorable place, better than sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, and it shall not fail. (LXE)
And, for the foreigners, God declares:
56:6-7 And I will give it to the strangers that attach themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be to him servants and handmaids; and as for all that keep my sabbaths from profaning them, and that take hold of my covenant; 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain, and gladden them in my house of prayer: their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,
Eunuchs and strangers will be fully included on God’s holy mountain, in his temple, and at his altar. He will give them an everlasting name.
God’s Requirements for Eunuchs and Strangers
God’s specifies the same requirements for eunuchs and strangers as for his own children in verses 1 and 2. They must keep his Sabbath and do what pleases him (verses 1-2, 4). He will reward the stranger who clings (attaches) to the Lord, serves him, and loves him. And, God specifically includes women–“daughters,” “servants and handmaids” (Septuagint 56:5, 6).
God sees no difference between his own “ethnic” children who believe in him and the children who are strangers and eunuchs. Each shall have an equal place of equality with the other.
Both this section and the longer context concerning everything about the Lord’s Servant end with verse 8. Verse 8 sums up the Lord’s intention in the new order his Servant’s death and sacrifice usher in.
56:7 … 8 says the Lord that gathers the dispersed of Israel; for I will gather to him a congregation. (LXE)
A NET Bible translator’s note concludes that “the meaning of the statement is unclear” (1).
The ESV finds clarity.
The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8 ESV)
And most fortunately, the Lord Jesus understood perfectly the Servant’s mission.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16 and context ESV)
WHO IS “HIM” IN SEPTUAGINT 56:8?
Within the context of the last several chapters, once again “him” refers to the Lord’s Servant. The Servant is the subject and focal point of God’s plan of redemption for the remnant of his people and for the whole world. The Septuagint explains in verse 8 that the Lord will gather a congregation to his Servant (see Septuagint Isaiah 53:12-53:3). The New Testament church completely fulfills the prophecy of Septuagint Isaiah 56:8 (LXE).
Are These Changes Easy?
The changes which the Lord announces throughout this portion of Isaiah (and specifically in 56:2-8) are not easy changes. One might say that they are “mind-boggling” groundswells on the order of all the ice in the Arctic completely melting or the entire Rock of Gibraltar dissolving into the Mediterranean Sea. Jesus, the Lord’s Servant, understood the upsetting nature of his ministry and God’s plan and purpose from his incarnation forward.
Matthew 9:16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17 ESV)
In the parable just above, the old wineskin is the Old Testament Kingdom of God–i.e., the congregation of Israel with its entire religious system. The new wine is God’s Kingdom in his Servant. The changes God enacts in moving his people from the old to the new are enormous. They are so foundational that God gives the Kingdom of his Servant a “new name” (2).
Isaiah 62:2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and kings thy glory: and one shall call thee by a new name, which the Lord shall name. (LXE)
Isaiah 65:15 For ye shall leave your name for a loathing to my chosen, and the Lord shall destroy you: but my servants shall be called by a new name, (LXE)
All the Way Back to Noah
God’s plan and purpose in gathering “to him a congregation” (LXX Isaiah 56:8) goes all the way back to Noah. God’s plan of redemption in his Servant for all humankind predates his calling of Abraham.
54:9 From the time of the water of Noe this is my purpose: as I sware to him at that time, saying of the earth, I will no more be angry with you, neither when you are threatened, 10 shall the mountains depart, nor shall your hills be removed: so neither shall my mercy fail you, nor shall the covenant of your peace be at all removed: for the Lord who is gracious to you has spoken it. (Septuagint Isaiah 54:9-10)
As God once destroyed air-breathing life by water, so he destroyed his Servant by crucifixion. Each of these events is enormous with enormous consequences.
God’s People Remain–He Sees to That
But God keeps his people. In the ark, there was one believer with seven of his relatives. After Abraham and Moses, God kept a believing remnant among the ethnic tribes of Israel. After the death, resurrection, and ascension of his Servant, God expands the number of his believing people greatly. He fills their ranks by drawing from all nations, tribes, and tongues. Yet, these are always one and the same people–those from all ages who believe and invest themselves entirely in the Lord.
Isaiah captures the Lord’s vision here in Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8.
1 New English Translation, NET2 online version, available at Isaiah 56 | Lumina (netbible.org).
2 Readers, please forgive me for jumping ahead to material we have not yet reached.
By Christina M Wilson
Denouement: Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8
If Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2 (that is, chapters 40 to the present chapter) were a drama, we would call Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8 the denouement, or resolution. The drama climaxes in chapter 53, the death and resurrection of the Lord’s Servant. Chapters 54 and 55 reveal the glorious outcome of the Servant’s work for God’s people in Israel (the “barren” of 54:1–named the “remnant” elsewhere in Isaiah). The glorious outcome for the “barren” woman includes the whole world.
In a relatively minor sense, these chapters also speak to Israel’s condition in exile. That exile will soon be ended. But collectively, the people who worship God and his Servant will live in a spiritual place called Sion. Jesus, God’s Servant, spoke of the spiritual nature of his kingdom many times (1). After Rome destroys Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E., the spiritual nature of the collective body of Christ (those whom God will “gather to him”–Septuagint Isaiah 56:8) becomes more apparent.
Most importantly, the main event, the climax, of Isaiah’s story is the revelation of God’s incarnated Servant (Septuagint Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Historically, the Servant appears in person centuries after the return from exile. The Servant’s work changes the course of human history, humankind’s relationship with God, and therefore, the structure of the entire universe. This is why the last of Isaiah’s four Servant Songs in Septuagint Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the climax of Isaiah’s story.
For Israel and for humankind, God accomplishes a huge change in biblical history through the life, death, and resurrection of his Servant. God now includes Gentiles–those from “every nation and tribe and language and people” (Revelation 14:6). Isaiah repeats this refrain so often that its meaning is unmistakable. The remnant of Israel is first, the elder son, and now God includes everyone else (2), even eunuchs. Septuagint Isaiah 56:3-8 explains this seismic shift in detail.
In the entire passage, verses 1-8, the Lord summarizes the new order. In the first two of these verses, the Lord describes his standard of behavior for his people. He names their reward. Then, in the following six verses, the Lord spells out how he includes the eunuch and the foreigner and how he blesses them equally with his elder son.
Details: Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8
Verses 56:1-8 fall neatly into two sections. The current passage follows a long segment of blessing that goes back to at least Isaiah 52:13. Verse 9, which follows the current passage, reverts back to another statement of God’s unending anger with those who reject his ways. The text supplies many such statements previously. Two of these occur in Isaiah 48:22 and 50:11. The condemnation which Septuagint Isaiah 56:9 begins continues through Septuagint Isaiah 57:13a.
The passage Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8 divides neatly into two sections. The first two verses summarize the Lord’s behavior requirements for the community (verse 1) and the individual (verse 2). The Lord states the reward he will give to those who loyally follow these. In the second section (verses 3 through 8) the Lord gives an open invitation to the foreigner and the eunuch to join the community of Israel. The second section forms the bulk of the passage.
Section One: Verses 1 and 2
BEHAVIOR FOR THE COMMUNITY
Septuagint verse 1 uses the plural forms of its verbs. The commands the Lord speaks would therefore apply to the entire community. The Lord commands, “Keep judgment; do righteousness” (NETS) (3). My informal translation of these commands is, “Maintain a clear knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Do what is right.”
BEHAVIOR FOR INDIVIDUALS
Using singular verbs, Septuagint verse 2 states that the individual should keep the sabbaths and not profane them. He should hold back from doing what is wrong. In my own paraphrase, verses 1 and 2 say, “As a community, know, declare, and guard what is right, as opposed to what is wrong. Do what is right. Don’t do what is wrong. Recognize the Lord’s day of rest, and let your employees rest as well.”
Remember that Israel went into exile for a period of time equal to the number of Sabbaths they had not maintained (Exodus 20:8; Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-14; Daniel 9:2; Nehemiah 13:22). By the time Jesus the Lord’s Servant arrived, the religious leaders had made a mockery of God’s Sabbath by a cruel legalism that ignored God’s love and mercy (Matthew 12:1-2; Luke 13:14; John 5:1-10; 9:13-16). God wants his people to enter his rest, refrain from providing for themselves, and depend upon him for their sustenance during these times of inactivity. He doesn’t want them to forsake “judgment” and fail to do what is right.
Messiah/Servant/Christ is God’s Sabbath rest (Hebrews 3:12-4:11). Those who come to him cease from their legalistic labors to please God (the Mosaic law), and simply rest in the Lord’s sufficiency for them. Each person individually must enter the Lord’s rest, his Sabbath. Empowered and guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit, they must strive to do what is right in pleasing the Lord and to not do what is wrong in the eyes of God. They must seek to understand God’s standard of right and wrong. They must try to honor and obey the Lord’s standard, rather than their own. When individuals within the community do these things, the community as a whole will guard God’s way (his righteous, loving, just, fair, and merciful ways) and do good.
In Septuagint Isaiah 56:1, the Lord will reward the community of those who “keep judgment” and “do righteousness” with the blessing of his “salvation” and “mercy” about to come and to be revealed. In verse 2, the Lord pronounces blessing over two individuals. The first is a male man in Greek (ἀνὴρ–a-NEER), and the second is a generic human being (ἄνθρωπος–AN-thro-pos). The NETS Bible (3), translates the first as “the man,” and the second as “the person” (4). The Lord blesses these individuals in verse 2. These are the individuals who do what God commands in verse 1, who hold God’s precepts fast against all difficulties (See Psalm 119), who keep God’s Sabbath, and who restrain themselves from doing unrighteousness.
Section Two: Verses 3 through 8
… to be continued
1 See John 3:1-8; 4:5-26, 21-24. See also “Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New” in this blog’s Gems of John series, available in the menu above. Or, see “Outline of the Gospel of John: JustOneSmallVoice.com” for the Gems of John table of contents.
2 The writer of the letter to the Hebrews corrects the perception of the position of Israel which I state in this paragraph (Hebrews 1:6). Israel is not the “eldest” son, the first-born. The Servant is. Everything in God’s plan revolves around the Son, not Israel. (See also Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18; and Revelation 1:5). Of all the Servant’s brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom (Hebrews 2:11), the sons of the remnant of Israel came first in point of time, but not in position. This is the glorious message of the New Testament.
3 A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), Esaias, translated by Moisés Silva, available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/33-esaias-nets.pdf.
4 This attention to detail in the Greek text recalls to the reader’s mind Septuagint Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of evil men.” The first words of Psalm 1:1 and the first words of verse 2 in Isaiah 56 are identical in Greek (and in Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint). The text states in Greek, “μακάριος ἀνήρ–ma-KA-ree-os a-NEER”. In Psalm 1, the text refers to Messiah (see Psalm 1:Introduction to the Psalter for more on how the Greek phrase, “Blessed is the man” points to Christ). These words here in Isaiah can also refer specifically to God’s Servant. He is the one who accomplishes the salvation and mercy to which verse 1 refers. The NET notes on the Hebrew of Isaiah 56:2 are also interesting. For the second use of “man” (translated as “the person” in the Greek Septuagint of Silva), the NET notes state, “4 )tn Heb “the son of mankind who takes hold of it.” Readers will immediately recognize the formula which Jesus, God’s Servant, applies to himself so often, especially in the gospel of Luke. For just one example, see Luke 6:5, “And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.'”
By Christina M Wilson
Three Chapters in a Nutshell
If I were asked to write a headline summary of Septuagint Isaiah 53-55, I would write the following:
The Lord Calls His Bride
In Isaiah 55 the Lord calls his people. The Servant has accomplished salvation (chapter 53). God has expressed his vows of love and forgiveness for his wayward children (chapter 54). Now, in chapter 55, the Lord invites those who will to come and live with him.
- The Lord sends out his invitation to everyone who is needy (verses 1-3).
- He presents the foundation of the invitation (verses 4-5).
- He calls again (verses 6-7).
- The Lord provides his character references (verses 8-11a).
- Finally, the Lord describes the blessings of prosperity for those who respond to his love (verses 11b-13).
1 You that thirst, go to the water, and all that have no money, go and buy; and eat and drink wine and fat without money or price. 2 Therefore do you value at the price of money, and give your labor for that which will not satisfy? listen to me, and you shall eat that which is good, and your soul shall feast itself on good things. 3 Give heed with your ears, and follow my ways: listen to me, and your soul shall live in prosperity; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the sure mercies of David. (LXE 55)
The Lord Christ, God’s incarnated Servant, offers similar invitations to those who will.
John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ESV)
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (ESV)
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)
Verse three of Isaiah 55 refers to “an everlasting covenant, the sure mercies of David” (LXE 55). Both God’s Servant in Isaiah and Christ descended from King David. God had made an “everlasting covenant” with David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Paul declares in Acts 13:34 that God fulfills this everlasting covenant with Christ, the descendant of David.
Acts 13:34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ (ESV)
How do we know that Isaiah has the Servant in mind? Verse 4, immediately following the mention of God’s covenant with David, says “Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles.” The “him,” when used this way in the last several chapters of Isaiah, refers to God’s Servant. (See Journal 2.60.)
Foundation of the Invitation
The Lord extends his invitation to the whole world.
4 Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles. 5 Nations which know you not, shall call upon you, and peoples which are not acquainted with you, shall flee to you for refuge, for the sake of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you. (LXE Isaiah 55)
As previously mentioned, in the context of the last dozen or so chapters, the “him” that God has made “a testimony among the Gentiles” is, of course, his Servant. See, for example, Septuagint Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; and 54:1-3.
Interestingly, God’s speech in verse 5 (LXE 55) could be directed to God’s Servant or to his people. In the first scenario, verse 4 refers to the Servant. Then, in verse 5, God could simply turn towards the Servant and speak directly to him. In the second scenario, verse 5 can refer to those whom God calls in verses 1-3. Those who respond to his invitation in those verses are his people. God then announces inclusion of Gentiles in verse 4. In verse 5, God can be addressing all those who respond to his invitation. These are all of God’s people, that is, the formerly barren woman (54:1). This is the group whom he addresses for the bulk of the chapter. Both interpretations are possible.
SIGNIFICANCE OF VERSE 5
In Scripture, when God joins a man and woman in marriage, they become one (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). When Christ the Servant “marries” his people, he and his people become one. This is what Paul teaches so explicitly in Ephesians 5:23, 30-31 and 1 Corinthians 12:27. So, here, in this verse in Isaiah (LXE 55), the wording of the text makes the interpretation possible that the Servant and his people are one. God glorifies both the risen Servant (Isaiah 52:13 [“glorified exceedingly”–Septuagint]) and his fulness, the people who respond to his call (Isaiah 55:5). The glory of the followers of the Servant resides in the Servant’s glory. Without the work of the Servant, there would be no glory for Israel.
The Lord Repeats the Call
6 Seek you the Lord, and when you find him, call upon him; and when he shall draw near to you, 7 let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord, and he shall find mercy; for he shall abundantly pardon your sins. (LXE 55)
God first calls the thirsty and the impoverished–those who have no money (verses 1-2). In his initial call, God promises prosperity, an everlasting covenant, and the sure mercies of David (verse 3). He includes Gentiles in verses 4-5. Then, in verses 6-7, the Lord repeats his call. Readers can assume from the prior verses (4 and 5) that this second invitation goes forth to everyone.
In verse 6, the Lord promises to respond with fellowship to those who seek him. In verse 7, the text clearly states that God calls the “ungodly” and the “transgressor.” God’s Servant in the New Testament repeats these calls.
Revelation 3:20 Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. (NET)
Matthew 9:13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (ESV)
Both the call of the Lord in Isaiah (see verses 6-7 above) and the call of God’s Servant/Messiah in the New Testament require a turning away from previous ungodly ways.
Isaiah 55:7 let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: (Septuagint)
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV)
John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (ESV)
Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (ESV)
The Lord Gives His Character References
In verses 8-11, the Lord describes his powers. When they consider his power, those who hear the Lord’s call will know that he is able to perform all that he promises. There is none other like the Lord.
8 For my counsels are not as your counsels, nor are my ways as your ways, says the Lord. 9 But as the heaven is distant from the earth, so is my way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from my mind. 10 For as rain shall come down, or snow, from heaven, and shall not return until it has saturated the earth, and it bring forth, and bud, and give seed to the sower, and bread for food: 11 so shall my word be, whatever shall proceed out of my mouth, it shall by no means turn back, until all the things which I willed shall have been accomplished; and I will make your ways prosperous, and will effect my commands. (LXE Isaiah 55)
Promises of Joy and Prosperity
Isaiah closes the chapter with the Lord’s promise of joy and prosperity for those who respond to his call (1).
11 … and I will make your ways prosperous, and will effect my commands. 12 For you shall go forth with joy, and shall be taught with gladness: for the mountains and the hills shall exult to welcome you with joy, and all the trees of the field shall applaud with their branches. 13 And instead of the bramble shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle: and the Lord shall be for a name, and for an everlasting sign, and shall not fail. (LXE Isaiah 55)
Notice the similarity between the imagery of nature in these verses and the figure of speech God employs when he calls his faithful responders the “barren” and the “desolate” in 54:1. Those who repent in Israel and return to God throughout Isaiah are a small number, a mere remnant. In this sense, they are like a desolate desert. Plants such as the bramble and nettle grow in deserted places.
The metaphor of fruitfulness the Lord chooses in these verses is truly beautiful. Paul seems to recall these verses when he speaks of the new creation in Romans 8.
Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (ESV)
As we wait for the final, eternal revelation of Christ in his church, in Spirit now those who receive God’s Servant in their hearts experience a rejuvenation similar to brambles being replaced by the cypress and nettles being replaced by the gentle, peaceful myrtle. Surely, those whose hearts have been softened to repent and know the Lord do go out with joy and are taught with gladness. Praise and bless You, Lord.
1 The Lord throughout this chapter never addresses the nation of “Israel” as a whole. In Isaiah 54:1, the Lord speaks to the “barren,” commanding her to “Rejoice!” Previous chapters reveal that the “barren” are those of Israel who display the faith in God of Abraham and Sarah. To this group, God joins Gentiles who believe. Various speech tags indicate that the Lord continues to speak to the barren woman throughout chapter 54 and for the entirety of chapter 55. These speech tags include the following: 1) “you barren”–54:1, 2) “thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles”–54:3, 3) “There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and you shall be righteous before me”–54:17, 4) “You that thirst…and all that have no money”–55:1, 5) “Give heed…and follow my ways: listen to me and your soul shall live in prosperity” [i.e., those who are willing to obey]–54:3, 6) “Nations which know you not, shall call upon you” [Gentiles]–54:5, 7) “Seek you the Lord” [i.e., those who desire the Lord; the nation as a whole rejects God in Isaiah (see, for example, Isaiah 48:18-19 Septuagint)]–55:6, 8) “Let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord…” [i.e., those who repent, which the bulk of national Israel does not do]–55:7.
For those who may have difficulty accepting that the Lord’s promise of prosperity is not a blanket, unconditional promise to national Israel, please let me offer this thought. In the Christian church, extremely few, if any, pastors teach that all humanity will be saved. No, God’s promise in Christ is for “whosoever” (anyone and everyone) who is willing to receive Christ by faith. Why would the Lord treat a particular nation or race of people differently than he treats all humanity? In other words, why would the precepts that distinguish God’s relationship with the people of a nation (Israel) be different than his precepts for the people of his world-wide church? God, let us remember, shows no “partiality” (Ephesians 6:9 NET). Our prayers should always be that people of Jewish ethnicity (and people the world over of all ethnicities) would come to know the Lord.