By Christina M Wilson
In Septuagint Isaiah 65:13-16, God alternates between two outcomes for two groups of people. God uses character and action to distinguish between the two groups.
TWO OUTCOMES: THE WHO
God names the group that receives benefits as “my servants” and “my chosen” (ἐκλεκτοῖς). The text never reveals a name for the group that receives condemnation. Isaiah 66:5 ESV, however, labels them as, “Your brothers who hate you.” NET calls them, “Your countrymen,” in that same verse. There is nothing in the text to suggest that the Lord may be speaking about pagan nations. Within Israel itself, says Isaiah, there are those who rebel against the Lord and will be punished and those who serve the Lord and will be blessed.
TWO OUTCOMES: THE WHAT
The following table summarizes Septuagint Isaiah 65:13-16.
The last column on the right reveals the finality of God’s judgment against his disobedient, rebellious people. God’s judgment fell in 70 A.D. (or C.E), when the Romans destroyed the Israelite temple. But the seed of Jacob and Judah (Isaiah 65:9), also known as “my chosen” and “my servants,” went on in joy under a new name to continue worshiping the ancient God of the fathers (Acts 24:14). They did so in newness of spirit (Romans 7:6) under a new covenant (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6, 8; 55:3; 59:21; Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14 ESV)
Addendum: New Testament Fulfillment of Isaiah
Two Outcomes: Jesus–Grief for Israel
13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” (excerpt from Luke 20:9-19 ESV)
6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'” (Luke 13:6-9 ESV)
26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. (Luke 23:26-32 ESV)
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:17-21 ESV)
34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Luke 13:34- 35 ESV)
Two Outcomes: Jesus–Joy for the Servant’s Friends
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11 ESV)
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13 ESV)
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (Revelation 3:12 ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19 ESV)
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; (Mark 16:17 ESV)
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13 ESV)
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:11 ESV)
Comment Concerning Isaiah 65:15 and Names
God named his people in the Old Testament after the youngest of Isaac’s sons–Jacob. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28; John 1:47). God’s people in the New Testament receive their name from Israel’s King–who is the Christ. Christians of all ethnicities, including those of Israel, are “followers of Christ”, that is, Christians. Jesus greatly encouraged his followers to use “my name” when praying or serving him (Matthew 18:5, 20; Mark 9:39; 16:17; John 14:13, 14, 26; 15:21; 16:23-26).
The Book of Hebrews
On the Destruction of the Temple Religion (70 A.D.)
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13, excerpted from Hebrews 8:1-10:14 ESV)
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1Corinthians 3:16 ESV)
24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” (excerpt from Galatians 4:22-31 ESV)
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit [Isaiah 59:21], 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV)
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17-22 ESV)
The gospel of Isaiah has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ and his people.
…Note: I expect an interruption in my schedule. However, please stayed tuned for the next post to come in a few weeks, Lord willing, concerning the new heavens and the new earth of Isaiah 65:17f.
By Christina M Wilson
Overview: Isaiah 65
- God presents himself to Gentiles (Isaiah 65:1).
- God condemns rebellious Israel (Isaiah 65:2-7, 11-12).
- God rewards the repentant remnant (Isaiah 65:8-10).
- Verses 13-16 rapidly alternate between the two groups (Isaiah 65:13-16).
- Verses 17-25 describe a “new heaven and a new earth” (Septuagint Isaiah 65:17-25).
God Rewards His Remnant
In Isaiah 65:8, the Lord speaks a metaphor that visually expresses the relationship between mercy and judgment, justice and love. Like a lone, juicy grape in a cluster of desiccated skins, verses 8-11 shine brightly in the middle of text that shouts out the finality of God’s wrath under the Old Covenant. The wrath of God is the end product of the Mosaic covenant of works. The mercy the Lord extends to the lone “grape-stone” represents the eternal promise of God to Abraham. God brings this promise to reality in the New Covenant of grace. He ratifies the Covenant of grace with the blood of his Servant Christ (Isaiah 59:21; Luke 22:20).
Septuagint Isaiah 65:8 Thus says the Lord, As a grape-stone shall be found in the cluster, and they shall say, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for the sake of him that serves me, for his sake I will not destroy them all.
Recipients of the Reward
Following verse 8, verse 9 speaks of the “seed” of Jacob and Juda, the same “seed” of the promise God gave to Abraham. In both the Genesis and Isaiah texts, the Septuagint uses the same Greek form of the word for seed, or offspring.
9 And I will lead forth the seed [σπέρμα, sperma, neuter, singular] that came of Jacob and of Juda, and they shall inherit my holy mountain: and my elect and my servants shall inherit it, and shall dwell there. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:9)
See also Isaiah 65:9 ESV; Galatians 3:16 ESV; Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7.
Verse 9 tells the reader that the promised seed of Jacob and Juda will inherit God’s holy mountain. As the verse continues, the text includes God’s “elect” and his servants among those who will inherit. Also, readers should remember that in the background of all of chapter 65, stands the introductory first verse.
I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:1)
Paul agrees with Isaiah when he includes Gentiles in the promises God makes to Abraham’s seed. This seed are they who have the like-minded faith of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9, 14; Romans 10:8-13). In God’s blessings to both the remnant of Israel and to Gentiles who choose him, readers discover that God himself underlies all his promises. He bestows his new covenant of grace upon those who desire him through faith. His rewards are not based upon human behavior.
God’s Motive for the Reward
8 Thus says the Lord, As a grape-stone shall be found in the cluster, and they shall say, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for the sake of him that serves me, for his sake I will not destroy them all. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:8 Brenton)
Septuagint Isaiah 65:8 above states the reason why God does not destroy the whole nation. Here is one location in which the Septuagint provides a nugget of silver, with regard to God’s Servant. God states his motive for sparing the remnant in singular tense. When a reader takes this sentence completely out of context and isolates it, it appears like this: “So I will do for the sake of him that serves me, for his sake I will not destroy them all.” Out of context, the sentence reads as though God holds a particular individual in his mind, “… for the sake of the one who serves me, for him I will not destroy… ” Returning God’s statement to the context of Isaiah, there is one person who serves the Lord completely. He is God’s Servant, Messiah. For His sake, God will spare a remnant. Why? These will be the Servant’s people. They will be the ones who believe and receive him (John 1:9-13).
The Masoretic (Hebrew) text, on the other hand, also uses the singular word “servant.” However, translators interpret the singular tense noun as a common noun representing a group of people. Therefore, the meaning becomes that God will spare the servants (plural) for the sake of the servants (Isaiah 65:8 ESV). Readers, of course, are free to choose the translation they prefer (1).
Nature of the Reward
9 And I will lead forth the seed that came of Jacob and of Juda, and they shall inherit my holy mountain: and my elect and my servants shall inherit it, and shall dwell there. (LXE, NETS, Isaiah 65:9 LXX)
Verse 9 tells the reader that the seed of Jacob and Juda will inherit God’s holy mountain (2). For those who associate this verse with New Testament fulfillment, the gospel writers took great care to demonstrate that the Christ, who was Jesus of Nazareth, descended in the flesh from Jacob and Judah. This places him among God’s rightful heirs, the “firstborn of many brothers [and sisters, NET]” (Romans 8:29).
Septuagint Isaiah 65:9-10 relates that the seed shall inherit God’s holy mountain, the place where God himself chooses to dwell (See Joel 3:17 and Zechariah 8:3. See also Isaiah 11:9; 27:13; 56:7; 57:13). This will be a place of bounty–a forest filled with flocks, and the valley of Achor (in the east, a former site of trouble) will be a resting place for herds. And, once again, verse 10 states that these blessings shall be for “my people, who have sought me.”
1 The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) provides an alternate English translation of the Greek text. For the sentences in question, the NETS text reads, “… so I will do for the sake of the one who is subject to me. For the sake of this one I will not destroy them all.” Notice how the English translation changes the active singular participle “the one serving me (τοῦ δουλεύοντός μοι)” of the Greek text into a passive adjective (“the one who is subject to me”). This changes the particular noun of the Greek text into a representative descriptive noun. It’s also not the way the Greek text is written. This is an example of how presuppositional biases affect the words translators choose to use. For the original text in Greek, see Isaiah 65:8 LXX.
2 Here again, the reader of the Greek Septuagint text must decide for herself if the “seed” (neuter singular) means the Seed (Galatians 3:16) or “seeds” plural. If plural, then the next phrase uses synonyms to clarify “my seed.” “my seed… [who are] my elect and my servants shall inherit.” If the singular “seed” means the singular Seed, then there would be added information in this sentence. “my Seed… [and] my elect and my servants shall inherit.” Notice that the “and” in each of the three instances is a hard “and” (καὶ).
Isaiah 65:9 καὶ ἐξάξω τὸ ἐξ Ιακωβ σπέρμα [singular] καὶ τὸ ἐξ Ιουδα καὶ κληρονομήσει [third person singular] τὸ ὄρος τὸ ἅγιόν μου καὶ κληρονομήσουσιν [third person plural] οἱ ἐκλεκτοί μου [plural] καὶ οἱ δοῦλοί [plural] μου καὶ κατοικήσουσιν [plural] ἐκεῖ (Isaiah 65:9 LXX).
For those who may be interested, the NETS Bible translates “shall inherit (singular)” as “it will inherit (singular)”. By choosing a neuter tense that matches the neuter tense of the word “seed,” they evade the necessity of committing to either singular or plural. So, once again, the reader can see how one’s theological preferences and biblical presuppositions influence one’s interpretation of text which can be read with more than correct grammatical meaning.
… next time, LW, punishments and rewards contrasted
By Christina M Wilson
God’s Negative Rewards
Nowadays, most people think of rewards as positive benefits–something good given as a result of an achievement or good behavior. So, what are negative rewards? By definition rewards include any consequence of any behavior, whether good or bad. Rewards are “payback,” or retribution. Luke 14:12 provides an example of a good reward, and Romans 11:9 of a bad reward.
In Isaiah 65, God spells out the kind of behaviors which he will not reward positively. Rather, certain behaviors Isaiah 65 names merit God’s negative rewards. Faith in God (placing one’s hope, trust, and loyalty with him) results in God’s positive rewards (benefits he bestows). Those who have no faith in God disobey him. They demonstrate apathy towards God, open rebellion, or willful disobedience. Such is the case with the majority of Old Testament Israel. In Septuagint Isaiah 65, God calls out these people and describes their negative rewards.
On the Negative Side
Septuagint Isaiah 65:2 sums up the entire situation in Israel from the beginning of their history to Isaiah’s current moment.
Septuagint Isaiah 65:2 I have stretched forth my hands all day to a disobedient and gainsaying people, to them that walked in a way that was not good, but after their sins.
Readers can sense the Lord’s wearied frustration with such behavior. His own people rejected him (John 1:11).
After the summary just quoted, the Lord gives detailed examples of their continual provocation in his presence (LXE 65:3).
- they offer sacrifices in gardens (verse 3)
- burn incense on bricks to nonexistent devils
- lie down to sleep in tombs and caves for the sake of dreams (verse 4)
- they eat pig’s flesh (pork) and drink the broth of unclean sacrifices
- all their vessels are ceremonially defiled
- they hypocritically say to the people around them, “Don’t come near me. You’ll defile me, for I am pure.” (verse 5)
In consequence of such flagrant disregard of God’s ways, God says this:
5… This is the smoke of my wrath, a fire burns with it continually. 6 Behold, it is written before me: I will not be silent until I have recompensed into their bosom, 7 their sins and the sins of their fathers, says the Lord, who have burnt incense on the mountains, and reproached me on the hills: I will recompense their works into their bosom. (LXE)
And from a Masoretic translation:
5… These people are like smoke in my nostrils, like a fire that keeps burning all day long. 6 Look, I have decreed: I will not keep silent, but will pay them back; I will pay them back exactly what they deserve, 7 for your sins and your ancestors’ sins,” says the LORD. “Because they burned incense on the mountains and offended me on the hills, I will punish them in full measure.” (Isaiah 65:5b, 6, 7 NET)
GOD’S NEGATIVE REWARDS
In Isaiah 65:11-12, God spells out unfaithful Israel’s rebellious behaviors and their negative rewards.
65:11 But you are they that have left me, and forget my holy mountain, and prepare a table for the devil, and fill up the drink-offering [Greek–mixture] to Fortune. 12 I will deliver you up to the sword, you shall all fall by slaughter: for I called you, and you listened not; I spoke, and you refused to hear; and you did evil in my sight, and chose the things wherein I delighted not. (LXE)
After verse 12, the text alternates rapidly between consequences to the faithful and consequences to the unfaithful. Throughout the verses concerning the unfaithful, God displays his abiding anger against those in Israel whose behavior displays a lack of allegiance to him (1).
In the alternate verses concerning God’s faithful remnant, the Lord names the blessings he will give his faithful people.
1 Inevitably, consideration of the topic of consequences to Israel’s unfaithful majority evokes thoughts about grace and faith versus works righteousness. As readers discover by closely following Isaiah, the text reveals the following. All Israel sinned (Isaiah 53:5-6; 64:5-7). But only a remnant consistently repents and then tries to obey (Isaiah 10:22; 65:8-9). Repentance and sincere efforts to obey God’s will constitute large portions of what we call faith. Faith involves our attitude toward sin. Do we sin and only regret that we can’t have more of it? Or, do we sin and regret that we have disappointed God and our Lord? Faith means that we trust God and his ways and strive with all our hearts to follow God’s path. God gives mercy to those who want him. Unfortunately, the bulk of Israel never wanted God nor his righteous ways. The grievances the Lord names in chapter 65 demonstrate Israel’s lack of faith. For a much fuller explanation of how behavior demonstrates the state of one’s faith, see Bates, Matthew W., Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.
next post, LW… God’s Faithful Remnant
By Christina M Wilson
God Replies to Isaiah’s Prayer
God is not secretive. As far as human history is concerned, he has no classified documents, and he springs no surprises. People can be confident that God is God, because he announces his actions well in advance. Isaiah in chapters 63 through 64 prayed an ardent plea for God’s favorable return and blessing upon Israel, his collective people. Immediately, in chapter 65, God replies to Isaiah’s prayer of intercession. For anyone with ears to hear, his answer is not encouraging for the majority of the nation. He did not hide his heart. So, what did God say?
Summary of God’s Reply
God replies to Isaiah’s prayer with four statements.
1. He will reveal himself openly to Gentiles (Septuagint Isaiah 65:1).
2. He will reward those who disdain him with fruit befitting their evil ways (Septuagint Isaiah 65:2-7, 11-12).
3. He will spare the faithful remnant (Septuagint Isaiah 65:8-10).
4. He will call his servants by a new name (Septuagint Isaiah 65:15).
God Will Reveal Himself to Gentiles
LXE Isaiah 65:1 I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name.
ESV Isaiah 65:1 I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name.
Paul the Apostle is the best interpreter of Isaiah I know. His quotation of Septuagint Isaiah 65:1 appears embedded in a long discussion concerning the failure of Israel as a whole to receive (welcome) the earthly appearance of God’s Servant/King/Messiah in the flesh, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Romans 10:20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” (ESV)
Paul writes concerning the entire chapter of Isaiah 65 in Romans 9 through 11. In these chapters, Paul makes clear that salvation comes through God’s Servant Christ alone. And, he speaks clearly that God’s people are those who demonstrate faith in Christ. Ethnicity no longer matters. God’s mercy will extend to everyone of any ethnicity (Israelites included), who come to him through faith in his Servant, Jesus Christ. If any unbeliever of any ethnicity repents, they will be received by God and included in his mercy (Romans 11:30-32).
John the Apostle also clarifies that God receives those who believe on the Son. God no longer favors ethnicity.
John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Isaiah 65 Not Predominately About Gentiles
When God replies to Isaiah’s prayer, he announces one of the largest shifts in all human history in a single verse. Nevertheless, God’s presenting himself to Gentiles is not the focus of chapter 65. Isaiah as a whole gives much space to inclusion of Gentiles among God’s favored people. Chapter 65, however, is not where he does so (1). In chapter 65, God responds to Isaiah’s heartfelt intercessory prayer by opening up his own heart concerning his ancient people Israel.
1 Readers can find verses concerning Gentiles in Septuagint Isaiah 2:2; 11:10,12; 25:6-7; 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; 52:15; 54:1-3; 55:4-5; 56:3-8; 59:19; 60:1-11, and 16.
…next time, Lord willing, God’s negative rewards
By Christina M Wilson
Isaiah prays one of the longest intercessory prayers recorded in Scripture. It stretches from Isaiah 63:7-64:12. In this prayer of intercession, Isaiah acknowledges the relationship between God and Israel–as it was, as it is, and as he pleads it will be.
As It Was
As Isaiah prays, he recalls to God his relationship with Israel as it once was. Isaiah 63:7 opens when Isaiah remembers the praise and adoration due the Lord.
7 I remembered the mercy of the Lord, the praises of the Lord in all things wherein he recompenses us. The Lord is a good judge to the house of Israel; he deals with us according to his mercy, and according to the abundance of his righteousness. (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 63:7)
Isaiah remembers the “ancient days.” He remembers Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and the glory the nation of Israel and foreigners gave to God’s name (verses 11-14). But Isaiah also confesses for the people, as he remembers their rebellion and disobedience (vs 10).
As It Is
Verse 15 opens the portion that describes the current status of Israel’s relationship with God. Isaiah prays these words.
15 Turn from heaven, and look from your holy habitation and from your glory: where is your zeal and your strength? where is the abundance of your mercy and of your compassions, that you have withholden yourself from us? (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 63:15)
The prophet perceives that the heavenly God of glory has turned away from his people. Not only does he not work compassionately and mercifully on their behalf, God has withheld himself. There is no fellowship of communion currently with the Lord. As the prayer continues, Isaiah’s words cut through to the core issue: God is sovereign. God’s will underlies everything that happens to the people (verse 17). “Religion” is of no avail. Without God himself among them, Israel may as well be a pagan nation.
16 For you are our Father; for though Abraham knew us not, and Israel did not acknowledge us, yet do you, O Lord, our Father, deliver us: your name has been upon us from the beginning. 17 Why have you caused us to err, O Lord, from your way? and has hardened our hearts, that we should not fear you? Return for your servants’ sake, for the sake of the tribes of your inheritance, 18 that we may inherit a small part of your holy mountain. 19 We are become as at the beginning, when you did not rule over us, and your name was not called upon us. (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 63:16-19)
As He Pleads It Will Be
As chapter 64 opens, Isaiah prays how he hopes it will be.
1 If you would open the heaven, trembling will take hold upon the mountains from you, and they shall melt, 2 as wax melts before the fire; and fire shall burn up the enemies, and your name shall be manifest among the adversaries: at your presence the nations shall be troubled, 3 whenever you shall work gloriously; trembling from you shall take hold upon the mountains. 4 From of old we have not heard, neither have our eyes seen a God beside you, and your works which you will perform to them that wait for mercy. (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 64:1-4)
Isaiah shows that he understands the conditions under which God would bless the people. God blesses those who practice righteousness and reverence toward him.
5a For these blessings shall happen to them that work righteousness, and they shall remember your ways…
Unfortunately, God’s people practice neither righteousness nor reverence. In the next few verses, Isaiah confesses Israel’s sin, as though he were part of it.
5b… behold, you were angry and we have sinned; therefore we have erred, 6 and we are all become as unclean, and all our righteousness as a filthy rag: and we have fallen as leaves because of our iniquities; thus the wind shall carry us away. 7 And there is none that calls upon your name, or that remembers to take hold on you: for you have turned your face away from us, and have delivered us up because of our sins. (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 64:5-7)
After confessing Israel’s sin, Isaiah pleads for mercy from the Lord.
8 And now, O Lord, you are our Father, and we are clay, all of us the work of your hands. 9 Be not very angry with us, and remember not our sins for ever; but now look on us, for we are all your people. 10 The city of your holiness has become desolate, Sion has become as a wilderness, Jerusalem a curse. 11 The house, our sanctuary, and the glory which our fathers blessed, has been burnt with fire: and all our glorious things have gone to ruin. 12 And for all these things you, O Lord, has withholden, yourself, and been silent, and have brought us very low. (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 64:8-12)
As Isaiah prays this final section, he returns to the main points with which he began. He reviews again Israel’s position relative to God, and vice versa. The people are as clay, created beings in the hands of an almighty, sovereign God. “We are all your people,” he says in verse 9.
As the prophet reviews the current situation as it is, he places God at the center. Sion, with its sanctuary, once reflected the glory of God. Men praised God because of it. It is God’s glory in Sion that lies burnt and ruined. Isaiah repeats the sentiment he expressed in verse 15: God has withheld himself. That is the core of the current problem, as well as the key to its solution. Basically, Isaiah prays for the people, “We’re sorry, Lord. We sinned. Please come back.”
Isaiah Makes No Promises
Interestingly, Isaiah makes no promises. The repentance he expresses does not include vows of future good behavior on the part of Israel. Isaiah’s plea rests entirely upon the mercy of God. It is for God’s glory that he prays. If God wants to soften their hearts unto obedience, he will do so. Without God, the people have no strength for good works at all. God’s presence among them is what he longs for.
1 If you would open the heaven, trembling will take hold upon the mountains from you, and they shall melt, 2 as wax melts before the fire; and fire shall burn up the enemies, and your name shall be manifest among the adversaries: at your presence the nations shall be troubled, 3 whenever you shall work gloriously; trembling from you shall take hold upon the mountains. (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 64:1-3)
The answer lies with God, and God alone.
A Peek Ahead
God answers Isaiah’s prayer in chapter 65. Perhaps, it is not what Isaiah would have liked. Nevertheless, God’s reply to Isaiah’s plea contradicts nothing he has already said.
…next post–God´s reply
By Christina M Wilson
God “Opens Up”
Current news stories often use the phrase, so-and-so “opens up” about something. To “open up” about something often means to tell one’s subjective feelings about a current or prior experience. In this last cycle of repetition in the book of Isaiah (see Devotional 2.87), God seems to be “opening up” about everything that’s gone before in Israel’s history.
Clearly, chapters 63-66 of Septuagint Isaiah are the last chapters in the book. They form the conclusion to the whole. But not only do these chapters conclude the book of Isaiah, they also perform the function of summarizing God’s entire history with his people. In a sense, they summarize the Old Testament. At times the prophet uses his own voice to review this history (Isaiah 63:7-14; 64:10-11). In other portions of the text, God speaks out, revealing the pain in his heart in a most remarkable way (Isaiah 65:2-7, 11-13) (1).
God also announces “new things” (Isaiah 43:19). He is about to take an enormous turn, a leap into a future realm that will be completely different from what has gone before.
65:1 I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:1, see also Isaiah 65:1 ESV)
So, in this last packet God “opens up” and explains himself fully, not that he hasn’t already done so several times throughout all the previous chapters. But this packet gives an overview of the whole, accompanied by a preview of future changes.
The last packet of the book (the final cycle of repetition) opens with a vision. Isaiah the prophet, as though he were a watchman upon a wall, announces in Isaiah 63:1 the approach of a figure dressed in bright red clothing (verses 1-2). The observer recognizes the great power of this figure and asks who this is. The Lord replies in first person.
1 [the watchman asks] Who is this that is come from Edom, with red garments from Bosor? thus fair in his apparel, with mighty strength? [the figure replies] I speak of righteousness and saving judgment. (Isaiah 63:1, LXE; see also Isaiah 63:1, ESV)
Although Isaiah never names the figure in red, the words themselves of verses 1-6 indicate that this is the Lord. Only God has the authority and power to speak and do what the text describes. The figure is divine. Yet because the text provides a physical description of the figure, it seems reasonable to conclude that the divine figure is not God Almighty, who has never been seen. There is no other divine being in Isaiah other than God’s Servant from chapter 53 and elsewhere. It is true that occasionally the Spirit of God is also mentioned, but this figure is not God’s Spirit. The words and voice of the figure’s speech belong to Yahweh, Israel’s God of the Old Testament.
The watchman next asks the figure to explain why his clothes are bright red, as one who treads in a winepress (Isaiah 63:2). The figure’s answer shocks with the force of its violence.
3 I am full of trodden grape, and of the nations there is not a man with me; and I trampled them in my fury, and dashed them to pieces as earth, and brought down their blood to the earth. (LXE)
In the subsequent verse the Lord speaks of condemnation and salvation in the same breath.
4 For the day of recompence has come upon them, and the year of redemption is at hand. (LXE)
For some there is condemnation, and for others, salvation.
- Verse 1 specifies Edom and Bozrah as recipients of God’s anger. In verse 6, the Septuagint translation simply writes “them.” The Masoretic text, on the other hand, uses a Hebrew word that can mean either “people, peoples, nation, tribe, non-Israelites,” depending on context. I believe it is safe to describe those in both verses as the enemies of Israel.
- God, however, saves his own people.
Verse 5 expands the two statements of verse 4–both the recompense and the redemption.
5 And I looked, and there was no helper; and I observed, and none upheld: therefore my arm delivered them, and my anger drew near. (LXE)
Verse 6, as previously discussed, closes this section of God’s expressed anger against those who harm his people.
6 And I trampled them in my anger, and brought down their blood to the earth. (LXE) (2)
When Do These Things Happen?
Isaiah at times uses prophetic present and past tenses to indicate future occurrences. Examples occur in Septuagint Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 53:1-8. But do all Isaiah’s visions refer to the future? Although some might disagree, I propose that the vision of Septuagint Isaiah 63:1-6 refers to what has already occurred in Israel’s past. The remainder of chapters 63-66 support this conjecture.
First, the words of verse 7, the very next verse, look to the past.
Isaiah 63:7 I remembered the mercy of the Lord, the praises of the Lord in all things wherein he recompenses us. The Lord is a good judge to the house of Israel; he deals with us according to his mercy, and according to the abundance of his righteousness. (LXE)
The prophet in verse 7 states that he remembers. Remembering indicates past events. Then, following verse 7, verses 8-14 recount the history of God and his people. Chapter 64 also recounts past events. Therefore, grouping the first six verses as introductory to the subsequent eight verses makes good sense. In all his past actions, God has recompensed Israel’s enemies and shown mercy to his own people.
Interpretations which see a future fulfillment of this passage cut out and separate the first six verses of chapter 63 from the multitude of verses which follow in the remainder of chapters 63 and chapter 64. While treating the vision of the figure in red as a separate, isolated passage, some interpreters say that these verses describe a situation following the far, far distant “great tribulation” and the Lord’s return to set up a millennial kingdom.
All such ideas are imported from interpretations of biblical passages elsewhere in Scripture. Nothing in Isaiah itself provides any time marker to indicate that the prophet speaks of tremendously future events, or even any future event. By “tremendously future,” I mean events that would jump over and beyond the most significant happening in all of human history–the advent of Christ, the birthing, life, death, and resurrection of very God of very in the flesh. No vision of any “millennial kingdom” will ever surpass this event in awesome wonder and glory.
A Summary of Isaiah’s Closing Chapters
The vision of the Figure in red presents the image of God as a vengeful warrior protecting his favored child from their enemies (Isaiah 63:1-6). The next three verses present the image of God rescuing his children. On the one hand, God destroys Israel’s enemies. On the other hand, but at the same time, God rescues those children.
63:8 The Lord said, “These are my people. My children will not lie to me.” So the Lord saved them. (ICB)
Then, in verse 10, the prophet becomes a narrator. He relates how the children turned against the Lord and his Holy Spirit, bringing him grief. So, the Lord himself contended against them (v 10). Eventually, the people remembered their first exodus from Egypt with Moses, by the hand of the Lord, when his name became wonderful to them (vv 11-14). Upon this remembrance, the prophet/narrator shifts to intercession (v 15). His intercession continues from Isaiah 63:15 through the end of the next chapter in Isaiah 64:12.
At this point, after such heart-felt confession and pleading for yet another salvation (Isaiah 63:15-64:12), the reader might reasonably expect the Lord to relent. It would not be out of his character, the character he consistently displayed for nearly two thousand years. The reader might expect the Lord to say, [in paraphrase] “Okay, yes, I hear you. I will forgive you once again and bear you in my arms for deliverance from your enemies one more time. I will behave in the same manner I did when I trod down in my wrath the grapes of the nations who sought to annihilate you (Isaiah 63:1-6). I will come through for you and rescue you yet again.”
But, that is not what the Lord says in reply to Isaiah’s intercession on behalf of the Lord’s people. Rather, he announces a sharp turn in history. The Lord answers Isaiah’s importunate pleadings with this paraphrase, “No. Not again. This time, I’m turning to the Gentiles.” (For corroboration from the parables of Jesus, see footnote 3.)
Isaiah 65:1 I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint version)
The Lord then rehearses his many grievances against his people (65:2-7). This is not the first time in Isaiah that the Lord has plainly shared the faults he finds with those he blesses so ardently throughout the many long centuries of their history (see Isaiah 1:2-14; 5:1-14; 57:1-13).
But yet, in spite of all his wrath, God does respond positively to Isaiah’s intercession in Isaiah 65:8-9. He will save a faithful remnant (grapes with juice in them). He describes their blessings (Isaiah 65:8-10). Then, from Isaiah 65:11-16, the Lord describes the punishment he will give to the unfaithful of his own people. He doesn’t speak of their enemies this time, as he did in Isaiah 63:1-6, but of they themselves. He contrasts these punishments with the reward he will give his faithful remnant. These contrasts continue through to the end of the book. We will end the detailed paraphrase here.
A Five Sentence Paraphrase
The following five sentences summarize the closing four chapters of Septuagint Isaiah.
It used to be like this with Israel. It will soon be this other way. Nevertheless, I will redeem and bless my faithful remnant. And, I will extend my blessings and redemption to Gentiles (Isaiah 65:1). The world is about to change.
1 Since the God who speaks is Yahweh, then yes, God does feel pain. (He is passible.) Yahweh is the God of Old Testament Israel who manifests himself in remarkably human-relatable ways. This same Yahweh is he who incarnates in the New Testament, where he cries out from the cross, “I thirst!” (John 19:28).
2 Isaiah 6:1-13 provides another example of a visually expressive vision. Note that this vision occurs near the beginning of the book, while the vision of the figure in red occurs near the end. The vision in Isaiah 6 is also an overview of Israel’s entire history up until return from the exile. But where the vision in chapter 6 looks forward, the vision in Isaiah 63 looks backward.
3 In his parables, Jesus/Servant/Messiah often taught the same message as the prophet Isaiah. See, for example, the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-15), the Parable of the Vineyard (Luke 20:9-20), the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9), and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:16-31).
By Christina M Wilson
Cycle 3: Patterns of Repetition
Isaiah 63 begins the third prophetic cycle of repetition in Volume 2 (see prior post for a description of the cycles). What patterns of repetition in the text indicate for readers that a new cycle has begun?
Details that Indicate a New Cycle
I. A Major “Throwback”
Watching Isaiah perform another abrupt turnabout should not surprise readers who follow him closely. What about this turnabout? First, chapters 60-62 speak unremittingly of blessings to Sion/Jerusalem. These names collectively represent the faithful remnant of Israel. God joins believing Gentiles to this remnant. It appears the prophet takes the reader right up near the end of all history. Jerusalem’s blessings will be permanent. But then, without warning, chapter 63 switches back to condemnation.
At first, it appears that the figure dressed in red (verse 1) condemns the nations. But a little further on, the condemnation switches to the Lord’s own people (verses 63:9-10f). How can the Lord be condemning those in chapter 63 whom he just blessed in chapter 62? Once again in the book of Isaiah, the reader must decide, is God unstable? The answer is, of course, no. God is not unstable. Isaiah simply begins a new cycle of repetition.
II. Volume 2 Repeats the Closing of Volume 1
If we consider Isaiah 36-39 about Hezekiah to be an addendum to Volume 1 of Isaiah, then chapters 34 and 35 constitute its conclusion.
- Septuagint Isaiah 34 deals mostly with the final judgment of the world. Verses 1-4 concern the nations. Verses 5-14 specifically describe the judgment upon Idumea (Edom) and Bosor (Bozrah), a city within Edom. These together represent the area where Esau and his progeny settled.
- After chapter 34 concerning judgment, then Septuagint Isaiah 35 describes the eternal joy of those
who participate in God’s blessings. These include the faithful of Israel (“my people” of verse 2) and all the redeemed of the world (Isaiah 35:10). Sion (Zion) will be their eternal home.
Septuagint Isaiah 63-66 concludes both Volume 2 and the book of Isaiah as a whole. Chapters 63-66 repeat the pattern of chapters 34-35.
- The judgment of Septuagint Isaiah 63:1-6 strongly resembles the judgment of Septuagint Isaiah 34. Both judgments specifically mention Edom and Bosra (Isaiah 34:5-6 and Isaiah 63:1). Both chapters use the word recompence (or recompense) (Septuagint Isaiah 34:8 and Septuagint Isaiah 63:4).
- Both passages describe the eternal blessings of the redeemed.
- One difference between the two sets of concluding chapters is detail. Chapters 34 and 35 present an overview of both judgment and redemption. Chapters 63-66, on the other hand, go into great detail concerning God’s protracted dealings with Israel throughout its long history.
- A second difference is that the judgment and redemption sections of chapters 34 and 35 do not mix. First, the judgment is described, then the joyous state of the redeemed. The text does not switch back and forth between the two. In the closing chapters of Volume 2, however, the prophet continually addresses both judgment and salvation in a back and forth manner, alternating the one with the other. In fact, the entire book closes with a single, horrible description of final judgment.
III. Cycles One, Two, and Three of Volume 2
Cycle 3 of Isaiah (Isaiah 63-66) contains each of the four elements of cycle 1 (Isaiah 40:1-56:8) and cycle 2 (Isaiah 56:9-62:12) (see Cycles of Repetition in Isaiah). These elements are 1) Israel’s need (Septuagint Isaiah 63:10-64:12), 2) the Servant’s coming and sacrifice (Septuagint Isaiah 63:8-9), 3) outcome for believing Israel and believing Gentiles (Isaiah 63:9; 65:1, 8-10, 15-25; 66:12-14, 18-23), and 4) judgment upon the rebellious (Isaiah 63:1-6; 65:3-7, 11-15; 66:3-4, 15-18, 24).
Difficulties in Reading Isaiah
Readers encounter many difficulties in the study of Isaiah. The book is a large, somewhat overwhelming book of prophecy. Readers can become lost in its seemingly minute details. The text manifests few time markers. Enormous, abrupt shifts in topic occur, often without any transition words whatsoever. God himself seems to flip-flop between the judgment of condemnation for his people and pronouncements of magnificent blessings.
Two Textual Keys
Two important keys of interpretation exist. The first is to realize from the text itself that “not all Israel is Israel.” God consistently addresses two different groups of people within the body politic. The first group consists of Israelites who are rebellious in heart. The second group consists of those who display a willingness to confess and turn to God. God condemns the rebellious people and blesses the contrite. These groups manifest throughout the entire book.
A second key of interpretation is the realization that Isaiah does not progress in an orderly, chronological fashion. Rather, Isaiah progresses in somewhat disorderly, topical fashion. Isaiah’s message contains relatively few major topics. These include 1) judgment upon the nations, 2) judgment upon unfaithful Israel, 3) salvation of repentant and obedient Israel, 4) the Servant, who bears the totality of deliverance, and 5) inclusion of believing Gentiles within the Servant’s kingdom.
As these topics continually repeat, especially in Volume 2 (chapters 40-66), a reader begins to perceive discrete packets. I have called these packets “cycles of repetition”. These cycles of repetition form the structure of the book. By allowing Isaiah to interpret Isaiah, that is, by not importing theological constructs from elsewhere, a reader will begin to perceive Isaiah’s strongly gospel-centered, New Testament message of judgment and salvation through God’s Servant, who is God himself.
Isaiah’s Final Chapters
Chapters 63-66 conclude both Volume 2 and the entire book. Within this cycle of repetition, God in his own words reveals and explains his heart in a directly open and bluntly clear way. His words span the course of Israel’s entire history from its inception to its future, eternal end. Within this overview, God does not neglect to mention his inclusion of Gentiles within the community of Sion and Jerusalem, whom he chooses to bless. The text also gives readers a deep view into the heart of Israel’s redeemed, as well as descriptions of the rebellious ways of the condemned. None of this is new material. Chapters 63-66 repeat what Isaiah has already said elsewhere. This cycle of repetition constitutes a summary of both God’s judgmental anger and merciful salvation. In these chapters, God speaks with a strength and coherency fitting for the conclusion of the book.
… Lord willing, the next post will begin consideration of the details of Isaiah’s final cycle of repetition.