By Christina M Wilson
1 Thus says the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of a house will you build me? and of what kind is to be the place of my rest? 2 For all these things are mine, says the Lord: and to whom will I have respect, but to the humble and meek, and the man that trembles at my words? (LXE, Septuagint Isaiah 66:1-2)
God Describes Two Kinds of Worshipers
Isaiah 66 opens with God speaking about the kind of worship he desires. In verse 1, he states that he is too large to fit into any size of “concrete-physical” building. As Creator, he is more important and more powerful than any kind of physical, human construction might indicate. He is builder and owner of everything in the entire universe. No humanly built, physical structure can possibly give him the honor he deserves.
Yet, in one of the greatest ironies of all existence, God himself is humble. In verse 2, he states that he finds his rest among the humble, meek, and obedient of this world. These are the “tiny” people, the people whom the world with all its glitz, pomp, wealth, power, and pride mock and scorn. These are the people whom God favors. Their obedience to him equates with worship. God’s “house” is to abide among them.
THE OUTWARD, CEREMONIAL, INSINCERE WORSHIPER
In today’s speech, God is “authentic.” Verses 3-4 describe the outward, cultic, ceremonial form of worship the insincere of heart give to God. He rejects this. What he wants from those who worship is a heart attitude that agrees with and seeks to follow the character and merciful actions of the Lord himself.
3 But the transgressor that sacrifices a calf to me, is as he that kills a dog; and he that offers fine flour, as one that offers swine’s blood; he that gives frankincense for a memorial, is as a blasphemer. Yet they have chosen their own ways, and their soul has delighted in their abominations. 4 I also will choose their mockeries, and will recompense their sins upon them; because I called them, and they did not listen to me; I spoke, and they heard not: and they did evil before me, and chose the things wherein I delighted not. (Septuagint Isaiah 66:3-4)
THE WORSHIPER WHO REVERES GOD AND HIS COMMANDS
In Isaiah 66:5, God speaks directly to the worshipers whom he himself chooses. He says, “Hear the words of the Lord, you that tremble at his word;” (confer verse 2).
5 Hear the words of the Lord, you that tremble at his word; speak you, our brethren, to them that hate you and abominate you, that the name of the Lord may be glorified, and may appear their joy; but they shall be ashamed. (LXE, Brenton)
5 Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word; speak, our brothers, to those who hate and abominate us so that the name of the Lord may be glorified and seen in their joy, but those ones shall be put to shame. (NETS, New English Translation of the Septuagint)
The middle portion of this verse appears differently in every English version I have read. See three examples below.
5 Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. (Isaiah 66:5 ESV)
5 Hear the words of Yahweh, you who tremble at what he says: “Shame on your own people, who reject you and hate you, claiming they do it for my sake. For they mock you, saying, ‘May Yahweh be glorified; let us see you rejoice.'” (The Passion Translation)
5 You people who obey the words of the Lord, listen to what he says: “Your brothers hated you. They turned against you because you followed me. Your brothers said, ‘When the Lord is honored, we will come back and rejoice with you.’ But they will be punished.'” (International Children’s Bible)
Yet the ending clause is the same in every translation. The Lord will heap shame upon those who hate the Lord’s faithful people. All translations agree upon the following two points. God commands his faithful to speak to those who hate and abominate them. In the end, those people who hate God’s faithful, and by extension, God himself, will be put to shame.
Verse 6 presents the action God will take in fulfillment of the prophecy in verse 5.
6 A voice of a cry from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord rendering recompence to his adversaries. (Isaiah 66:6 Septuagint)
When will the recompence (payback, retribution) occur? Isaiah doesn’t say.
To whom does the Lord render retribution? Isaiah tells us that the Lord will recompence his “adversaries,” that is, his enemies. According to lexicons, the Greek word means “to be set over against, lie opposite to.” Its Greek pronunciation begins with the prefix “anti.”
In the current context of Isaiah, who are the enemies of the Lord? Clearly, they are those of Israel whom the Lord describes in Septuagint Isaiah 66:3-5. These are they to whom the Lord ascribes the metaphors signifying those who “kill dogs” and offer “swine’s blood” (verse 3), perform blasphemies (verse 3), whose soul “has delighted in their abominations” (verse 3), who mock, sin, do not hear the Lord, who do evil in his presence, and choose the things in which the Lord does not delight (verse 4). These are the ones who “hate” and “abominate” those who tremble, or revere and follow, the word of the Lord (verse 5). An attentively honest reader may well ask, Could these abominations be any worse than the “abomination that causes desolation”?
Notice that the “voice of a cry” and “a voice from the temple” is a “voice of the Lord.” The voice comes from the city and from the temple. This Greek word “from” means “out of” (ἐκ). The Lord is in his temple wreaking recompense upon his enemies. Therefore, the enemies must be in the temple. Who is in the temple in this passage of Isaiah? They are those who offer him ceremonial sacrifices there. It is because of the abominations of those who call themselves the Lord’s people and yet offer ceremonial sacrifices to him, that the Lord lifts his voice and cries out from the temple, rendering recompence to these his adversaries (Septuagint Isaiah 66:6.) Could anything be more final than this? Could they themselves be the “abomination that causes desolation”? (See Revelation 2:9 and 3:9.)
The text also most strongly states that the remnant who hears the Lord, who follows him, and whom he chooses to bless are ethnically identical to those whom he abhors. So readers see and know that ethnicity is NOT the issue. God’s standard is how one responds to him. Does one respond with reverence or with opposition? Both–the same ethnicity.
New Testament Fulfillment
The next post, Lord willing, will explore New Testament fulfillment of these first six verses of the final chapter of Isaiah. But first, a word about hermeneutics.
A Word Concerning Hermeneutics
The word “hermeneutics” means the theory and practice of interpretation. Jesus uses this word when he interprets the Old Testament to his followers. One could say, he hermeneuticked to them.
Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (ESV)
The basis of the hermeneutic Jesus always uses is himself. National Israel is never a primary focal point of his hermeneutic.
John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (ESV)
The center of Paul’s hermeneutic is Jesus Christ. One can say the same concerning the focal point Peter uses in his hermeneutic, as well as that of all the writers of the New Testament.
Clearly granted, Isaiah speaks much about Israel in his writing. Nevertheless, without any doubt whatsoever, God himself is the focal point of Isaiah. God speaks directly throughout the vast majority of Volume 2. And, the salvation God provides for Israel is exclusively through his Servant. God’s divine Servant appears throughout the book. He is the center point of Israel’s future.
New Testament Light
Those who concern themselves with theology and the study of Scripture will certainly encounter, or themselves author, statements that exhort readers to use what they consider to be the preferred method of Old Testament interpretation. One of the primary rules “scholars” often propound is that readers should attempt to perceive what the text most likely would mean to the original audience. (This quietly assumes that they themselves are in the best position to know what ancient audiences would understand.) One can sometimes hear these scholars admonishing their audience not to read the Bible “backward” (my word, not theirs). What they say is that today’s readers often read the Old Testament in the light of the New. That is, readers use the New Testament to cast light upon, or interpret, the meaning of the Old. They often discourage this practice.
This blog is not like that. I have always stated up front (see My Biblical Presuppositions and Introduction) that the purpose of this series of posts is to discover the Lord Jesus Christ in what I like to call the Gospel of Isaiah. There is a proper time for today’s readers to encounter the Old Testament in the light of the New. That time is most of the time. God is genius. He wrote thousands of years ago for readers of today. Paul writes that those living in his day were living in the “end of the ages.” The end times had already landed upon them. And, he says, the Old Testament was written for their instruction. What is true of them is also true of us.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (ESV)
Jesus wanted his followers to understand that God wrote the Old Testament (2 Peter 1:20-21) about himself (Christ) (Luke 24:27) and for his disciples, which we are. A primary reason not to be bound to the understanding of the “original audience” is that the original audience failed to recognize their Christ when he came.
In school, students often find that they must take a prerequisite to a course before they can take the course itself. Isaiah is like a prerequisite to both the gospel itself and the letters. Isaiah turns on the light to much of the New Testament. And I prefer using Septuagint Isaiah for the very reason that this translation pushes the Servant, Christ, to the forefront of the text. I do not want to be one of the “foolish ones” the Lord describes (Luke 24:25), “slow of heart to believe”, by not seeking and finding him in the pages of Isaiah.