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Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–13

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Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal – 12

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This Site Has Migrated!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In America we have a holiday called, “Thanksgiving Day.” Originally, it meant that we were giving thanks to God. Over the years, it devolved into just naming things we were thankful for. And in many quarters, most often among children, it’s called Turkey Day.

The picture in this post speaks to me on many levels. First, it reminds me that even in the midst of the horrible year that 2020 has been, there are rainbows and much to be thankful for. Soon after that thought, however, I see the rainbow that God placed in the sky after the grand catastrophe of Noah’s Flood. That was the flood in which God in his anger destroyed everything that lived upon the earth. He placed the rainbow for Noah and his children as a memorial for them. It reminds us of God’s promise that he will never destroy the earth again by water. So later, instead of pouring his wrath out on the entire world, he poured it onto His Son. Now, the whole world can receive life in him. God is for us, not against us.

Finally, the picture speaks to me of my own life. There would be no rainbow without the rain. There would be no spring without the winter. There would be no great joy in sunshine without the darkness of clouds. There would be no bountiful harvest without the labor of tilling, planting, watering, and weeding. There would be no resurrection without the cross. In any great story it’s the ending that matters. I used to pray to the Lord, Please don’t let this be the last page of my story. Don’t let the book of my life stop here.

God’s endings are good endings. Have you asked him to write a good ending for your life? If so, won’t you join with me today in giving wonderful thanks and praise to our good, great God and King, Jesus Christ, and his father God? Thank-you, Lord! And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–11

And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. (Isaiah 4:3 LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Does this verse ring any Christian bells?

Even though Malachi was written some 300 years after Isaiah, Isaiah 4:3 and Malachi 3:16-18 appear to have much in common.

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (ESV)

The phrase “those who feared the LORD,” means those who respected, took seriously, honored, and were cautious not to disobey the precepts of the Lord. Proverbs 3:7 uses this phrase as one of the sources for the meaning I gave, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil,” (ESV). The portion, “turn away from evil,” also captures the latter portion of Isaiah 4:3, “they shall be called holy.” A better known verse using the word “fear” is Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight,” (ESV). But listen to the Septuagint for the same verse, Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the <1> beginning {summit} of wisdom, and the counsel of saints is understanding: for to know the law is the character of a sound mind,” (LXE). I love when Scripture interlocks with Scripture: “the counsel of saints” in Proverbs dovetails so nicely with Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel,” (LXE). One is reminded that the same author (God) wrote all four of these verses.

Although it might seem like a small point (but our God is a God of detail), the Septuagint translation notes for Proverbs 9:10, detail that the phrase, “beginning of wisdom,” is written literally as the “summit” of wisdom. This corresponds with Septuagint Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.” Looking up the Greek lexicon (dictionary) definition of “exalt,” we read, “to lift up, raise high,” (Gingrich), i.e., to the summit.

Combining and paraphrasing these five verses, Isaiah 4:2 and 4:3, Malachi 3:16, Proverbs 3:7 and 9:10, we arrive at the following understanding:

In that day, God shall shine gloriously among the remnant who fears the Lord and obeys his commands. They will excel in the good counsel of God and turn away from evil. God will take notice, and having written their names in his book, they shall be called holy.

What is this book in which God writes? What is this book with names of people who have been appointed for life? And, why will these people be called “holy?”

First, what book?

Perhaps the fullest description of “written to life,” in the Bible is Revelation 20:12-15–

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12 ESV)

But this is a stretch, isn’t it, to go from Isaiah 4:3 to Revelation 20? The Septuagint phrase, “appointed to life” is literally, “written for life,” as the footnote states, “οἱ γραφέντες εἰς ζωὴν ἐν Ιερουσαλημ (Isa 4:3 LXT).” 

But then, how do we go from “in Jerusalem” to the lake of fire at the final Great White Throne judgment? By faith is the only way. Consider these verses–

Galatians 4:25 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. (ESV)

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (ESV)

 Revelation 3:12 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. (ESV)

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… [The omitted verses describe the physical appearance of the new Jerusalem]… 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21:2-27 ESV)

Clearly, if one accepts the presupposition (by faith) that Isaiah is a messianic prophet of enormous proportions, then the texts bind together very well. Notice that verse 27 in Revelation 21 speaks of the holiness of the residents of the new Jerusalem, “nothing unclean… nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.” Compare this with the Septuagint text of Isaiah 4:3, “…the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, (LXE).

But is Isaiah a messianic prophet of enormous proportions? According to several websites, Isaiah is the second most frequently cited book by New Testament authors. Psalms is the most often cited. All the Isaianic quotations found in the New Testament are referenced in the book Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament by Archer and Chirichigno. (1) Since the New Testament is predominantly about Christ, it seems fair to suggest that Isaiah is quoted so frequently due to his messianic relevance.

Nevertheless, there are also Old Testament references to God’s Book. Perhaps the earliest reference is Exodus 32:31-32–

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin– but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written,” (ESV).

Other verses include: Psalm 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and let them not be written with the righteous,” (LXE); Daniel 12:1, and Malachi 3:16 (see above).

What can be said about the holiness of those who are “appointed to life in Jerusalem?” The answer to this question lies in the subsequent verses of this blessed passage. We will consider these in a later post, Lord willing.

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1 Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983, 92-134. One site with an easy graphic is: http://www.biblecharts.org/thebible/thetenoldtestamentbooksmostcitedinthenewtestament.pdf. A site that lists the number of direct quotations is: https://conservapedia.com/Most_quoted_books_in_the_Bible.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–10

 

NET Isaiah 4:2 At that time the crops given by the LORD will bring admiration and honor; the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight to those who remain in Israel.

Considering the NET version as a stand-alone verse, a reader might be drawn to surmise that Isaiah speaks about a time when many people had moved away from Israel, and those who remained were blessed with wonderful, prize-winning agriculture. “At that time,” is a general marker, not too specific, not particularly definite, not especially memorable. “Crops given by the Lord,” would be difficult to interpret in a metaphorical sense. As previously stated, the Lord seems to have blessed the agriculture. “Produce of the land,” is a concrete-literal term, similar to crops, not easily interpreted metaphorically.

I wonder how many biblical readers consider the NET Bible to be a paraphrase? My guess would be not too many, possibly because it provides a multitude of marginal notes: translation, historical, text critical, and subject. However, consider the NIV translation below. This is a translation of the same verse based predominantly upon the same Hebrew text.

NIV Isaiah 4:2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.

Most readers will be able to notice tremendous differences. Even though the Hebrew underlying each is identical or very similar (1), the translators chose to proceed in quite different directions. First, while the NET opens with, “At that time,” the NIV opens with, “In that day.” The phrase “in that day” was discussed in some detail in the prior journal entry, Journal 9. Briefly, there are a fairly large number of verses that use this phrase both within Isaiah, other parts of the Old Testament, and the gospels. These other verses lead a reader to draw the conclusion that texts with this phrase indicate a specific period of time after the advent of Christ. NET Bible includes a small, marginal note that states that the KJV uses this phrase.

For purposes of comparison, I’m including below the ESV, which is fairly new (2007, 2011) and tends toward a formally literal translation of the original text. Its translation is based on the RSV, in which the first word, Revised, refers to a revision of the KJV, which is itself a mostly literal translation written in beautiful English. As stated in its preface, “The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983).” So here we have three translations, all based upon the same Hebrew text. (1) The NIV claims to be “dynamically equivalent.” That is, they attempt to capture the literal, original meaning but stated in a way perhaps more palatable to the modern ear. The ESV claims to be “essentially literal.” The NET Bible’s preface states, “The philosophy of the NET Bible translators was to be interpretive when such an interpretation represents the best thinking of recent scholarship.” Here then is the ESV of the same verse.

ESV Isaiah 4:2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Readers can readily see that the NIV and the ESV are essentially the same.

 

SIDEBAR

Please, readers, understand that I am one small voice. No one, least of all myself, would claim that my voice is in any way authoritative. Each of these Bibles is a very fine Bible. I personally have a great interest in discovering Christ in the Old Testament. As a young Christian, I was extremely jealous of the two disciples whom Jesus sought out on the road to Emmaus. My fervent prayer was the the Lord would show me what he showed them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27 ESV). Over the years, as I’ve continued studying with the language and biblical tools I have available to me on my own dining room table and in my computer, I am blessed to report that to a large extent the Lord has granted my heart’s desire.

So, my “hermeneutical presupposition” is that the Bible connects with itself in a multitude of ways. Further, many texts are polyfunctional. My predisposition is to favor translations that bring out Christ. Other Christians may have other dispositions, and that is fine. However, I strongly feel that in sending each and every Christian believer the Holy Spirit to indwell her or him, the Lord has given each and every Christian the privilege of deciding for themselves what the Word of God is saying. That is, although the work of scholars is extremely valuable, useful, produced at high cost, and not to be ignored, one of the most valuable gifts of God to each and every Christian through Christ and the Holy Spirit, is to give each one a personal relationship with Himself through his Holy Word.

Second, after the opening phrase, “In that day,” which many readers will associate with Christ,  the second major difference between the NET understanding of this verse and both the NIV and ESV understanding is the next phrase, “the Branch of the LORD,” (NIV). The ESV does not capitalize the word Branch. The NET translates the same Hebrew text as, “the crops given by the LORD.” They also include a very long, detailed translator’s note explaining why they translate this way and not as the other major English versions, which they list, “KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT, and others.” Their main argument is that Isaiah 4:2 displays no “contextual indicators” that a “human ruler is in view.” But is this so?

First, Isaiah has 66 chapters. Chapter 4 is near the beginning. In later chapters, Isaiah most definitely speaks of a future ruler using similar botanical imagery, “A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock, a bud will sprout from his roots,” (Isaiah 11:1 NET). In its notes for this verse, NET readily admits that the prophecy refers to a future David-like king. Again, in 27:6, “In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit,” (ESV). I chose the ESV translation here for its use of “fruit” rather than the “produce” NET uses. “Fruit,” of course, is a New Testament metaphor used frequently throughout its pages with reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in believers. Why does the New Testament choose to translate the same Greek word that the Septuagint uses, similar to its Hebrew equivalent, as “fruit” rather than “produce?” Could it be that the writers of the New Testament are picking up this metaphor from the Old Testament? (Hint: yes). Examples of agricultural metaphors in Isaiah are abundant. A well-known verse is 53:2, “He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him,” (NET). The translation note for this verse states, “… it probably refers to the Lord.” For other agricultural references see Isaiah 27:12; 37:31,32; 53:2; 45:8, 49:6; and 61:3. Isaiah is largely about the Messiah and the restoration he brings to Israel. Surely, this topic must be introduced somewhere, and chapter 4 is still very near the beginning of the book, meaning that Isaiah still has plenty of space and time to begin being more fully developed.

Second, 2 Samuel 23:5, an early book of history, states the following, “My dynasty is approved by God, for he has made a perpetual covenant with me, arranged in all its particulars and secured. He always delivers me, and brings all I desire to fruition,” (NET). The last word, “fruition,” is a slightly different form of the identical Hebrew word that is found in Isaiah 4:2. So, in fact, a book earlier in Scripture than Isaiah uses this same word base in a metaphorical sense, as spoken by a ruler.

Third, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says this about Isaiah 4:2:

The first writer to take up the thought of 2 Sam 23:5 and use the root smh as a noun to designate the Messiah is Isaiah (Isa 4:2). Many deny that Isaiah is referring to the Messiah when he speaks of “the Branch or Shoot of Yahweh” because it is paralleled by the expression “the fruit of the earth.” Therefore, Isa 4:2 is simply a reference to the agricultural prosperity of the land. But this view fails to notice that both of these expressions are elsewhere messianic. It also neglects to account for the unusual limitation of this fruitfulness “in that day”; the fruitfulness is for the survivors of Israel. Furthermore, they overlook the progressive nature of revelation, for certainly 2Sam 23:5 and perhaps Psa 132:17 are controlling ideas when we come to the eighth century B.C. Thus the “Sprout of Yahweh” (or as clarified by the cognate studies, “the son of Yahweh”) is an obvious reference to the divine nature of the semah [note: this is a transliteration of the Hebrew word under discussion, Strong’s 6780 and TWOT 1928a]. Yet his human nature is also in view, for he is “the Offspring or Fruit of the Earth.”

Fourth and finally, NET notes defend their choice of “crops” and “produce” with the following, “A reference to the Lord restoring crops would make excellent sense in Isa 4… ” But does it? So far in Isaiah we have seen the Lord’s great anger that continues to rage in chapter upon chapter. These pages describe a nearly total bringing down, stripping away, and deathly destruction. Remember Isaiah 1:9? “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah,” (ESV). While lovely, honorable crops and produce are desirable, does that match the heavy weight of the destruction in the immediately prior context? Further, we determined that God is not angry with physical hills, mountains, cedars, and oaks, but rather with his people. When God states, “”It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses,”” (Isaiah 3:14 ESV) his main concern is not with grapes, but with people. When serving as a counter weight to the extensive punishment of the people whom God chastises, crops and produce, no matter how wonderful they might be, do NOT suit the context.

As regards agricultural metaphor and context, the verses immediately following the section containing 4:2, verses 5:1-7, use an extended agricultural metaphor of a vineyard to represent the entire nation of Israel. Verse 7 explains what the entire passage means, “Indeed Israel is the vineyard of the LORD who commands armies, the people of Judah are the cultivated place in which he took delight. He waited for justice, but look what he got– disobedience! He waited for fairness, but look what he got– cries for help!” (NET).

Now, in view of all of the above, which fits the context of Isaiah best and makes more sense?

This?

NET Isaiah 4:2 At that time the crops given by the LORD will bring admiration and honor; the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight to those who remain in Israel.

OR… This?

ESV In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Where do we go from here?

Because it consumes so much time, energy, and perhaps is a distraction, my intention is not to compare the Septuagint with the NET and ESV at every step of the way. It happened here because Isaiah 4:2 is such a rich and important verse. It is also the first instance in which the Masoretic text and the Greek text diverge significantly. And even beyond that , it is the first passage in which the editors of NET took a major turn away from traditional English versions, which also follow a more or less identical Hebrew text. As seen, these other versions interpret the verse messianically, which NET goes to great lengths to avoid doing. In most instances, my chosen text for this walk-through journal is and will be the Septuagint, with comparisons here and there to the Masoretic, mostly through the ESV.

As a postscript, it turns out that the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word “sprout,” or “springs forth,” (Stong’s 6780, TWOT 1928a) is common for that particular word. The Septuagint writes, “shall shine.” This is found in Luke 1:78, which, according to TWOT, has strong overtones of Isaiah 4:2.

Lord willing, we will continue to verse 3 next time.

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1 By reading the prefaces of each (I have a printed copy of the 1973, 78, 83 edition), I discovered that the Biblia Hebraica is the primary document from which each of the translators worked.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–9

Is This a Christian Passage?

Isaiah 4:2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.
3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy.
4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgement, and the spirit of burning.
5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding place from inclemency of weather and from rain. (LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

In this translation the opening phrase is, “And in that day…” What day is this? I wish everyone could read Greek–it would make you so happy. The Greek phrase is, “τῇ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (Isaiah 4:2 LXX). Where else in Scripture do we find this phrase? We here first found it in Isaiah 2:11, “Isaiah 2:11 For the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day,” (LXE). It also opens the passage from Isaiah 2:20-21, where we find humankind casting away their idols to go hide in the caverns and crevices of the rocks, away from the terrifying judgment of the Lord. This is the verse that also shows up in Revelation 6:15-17, which is the day of the wrath of God and the Lamb. These samples lead us to conclude that “that day” is a day of judgment.

Matthew 7:22-23 supports the conclusion of a day of judgment by the words of Jesus, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness,'” (ESV). Luke 6:22-23 verifies a day of judgment, but, it adds an element of reward for the righteous, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets,” (ESV). Jesus uses this temporal marker again in Luke 10:12, in the section where he curses the cities of Galilee for rejecting both his disciples and himself. Luke 17 contains a long passage where Jesus describes “his” day (verse 24), the day of his coming. Two verses develop the meaning of this phrase, “So will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop,…” (Luke 17:30-31 ESV).

These verses indicate that the phrase, “in that day” is a time of judgment after the incarnation and ascension of Christ. But there is another verse more in keeping with the joy of Isaiah 4:2. It is found in John 16:22-23, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you,” ESV). From what we know from Acts, this verse and its context began to find its fulfillment after the resurrection and ascension, perhaps upon and after the day of Pentecost, when Jesus sent his Holy Spirit. (1) Read the entire context in John 16 and see if it doesn’t match up with the resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts.

My answer to the opening question, “Is this a Christian passage?” is yes, this prophecy of Isaiah is a Christian passage. The passage refers to a time when the Christian gospel has been enacted in its fullness, at least as far as the period of the New Testament and just beyond, that is, through 70 A.D. Although it may seem harsh to say this, much of the Bible, through the prophecies of the Old Testament into the epistles of the New, predict a “changing of the guard” (my metaphor) from the pre-runner Judaic Covenant to the New Covenant enacted by Jesus and his Holy Spirit. Do read the book of Hebrews in this context. But also remember, as Paul develops so clearly in Romans 11 (it’s clear after a person has read it at least 20 times over the course of as many years in the context of the entire Bible), God’s heart is always open to his people for the sake of the fathers of Israel’s antiquity.

He who opens the chapter, “I ask, then, has God rejected his people?” (Romans 11:1 ESV), answers in the spirit of the message of Isaiah 4:2-3, Romans 11:5 “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace… 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, (Romans 11:5-7 ESV) The omitted verse, verse 6 specifies that grace of God, “6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” There is a song I used to sing when worshiping with my church, “It’s your kindness (grace) that leads us to repentance, O Lord,” (Written by Leslie Phillips).

Please notice how God’s grace does not negate the need for repentance. The two together walk hand in hand. Read Paul in Romans 11:23, “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again,” (ESV). My heart sings in response to that statement, Hallelujia!! The history of Old Testament Israel is tragic. I fervently pray, hope for, and believe with Paul in Romans 11 that God will at some point in the future, by grace, remove the “spirit of stupor” (verse 8) which Paul says God himself gave them, for his own purposes. He did this partly as punishment for their hardness of heart (John 12:39-41 and Isaiah 2:6-4:1), and as Paul explains in Romans 11, so that the Gentiles could be grafted in.

In the prior Journal entry, number 8, I built a strong case that God’s judgment upon the bulk of Israel meant their removal, their stripping down, and their taking away. And indeed, that has happened repeatedly throughout Israel’s history, as demonstrated in that journal entry. To this day, the bulk of Israel has never repented. But Paul in Romans 11 states that God’s grace is sufficient to bring even that hardened nation to repentance, just as every person in the remnant has been brought to the repentance of life only by God’s grace. Please join me in this prayer, that God’s grace for Israel will prevail, to the end that even the bulk will come to see clearly and to worship Christ as Savior and Lord.

Isaiah 4:3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. {1) Gr. written for life} (LXE)

Looking forward: There’s so much more to say about even this verse and the rest of the passage, Isaiah 4:2-6, but this is enough for today. Lord willing, with his help and by his grace, we will continue walking through Isaiah together. I should note here, however, that we’ve considered verse 2 from the Septuagint tradition. The Hebrew Masoretic tradition (ESV, KJV, NET,… ) reads this verse quite differently. In terms of discussing whether this passage is Messianic, the translations based upon the Masoretic tradition have much to say.

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1 There is another phrase which occurs frequently in John, “the last day.” Except for one verse concerning the last day of the Festival of Booths, the references all refer to the day of final judgment and the resurrection from the dead. “In that day” seems to have a much broader meaning than “the last day,” which is found only in the gospel of John.

 

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–8

One of my favorite biblical phrases from a years’ old memory is, “clear shining after rain.” It’s found in 2 Samuel 23:4, in David’s last words. It’s phrased like that in the King James and New King James:

2 Samuel 23:4 And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, Like the tender grass springing out of the earth, By clear shining after rain.’ (NKJ)

I believe this to be a prophecy of the King, the Lord, as Ruler of humankind. The feeling and images aroused by these words–the joy–are what springs to my heart as I continue in Isaiah 4:2-6. These five verses provide such a sharp contrast to the chapters preceding them, that they are like “clear shining after rain.” The entire passage from Brenton’s Septuagint reads:

Isaiah 4:2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.
3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy.
4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgement, and the spirit of burning.
5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding place from inclemency of weather and from rain. (LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Every verse in this portion connects with other portions of Scripture, many in the New Testament.

But first, whom is Isaiah addressing in this portion? Verses 3:16-4:1 appear to have been spoken in their entirety by the Lord, since they flow unbroken from verse 16, which says, “Thus saith the Lord,…” (LXE, Seputagint, Brenton). That section is all judgment against “the daughters of Sion.” (For an analysis of who these daughters may be, see Journal 7.)

In great contrast to the prior section, Isaiah 4:2-6 is a segment of restoration, not judgment. According to the Septuagint, it is addressed to (that is, written about), the remnant. This word occurs three times in two verses (that’s lots! See the text above.) For a word analysis of the “remnant”, see Journal  2 and Journal 3. In the ESV and NET, the word remnant does not appear. In verse 4:2, the ESV uses the word “survivors,” and in verse 3, the phrases, “he who is left,” and “remains.” The NET writes, “those who remain,” in verse 2, and “those remaining,” and “those left,” in verse 3. These words, “survivors,” “remains” and “left,” are lexical synonyms provided by Thayer (for all three phrases) and BDAG (for the latter two phrases). The Greek words themselves are καταλειφθὲν and ὑπολειφθὲν. (1)

No matter which version one uses, the text is clear that Isaiah here refers to a different group of people than the previous text. Verse 4 declares that the Lord will “wash away the filth” and “purge out the blood from the midst of them” with “the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning.” That is to say, the people described in Isaiah 2 and 3 have been washed away and purged out. These verses talk about the “survivors,” the “remnant,” those who are “left,” and those who “remain,” after the purging has been completed. These verses are not a prophecy of what shall happen to the unrepentant sinners, those whom Isaiah says never repent, those who choose to cling to their ways, those who never turn back to the Lord with an admission of their wrongdoing. Those people will be removed. These words are for (about) the ones who remain after that process has been completed.

Why is this important? 

I have presented a case for two distinct audiences whom Isaiah addresses or speaks about. One audience is the bulk, the majority, of the nation. The second audience is the remnant. The destruction of judgment is determined for the bulk. Repentance and cleansing are prophesied for the remnant. The alternative to this explanation is that the Lord does not mean what he says and does not say what he means.

The bulk of the text so far has described the great anger of the Lord against, as he says, “my people.” He makes statements such as the following:

Isaiah 2:20 For in that day a man shall cast forth his silver and gold abominations, which they made in order to worship vanities and bats; 21 to enter into the caverns of the solid rock, and into the clefts of the rocks, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. LXE

Isaiah 3:25 And thy most beautiful son whom thou lovest shall fall by the sword; and your mighty men shall fall by the sword, and shall be brought low. 26 And the stores of your ornaments shall mourn, and thou shalt be left alone, and shalt be levelled with the ground.

Am I saying that if one of the wicked people with whom the Lord is so angry repents, that the Lord will not forgive them? No, of course not. But nowhere in the context of chapters 2:5 through 4:1 do we read of any of the wicked repenting. If they did, of course they would be saved. Where Isaiah 2:19-21 is quoted in the New Testament, Luke 23:30 and Revelation 6:16, repentance is also not a theme. Old Testament history bears out that in the period before the exile, the time period when Isaiah was writing, there was never a national repentance. The people were removed, the temple was destroyed, and the nation around Jerusalem flattened.

In Isaiah 4:2-6 then, as regards a national restoration, this will occur only insofar as the nation as a whole repents. How far into the future does this prophecy extend? After Isaiah wrote these words, Babylon did destroy the nation and remove its people. Afterwards, a post-exilic remnant returned, Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, Herod rebuilt that temple, Jesus prophesied its destruction (Luke 23:28-31), Jesus died and rose again for the whole world, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D., and the Jewish people were brought back by the Allied powers after the war. Has the nation as a whole repented? Not yet. However, this glorious portion of Isaiah speaks to a repentant remnant. Whether that remnant will include the entire bulk of the current or a future nation remains to be seen. Whatever happens does not change the necessity of repentance.

If the reader does not hear Isaiah speaking alternately to two different audiences, they are left to think that God is saying in 4:2-6 and throughout Isaiah, Oh, it’s okay. I know I sound angry in these chapters, but don’t worry. Everything will turn out all right in the end. You don’t have to do anything. I will cleanse all your sins and everything will be wonderful in the end.

But that’s not what Isaiah teaches. He teaches that God will cleanse the nation by removing those who persistently disobey his commandments to do good, care for the poor, remain faithful in his worship, follow his law. Those people, the bulk, will be removed, and the ones who survive that process, because they repent and look to God, have a glorious future. They are the remnant God chooses to bless.

God is not “schizophrenic,” as in that word’s popular, metaphorical usage, as one who frequently and unpredictably changes. “Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (ESV)

Learning to spot the changes of audience in Isaiah helps enormously in understanding the singular pupose of God in this book.

__________

1 The Septuagint, which is the Old Greek and its more modern counterparts, was translated from a Hebrew textual tradition that was not the Masoretic. (Yes, way back in the olden days, way back, there was more than one Hebrew textual tradition.) Most of our modern English translations follow the Masoretic. However, much of the New Testament derives its quotations from an unknown version of the Septuagint, not the Masoretic tradition of Hebrew text.

Most likely because of its translation and transmission history, the Septuagint is uneven in places. I generally don’t use it as a stand-alone Bible, but then, I don’t use most translations that way. I have a personal compulsion to check several versions for matters of interest, regardless of what I am studying. In general, though, I prefer the Septuagint for most of the Psalter and for this portion of Isaiah, as well.

Long ago, as a young Christian, I began with the NASB as my devotional and study Bible. After I discovered Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint, I noticed that the NASB often “neutered” (my own description) phrases about Christ in the Psalms. It has a tendency to obscure Old Testament passages with reference to Christ, that is, in comparison to the Septuagint. Where the Septuagint points to a definite Person, the NASB often chooses an indefinite pronoun or abstract noun. These are such general observations as to be academically useless, but I am speaking from my personal, devotional point of view. The Septuagint does not shy away from presenting Christ in the Old Testament, whereas certain modern translations do. This is why I grew to love the Septuagint and to prefer translations that remain more faithful to the original text, such as the ESV, and in former days, the King James Bible.

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–7

Recap: The Book of Isaiah alternates between segments announcing good news for the remnant and bad news for the bulk. God’s judgment begins in his own house, as he repeatedly makes reference to “my people” in the judgment sections. Portions concerning the remnant occur in Isaiah 1:9, 25-27; 2:2-4, ,5; 4:2-6. Everything else so far concerns judgment on Judea and Jerusalem.

Though part of the preceding judgment section, a new motif begins in 3:16 against the “daughters of Sion,” LXX, “daughters of Zion,” ESV, and “women of Zion,” NET. The imagery here calls us back to 3:1, where Isaiah pronounces that the Lord will take away from Judea and Jerusalem, “the might man and mighty woman.” Everything from that point to this point has concerned “the mighty man.” From here (3:16) until the end of the section in 4:1, the pronouncement of judgment is cast in images of the female, “the mighty woman.”

As one reads through this portion, eventually the question arises, is the Lord irritated with the real women of Sion, or are these representative of something else? Could it be both? Isaiah begins in verse 1:1 by speaking of Judea and in verse 3 of Israel. In verse 4, the Lord is called, “the Holy One of Israel.” Verse 6 uses the motif of a human body for the nation Israel, while verse 7 clearly makes reference to the land, cities, and foreign nations. Verse 8 suddenly uses the phrase, “the daughter of Sion,” comparing her to “a vineyard,” “a storehouse of fruits in a garden of cucumbers,” and a “besieged city.” Isaiah is a poet, and he brings in these graphic metaphors to make his message understood. Underneath the images is the understanding that his concern is with the city of Jerusalem, the land inhabited by the nation, the nation of Israel itself, and the people whom God calls his own. But his judgments are against people, and the remnant he saves is a remnant of people.

Still in consideration of the question introduced in the paragraph above, are the women of 3:16-4:1 real women or representative of something else? Further evidence to consider is 2 Kings 19:21, “This is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning him [Sennacherib]: “She despises you, she scorns you– the virgin daughter of Zion; she wags her head behind you– the daughter of Jerusalem,” (ESV). In this quotation, “the virgin daughter of Zion” is equated with, “the daughter of Jerusalem,” where the former is a metaphor for the latter. The latter is also part metaphor, since, of course, cities don’t have daughters. Another verse to consider is Isaiah 10:32, “This very day he will halt at Nob; he will shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem,” (ESV). Here, it’s plain to see that the “mount of the daughter of Zion” is equated with “the hill of Jerusalem.”

Another verse to consider is, “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” (Zephaniah 3:14, ESV). In this verse, the three phrases “daughter of Zion,” “Israel,” and “daughter of Jerusalem,” have all been anthropomorphized and are more or less equivalent. Finally, the verse, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey,” (Zechariah 9:9, ESV) illustrates how the “daughter of Zion” is equivalent to “daughter of Jerusalem.”

Therefore, based on these verses, it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that in Isaiah 3:16-3:26, the daughters of Sion may refer to the residents of Jerusalem and perhaps even to the entire nation, as a religious entity. Comparing Israel to an unfaithful woman is not uncommon in Scripture. On the other hand, the scriptural examples given in the prior two paragraphs show the word “daughter” in its singular form, while in Isaiah 3:16, it is plural. The plural form is rare in Scripture, being found only in this verse, the next verse, then Isaiah 4:4, and last, Song of Solomon 3:11. The NET Bible apparently interprets “daughters of Zion” as concrete women, given that it translates the phrase as “women of Zion.” It’s notable how the change of one word gives the verse a different meaning, a more restricted meaning, than both the ESV and the LXE. While “daughters of Zion” may be interpreted as literal women, that is not the only possibility. But “women of Zion” loses the possibility of a metaphorical interpretation. Comment: As a reader, I much prefer the translations that stay close to the original text. These are the ESV, the KJV, NAB, and NRSV. When the NET Bible selects the meaning for me, then I’m not even aware that there is a question involved. I would not choose to study these other verses, not registering a need. Much of the richness of interacting with the text is thereby lost. It is true that NET places the literal translation in the margin, but its significance is minimized when relegated to the sidelines. And who reads all those marginal notes, anyway? Why not just place their own interpretation in the margin, and let the literal translation stand for itself in the actual text? If the reader has a question or would like more information, then they can consult the margin.

What then, as a One Small Voice reader, is my conclusion about these verses? I conclude that God is speaking metaphorically in this section of Isaiah. He’s allowing the phrase “daughters of Sion” to represent all the people, especially in their practice of religion and worship of himself. Clearly, he has no kind words for the actual women of Jerusalem, and their vanity and self-love describe well the character of the nation’s worship of Yahweh, God, at this time. The metaphor is tied very closely to the manners, dress, and movements of real women, of whom he is decidedly critical. I don’t believe, however, that he’s singling out the women in particular, but the nation as a whole. This corresponds with the prior segment, in which God’s judgment fell not upon concretely-literal high walls, cedars, oaks and physical ships. These are metaphors for proud people.

As the reader reads through the description of the daughters of Sion, try to see, hear, smell, and touch the various features richly described. Remember that the motif of this lengthy passage involves the theme of humbling by means of “taking away.” What does the Lord take away? What does he replace these items with?

The final verse of this section, 4:1, sums up the shame of these formerly proud women: seven women shall volunteer to become an unpaid harem for one man. No shame was greater for an adult woman of Israel in this historical era than to be without a husband. Representing the nation of Israel, these daughters of Sion will be like abandoned women, stripped down, nearly naked. This verse looks forward to Isaiah 54:5, which will bring a time of healing, redemption, and restoration to the remnant, “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called,” (ESV).

Next time, Lord willing, I (and you who may be reading along with me) will move forward to a bright section, Isaiah 4:2-6.

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