The Blessings of Married Life: Journal 2.70

By Christina M Wilson

Three Chapters in a Nutshell

If I were asked to write a headline summary of Septuagint Isaiah 53-55, I would write the following:

I. The Servant Expresses His Love–LXX Isaiah 53
II. Reconciliation–LXX Isaiah 54
III. Invitation to the Bride and Promises of Prosperity–LXX Isaiah 55

The Lord Calls His Bride

In Isaiah 55 the Lord calls his people. The Servant has accomplished salvation (chapter 53). God has expressed his vows of love and forgiveness for his wayward children (chapter 54). Now, in chapter 55, the Lord invites those who will to come and live with him.

  • The Lord sends out his invitation to everyone who is needy (verses 1-3).
  • He presents the foundation of the invitation (verses 4-5).
  • He calls again (verses 6-7).
  • The Lord provides his character references (verses 8-11a).
  • Finally, the Lord describes the blessings of prosperity for those who respond to his love (verses 11b-13).

The Invitation

1 You that thirst, go to the water, and all that have no money, go and buy; and eat and drink wine and fat without money or price. 2 Therefore do you value at the price of money, and give your labor for that which will not satisfy? listen to me, and you shall eat that which is good, and your soul shall feast itself on good things. 3 Give heed with your ears, and follow my ways: listen to me, and your soul shall live in prosperity; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the sure mercies of David. (LXE 55)

The Lord Christ, God’s incarnated Servant, offers similar invitations to those who will.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ESV)

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (ESV)

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

VERSE THREE

Verse three of Isaiah 55 refers to “an everlasting covenant, the sure mercies of David” (LXE 55). Both God’s Servant in Isaiah and Christ descended from King David. God had made an “everlasting covenant” with David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Paul declares in Acts 13:34 that God fulfills this everlasting covenant with Christ, the descendant of David.

Acts 13:34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ (ESV)

How do we know that Isaiah has the Servant in mind? Verse 4, immediately following the mention of God’s covenant with David, says “Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles.” The “him,” when used this way in the last several chapters of Isaiah, refers to God’s Servant. (See Journal 2.60.)

Foundation of the Invitation

The Lord extends his invitation to the whole world.

4 Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles. 5 Nations which know you not, shall call upon you, and peoples which are not acquainted with you, shall flee to you for refuge, for the sake of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you. (LXE Isaiah 55)

As previously mentioned, in the context of the last dozen or so chapters, the “him” that God has made “a testimony among the Gentiles” is, of course, his Servant. See, for example, Septuagint Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; and 54:1-3.

VERSE 5

Interestingly, God’s speech in verse 5 (LXE 55) could be directed to God’s Servant or to his people. In the first scenario, verse 4 refers to the Servant. Then, in verse 5, God could simply turn towards the Servant and speak directly to him. In the second scenario, verse 5 can refer to those whom God calls in verses 1-3. Those who respond to his invitation in those verses are his people. God then announces inclusion of Gentiles in verse 4. In verse 5, God can be addressing all those who respond to his invitation. These are all of God’s people, that is, the formerly barren woman (54:1). This is the group whom he addresses for the bulk of the chapter. Both interpretations are possible.

SIGNIFICANCE OF VERSE 5

In Scripture, when God joins a man and woman in marriage, they become one (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). When Christ the Servant “marries” his people, he and his people become one. This is what Paul teaches so explicitly in Ephesians 5:23, 30-31 and 1 Corinthians 12:27. So, here, in this verse in Isaiah (LXE 55), the wording of the text makes the interpretation possible that the Servant and his people are one. God glorifies both the risen Servant (Isaiah 52:13 [“glorified exceedingly”–Septuagint]) and his fulness, the people who respond to his call (Isaiah 55:5). The glory of the followers of the Servant resides in the Servant’s glory. Without the work of the Servant, there would be no glory for Israel.

The Lord Repeats the Call

6 Seek you the Lord, and when you find him, call upon him; and when he shall draw near to you, 7 let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord, and he shall find mercy; for he shall abundantly pardon your sins. (LXE 55)

God first calls the thirsty and the impoverished–those who have no money (verses 1-2). In his initial call, God promises prosperity, an everlasting covenant, and the sure mercies of David (verse 3). He includes Gentiles in verses 4-5. Then, in verses 6-7, the Lord repeats his call. Readers can assume from the prior verses (4 and 5) that this second invitation goes forth to everyone.

In verse 6, the Lord promises to respond with fellowship to those who seek him. In verse 7, the text clearly states that God calls the “ungodly” and the “transgressor.” God’s Servant in the New Testament repeats these calls.

Revelation 3:20 Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. (NET)

Matthew 9:13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (ESV)

Both the call of the Lord in Isaiah (see verses 6-7 above) and the call of God’s Servant/Messiah in the New Testament require a turning away from previous ungodly ways.

Isaiah 55:7 let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: (Septuagint)

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV)

John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (ESV)

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (ESV)

The Lord Gives His Character References

In verses 8-11, the Lord describes his powers. When they consider his power, those who hear the Lord’s call will know that he is able to perform all that he promises. There is none other like the Lord.

8 For my counsels are not as your counsels, nor are my ways as your ways, says the Lord. 9 But as the heaven is distant from the earth, so is my way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from my mind. 10 For as rain shall come down, or snow, from heaven, and shall not return until it has saturated the earth, and it bring forth, and bud, and give seed to the sower, and bread for food: 11 so shall my word be, whatever shall proceed out of my mouth, it shall by no means turn back, until all the things which I willed shall have been accomplished; and I will make your ways prosperous, and will effect my commands. (LXE Isaiah 55

Promises of Joy and Prosperity

Isaiah closes the chapter with the Lord’s promise of joy and prosperity for those who respond to his call (1).

11 … and I will make your ways prosperous, and will effect my commands. 12 For you shall go forth with joy, and shall be taught with gladness: for the mountains and the hills shall exult to welcome you with joy, and all the trees of the field shall applaud with their branches. 13 And instead of the bramble shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle: and the Lord shall be for a name, and for an everlasting sign, and shall not fail. (LXE Isaiah 55

Notice the similarity between the imagery of nature in these verses and the figure of speech God employs when he calls his faithful responders the “barren” and the “desolate” in 54:1. Those who repent in Israel and return to God throughout Isaiah are a small number, a mere remnant. In this sense, they are like a desolate desert. Plants such as the bramble and nettle grow in deserted places.

The metaphor of fruitfulness the Lord chooses in these verses is truly beautiful. Paul seems to recall these verses when he speaks of the new creation in Romans 8.

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (ESV)

As we wait for the final, eternal revelation of Christ in his church, in Spirit now those who receive God’s Servant in their hearts experience a rejuvenation similar to  brambles being replaced by the cypress and nettles being replaced by the gentle, peaceful myrtle. Surely, those whose hearts have been softened to repent and know the Lord do go out with joy and are taught with gladness. Praise and bless You, Lord.

__________
1 The Lord throughout this chapter never addresses the nation of “Israel” as a whole. In Isaiah 54:1, the Lord speaks to the “barren,” commanding her to “Rejoice!” Previous chapters reveal that the “barren” are those of Israel who display the faith in God of Abraham and Sarah. To this group, God joins Gentiles who believe. Various speech tags indicate that the Lord continues to speak to the barren woman throughout chapter 54 and for the entirety of chapter 55. These speech tags include the following: 1) “you barren”–54:1, 2) “thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles”–54:3, 3) “There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and you shall be righteous before me”–54:17, 4) “You that thirst…and all that have no money”–55:1, 5) “Give heed…and follow my ways: listen to me and your soul shall live in prosperity” [i.e., those who are willing to obey]–54:3, 6) “Nations which know you not, shall call upon you” [Gentiles]–54:5, 7) “Seek you the Lord” [i.e., those who desire the Lord; the nation as a whole rejects God in Isaiah (see, for example, Isaiah 48:18-19 Septuagint)]–55:6, 8) “Let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord…” [i.e., those who repent, which the bulk of national Israel does not do]–55:7.

For those who may have difficulty accepting that the Lord’s promise of prosperity is not a blanket, unconditional promise to national Israel, please let me offer this thought. In the Christian church, extremely few, if any, pastors teach that all humanity will be saved. No, God’s promise in Christ is for “whosoever” (anyone and everyone) who is willing to receive Christ by faith. Why would the Lord treat a particular nation or race of people differently than he treats all humanity? In other words, why would the precepts that distinguish God’s relationship with the people of a nation (Israel) be different than his precepts for the people of his world-wide church? God, let us remember, shows no “partiality” (Ephesians 6:9 NET). Our prayers should always be that people of Jewish ethnicity (and people the world over of all ethnicities) would come to know the Lord.

Joy and Comfort: Journal 2.69

By Christina M Wilson

Septuagint Isaiah 54 speaks joy and comfort to God’s people, Jerusalem.

Introduction: Context

Septuagint Isaiah 54 presents God’s assurances of joy and comfort to his beleaguered people, Sion (whom God also addresses as Jerusalem.) Over the course of several chapters, Isaiah narrows the term “Sion” to refer to those faithful few in Israel who “follow after righteousness” and “seek the Lord” (God’s Faithful: Devotional 2.66). These are the “remnant” of Volume 1 (Isaiah 4:3). Nowhere in this chapter (chapter 54) or previous chapters does Isaiah indicate that God’s promise is to the nation of Israel as a whole. God speaks consistently of joylessness and sorrow for those of Israel who rebel against him by refusing to follow his precepts. These prefer instead to worship idols.

Isaiah 48:18 And if you had listened to my commandments, then would your peace have been like a river, and your righteousness as a wave of the sea. 19 Your seed also would have been as the sand, and the offspring of your belly as the dust of the ground: neither now shall you by any means be utterly destroyed [there will be a remnant], neither shall your name perish before me… 22 There is no joy, says the Lord, to the ungodly. (LXE) (See also Isaiah 57:20-21 in its context.)

Isaiah 50:11 Behold, you all kindle a fire, and feed a flame: walk in the light of your fire, and in the flame which you have kindled. This [the exile] has happened to you for my sake; you shall lie down in sorrow. (LXE)

Chapter 54 immediately follows the Fourth Servant Song. The Fourth Servant Song establishes the context for chapter 54. The Fourth Song reveals God’s Servant in his fullness: his glory (52:13-15), his passion (53:2-9), and his reward (53:10-12). Within the context of the sacrifice accomplished by God’s Servant, chapter 54 echoes and extends the opening verses of Chapter 40. Parallels exist between Chapter 54 and Chapter 40. Joy breaks forth.

Parallels Between Chapters 54 and 40:1-11 

Isaiah chapter 40:1-11 and Isaiah chapter 54 present the same message from different points of view. Isaiah 49:1-11 looks forward to the Advent of God’s Servant. Isaiah 54 reflects on the consequences for Sion of the Servant’s already having come.

Synopsis of Chapter 40

In chapter 40:1-11, God comforts Sion. The text uses the word “Jerusalem.” God tells the priests to speak to the “heart of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is equivalent to “my people.”

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says God. 2 Speak, you priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins. 

According to Isaiah’s vantage in chapter 40, Israel resides in exile in Babylon. God through Isaiah tells his people that he sent them there because of their sins against God. The remainder of this chapter and following chapters develop in detail the theme of Sion’s sin. But in these verses, God prophesies to Jerusalem that his punishment of their sins is finished.

Verses 3 through 11 describe the Advent of Messiah, God’s Servant (Devotional 2.2). Readers can note that Isaiah does not introduce the word “Servant” in this section. In this section, those “who bring glad tidings to Zion” should announce that “the Lord is coming” (verse 10). Verse 10 describes the Lord’s power, strength, and reward. Verse 11 describes his gentle care of God’s lambs, as a shepherd. The Servant, Jesus Christ, fulfilled all these descriptors in his first Advent. These verses give readers (and listeners) of Isaiah a preview of this Advent.

The MAIN POINT of this section is that God has finished punishing his people. Something new is about to happen. He is sending “the Lord” with blessings of strength, power, and love for the people. He will be like a Shepherd to them.

Synopsis of Chapter 54

While chapter 40 looks forward to the Servant’s Advent, chapter 54 looks back to the Advent. Chapter 53 describes in detail how God punishes his Servant for the sins of his people (Septuagint Isaiah 53:8-10). God states in these verses that the punishment upon the Servant is sufficient for all time (verse 8). He will show his people everlasting mercy. There will be an inflow of “strangers” sent by God who will “sojourn” with them and “run” to them for “refuge” (footnote 1). They will need to increase the size of their tent to accommodate all the new people God will send to live with them. God describes the glory of Sion’s dwelling by naming precious stones with which he will build her. Finally, God closes the chapter with a promise of righteousness.

17 … There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and you shall be righteous before me, says the Lord. ( Septuagint Isaiah 54:17). 

Interpretation

Various readers interpret this passage differently from one another.

I. CONCRETE-PHYSICAL OR METAPHORIC?

The first point of basic difference is one of hermeneutics. Is chapter 54 concrete-physical or metaphoric?

1. First, previous posts in this blog have sought to demonstrate that Isaiah slowly shifts from concrete-physical prophetic statements concerning return from exile in Babylon to the larger, more future context of the Servant’s sacrifice for the sins of his people. Many of the blessings the Servant brings, such as the healing from sin that his sacrifice provides, are spiritual in nature. That is, God’s forgiveness of our sin is a spiritual reality (spiritual-literal), not a physical-literal reality. As another example, when God accomplishes righteousness for his people through his Servant, that righteousness is a spiritual-literal reality, not a physical-literal reality. (See Isaiah 53:4, 5, 6, 11, and 12.)

2. Second, posts in this blog have traced the context of chapter 54 all the way back to chapter 40. We have paid attention to verbal tags (labels) to determine whom the Lord addresses as the chapters progress. These context studies demonstrate that between chapters 40 and 54, God narrows the audience whom he addresses as “Sion,” “Jerusalem,” and “my people.” By the time the reader arrives at Septuagint Isaiah 51, the conclusion seems established that these names refer to God’s faithful few who seek to please him and follow his will (see, for example, Devotional 2.66). Because the congregation of “those who seek after righteousness” is more a spiritual-literal entity than a physical-literal entity, readers might expect that prophesies concerning this group would be of like kind.

3. Third, more than a dozen of the previous posts have explored past context to discover whom God through Isaiah addresses by the names “the barren” and “the desolate” (Septuagint Isaiah 54:1). The final conclusion is that these names refer to the remnant of faithful Israel. These are the ones who “seek after righteousness,” and worship God, just as Abraham and Sarah did (Septuagint Isaiah 51:1-3). God repeatedly states throughout the chapters that he will call Gentiles to join this group. Paul quotes Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27. Paul’s use of this verse builds on Isaiah’s meaning in its context. Paul quotes Isaiah’s verse to indicate the church of the Servant (Messiah Christ) who believe as Abraham believed. These believers, teaches Paul, are not bound to obey the Mosaic law. Rather, they obey the law of the Spirit, which is the love of Christ.

4. Therefore, by the time the text and reader arrive at Septuagint Isaiah 54:1, the “barren,” “desolate” woman (whom God names as Sion and Jerusalem elsewhere) appears to be a metaphor for those in Israel who exercise the faith of Abraham. This group cannot be delineated by physical boundaries. They are not those who live in Jerusalem in a physical-literal sense. They are those who dwell in the “heart of Jerusalem” in a spiritual-literal sense. 

5. In conclusion, it appears likely that God uses the images of precious stones and jewels from which he will make the city (2) as metaphors that indicate the great love he bears for the people who choose to receive the Servant and his sacrifice for their sins. In support of this conclusion, consider that the text states that God makes the city. God, who is Spirit, does not build concrete-physical cities. People do that. God does, however, build a spiritual-literal city. And to this spiritual-literal city, God will call Gentiles to come (54:3). Verse 15 states, “Behold, strangers shall come to you by me, and shall sojourn with you, and shall run to you for refuge” (Septuagint Isaiah 54:15). This is why Paul proclaims in Galatians, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26, 25-27).

6. In confirmation of the conclusion just presented, God states in verse 16, “Behold, I have created you, not as the coppersmith blowing coals, and bringing out a vessel fit for work; but I have created you…” God in verse 16 plainly states that he created the city of Jerusalem, the “barren” woman, not in a concrete-physical way, as a coppersmith blowing coals. A coppersmith blowing coals is physical-literal. God declares that he created his people, the city, the woman, not in this concrete-physical way. Nevertheless, “I have created you,” God says.

God’s Prophecies Never Fail

This next portion is extremely sad for me to write. I shudder, and I tremble.

Chapter 54 brings joy, comfort, and great promise from God to… the church. The church are those whom God gathers from faithful Israel (our mother, says Paul, in Galatians 4:26) and believing Gentiles (3).

If the prophecies of chapter 54 are read concrete-literally, that is physically, then these prophecies have failed. But before we go there, let’s establish that chapter 54 contains no time markers. Nothing in the chapter would indicate that the time-frame is after the Servant’s second advent and even beyond that, into eternity. Isaiah nowhere up to this point establishes a second advent. Following as it does immediately after chapter 53, there is no indication that the subject or people have changed. Chapter 53 firmly describes the First Advent of God’s Servant and the missionary activity of its aftermath. Isaiah in chapter 53 offers no hints that anything having to do with a Second Advent might be in view. It does, however, describe very well what happened immediately after the Servant’s Ascension and continues to happen today. That is, the growth of the Servant’s congregation (his synagogue), the church.

Please follow. If chapter 54 refers to a physical Jerusalem, the “now” Jerusalem as the Greek of Galatians 4:25 phrases it, then the prophecy failed. God speaks boldly in chapter 54.

8… with everlasting mercy will I have compassion upon you… 9… I will no more be angry with you… 10… so neither shall my mercy fail you, nor shall the covenant of your peace be at all removed: for the Lord who is gracious to you has spoken it… 13 And I will cause all your sons to be taught of God, and your children to be in great peace… 14… you shall not fear; and trembling shall not come near you. 15 Behold, strangers shall come to you by me, and shall sojourn with you, and shall run to you for refuge. 16… I have created you, not for ruin, that I should destroy you. 17 I will not suffer any weapon formed against you to prosper; and every voice that shall rise up against you for judgment, you shall vanquish them all; and your adversaries shall be condemned thereby. 

70 AD

In the year 70 CE, pretty much everything that God in Isaiah 54 said would not happen to Jerusalem happened. The Romans came and sacked Jerusalem. They threw down all the stones of the temple. The temple has not been rebuilt. Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Matthew 23:37-24:2). But, the spiritual-literal Jerusalem still stands, even after 2,000 years. This is the Jerusalem above, “our mother,” says Paul in Galatians 4:26.

And, in chapter 55, God continues to speak to his redeemed people with words of spiritual-literal comfort and joy. Spiritual-literal blessings are blessings that are very, very real, yet they are spiritual in nature. With these chapters, the Gospel of Isaiah leaves the confines of the concrete physicality of Old Testament physical-literalism and steps boldly into the realm of Spirit which Christ the Servant inaugurates in the New. And, within the realm of the Spirit, there is great joy and comfort.

… stay tuned for Chapter 55… 

__________
1 The Septuagint of 54:3 and 15 read very differently than the Masoretic. The Septuagint is true to the context concerning Gentiles that Isaiah builds throughout several previous chapters. Consistently in the chapters building to chapter 54, God welcomes Gentiles to partake of the blessings he provides through his Servant. Septuagint chapter 54 continues this tradition.

2 “54:5 For it is the Lord that made you; the Lord of hosts is his name: and he that delivered you, he is the God of Israel… 11… behold, I will prepare carbuncle for your stones, and sapphire for your foundations; 12 and I will make your buttresses jasper, and your gates crystal, and your border precious stones” (Septuagint Isaiah 54:5, 12).

3 The church does not replace Israel; the church is Israel, all grown up and married. There is one olive tree, a “Jewish” olive tree, into which Gentiles have been grafted (Romans 11:13-18). And even though some of the branches have been grafted in, nevertheless, the synagogue (Old Testament), or the congregation (New Testament), of the Servant of the “God of Israel” (Septuagint Isaiah 49:7; 52:12; 54:5) is one olive tree.

“Barren” Woman–Isaiah and Galatians: Journal 2.68

By Christina M Wilson

This post summarizes what we have learned about the “barren” woman in Septuagint Isaiah 54:1. It connects Isaiah and Galatians.

Two Texts

Septuagint Isaiah speaks of a barren [woman] in 54:1. Paul quotes Isaiah’s verse in Galatians 4:27. How does the thought of the two texts connect? Note: Although the English of the two texts below vary somewhat, the Greek text of Galatians is identical to the Greek text of the Septuagint (Archer and Chirichigno).

Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband:

Galatians 4:27 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.” (ESV)

Isaiah and Paul 

When readers study the context of Paul’s Galatians 4:27, they may discover that Paul appears vastly more complex than Isaiah.

  • Paul wrote theology in his letter.
  • Isaiah prophesied.
  • Paul in Galatians draws upon several biblical strands and weaves them together.
  • Isaiah reports God’s word to him.
  • Paul looks back to a detailed history of Israel (Mt Sinai, Arabia, Hagar, Abraham’s firstborn son by Hagar, whom Paul does not mention by name, and Isaac) (Galatians 4:21-31).
  • Isaiah limits his history to brief mentions of  Abraham and Sarah (Isaiah 51:1-2).
  • Paul makes a specific argument concerning circumcision among Galatian believers.
  • Isaiah reports God’s words of comfort to the one he calls you barren that bear not.”

How Does Paul Use the Text from Isaiah?

Paul’s theology is bold and direct: The congregation of faithful Israel includes all believers in Christ without regard for ethnicity. Obedience to the law of Moses is not a requirement of either salvation or fellowship in the congregation of Christ-worshipers (1). These are basic premises Paul seeks to expound to primarily Gentile believers in the book of Galatians. Another way of stating this is that Paul recognizes but one pathway of salvation–belief in Christ the Son of God.

But Paul uses surprising metaphors in Galatians 4:21-31. He turns common assumptions upside down. Also, Paul’s writing is extremely compact. He mixes various metaphors without spelling them out in detail. Here, however, are the basics.

1. Paul distinguishes two Jerusalems. One is Jerusalem “now.” Paul means the concrete-physical Jerusalem one can locate on a map. The second Jerusalem is the “Jerusalem above.” This corresponds to a spiritual congregation born of God’s promise to Abraham. Followers of the Mosaic law live in the first. Those who place their faith in God’s promise through Christ inhabit the second.

2. The two Jerusalems correspond to two women. The first is Hagar, a slave woman. She represents the physical-concrete city of Jerusalem. The second is Sarah, a free woman. She represents the spiritual Jerusalem.

3. Paul also names two covenants. The first corresponds to Hagar. It is the Law which God gave Moses on Mt Sinai. Paul does not follow through in specifically defining the second covenant. The reader must infer that the second covenant is what gives birth to the “Jerusalem above.”

4. The first covenant, which corresponds to Hagar, the Law, and Mt Sinai, gives “birth to bondage.” But the second, corresponding to the “freewoman through promise” (Galatians 4:23), gives birth to everyone whom Paul calls “us all” (Galatians 4:26) and “we, brethren” (Galatians 4:28).

5. Paul identifies the second covenant (belonging to the Jerusalem above) with Isaac (verse 28). He states, “we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28).

Paul and Isaiah

So, where does Paul get his theology? And, how does Paul use Isaiah?

Paul quotes two Old Testament passages to support his reasoning to the Galatian believers. He first quotes Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 exactly as it appears in the Greek text of the Septuagint (see above). Now, if readers were to consider this verse completely free of its extensive context in Isaiah, they might conclude that Paul pulls a rabbit from a hat (performs magic).

Paul makes several assertions in his use of the “barren” woman quotation from Isaiah.

1. Use of the term “barren” one indicates Sarah to Isaiah, just as it does to Paul.
2. Isaiah’s prophecy in 54:1 is the promise Paul refers to.
3. Believers in Christ are the children of the barren one.
4. These children are the children of the Jerusalem above, which is free.
5. Therefore, the “barren” woman of Isaiah is the Jerusalem above. In other words, Isaiah indicates a spiritual Jerusalem in his metaphor, just as Paul does (2).

JERUSALEM ABOVE

Paul’s “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26) is real to Paul. In Paul’s letters, the Spirit and what is spiritual is every bit as real as what is concrete-physical. Concrete-physical denotes that which can be seen and touched. God’s transition of humanity from the realm of physical only, i.e., the concrete-physical, to the realm of the spiritual is one of the most difficult transitions for people of all ages to understand and accept.

Paul in Galatians seems to link the Mosaic Covenant and bondage together with the concrete-physical Jerusalem (the “Jerusalem which is now” {Galatians 4:25}). On the other hand, he links the Spirit (Galatians 5:5), God’s promise, and belief in Christ with freedom.

The question is, did Isaiah do the same?

THE BARREN WOMAN OF ISAIAH

Isaiah straddles God’s transition of humanity from concrete-physical to concrete-spiritual. Isaiah plants one foot in the physicality of the Old Testament. The other foot he plants firmly in the spirituality of the New Testament. Isaiah’s main purpose and theme in Volume 2 is to present God’s Servant. Jesus Christ fulfills Isaiah’s Servant prophecies. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Servant of God whom Isaiah presents so clearly.

What about Christ? Is he concrete-physical or concrete-spiritual? The answer is both. God is Spirit. Both biblical testaments teach this. Jesus Christ, Son of God, is therefore Spirit. As incarnated human being, he is also physical. Both his physical nature and his spiritual nature are every bit as real as the other. The New Testament teaches that when people believe in Christ, they, too, become indwelled with the Holy Spirit. They become spiritual beings, as well as physical. After the resurrection, when believers receive their new bodies, the union of body and spirit will be perfected. Now, because the body remains in slavery to sin, the union is not currently as it will be in eternity. (See Romans 6 through 8 for the struggle that exists between the flesh, which is the body, and the spirit.)

So, What About Isaiah?

The context of Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 reaches back for several chapters. Previous posts of this blog explore each one of these chapter contexts in detail. (Exploration of the “barren” woman context begins with Devotional 2.54).

As concerns the assertions that Paul makes, a brief summary of Isaiah follows.

1. First, Septuagint Isaiah 54:1-3 is indeed a prophetic promise of God (Paul’s assertion numbered two above.) Because God’s prophecies always are true, every prophecy serves as a promise.

2. Second, Isaiah’s own reference to the “barren,” “desolate” one does contain two connotations.

  • The first is to Sarah. In Isaiah 51:1, the Lord specifies that he addresses those who “follow after righteousness” and “seek the Lord”. Then in 51:2, he tells this group of listeners to “look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah that bore you.” Sarah, according to Isaiah, is the mother of those who follow after righteousness and seek the Lord. I believe it is fair to call these people “believers.” (See Septuagint Isaiah 51:1-2.) Both Isaiah and Paul indicate that believers are children of Abraham and Sarah.
  • The second connotation Isaiah includes in his terms “barren” one and “desolate” one is Jerusalem. Isaiah uses the term in much the same way that Paul does. Isaiah envisions Jerusalem as both the people and the place where those who follow after righteousness and seek the Lord live. Chapter 51 develops the context of this connotation.
    • Readers have already seen 51:1-2. In these verses, God speaks to those whose father is Abraham and mother is Sarah. He further describes those whom he addresses as those who “follow after righteousness” and “seek the Lord.” More descriptors occur in 51:7. There, God speaks to the same group as previously. He describes them as those who “know judgement” and in whose “heart is my law.” This group of people bear the brunt of reproach and contempt from men.
    • In Septuagint Isaiah 51:9 God addresses this small group of followers as “Jerusalem.” He characterizes them in verse 10 as those who by faith performed the miracles that permitted Israel to flee Egypt through the waters in the “depths of the sea.”
    • Verse 11 of the same chapter prophesies that this group which exercises faith shall return to Sion “with joy and everlasting exultation.” These are the Lord’s people (verse 16.)
    • Chapter 52 further defines this group of people whom God through Isaiah addresses. Sion and Jerusalem appear to be interchangeable terms (Septuagint Isaiah 52:1).
    • The prophet calls Jerusalem “the holy city” (52:1). He prophesies that “there shall no more pass through you, the uncircumcised and unclean” (same verse). This could hardly be true if Isaiah speaks of a concrete-physical city. Such cities tend to be bustling places with a cross-section of many types of people. And, many “sinners” did populate Jerusalem at the time of the Servant’s incarnation.
    • God characterizes Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day as a slave woman in bondage (52:2). But, God will ransom her. In the remainder of chapter 52, he describes how he will deliver Jerusalem .
    • God will bring salvation and deliverance to Jerusalem by means of the Servant’s sacrificial death (Septuagint Isaiah 52:9-53:12).

The Holy Spirit indeed inspired Paul in his theological understanding and his writing. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to understand the history of Israel and the written words of the Old Testament in the manner in which God intended.

  • Christians believe that all Scripture is inspired.
  • Paul’s letter to the Galatians is part of Scripture.
  • Scripture does not contradict Scripture.
  • Therefore, Paul’s interpretation of Isaiah 54:1 is just as God intended.
  • God does not change, nor does his intent. Scripture itself is not so much “progressive”. Rather his people’s understanding of Scripture progresses with the revelation of Jesus Christ and the interpretation of the inspired writers of the New Testament, of which Paul is one.
  • What Paul finds in Septuagint Isaiah 54:1, as he expresses it in Galatians 4:21-31, is what God intends us all to see. The content of Paul’s understanding of Isaiah 54:1, as he presents it in Galatians, lies within the text from the beginning, even in Isaiah’s day. Readers can verify this by following the context throughout the chapters of Isaiah which occur previous to 54:1.

3. Third, the group of faithful followers of God and his Servant whom God will bless definitely includes Gentiles. Isaiah provides many references to Gentile inclusion among those in Israel who follow after righteousness and seek God. Just two of these are Isaiah 52:15 Septuagint and Isaiah 54:3 Septuagint.

… This post marks the final post of the “Barren” Woman series. Future posts will move forward from this point.

__________
1 Of extreme importance to understand is that Paul is not a proponent of “lawlessness,” in the sense of immorality of any kind. Rather, Paul preached a law motivated by the love of Christ for others. The Holy Spirit who indwells believers governs the law of love (Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:5; 6:1-6, 15-18; 8:2-13; 12:9-10; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13; 16:14 and many others).

2 The term “spiritual” does not mean “not real.” I prefer writing “spiritual-concrete.” This term corresponds with its opposite, “physical-concrete.” In God’s system, both concrete and spiritual are every bit real. Jesus indicates that the spiritual carries greater “truth” than the concrete (John 4:20-24).

Marching Orders: Journal 2.67

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. This post describes the marching orders God gives to faithful Sion before he delivers them from captivity into the light of salvation.

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

To the current point in Septuagint Isaiah 51:9, the context has revealed that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is the faithful remnant of Israel. God will call Gentiles to join them in trusting God for the light of his salvation (Devotional 2.66).

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 51:9-52:12

Septuagint Isaiah 51:9-52:12 forms a tightly bound unit. In these verses, God addresses the faithful remnant of Israel, whom he calls Sion and Jerusalem. God’s marching orders for them mean nothing less than deliverance from captivity and oppression.

THREE CALLS FOLLOWED BY MARCHING ORDERS

Three times in the Septuagint passage God commands Jerusalem to “Awake awake”! (1) These three calls form a progression.

1. 51:9 Awake, awake, O Jerusalem, and put on the strength of your arm;
2. 51:17Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem,
3. 52:1 Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and do thou put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city:

After the third call to awaken, God gives his marching orders.

52:11  Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that brings up your rear. (LXE) [2 Corinthians 6:17 quotes verse 11]

FOURTH SERVANT SONG

Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song begins immediately after God’s promise of deliverance in the quoted verses (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The Servant theme unifies Volume 2 of Isaiah. The Fourth Servant Song describes the manner of God’s deliverance: punishment and death of the Servant. By the time the Servant arrives several centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy, most of Israel (except for a small remnant) appears to have forgotten this passage. And apparently no one understood its meaning.

WORD STUDIES AND OTHER COMMENTS

Jerusalem and Sion

The text seems to use “Jerusalem” and “Sion” interchangeably.

Jerusalem the Holy City

The third call to awaken identifies Jerusalem as “the holy city.”

Analogy of Faith Between Exodus from Egypt and Exodus from Babylon

The first call reveals the analogy of faith that accomplished the exodus from Egypt and will also accomplish the prophesied exodus from Babylon, both spiritual and physical.

First Call: Awake! Awake! Put on Strength!

The people of Jerusalem live in captivity in Babylon during the time when Isaiah prophesies. The first call to Jerusalem presents an analogy between the exodus from Babylon and the exodus from Egypt (LXE). In the same way that the faith of the people enacted the physical miracles God performed in delivering them from Egypt, so now God calls them to awaken and “put on the strength of your arm” (51:9). The “strength of [their] arm” represents the same kind of trust in God that enabled them to cross the Red Sea. The text describes the Red Sea water as “the abundance of the deep” and “the depths of the sea” (51:10).

51:11 for by the help of the Lord they shall return, and come to Sion with joy and everlasting exultation, for praise and joy shall come upon their head: pain, and grief, and groaning, have fled away. (LXE)

Notice the similarity of 51:11 with 51:6c and 51:8. There God announces that his “righteousness shall be for ever,” and his “salvation for all generations.” Readers begin to suspect that the hyperbole of the text may represent more than a physical return from Babylon.

Second Call: Awake, Awake! Arise!

The second call to Jerusalem to “Awake, awake!” is pregnant with meaning in the Greek.

51:17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, that have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury: for you have drunk out and drained the cup of calamity, the cup of wrath: (LXE)

51:17a ἐξεγείρου ἐξεγείρου ἀνάστηθι Ιερουσαλημ (Kata Biblon Greek Septuagint)

The Greek base word for “stand up” is ἀνίστημι (an-IS-tee-mee). Its intransitive middle form does mean to literally stand from a reclining position. However, the grammatical form in this verse is second person aorist imperative. In other words, God commands Jerusalem to stand up, or arise.

What makes use of the word interesting here is its use in John 6:39, where Jesus speaks of resurrecting (raising up) on the last day everything the Lord has given him. Even more to the point is Ephesians 5:13-14, where Paul quotes this very verse and alludes to its context in Septuagint Isaiah 51:5.

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV) 

51:5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. (LXE

In the first quotation from Ephesians, Paul combines with our current verse and Isaiah 26:19.

26:19 The dead shall rise, and they that are in the tombs shall be raised, and they that are in the earth shall rejoice… (LXE)

Paul’s understanding of God’s command to Jerusalem is “spiritual,” rather than concrete-physical. In Isaiah’s own day, his text would mean both the concrete-physical return from exile in Babylon and the spiritual application of resurrection from the dead. By the time the Servant-Savior came and Paul wrote about the power of his resurrection, the concrete-physical return from Babylon would have paled in importance against the resurrection from the dead the Servant commands. So it should be with us, to whom Christ gave the Key (himself) that unlocks the Old Testament.

Within the section containing the second call to awaken, God supplies the reason why the advent of the Servant became necessary. No one else in all of Israel had the power to save.

51:18 and there was none to comfort you of all the children whom you bore; and there was none to take hold of your hand, not even of all the children whom you have reared. 19 Therefore these things are against you… 20 Your sons are the perplexed ones, that sleep at the top of every street as a half-boiled beet; they that are full of the anger of the Lord, caused to faint by the Lord God. (LXE

Third Call: Awake! Awake! Put on Strength! Put on Glory! Shake Off the Dust and Arise! Sit Down! Put Off the Band of Your Neck!

52:1 Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and o you put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city: there shall no more pass through you, the uncircumcised and unclean. 2 Shake off the dust and arise; sit down, Jerusalem: put off the band of your neck, captive daughter of Sion. (LXE

1. REPETITIONS

The third call combines and extends calls one and two.

  • The phrase “put on your strength” repeats call one (51:9) of the Septuagint (1).
  • The command to “arise” is identical to the command translated “stand up” in the second call of 51:17.

2. EXTENSIONS

  • Sion and Jerusalem appear together twice in two consecutive verses.
  • “Put off the band of your neck” and “sit down” signals a transition from slavery in captivity to freedom, well-being, and status in the realm of the Lord God.
  • The text reveals Jerusalem as “the holy city.”

3. GENTILES

Verses 5 and 10 of the third call demonstrate again in Isaiah God’s love and concern for Gentiles (the nations).  In verse 5 God expresses irritation that the poor behavior of his own people has caused Gentiles to blaspheme his name (Romans 2:24). In verse 10, Isaiah prophesies that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God.”

4. VERSE 52:9 FORESHADOWS 54:1

52:9 Let the waste places of Jerusalem break forth in joy together, because the Lord has had mercy upon her, and has delivered Jerusalem. (LXE

54:1  Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (LXE

Points to Notice

  • The context of both verses is joy.
  • “Waste places” builds from the identical Greek base word as “barren.” The base word is ἔρημος (ER-ee-moss). Of places, it means “solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited” (Thayer). Of people, it means “deserted by others; deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially of friends, acquaintances, kindred; bereft” (Thayer).
  • The phrases “break forth in joy together” in 52:9 and “break forth and cry” in 54:1 both use the identical Greek word “break forth.” This word is plural in 52:9 and singular in 54:1.
  • The final phrase of 52:9 paraphrases, or interprets, the cause of joy in 54:1.
    • Verses 52:8-9 state, “8… when the Lord shall have mercy upon Sion. 9 Let the waste places of Jerusalem break forth in joy together, because the Lord has had mercy upon her [Sion]. (LXE)
    • Verse 54:1 states, “for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband:” (LXE
  • In summary, all the phrases of 52:9 in the third call to Jerusalem to “Awake!” correspond closely to all the phrases of 54:1. Therefore, one can again safely conclude that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is faithful Sion and Jerusalem, the holy city.

GOD’S MARCHING ORDERS

Isaiah closes the long section containing the three calls to Jerusalem to “Awake, awake” with marching orders to leave captivity. Notice the symmetry: “Awake, awake” and “Depart, depart.” Both the Israelites of Isaiah’s day and Christians of all ages can find delight in the joyful promise of these two verses.

52:11  Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that  brings up your rear. (LXE)

THE FOURTH SERVANT SONG

The details presented above represent the trees of the forest. The forest, in this analogy, is God’s Servant. The longest passage concerning the Servant up to this point in all of Isaiah follows immediately after God’s call to Jerusalem and Sion to awake, arise, and sit down in his presence. He summarizes these verses with the command to “Depart, depart” (see above). And, situated most importantly above everything else of significance in Isaiah, the fourth Servant passage describes how God intends to deliver and redeem Israel.

SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION

By the time Isaiah speaks out the Fourth Servant Song, the context of the whole has moved far beyond the strictly concrete-physical, local context of return from the physical location of Babylon. The spiritual aspect of the Servant’s suffering and dying as a sacrifice for the sins of his people claims center stage.

With the entirety of Isaiah’s context as backdrop, the “barren” woman whom Paul describes in Galatians 4:21-31 becomes more readily accessible. Lord willing, we will discuss Paul’s use of these Isaian passages in the next post.

__________
1 The Masoretic text (Hebrew tradition) of Isaiah differs from the Septuagint (Greek tradition) in 51:9. In the Septuagint, God addresses “O Jerusalem” or Sion three times. For the first of these, the Masoretic does not use the word “Jerusalem.” Rather, the text shows the people [of Israel] attempting to awaken God, “O arm of the LORD.” This, however, contradicts the entire sense of the last several chapters. They reveal that God is very much awake. The opposite holds true for the people of Israel. They appear to be depressed, chastened, and rebellious in their captivity. God himself initiates deliverance for Israel through his Servant. The previous chapters do not reveal Israel pleading with God.

God’s Faithful: Journal 2.66

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. This post demonstrates how God’s Faithful in Sion are identical to the “barren” woman of 54:1. 

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

Chapter 49 reveals that the barren woman is Sion. (See Septuagint Isaiah Devotional 2.64.) Chapter 50 opens with part two of God’s reply to those of Sion who claim he has abandoned them (50:1-3). It then moves on to the Third Servant Song in 50:4-9. Then, verses 10 and 11 address two different sets of people. Verse 10 speaks to those who fear the Lord. Verse 11 speaks to those who worship idols (Septuagint Isaiah 44:13-20) (and see Septuagint Isaiah Devotional 2.65). 

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 51

SPEECH TAGS

The text of Isaiah chapter 51:1-3 uses several speech tags to identify whom God, the speaker, addresses.

  • you that follow after righteousness
  • and [you that] seek the Lord
  • Abraam your father
  • Sarrha that bore you
  • you, O Sion

Verse 2 implies that the group whom God now addresses is small.

2 Look to Abraam your father, and to Sarrha that bore you: for he was alone when I called him, and blessed him, and loved him, and multiplied him. 

God appears to be saying that just as Abraham was “alone” (the word “one” in Greek), the group that “follows after righteousness” is likewise small. What God did for Abraham, he will do for them.

3 And now I will comfort you, O Sion: and I have comforted all her desert places; and I will make her desert places as a garden, and her western places as the garden of the Lord; they shall find in her gladness and exultation, thanksgiving and the voice of praise.

The Lord called, blessed, loved, and multiplied Abraham (verse 2 above). And now, God will comfort Sion in her desert places. Her desert places will be as a garden of the Lord. There will be gladness, exultation, thanksgiving, and the voice of praise. The phrase “desert places” in the Greek Septuagint is a different grammatical form of the same word the text of Septuagint 54:1 uses for “the desolate.” The referents, therefore, are most likely the same group.

USE OF METAPHOR

At this point in Isaiah, God speaks entirely in metaphor.

  • Sion is not a person.
  • If Sion were a group of people, a group of people is not a place.

And yet God will bless these metaphorical images of Sion in a way similar to how he blessed Abraham. They will prosper abundantly. But there is a difference. Abraham and Sarah were indeed people. God blessed them with numerous progeny (verse 2). The phrase concrete-physical can describe Abraham and Sarah’s blessings. Their children existed in the physical world.

WHEN WILL THESE BLESSINGS TO SION OCCUR?

If readers examine the text for labels that might indicate when God’s promises of comfort to Sion will occur, they will find no simple, direct tags. Verses 4 and 5, however, clearly refer to God’s blessing upon Gentiles.

4 Hear me, hear me, my people; and you kings, listen to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. (Septuagint in English, LXE)

Recall that the Third Servant Song occurs just a few verses back in Isaiah 50:4-9. In this context, God exhorts those who fear the Lord to listen to the voice of his Servant (50:10). He also calls out and foretells sorrow upon those who follow idols (50:11). Immediately after verse 11, God again exhorts those who follow after righteousness to listen. He tells them to listen and exercise the faith of Abraham and Sarah, their founding ancestors. But once again, as so frequently in the past several chapters, God expresses his intention to call, summon, and bless Gentiles along with Israel (verses 4 and 5 above).

In terms of timing, all of the promises above find their fulfillment in the first Advent of Christ, the Servant. After his ascension, the Gentiles flocked to join the congregation of the God of Israel’s Servant. Jesus clearly taught that his kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). He indicated in plain speech to the Samaritan (Gentile) woman at the well a change from an old economy to a new.  The new manner of worshiping Israel’s God would be spiritual, rather than concrete-physical (John 4:12-14, 20-24). Jesus the Servant also revealed to one of Israel’s leading rabbis (Nicodemus) that he must be “born” again of the Spirit (John 3:1-10).

A Retrospective Look

In retrospect, then, the text of Isaiah 51 leads in the direction of spiritual blessings of well-being and multiplication of progeny upon those of Sion who “follow after righteousness and seek the Lord” (Septuagint Isaiah 51:1). Is the change from concrete-physical to spiritual difficult to find and grasp in the text of Isaiah? Yes, for me it is. But I am not alone. Jesus the Servant’s disciples experienced similarly thick ears. Jesus, however, gave them his divine permission to go back and reconsider Old Testament prophecy through the lens of his incarnation–life, death, and resurrection (Luke 24:13-27, 44-49). Isaiah and Jesus the Servant speak of the same things.

More Time Tags

Up to this point in 51:5, everything that God through Isaiah promises to those in Sion who seek after righteousness finds its fulfillment in the Advent of Christ, God’s Servant, and the period of time after his ascension. But a long time has passed since Christ spoke the words of his Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Septuagint Isaiah 51:6-8 describes this long period of time and even beyond.

6 Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not fail. 7 Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 8 For as a garment will be devoured by time, and as wool will be devoured by a moth, so shall they be consumed; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation for all generations.

Verse 6 indicates that the righteousness promised the remnant of Sion and Gentiles together shall not fail. In other words, the kingdom of God’s Servant is a lasting kingdom. Verse 7 implies that God’s faithful people will experience opposition from others: reproach and contempt. But verse 8 indicates that those who oppose God’s people will grow old and die, but God’s righteousness will continue forever. He will extend his salvation continuously to all generations.

The text of Isaiah at this point contains no tags or markers that would indicate a “millennial” kingdom. Nor does it mention the Servant’s return. On the other hand, these verses describe very well the current era. This era extends all the way forward from the Great Commission to the present day.

CONCLUSION

Chapter 51:1-8 completes what chapters 49-50 and previous chapters began. By the end of verse 8, readers can conclude that the reference to the “barren” woman in 54:1 looks back to the references in God’s speech to a faithful Sion. In chapter 51, these are God’s people who follow after righteousness and seek the Lord. Consistent with many prior chapters, God again makes clear that Gentiles will be intimately woven into Israel’s future blessings of comfort and prosperity.

 to be continued

Sion and the Servant: Journal 2.65

Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. Chapters 49-50 demonstrate the connection between Sion and the Servant.

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

Chapter 49 makes fairly clear that the barren woman is Sion. (See Septuagint Isaiah Devotional 2.64.) We will continue examining the chapters previous to chapter 54 for contextual clues that might indicate more about the metaphorical woman Isaiah introduces in 54:1.

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 50

RECAP OF CONTEXT

Chapter 49 opens with the Second Servant Song. Isaiah’s content then flows unbroken through all of chapter 50. In this portion of the book of Isaiah (Volume 2, which begins with chapter 40), the text reveals that God’s Servant takes a more and more central position in the plans and purposes of God for Israel and the world. Readers will find that God blesses Israel through his Servant. Additionally, each time the text mentions the Servant, it also mentions both God’s and the Servant’s call to Gentiles. The Second Servant Song and beyond exemplifies the prior statement (Septuagint Isaiah 49:1-6 and 7-13).

Nevertheless, in spite of the joy Isaiah the prophet expresses in 49:13, Sion complains in 49:14 that God has abandoned her. God answers Sion’s complaint with two main points: 1) He loves Sion and has wonderful plans of blessing and growth for her (49:15-26), and 2) Sion brought the hand of God’s discipline upon herself, on account of her unfaithfulness to him (50:1-3).

MOVING FORWARD IN CHAPTER 50

Having dealt with Sion’s complaint, the text returns to its main theme at this point, which is God’s Servant (50:4-10). The Servant speaks in Septuagint Isaiah 50:4-9. Readers over the years have assigned this passage the title, Third Servant Song. One notable point about this song is that the Servant hears God speak to him and neither disobeys nor disputes (50:5). In this, the Servant is quite unlike Sion in the previous verses.

VERSES 10 AND 11

In verses 10 and 11, Isaiah the narrator breaks in after the Servant’s speech. These verses intrigue. They appear to be directed toward two distinct audiences.

1. Verse 10 addresses you who “fears the Lord.” Isaiah exhorts those who fear the Lord to listen “to the voice of his servant.” He further encourages those who “walk in darkness, and have no light” to “trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God.” Jesus’s statement in John 7:17 resembles the principle Isaiah gives in 50:10. God fully stands behind his Servant. Clearly, God wants to bless those who fear him through the voice of his Servant. (See also John 14:1.)

2. But Verse 11 addresses those in Sion who worship idols. These are they whom God admonishes in Septuagint Isaiah 50:1-3. Their end is that they “shall lie down in sorrow.”

CONCLUSIONS FROM CHAPTERS 49-50

1. God intends to bless Sion.
2. He connects his blessing upon Sion to his call upon Gentiles.
3. Those who obey God will receive his blessing.
4. The ones who continue to worship idols will not.
5. God’s blessings upon Sion proceed from the work of his Servant.

… to be continued with Chapter 51

The Barren Woman Is Sion: Journal 2.64

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. This post will demonstrate that the barren woman is Sion.

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

We have determined that this desolate one can be neither Gentiles (Devotional 2.56) nor apostate (faithless) Israel (Devotional 2.55). The thesis of these posts is that God in Isaiah distinguishes between the faithful and the unfaithful. His promises will be fulfilled in the faithful. Chapter 44 begins to indicate that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is faithful Jerusalem (Devotional 2.61). Chapter 48 (Devotional 2.62) develops the theme of God’s delivering Israel. He will rescue a remnant of all Israel. Nevertheless, the chapter divides into two sections. God speaks to rebellious hearts in the first, and to those whom he loves in the second.

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 49 continued

Chapter 49 builds a foundation for the barren woman of chapter 54.

54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited. 

In chapter 53, the narrator, possibly representing the congregation at the time of the Servant’s presence with them, describes the Servant’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Verse 54:1 opens in this same voice (1). The Lord, however, speaks verse 2. The narrator introduces him with the words that close verse 54:1, “… for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge… “

Notice the excitement in these three verses. “Rejoice, you barren that bear not… .” “Enlarge… fix… spare not… lengthen… strengthen… spread forth your tent… for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” This excitement reaches all the way back to Isaiah 49:13, “13 Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lard has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people” (Septuagint, LXE).

VOCABULARY

The speaker of 54:1 describes the addressee with these words:

1) you barren [feminine],
2) that bear not [who does not give birth],
3) break forth [to rend, burst, break through (Thayer)],
4) and cry,
5) you that does not travail [to feel the pains of childbirth (Thayer)].

Clearly, the barren one is a woman who has no children. The Greek words for “barren” and “desolate” are respectively, “sterile” and “of the wilderness, the desert, uninhabited.”

Yet the barren woman is about to give birth. Verses 2 and 3a (see above) indicate that she will bear lots of children. Therefore, she has need to expand her home (her tent). Verse 3 further reveals that her own children (“your seed”) will “inherit the Gentiles” (τὸ σπέρμα σου ἔθνη κληρονομήσει). These offspring who inherit the Gentiles “will inhabit the cities that have become desolate” (2). The Greek word for “desolate” is related to the word that verse 1 uses in the phrase, “the children of the desolate.” It means “made desolate, laid waste” (Thayer).

Christian, think. Isn’t this exactly what happened to the Jewish people, as recorded in the gospels and Acts? The first followers of the Servant were few in number. These were Jewish men and women. They were the “seed,” the offspring, of Israel. Then after the Servant announced the Great Commission to evangelize the entire world in Matthew 28:19, the day of Pentecost arrived. The Holy Spirit came. Peter preached out of doors to a multitude of Jewish people from all nations who had gathered in Jerusalem. Three thousand offspring of Israel were added to the believers that day (Acts 2:5, 41). Eventually, Peter, Philip, and a bit later the Apostle Paul preached to the Gentiles. These Gentiles joined themselves to the Servant, Christ, whose God is the God of Israel. The number of Gentile believers in Israel’s God and his Servant exploded, until we have what we see today. In this manner, the “offspring” of the “barren” “inherit[ed] the Gentiles.” History has fulfilled Isaiah’s words.

So Who Is the Barren Woman?

According to Isaiah 49, she is Sion (or Zion). This is an affectionate term God uses for Israel.

49:14 But Sion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. (LXE)

1. Sion’s condition in exile at the time of Isaiah’s writing appeared to the people of Israel as though God had forsaken, abandoned, and forgotten them. God replies to their charge against him this way:

17 And you shall soon be built by those by whom you were destroyed, and they that made you desolate shall go forth of you. (LXE

The Gentile nation of Babylonia destroyed Sion and made her “desolate.” The Greek word for “desolate” is a different tense of the identical Greek verb that 54:3 uses. It basically means to lay waste a place, so as to make it like a desert. Verse 17 states that those who destroyed Sion–the Gentiles–shall not only rebuild her but shall also “go forth” from her, as one who travels from a place that had been their home (Thayer). The prophecy and vocabulary of Septuagint Isaiah 49:17 strongly resembles that of 54:1-3.

2. Septuagint Isaiah 49:18-19 makes similar statements, using the same vocabulary as 54:1-3.

49:18 Lift up your eyes round about, and look on them all; behold, they are gathered together, and are come to you. As I live, says the Lord, you shall clothe yourself with them all as with an ornament, and put them on as a bride her attire. 19 For your desert and marred and ruined places shall now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that devoured you shall be removed far from you.

3. Verse 20 of the same chapter provides reasons why God commands the barren woman of 54:1-3 to enlarge her home. She will have many sons and her current tent is too small. In chapter 49 she expresses her astonishment.

49:20 For your sons whom you have lost shall say in your ears, The place is too narrow for me: make room for me that I may dwell. 21 And you shall say in your heart, Who has begotten me these? whereas I was childless, and a widow; but who has brought up these for me? and I was left alone; but whence came these to me? (LXE, 49)

The Sion of chapter 49 expresses astonishment, because her condition is the same as that of the barren woman who is about to give birth in chapter 54. They are the same woman.

54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (LXE, 54)

And, in both chapter 49 and chapter 54, the children proceed from the same source. The Lord calls the nations of Gentiles to come to Sion with their children to live there.

49:22 Thus says the Lord, even the Lord, Behold, I lift up my hand to the nations, and I will lift up my signal to the islands: and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and shall bear your daughters on their shoulders. (LXE, 49

54:3 … for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles… (LXE, 54)

CONCLUSION

The vocabulary, context, and statements of Septuagint Isaiah 49 demonstrate that Sion is the barren woman.

Looking Forward

Will the context of chapters 50-53 indicate that she is faithful Israel exclusively?

… to be continued

__________
1 See Isaiah Devotional 2.47 under the sub-section “Speaker.”

A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), translated by Moíses Silva, available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/33-esaias-nets.pdf.

Sion Complains: Journal 2.63

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. In this post, Sion complains, and Isaiah presents God’s response.

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

We have determined that this desolate one can be neither Gentiles (Devotional 2.56) nor apostate (faithless) Israel (Devotional 2.55). The thesis of these posts is that God in Isaiah distinguishes between the faithful and the unfaithful. His promises will be fulfilled in the faithful. Chapter 44 begins to indicate that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is faithful Jerusalem (Devotional 2.61). Chapter 48 (Devotional 2.62) develops the theme of God’s delivering Israel. He will rescue a remnant of all Israel. Nevertheless, the chapter divides into two sections. God speaks to rebellious hearts in the first, and to those whom he loves in the second.

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 49

Chapter 49 opens with the Lord God announcing to Gentiles the arrival of God’s Servant. More and more as the book progresses, references to Gentile inclusion accompany Isaiah’s prophecies of the Servant’s arrival. The section concerning the Servant begins in 48:15, “I have spoken, I have called, I have brought him, and made his way prosperous” (Septuagint). “Him” refers to God’s special Servant. Readers can know this for three reasons.

1. Isaiah’s theme in the second portion of the book (chapter 40 forward) is the comfort God will bring Israel through his Servant.
2. The text refers frequently to the Servant throughout these chapters.
3. The Servant, so very blessed by God and so pleasing to him, becomes a major character in the second volume.
4. The Servant’s words in the very next verse, verse 16, indicate that he could not possibly be Cyrus the Persian.

48:16 Draw near to me, and hear you these words; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning: when it took place, there was I, and now the Lord, even the Lord, and his Spirit, has sent me (Septuagint–LXE).

Cyrus was not present with God “from the beginning.” (See Proverbs 8:22-31.) For those with ears to hear and receive, it also stands possible that the “he” of verse 21 also refers to the Servant (LXE).

THE SERVANT SPEAKS: GENTILE INCLUSION

The section of Isaiah 49:1-6 is popularly known as the Second Servant Song. God’s Servant speaks all of the words it contains. Interestingly, except for a brief pause in verses 4-5, the entirety of this passage is a call to Gentiles to come and be blessed along with “the tribes of Jacob and… the dispersion of Israel” (LXE). (See Isaiah Devotional 2.26.)

The “God of Israel” in verse 7 commands the people to sanctify (to set aside for God’s use and treat as holy) the Servant. The Servant is “him that despises his life” (Septuagint). As Paul explains to the Philippians, he (Christ) became nothing and willingly submitted to death on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8; see also Hebrews 12:2).

From verses 8-12, God explains to the Servant his mission to Gentiles. God’s words to his Servant in Isaiah are the forerunner of the Great Commission that Jesus the Christ the Servant passes on to his followers before he ascends into heaven at the end of his incarnation on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). The Servant shall speak to Gentiles and Israel. God the Lord tells his Servant to say “to them that are in bonds” to go forth, to leave the darkness and “be fed in all the ways.” The text mentions the word “pasture” twice in three verses. It uses “shepherd” language. Christ (the Servant) said, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).

The entire shepherd passage in John 10:2-18 matches God’s intention in Isaiah 49 Septuagint perfectly. The “sheep that are not of this pen” (John 10:16) whom Christ says he must also bring, are the Gentile “nations” of Isaiah 49:1,6, and 8 Septuagint.

Verse 13 concludes the section that begins in Isaiah 48:16 with a very fitting command to rejoice.

13 Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (LXE)

SION COMPLAINS

But just then, after this wonderful scenario of health and well-being that God will bring to the entire earth through his Shepherd, Sion complains. “Sion” here is a term of intimacy. The elder son’s moping response to the inclusion of his wayward younger brother into his father’s family once again (Jesus’s Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:25-32) resembles so much Sion’s response to the wonderful news of God’s magnificent provision, as explained in the previous paragraphs.

14 But Sion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. (LXE

GOD REPLIES

God’s reply to the “moping” Sion makes two points. Together, these stretch into chapter 50.

I. “I will not forget you” (Septuagint Isaiah 49:15-26).

A. God proclaims that he loves Sion more than a mother loves her own child (49:15-16).
B. He does have plans for her. She will be rebuilt (49:17).
C. Sion’s own sons will return (49:18-21).
D. God will include Gentiles in the building up of Sion (49:22-23). The children of the nations will value the heritage of Israel and not let fall a speck of dust be lost or wasted.
E. The Lord will deliver Jacob from the Babylonians that afflicted them (49:24-26)

II. You Brought This on Yourselves (Septuagint Isaiah 50:1-3).

God replies with his second argument to Sion, paraphrased: You say that I abandoned you. What are the charges on your mother’s document of divorce? “Behold, you are sold for your sins, and for your iniquities have I put your mother away” (50:1). I did come, and there was no one to meet me. I called, and there was no one to listen (50:2). Don’t think that I have no power. I have plenty of power. And before this whole story is over, you will see me clothe the sky with darkness and make its covering as sackcloth (50:2-3).

RETURN TO THE SERVANT IN THE THIRD SERVANT SONG

God in chapter 49 has been presenting the glories of his Servant to his people and to the nations. Sion interrupts in 49:14 to complain by bringing false charges against God (see above). God answers their complaint in 49:15-50:3. Then immediately, in the very next verse, God returns to the topic at hand, which is his Servant. The Third Servant Song begins in Isaiah 50:4. There, the Servant speaks. (We will continue the Servant’s Song in a future post.) But first, what about the context of chapter 49 as it relates to the barren woman?

THE “BARREN” WOMAN OF 54:1

Chapter 49 builds a foundation for the barren woman of chapter 54.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited. 

… to be continued

Happy Easter!

IS CHRIST’S RESURRECTION HISTORICAL?

By Christina M Wilson

Sometimes Christians will hear a so-called “scholar” or nay-sayer proclaim that the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is not “historical.” Yes, it is historical, and here’s why.

In 2004 I had the blessed experience to accompany the mother of a close friend back to her home on a commune near Haifa. Towards the end of my trip, I had a few days on my own. I visited Jerusalem.

When it was time to leave, I wandered around the streets just outside the old city walls looking for a bus stop. I happened upon a quiet sign that read, “Garden Tomb.” A short while later, I sat alone in a dug out portion of rock in the face of a small cliff.

I sat for some time waiting for a “spiritual message” as I read various Scriptures posted on the wall. One said, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” –Matthew 28:6. All else lay quiet, including my heart.

Eventually, the message broke through to me, “He is not here.” Indeed, except for myself, the tomb remained quite empty. So, I also left. What is the point?

What this “doubting Thomas” learned is that Jesus is not in his tomb. I saw it with my own eyes. And this whole experience has remained with me over the years. It is part of my “history” with the Lord—a personal interaction he and I experienced together. There are many, many more.

This Easter, ask your friends who claim to know the Lord what their history is with him. Everyone who claims to know the Lord has such a history. It’s called their testimony. Maybe someone might want to share theirs below.

The first photo below is what the tomb looks like, a la Wikipedia. I lost the photo taken of me by some passersby. (But I was still wearing a long black jacket and carrying a black backpack purse–just like today!

The second photo is one I took inside the city walls. It reminds me that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

Chapters 45-48: Journal 2.62

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

We have determined that this desolate one can be neither Gentiles (Devotional 2.56) nor apostate (faithless) Israel (Devotional 2.55). The thesis of these posts is that God in Isaiah distinguishes between the faithful and the unfaithful. His promises will be fulfilled in the faithful. Chapter 44 begins to indicate that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is faithful Jerusalem (Devotional 2.61).

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 45

Isaiah chapter 45 declares the sovereignty and might of God. God defends himself very strongly as creator of all things. He even states that he creates darkness and evil (45:7). Devotional 2.21  develops this chapter with God as its subject. Chapter 45 anticipates the role of God’s Servant. It uses Cyrus the Persian as a type. In verses 20-22, God makes a special appeal to Gentiles to turn to him and “be saved” (verse 22). Chapter 45 does not appear to add to the theme of Jerusalem or Israel as the “barren” one of chapter 54:1.

CHAPTER 46

In chapter 46 God turns from defending himself to describing the idol worship of Israel. The description God gives of idolatrous Israel does not use the word “barren.” Nevertheless, this short chapter describes an Israel that spiritually walks through deserted places away from God. God calls the unfaithful to repentance. He promises salvation and glory for Sion (verse 13).

CHAPTER 47

God through Isaiah speaks directly to Babylon for the entirety of chapter 47. He refers to her as a “virgin daughter” (verse 1).  He continues the motif of addressing the Babylonian kingdom as a female person throughout the chapter. God speaks nothing about Israel in chapter 47.

CHAPTER 48 

Chapter 48 presents a classic example of God’s “flip-flop” of attitude toward Israel. In the first eleven verses God addresses unfaithful Israel. See below some of the phrases he uses.

1 Hear these words, you house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and have come forth out of Juda, who swear by the name of the Lord God of Israel, making mention of it, but not with truth, nor with righteousness; 2 maintaining also the name of the holy city, and staying themselves on the God of Israel: the Lord of hosts is his name… [My comment: The text leaves no room for doubting that God addresses those who call themselves by the name of Israel.] … 4 I know that you are stubborn, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your forehead brazen. 5 And I told you of old… lest you should say, My idols have done it for me; and should say, My graven and molten images have commanded me… 8 You have neither known, nor understood, neither from the beginning have I opened your ears: for I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and would be called a transgressor even from the womb. 9 For my own sake will I show you my wrath, and will bring before you my glorious acts, that I may not utterly destroy you. 10 Behold, I have sold you, but not for silver; but I have rescued you from the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake I will do this for you, because my name is profaned; and I will not give my glory to another. (LXE

TO PARAPHRASE: 

God in the previous passage addresses a people whom he identifies clearly. People know them by the name of Israel. They identify themselves with the holy city [Jerusalem]. But they do so falsely. They also pretend to rely upon God. In reality, they worship idols, stubbornly and boldly. God did not ever “open their ears” to understand him. He knew that they would “deal treacherously” and transgress from the time even before they were born (verse 8). God would have destroyed them, but this would not look good before the nations. Because they call themselves by Israel’s name, God rescued them. He did this for his own honor and glory, not for their sakes.

THE FLIP-FLOP

Immediately after this diatribe, God again addresses Jacob and Israel (verse 12). But the Septuagint presents a major difference between this address and the one immediately prior.

48:12a Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel whom I call… (LXE

The Septuagint uses the word “call” in present tense. The various English translations of the Masoretic use past tense. The difference is subtle. Past tense indicates that the calling was done in the past (obviously). This leads a reader to assume that God addresses the same group of people in verse 12 whom he addresses in verses 1-11. But this is not necessarily so.

Two Groups 

The Greek word “call” (καλέω, ka-le-oh) is the same word Paul uses in Romans 8:30 and Matthew in Matthew 2:15. Now, God in Isaiah 48:8 states that he did not open the ears of the Israel whom he addresses in that prior section. If their ears were not open to hear, then they would not hear God calling them. The second group of addressees, however, God does call. He calls in expectation that they will hear and obey.

Therefore, it seems highly likely that within the people known as “Israel” are two kinds of people. One type of person is what today we would label a “false believer.” This is someone who goes by the name of “believer” and perhaps behaves and speaks as though they were believers. But their profession is false. In reality, they are far from God. The other type of person is one whom God himself certifies that he himself called.

Today, we all recognize two types of “believers” in the Christian church. This is indeed why Matthew warns against wolves within the church who dress in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). If such different kinds of believers exist in the Christian church, why would they not be present in God’s Old Testament congregation of “Israel”?

GOD’S WORDS TO THOSE HE CALLS

48:12 Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel whom I call; I am the first, and I endure for ever. 13 My hand also has founded the earth, and my right hand has fixed the sky: I will call them, and they shall stand together. 14 And all shall be gathered, and shall hear: who has told them these things? Out of love to you I have fulfilled your desire on Babylon, to abolish the seed of the Chaldeans. 15 I have spoken, I have called, I have brought him, and made his way prosperous. 16 Draw near to me, and hear you these words; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning: when it took place, there was I, and now the Lord, even the Lord, and his Spirit, has sent me. 17 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the Holy One of Israel; I am your God, I have shown you how you should find the way wherein you should walk. 18 And if you had listened to my commandments, then would your peace have been like a river, and your righteousness as a wave of the sea. 19 Your seed also would have been as the sand, and the offspring of your belly as the dust of the ground: neither now shall you by any means be utterly destroyed, neither shall your name perish before me. 20 Go forth of Babylon, you that flee from the Chaldeans: utter aloud a voice of joy, and let this be made known, proclaim it to the end of the earth; say you, The Lord has delivered his servant Jacob. 21 And if they shall thirst, he shall lead them through the desert; he shall bring forth water to them out of the rock: the rock shall be cloven, and the water shall flow forth, and my people shall drink. 22 There is no joy, says the Lord, to the ungodly. (LXE)

COMPARISONS AND CONTRASTS

1. Notice that God calls this second group “out of love” (verse 14). The first group he delivered for the sake of his own name and glory (verses 9, 11).

2. Although this group also sinned against God and suffered discipline at his hand, nevertheless, God spares a remnant, just as he does for the first group (verses 9, 18-19).

3. The tone of this address is completely different (verses 20-21 versus 8-11).

4. As if to ward off confusion, God states strongly that the “ungodly” will have no joy. Because the group God addresses in verses 1-11 are ungodly, readers can apply verse 22 to them.

THE SERVANT

Septuagint verses 15 and 16 appear to refer to God’s Servant.

15 I have spoken, I have called, I have brought him, and made his way prosperous. 16 Draw near to me, and hear you [plural] these words; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning: when it took place, there was I, and now the Lord, even the Lord, and his Spirit, has sent me. 

Chapter 48 closes immediately prior to the Second Servant Song of Isaiah 49:1-6. Verses 15 and 16 in the Septuagint follow the First Servant Song of Isaiah 42:1-7. This passage, therefore, falls within the context of God’s Servant. God speaks verse 15, while the Servant speaks verse 16. Readers may conclude that God will pour his blessings on this second group of Israelites by means of his Servant. (LXE) (See also Devotional 2.24: Messiah Speaks.)

CHAPTER 48: CONCLUSION 

While the text of chapter 48 makes no specific mention of the “barren” woman (Septuagint Isaiah 54:1), it does delineate two kinds of Israelite: the strongly disobedient and another group, those whom God calls. The alternative to this conclusion–that there is only one group whom God addresses in both portions of chapter 48–leads readers to conclude that God’s chastisements are ineffectual. Readers might also conclude that God’s will is weak or that he cannot make up his mind. If God bestows the blessings of chapter 48 upon all Israel regardless of the condition of their hearts, then readers might conclude that for an Israelite the state of their faith does not really matter. In other words, why should they worship God? Why not cling to their idols, since God’s blessings will fall upon them anyway? But I strongly believe that chapter 48 does not state this. Those whose hearts remain closed off to God will not receive his blessings of joy (Isaiah 48:22).

%d bloggers like this: