Gleaning #5: Isaiah Devotional 2.7

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleaning-5-isaiah-journal-2-7/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

I. Isaiah 41:1 Gleaning #1: Isaiah Journal 2.5

II. Isaiah 41:2-3 Gleaning #2: Isaiah Journal 2.6

III. Isaiah 41:4 Gleaning #3: Isaiah Journal 2.6

IV. Isaiah 41:25 Gleaning #4: Isaiah Journal 2.6 

V. Isaiah 41:8-16 Gleaning #5: This Post

GOD HAS A SPECIAL PEOPLE, ISRAEL

8 But thou, Israel, art my servant Jacob, and he whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraam, whom I have  loved: 9 whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and from the high places of it I have called thee, and said to thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and I have not forsaken thee. 10 Fear not; for I am with thee: wander not; for I am thy God, who have strengthened thee; and I have helped thee, and have established thee with my just right hand. (LXE, Brenton)

Yes, indeed, thank God, he has a special people, Israel, whom he loves and cares for. Today, the question is, Who is Israel? The answer, apparently, appears difficult for large numbers of Christians to accept.

1. THE SHORT ANSWER

The text itself clearly answers the question, Who is Israel? “But you, O Israel, are My servant, and Jacob, whom I chose, the seed of Abraham, whom I loved.” (SAAS) (1) Clearly, the text speaks of a people, not a geo-political country. At the time of Isaiah’s writing, the people of Israel are in exile in Babylonia. Babylonia will soon to be taken by Cyrus, the Persian. The people, Israel, have no country. And yet, God’s people have not ceased to exist. “Israel…the seed of Abraham, whom I loved” has always been a people, not a geo-political nation.

2. OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL–A PEOPLE

  1. God called Abraham to leave his country, his “land.” God sent him to another “land.” (Genesis 12:1). Genesis 12:2-3 states God’s original promise to Abraham.
    2 And I will make of you a great nation [ἔθνος, eth-nos, nation, people. Cf ethnicity], and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV)
  2. Abraham wandered in the wilderness and became a nomad. Later, Abraham’s descendants, the sons of Jacob, remained in slavery in Egypt for some 400 years. But they were still God’s people, even without their own country.
  3. After Isaiah, the geo-political region known as Israel belonged at various times to the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. By the time Messiah arrived on the scene, the geo-political entity called Israel still remained an occupied land. Then, Rome demolished its capital, Jerusalem, along with the temple in 70 CE. Many of the descendants of Abraham went into exile. The New Testament prophesies this event (Luke 21:20-24; Matthew 24:2) but does not record its occurrence.
  4. But God specifically called Israel, “the seed of Abraham.” In God’s eyes, Israel has always been a people, not a country.
  5. The inclusion of Gentiles among God’s people hovers ever-present in the background of Isaiah to this point (Isaiah 11:10, 12; 12:4). In future chapters, the promise becomes more explicit (Isaiah 49:21-23; 54:2; 56:3-7).

3. NEW TESTAMENT

  1. The New Testament all but drops the subject of “land” entirely. When Scripture does mention the land, we find that the promise to Abraham and his descendants has turned from “land” into “world” or “earth.”
    • In Matthew 5:5, when Jesus promises the meek that they shall inherit the “earth,” Scripture uses the same Greek word (γῆν, geen) that it uses in God’s command to Abraham in Septuagint Genesis 12:1, LXX.
    • Paul explicitly states that God promised Abraham that he and his descendants would be “heir of the world” (κόσμου, kos-moo) (Romans 4:13).
  2. The apostle Paul devotes many chapters in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians to prove with Scripture that Gentiles are included among the offspring of Abraham. Just a few examples are Romans 4:16 and 18 and Galatians 3:29).

4. QUESTIONS

  1. In all honesty, dear Christian reading this post, do you find comfort and personal application in Isaiah’s words to “Israel” in Isaiah 40:1-2; 41:8-14, and 17-20? I certainly do.

2. Assuming a positive response, does it make any spiritual sense at all to delineate division between a) spiritual only blessings upon all of Abraham’s children by faith, and b) concrete (real estate) blessings upon his racial-only progeny? Does Scripture as a totality (Old and New Testaments together) teach race? No, it does not. Not by any means.

Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)

Conclusion

It is not the purpose of this blog to be contentious. Nevertheless, there seem still to be large numbers of Christians who cling to earthly, carnal, political fulfillment of God’s precious promises to all peoples everywhere from every tribe, language, people, and nation. God is inclusive, not exclusive. Reserving certain promises of God to those of a particular racial ethnicity robs other Christians of different ethnic descent of their full blessings in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:18-22). Plus, it complicates Scriptural interpretations enormously. Christians the world over should all be rejoicing together, as one, as Christ and his Father intend it to be (John 17). Inserting any kind of ethnic divisions into the mix ruins rejoicing as one.

As we shall see in the next post, Lord willing, “the God of Israel” favors the “poor and needy” (Isiah 41:17-20). Let us all seek to become one of these. The “poor and needy” throughout Scripture are God’s special people (Matthew 5:3-6).

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1 “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved,” in The Orthodox Study Bible, Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

Gleaning #2: Isaiah Devotional 2.6

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleaning-2-isaiah-journal-2-6/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

RECAP

Picking up the “story line” from the last post (Isaiah Journal 2.5), in Chapter 41of Isaiah, God summons the nations to renew their strength, gather themselves in consultation together, then “debate” (Isaiah 42:1, NET) with him. The debate will determine who is more powerful, God or his united enemies.

Differences Between Septuagint and Masoretic Texts

God speaks first in Isaiah 41:2-4 (1). The narrative of the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic in verses 2-3.

II. Isaiah 41:2-3 (2)

A. The Masoretic

The Masoretic text (Hebrew) portrays the victorious conqueror from the east accomplishing his militaristic feats through violence.

41:2 Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow.
3 He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod. (ESV)

Verse 3 appears obscure. What does it mean that he pursues nations “by paths his feet have not trod,”? Readers can compare translations at this website: Blue Letter Bible.

B. The Septuagint

The Septuagint text (Greek), on the other hand, portrays the victorious conqueror accomplishing his feats peacefully.

41:2 Who raised up righteousness from the east, and called it to his feet, so that it should go? shall appoint it an adversary of Gentiles, and shall dismay kings, and bury their swords in the earth, and cast forth their bows and arrows as sticks? 3 And he shall pursue them; the way of his feet shall proceed in peace. (LXE, Brenton)

C. Application

  1. I do not pretend to be an historian. Readers may consult online encyclopedias to discover that some accounts state that Cyrus achieved takeover of Babylonia peacefully by diverting waterways that protected the city. His soldiers marched through thigh high water by night. The Babylonians caved without resistance. Not all accounts agree with this. They vary by source material used.
  2. Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1 mention Cyrus by name. We have not arrived at these verses yet in our study. However, Isaiah does use metaphor. Cyrus could well be a metaphor for God’s shepherd, Christ. The Orthodox Study Bible (3) contains study notes that so indicate.
  3. If a reader chooses to interpret the phrases “righteousness from the east” and “his feet shall proceed in peace” as prophecies extending to God’s Messiah, then indeed, they are true. Christ, through his followers, spiritually conquered Gentile nations by means of peaceful preaching of the gospel.
  4. In any event, these questions concerning the meaning of verses two and three would most likely not be asked if the reader only consulted the Masoretic text.

III. Isaiah 41:4

Isaiah 41:4, LXX pops in the Septuagint text. The last two words state, “I Am.”

4 Who has wrought and done these things? he has called it who called it from the generations of old; I God, the first and to all futurity, I AM. (LXE, Brenton

A study note for this verse appears in the Orthodox Study Bible (3).

41:4 I Am, repeated twenty-seven times in chs. 41-49, means “I am the existing One.” This phrase is traditionally written in Greek in Christ’s halo on Orthodox icons (OΩN). This is how the Son and Word of God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex 3:14).

Additionally, the high priest tore his garments when Jesus spoke these words in Mark 14:62-63. On another occasion in John 8:58-59, the religious leaders picked up stones to hurl at Jesus when he spoke these words. These are actions Jewish people performed whenever they heard blasphemy. Because Isaiah consistently uses the “I am” phrase with reference to Yahweh, the Lord God Almighty, they understood that when Jesus spoke “I am” with reference to himself, he equated himself with Yahweh, the Old Testament Lord and God. This resulted in charges of blasphemy, by their interpretation.

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (ESV)

In all fairness, yes, the English versions of the Masoretic text do bring out the force of Isaiah 41:4, ESV, some more than others (see Isaiah 41:4, NET). But to anyone with an Old Testament Septuagint interlinear, the text in Greek immediately calls to mind New Testament parallels. (See also Revelation 1:8, 17 and 22:13).

IV. Isaiah 41:25

With much less dramatic impact, verse 25 contains a small difference worth notice.

The Masoretic (Hebrew) reads:

41:25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name; (ESV)

Another version translates the Hebrew differently:

41:25 I have stirred up one out of the north and he advances, one from the eastern horizon who prays in my name. (NET)

The Greek text reads:

41:25 But I have raised up him that comes from the north, and him that comes from the rising of the sun: they shall be called by my name: (LXE, Brenton)

The introduction of “they” here, in association with “him” calls to mind a New Testament text that points to Christ and his followers. “They shall be called by my name” finds fulfillment in Acts.

Acts 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (ESV)

CONCLUSION

Not too many years ago, many church “scholars” and pundits considered the Septuagint translation as “less than.” I, for one, encountered discouragement toward its use. In the past several years, however, a fresh appreciation of the Septuagint has grown. Some English translations of the Masoretic use it to inform their text, when the Hebrew meaning seems less clear or certain.

New Testament authors quoted extensively from the Septuagint. I find the linguistic connections between it and the New Testament to be many and rich. Septuagint Isaiah is a book in which the gospel connections between the Old Testament and Christ in the New are brought to light, rather than obscured. Lord willing, may he permit and encourage me to continue exploring its treasures.

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1 In fact, the nations never speak in all of this chapter. God speaks throughout. Rather, the text shows us their actions of constructing their idols together.

2 The prior post contains point one: Isaiah Journal 2.5

3Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

Gleaning #1: Isaiah Devotional 2.5

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleaning-1-isaiah-journal-2-5/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

Differences Between Septuagint and Masoretic Texts

I. Isaiah 41:1

A. The Details

40:31 but they that wait on God shall renew their strength; they shall put forth new
feathers like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not hunger.


41:1 Hold a feast to me, ye islands: for the princes shall renew their strength: let them draw nigh and speak together: then let them declare judgment. (Septuagint {LXX}, Brenton translation {1})

Compare the above verses from the Septuagint with those from the Masoretic below.

40:31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.


41:1 Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. (ESV)

A main difference in these verses is placement (location) of the word “together” in verse 41:1. In both the Septuagint English translation (LXE, Brenton) and the Greek text itself, “together” (ἅμα) refers to the action of the “princes.” The verb “shall renew” is future active indicative. This describes what will happen. In view of this, God states, “Let them” draw near and speak together.” In other words, with their newly found strength, God invites, or commands, the “princes,” or rulers, to draw near to one another and speak together with each other. “Then,” says the text, let them declare their judgment. (Conclusions will be drawn below.)

Another difference in verse 41:1 is the word translated “princes” in Brenton’s English Septuagint. The Septuagint, as translated by Moisés Silva (2), reads “rulers.” The princes are rulers.

The Masoretic text (ESV) for this word reads “peoples.” Also, the Masoretic assigns the word “together” with reference to God and the peoples, rather than to the peoples together among themselves. Further, unlike the Septuagint, God invites the peoples to renew their strength (“let the peoples renew”). Finally, they and God will “together draw near for judgment.” This order and grouping becomes very apparent in the NET translation.

“Listen to me in silence, you coastlands! Let the nations find renewed strength! Let them approach and then speak; let us come together for debate! (Isaiah 41:1, NET)

B. Gleanings from the Details 

By now, most likely, many casual readers have long since disappeared from the scene. “So what? Big deal. Who cares? This is really picking through straws,” some of them might say. But the Septuagint Greek text contains many treasures of richness in God’s holy Word, for those who have patience to read, reread, compare texts, listen, and notice. One reader’s chaff is another’s golden thread.

A STORY LINE REVEALED

Verses 40:31-41:1 reveal a story in the Greek text. We include Isaiah 40:31 because of the verbal tie established by repetition of the word “renew.” Isaiah 40:31 is one of the more popular verses from Isaiah. This verse has been set to music, and decorative wall plaques containing this verse adorn people’s homes.

Considering 40:31 and 41:1 together, side by side as they are, the reader perceives two distinct groups which renew their strength. One group are the blessed, “they that wait on God.” Waiting on God in Scripture is a marvelous thing to do. God favors those who wait on him. The other group are composed of the rulers, the nations, the far off islands. These words refer not so much to geography in this context, but to spiritual condition. Those far from God abide so because they oppose him; they have no interest in him. But God says they shall renew their strength. And being strengthened, God bids them to gather together with one another, to converse together in a huddle, to plan their strategy in opposition to God.

Now ordinarily, the peoples of islands, or far off nations, would not speak the same language. God confused the languages at the tower of Babel and scattered the people groups. Here they come together in a united front of opposition against God. A comparison with other Scriptures helps us to see that this is the case.

Psalm 2:2 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers gathered themselves together, against the Lord, and against his Christ; (LXE) 

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

God’s people, on the other hand, are not united by a “cause.” They are united by nature, for they share the nature and character of Christ.

John 17:11… Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one… 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me… 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one… (ESV)

As the story line progresses through the chapter, the reader discovers that the united enemies of God, the “rulers,” lose the argument. They and their idols neither foresee the future nor bring it about. God, however, created the world, foretells its future history, and in his might and power brings it to pass (see prior post).

Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (ESV)

CONCLUSION: GLEANING #1 God is in control. He designs the outcome and brings it to pass.

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1 English Septuagint Translation, Brenton, available at eng-Brenton_ISA.pdf (ebible.org), October 7, 2021.

The Structure of Isaiah 41: Isaiah Devotional 2.4

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/the-structure-of-isaiah-41-isaiah-journal-2-4/.

Recap: Three Major Themes

Isaiah chapter 40 begins what is commonly called the book’s second volume. As such, this introductory chapter presents the book’s three major themes.

I. God’s People

Isaiah 40 begins with the words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” The theme of comfort for God’s people will continue as a major emphasis throughout the remainder of the book

II. God’s Savior Messiah

Then immediately, in verse 3, Isaiah announces a prophecy of the coming Messiah and his forerunner (Isaiah 40:3-11). Of course, Isaiah doesn’t use the word “Messiah.” Rather, he says, “Behold your God” (verse 9), and “Behold, the Lord” (verse 10). Because the New Testament quotes some of these verses in relation to John the Baptist and others in relation to Christ, they establish that Messiah (Christ) is indeed God. The coming of the Lord Christ, God’s Son, Savior, is the over-riding theme of this second portion of Isaiah. The Savior/Servant provides the comfort and salvation God promises. God’s Son the Savior, not Israel, is the prophet’s focus.

III. God’s Credentials

In Isaiah 40:12-31, God displays his credentials as Creator. Previous chapters in Isaiah did not present God as Creator of heaven and earth.

NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF ISAIAH’S THEMES

The Introduction to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) contains all three of the major elements of Isaiah 40, though in a different form.

1. First and foremost, the Gospel of John concerns God’s Son, Israel’s Savior (John 1:12-13, 17). Just as in Isaiah, the Scripture of John presents the Son as its focus, not the nation Israel.

2. Secondly, the Son existed eternally in the beginning, face to face with God (John 1:1-3). The Son, the Word of God, created all things (John 1:3-4). He is Creator, co-partner with God.

3. Finally, the Introduction to John’s Gospel introduces the major theme of comfort (salvation) for all those who believe, Jew and Gentile alike (John 1:7, 9, 12-13). John identifies God’s people, his “children,” as all those who believe (John 1:12), without regard to race or ethnicity. The Apostle Paul also emphasizes this theme of sonship in the family of God without regard to race in many of his letters. See, for example, Galatians 3:7-9. As the second volume of Isaiah progresses beyond its opening chapter, the theme of salvation for Gentiles very nearly takes center stage.

Isaiah 41 (Septuagint)

How This Chapter Functions in the Whole

Chapter 41 of Isaiah may seem opaque, difficult, even at first, second, and third glances. It would be an easy chapter to brush aside without much bother and to move on to the more gritty “stuff” (content) that may seem more easily accessible. Eventually, however, especially by comparing translations, the flow and meaning of Chapter 41 becomes clear.

God is about to do a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in the history of humankind. This new thing is the advent of the God-man. Very soon, (in a few hundred years, as reckoned from Isaiah’s viewpoint), an Israelite woman will give birth to a human being who is God incarnate. This was and remains unique in all of human history. This advent has received, continues to receive, and should receive a giant exclamation point. In Isaiah, as one of several biblical places, God begins to lay the groundwork for the Advent through his chosen prophet. Chapter 41 is part of this preliminary groundwork.

Some Details Concerning Structure

The layout of Chapter 41 is chunky. Isaiah 41:1 opens with God calling to the coastlands or islands, rulers, people, or nations (depending which translation the reader is using) to gather and come to him for a spoken meeting. These are the Gentile nations. But is this portion, Isaiah 41:1-7, positive or negative? Within the book of Isaiah, both are possible. It is only when the reader arrives at verse 7 that the meaning becomes clear. The nations are cooperating among themselves in order to create idols in opposition to God.

Following this address to the nations, God through the prophet speaks in first person to Israel. The passage from verse 8 through verse 20 is beyond doubt a very positive passage. It resembles Isaiah 40:1-5 and 27-31. God’s words offer great comfort to Israel.

But then, without warning, God suddenly states, “Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob,” (Isaiah 41:21, ESV). The challenging tone of this verse continues through to the end of the chapter in verse 29. Where is the transition? Where does the text identify to whom God is speaking? So be it, the text leaves the reader on her own to figure this out. Eventually, however, the persistent reader comes to realize that God through Isaiah has again turned his attention to the nations he addresses in verses 1-7.

SUMMARY: So, in this chapter Isaiah presents three actors. 1) The first is God. He speaks in first person throughout. God’s speech alone moves the chapter along. There is no narrative. Nor does the prophet Isaiah comment at all. God’s first person speech pounds like a hammer. 2) The second actor is the Gentile nations collectively. Their role is passive. God addresses them. The reader must assume their presence and envision them listening to God and attempting to respond to his demands. 3) The third actor is Israel collectively. Like the Gentiles, their role is passive. They also appear only as listeners. Clearly, God is the main actor in Isaiah 41.

God’s Argument

God designed Chapter 41 to be a sledgehammer. He intends to draw attention to the fact that he is prophesying in advance the astounding events soon to occur. 

PARAPHRASE

  1. Announcement of the Prophecy

Pay attention, God says. I am prophesying. I want you to notice this. No one among the Gentile nations is able to prophesy as I do (Isaiah 41:22, 23, 26, 28). I am from the beginning (Isaiah 41:4). I control history. I will prophesy what will happen, and it will come to pass.

  1. The Prophecy
  • Israel will crush and thresh the mountains of the nations (Isaiah 41:15-16).
  • I will, says God, abundantly provide for the poor and needy (Isaiah 41:17-20).
  • I will open new water sources in the land that will cause lush vegetation to grow (Isaiah 41:18-19).
  • Jacob (Messiah), My Servant, My chosen, will come (Isaiah 42:1f).

Outline of Structure

  1. Isaiah 41:1-7. God addresses non-believing Gentile nations, calling them to attention and challenging them to a contest of prophecy.
  2. Isaiah 41:8-20. God addresses Israel, “my servant,” with comfort and promise. God through the prophet introduces this section with “but you…”
  3. Isaiah 41:21-28. God addresses the non-believing Gentile nations a second time.
    • Verses 21-24. God challenges these nations and their idols to do something amazing to display their power. One thing they might do is prophesy the future to demonstrate that they are gods.
    • Verse25. God appeals to his raising forth of “one from the north…and from the rising of the sun” to demonstrate his power.
    • Verses 26-28. God displays his credentials through prophesy. God states that no one from among the nations knew or foretold this. But he, God, did. He foretold, and he brings to pass. 
  4. Isaiah 41:29. God sums up his argument with the Gentiles and their idols, “Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.” (ESV)

TO BE CONTINUED: The next post, Lord willing, will explore some of the details of particular verses in this chapter. A brief local application to the time and place of Isaiah will be presented. A Christian viewpoint will be considered.

God Rebukes Doubt: Isaiah Devotional 2.3

By Christina M Wilson. Published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/god-rebukes-doubt-lxx-isaiah-2-3/.

Jesus as Creator

Christians know that Jesus created the world.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… 10… the world was made through him…

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

Divisions of Isaiah 40

  1. Verses 1-11, the Coming One
    1. verses 1-2, Introduction
    2. verses 3-11, Messiah comes, who is God the good shepherd
  2. Verses 12-31, God the Creator
    1. verses 12-26, facts about God the Creator
    2. verse 27, chastisement
    3. verses 28-31, corrective to the disbelief exhibited by Israel in verse 27
    4. verse 31, promise of renewal that leads to sustained hope

Who Is Who in Chapter 40?

The prior post records how Isaiah 40:1-11 speaks of the Coming One whom John the Baptist announced. This one is Jesus of Nazareth. But readers must look carefully at the referents Isaiah uses. Of whom does he speak?

“God” and “Lord” the Same in Isaiah 40:1-11

The Septuagint translation uses the name “God” (theos) five times in Isaiah 40:1-11. It uses the name “Lord” (kupios) five times. Plain speech leads everyday readers to conclude that the text uses these names synonymously. There is nothing in the text to indicate otherwise. Only the New Testament reveals that the voice which cries in the wilderness speaks of Jesus Christ.

This is exactly the point.

In this first section of Isaiah, the prophet does not distinguish between “God” and “Lord.” They are one and the same.

Therefore, when New Testament Scripture reveals the God and Lord of verses 9 and 10 to be Jesus Christ Messiah, Isaiah has already identified these names to be identical, synonymous. Messiah, the Lord (Jesus) is God. Realizing this helps explain to readers today why the Pharisees bore such passionate hatred to Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. They understood that he claimed to be God. Obviously, they rejected this man as Messiah. He did not exemplify the kind of God they wanted.

From Comfort to Chastisement

Isaiah 40 opens with comfort.

1 Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your 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 for her sins. (CAB, LXE) (1)

But the prophet employs a tone of chastisement, of mild rebuke, in verses 12-31. God chastises Jacob, that is, Israel (verse 27).

Isaiah 40:27 For do not say, O Jacob, and why have you spoken, O Israel, saying, My way is hid from God, and my God has taken away my judgment, and has departed? (CAB, LXE)

(2) In today’s American English, verse 27 appears to be a “throwback” to earlier chapters of Isaiah. Careful readers should notice and store up these nuances. Why? The tone differs so greatly between Isaiah 40:1-2 and Isaiah 40:12-30 that a careful reader might question whether Isaiah speaks to the same group of people. Does the “My people” of verse 1, to whom God speaks so tenderly, refer to the same “O Jacob,” “O Israel” of verse 27? God chastises doubters and naysayers in verse 27. Are these two groups the same groups? Or, is God schizophrenic? These are questions to store up in our hearts as we continue reading. (3)

How Does Division 2 Relate to Division 1?

How do the two divisions of this chapter connect? As noted above, the two “divisions” in Chapter 40 differ in tone. The first is favorable and tender. The second challenges disbelief. These read as though something is missing in the middle. Perhaps in the second division God answers Israel’s response to his overture of forgiveness and comfort from verse 2. If so, Israel’s response itself has not been recorded.

Certainly, verse 27 reveals Israel’s doubts concerning the nearness of God. They perceive themselves as far removed from God, hidden. They perceive God as having packed his bags, so to speak, and departed. The phrase “my judgment” in verse 27 is difficult for the modern ear. This way of thinking is not part of our lives. It could be used as a recently pardoned criminal might use it. Their condemnation is removed. They’re now invisible to the law, free. Or, it could be used as a child might speak of their parent. If a parent were to depart, then their guiding hand of discipline, both positive and negative, would have departed with them. The following translation captures, I think, the intended meaning in its context.

Why do you say, Jacob, and declare, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD my God ignores my predicament”? (Isaiah 40:27 CEB, Common English Bible)

What is clear is that God through the prophet represents Israel as confessing a separation from God. This would indeed match the scenario of a people in exile after a period of seventy years. They feel that they are on their own, invisible to him. God is not pleased with their doubt. Thus, he replies by describing his power and might. His reply appears to be a combination of mild rebuke and a pep talk designed to inspire belief and motivation.

  • In verses 12-17, God compares himself with all the nations. He is a giant of unfathomable size and might. All humanity is nothing in comparison.
  • Verses 18-20 describes the temporary, corruptible nature of human idols
  • God on the other hand created all things in heaven and on earth, verses 21-26

God’s Point

The point, then of verses 12-26, is God answering the doubts Israel expresses in verse 27. He sums up his position in verse 28.

28 And now, have you not known? Have you not heard? The eternal God, the God that formed the ends of the earth, shall not hunger, nor be weary, and there is no searching of His understanding. (CAB, LXE)

To support his claim, God provides examples of his power over human beings. These examples indicate that God often turns things topsy-turvy to our expectations. He does the opposite of what might be suppose will happen.

  • he gives strength to the hungry (v 29)
  • he gives sorrow to those who do not mourn (v 29)
  • youths (young people) will faint and grow weary (v 30)
  • the elect (chosen ones) will be without strength (v 30) (good to consult various translations for this verse)

But… Application for Today

Verse 31 provides the capstone for division 2 of Chapter 40.

31 but they that wait on God shall renew their strength; they shall put forth new feathers like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. (CAB, LXE)

This verse encourages people who have endured much and waited long. God’s promise is for us today, as well as for the Israelites in captivity. It applies also to Anna, Zechariah, and the other saints, few in number, who understood God’s promise to send a Messiah, Savior, to them. They faithfully waited. They endured the keeping of their hope alive to the full length of their lives. Most likely, they had no daily encouragement, no little signs along the way. They heard, understood, and treasured God’s promise of Messiah in their hearts, faithfully waiting until either fulfillment or the end of their lives. For Anna, he waiting yielded fulfillment (Luke 2:36-38).

We should continue to wait patiently on the Lord. He is not like us (Isaiah 40:12-29). His promises never fail.

Conclusion and Summary

One other important application is to do as Mary did, “to treasure up” these things in our heart (Luke 2:19). As we continue to study Septuagint Isaiah together, let us bear in mind Isaiah 40:3-11. This portion does not fit the scenario of God’s returning a captive people back to their homeland after exile in Babylonia. It doesn’t blend in at all with our development of this chapter in the traditional way–that is, God’s challenging a doubtful people to believe him. Yet, Isaiah has given verses 3-11the place of prime importance, the beginning of Chapter 40. Chapter 40 introduces the rest of the book.

And, verses 3-11 dovetail beautifully with Isaiah 40:1-2. Therefore, I prefer to think of what I have called Division 1 (Isaiah 40:1-11) as a separate section entirely. Isaiah never meant it to “blend in” with the rest of the chapter. In this way, Division 2 would be local to Israel’s historical position of nearing the end of their captivity in Babylon. Division 1, a stand-alone section, looks to the then far future of the coming Messiah. Its weight and scope is eternal.

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Complete Apostles’ Bible, Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito. (The CAB is a recent translation in today’s English of the ancient Greek Septuagint text, as translated by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton (LXE, Septuagint English Version).

2 Notice that in this portion, Volume 2, the text loses the distinction between Israel (the northern tribes) and Judah. Throughout Volume 1 (the first thirty-nine chapters), Isaiah had fairly consistently maintained that distinction. This fact is another indication that the book has shifted its focus. In a certain sense, a reader might even conclude that the generalizing use of “Israel” in reference to the twelve tribes is a form of metaphor.

For example, if, as many commentators say, Isaiah in these verses addresses the exiles in Babylonia, aren’t they predominately from Judah? Yet, by calling Israel Jacob, the prophet draws specific attention to the twelve tribes. Yet the northern nation ceased to exist over a century before the southern. Therefore, by speaking to the whole of the original nation in this way, the flavor of the appellation takes on a rather idealistic tone–as stated previously, a metaphorical tone. “Israel” and “Jacob,” without regard to the facts of the specific histories of these two kingdoms, appear to mean “God’s people,” as opposed, perhaps, to the Gentile races.

3 Readers might recall all of Isaiah’s references to the “remnant” in Volume 1. For example, see Isaiah 10:20-22 and Isaiah 37:32.

The Coming Messiah: Isaiah Devotional 2.2

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/the-coming-messiah-lxx-isaiah-2-2/.

Isaiah 40:1-11: Structure of the Opening Verses

The first unit of Volume 2 of Isaiah (verses 40:1-11) boldly and joyfully announces the coming Messiah. Yes, the return of the captives from Babylonia hides in the background. “Hides” is a good word. This portion of Isaiah is nowhere as specific and blunt as the first thirty-nine chapters, which comprise Volume 1. Readers must look closely to find actual mention of Babylonia in these first four chapters of Volume 2 (See Isaiah 43:1447:148:1420). Commentators who insert the history of Babylon and the captivity of Judah into this prelude do so by reading into the text a secular history well known from other portions of biblical history, such as found in Ezra. Isaiah himself never names Babylon directly in these early chapters of Volume 2. Consequently, the coming Messiah is not a secondary application here, but the primary application.

The first eleven verses contain three subsections: Isaiah 40:1-23-5, and 6-11.

  • The first subsection introduces the theme of Volume 2: comfort and forgiveness for God’s people, Jerusalem. (See Introduction.)
  • The second proclaims the forerunner of the coming Messiah (see “The Church” in Concrete and Spiritual).
  • The third introduces the Shepherd and his love more fully. He is the eternal Word (John 1:1-5, 14), as differentiated from mortal human beings (vv 7-8). This post focuses on the third subsection.

Isaiah 40:6-8

6 A voice of one saying, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass; all the glory of man is like the flower of grass. 7 The grass has withered, and the flower has fallen, 8 but the word of our God remains forever. (NETS) (1)

NOTE: Verse 6 says “a voice,” even though the noun in Greek has no article. Translators are nearly unanimous that “a” is correct. Otherwise, context would indicate that the voice is the same as in verse 3, the voice in the wilderness, i.e., John the Baptist. This is unlikely to be the intended meaning. This voice is an unidentified voice, perhaps that of the Lord or an angel, speaking to the prophet. The voice tells the prophet what to “cry out,” or proclaim loudly.

Verse 6 speaks of the short lifespan of humans. Because a single lifespan is so short, the person’s work is often futile. Verse 7 continues the thought. The glory of everything humans create fades rapidly and disappears. In context of ancient Israel, this would include the temple that human hands built and will build again after the exile. Everything that humans build eventually falls into decay. This includes earthly kingdoms and institutions. Within the fallen created order everything decays and dies.

Contrasted with the work of humans is the “word of our God” (verse 7). The prophet confesses God to be his own. The Apostle Peter identifies the “word” in this verse to be the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:24, 25). Unlike any human temple ever built, the spiritual temple that Christ builds is eternal (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Christ’s kingdom “remains forever” (verse 7). By contrast, the so-called concrete-literal, millennial kingdom will only last 1,000 years. As Isaiah 40:6 states, what is the point? “The grass has withered, the flower has fallen.”  Christians should seek to understand that a concrete, physical temple is nowhere nearly as glorious as the spiritual temple Christ himself is building.

These first verses at the beginning of Chapter 40 are the best news the prophet could possibly bring. The good news, “the word of our God” is about the glory of Christ, the coming Messiah. It is not about the destined-to-fade glory of Israel. Let us prayerfully seek to know and commune with the Holy Spirit, who resides in the heart of every believer in Christ. “Christ in you” is “the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27). The greatest gift we can ever give is to tell others the “good news,” about Jesus Christ and his kingdom. This is the word that will live forever.

Isaiah 40:9-11

9 O you that brings glad tidings to Zion, go up on the high mountain; lift up your voice with strength, you that brings glad tidings to Jerusalem; lift it up, fear not; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold the Lord! The Lord is coming with strength, and His arm is with power; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. 11 He shall tend His flock as a shepherd, and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and He shall soothe them that are with young. (CAB, LXE)

This section is very interesting. The “glad tidings” of verse 9, translated literally, mean “to evangelize.” This is the same “good news” as in verse 8, “the word of our God.” The Apostle Peter identifies this “word” as the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom (1 Peter 1:24, 25). Christ’s kingdom is Mount Zion on which Jerusalem sits (Hebrews 12:22-29).

The voice (verse 6) tells the prophet here to preach the good news of the King and his coming kingdom. To whom should the prophet Isaiah preach? He should preach to “Zion…Jerusalem” and “the cities of Judah.” Yet the context continues to strongly indicate that this is a New Testament message. Further, the context and corroborating verses in 1 Peter demonstrate that the time of the “coming” is the first coming of Christ. This is not a “millennial” message. This is a “shepherd” passage. The gospel is clear: “Behold your God…the Lord,” your coming Messiah! Later chapters of Isaiah explain that the blessing of the coming Messiah includes far more than Israel. The kingdom of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).

Does the prophet Isaiah separate and distinguish his Messianic message between Israel and the Gentiles? One blessing for Israel and a separate, different blessing for Gentiles? No, he doesn’t. Isaiah 40:10-11 speaks to Zion, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah. They clearly indicate the Jesus who walks through the pages of the four gospels. There is one coming Messiah King who will bless and gather one people for himself (Ephesians 2:11, 11-22; Galatians 3:28-29).

This good news should be an amazing cause of great joy. Indeed, as the book of Isaiah progresses, the prophet continues to express the great joy of the “word of our God,” the “shepherd” who “gathers the lambs,” and of Him who “shall soothe them that are with young.”

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1 Silva, Moíses. A New English Translation of the Septuagint: Esaias. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Available online at A New English Translation of the Septuagint. 33. Esaias (upenn.edu). Accessed September 17, 2021.

Concrete and Spiritual: LXX Isaiah Devotional Vol 2.1

By Christina M Wilson. Republished from https://justonesmallvoice.com/concrete-and-spiritual-lxx-isaiah-journal-vol-2-1/.

God Calls His People a City

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. 2 Speak, ye 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. (Isaiah 40:1-2 LXE)

In Isaiah 40:1-2, God commands the priests to speak the comfort of reconciliation to his people, Jerusalem. In verse one, he refers to his people as, “my people.” In verse two, he refers to this same group as “Jerusalem.” God commands the priests to speak to “the heart of Jerusalem.” He says to them that Jerusalem’s humiliation is over. “Her sin is put away, for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins.” Would any honest person argue that by “Jerusalem” God means the pile of rubble that the Babylonians left behind? (Do rocks and stones and wooden pillars “sin”?) In these verses, God equates in a figure of speech the city “Jerusalem” with “my people.” In verse 2, God refers to Jerusalem as a female, singular. God calls his people by a singular, female appellation. The point is that if “Jerusalem” means the people of Jerusalem here, then it may also mean so later in the book of Isaiah.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

How readers interpret Scripture is called “hermeneutics.” Hermeneutics is the study of the underlying assumptions and interpretive principles different readers bring to a text. Isaiah is an example of poetic prophecy. Characteristic of Isaiah and other books of prophecy (see Zechariah, for example), the writer uses imagery whose referents are not always clear. In other words, when readers, especially readers today, read certain prophetic passages, they often come away not knowing who or what or when specifically the passage is about. It is common for readers and biblical commentators to fill the gaps with their own presuppositions, their own hermeneutical preferences.

Scripture informs us that not knowing the specific referent was sometimes the case even for the Old Testament prophets themselves. Peter writes:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1Peter 1:10-12 ESV)

God himself was the original source, the origin, of the words the prophets spoke.

20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Peter 1:20-21 ESV)

The entire passage, 2 Peter 1:16-21, is good and relevant to Isaiah 40:1-5. Peter’s point is that Jesus Christ is the main point of the prophetic witness. He tells how the booming voice from heaven revealed to himself and others on the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The “Holy Spirit sent from heaven,” further verifies to all believers Christ’s identity as Messiah, Son of God. This knowledge from the future is highly relevant to this portion of Isaiah.

What Do Readers Know About God’s People?

Both Testaments speak of God’s having chosen a “people.” In the Old Testament, God’s people are the community whose native or adopted land is Israel. God chose to “reside” in the temple constructed in Jerusalem, the religious and governmental capital of the land of Israel. But even in the Old Testament, after the dispersion to Babylon and elsewhere, people who identified with Israel and its religion considered themselves the people of God.

In the New Testament, God’s people are those who believe in and display loyalty to Christ, their King. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was Jewish. His first followers were Israelites, the people of Israel. But New Testament authors, especially Paul, expanded the Old Testament concept of “God’s people” to include all peoples everywhere who follow Christ. God’s people includes Jewish folk and Gentile folk alike. Paul teaches that Abraham’s children are those who believe in Christ (Galatians 3:22-29). He teaches that non-Jewish believers in Christ have been “grafted in” to the native “olive tree” of Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Now, by faith in Christ, God’s people are Israelites (Jewish people) and Gentiles (non-Jewish people) together as one (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Concrete or Spiritual?

The New Testament identity of Jerusalem is a touchy subject. For example, will Old Testament prophecies concerning Jerusalem be fulfilled literally, that is, with physical concreteness concerning bricks and mortar? Or, will these prophecies find fulfillment in a spiritual way that includes all believers, rather than ethnic Israel exclusively?

The framing of the question is important. Those who frame the question as though inclusion of Gentile believers in Christ excludes “ethnic” and “national” Israel are misinterpreting Scripture and their rhetorical opponents. Both Testaments are very clear that God discriminates against no one, no one, according to ethnicity or national citizenship. The following is a quotation from a study Bible.

“Interpretive challenges…on whether Isaiah’s prophecies will receive literal fulfillment or not, and on whether the Lord, in His program, has abandoned national Israel and permanently replaced the nation with the church…”

“… He [God] would not reject the people whom He has created and chosen…”

“…To contend that those yet unfulfilled [prophecies of Isaiah] will see non-literal fulfillment is biblically groundless… disqualifies the case for proposing that the church receives some of the promises made originally to Israel. The kingdom promised to David belongs to Israel, not the church.”

The quotations above are taken from “The MacArthur Study Bible,” by John MacArthur, Author and General Editor, published at Nashville, et al., by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Copyright 2006, page 935.

I think it’s important to let God interpret his own Scripture. As a Christian, I do allow the New Testament to expand, clarify, and enlighten the Old. God is so much larger than all of us combined. Our understanding of his ways is meager, and paltry, and minimal at best. I do not believe it is necessary to set up an either/or hermeneutic as the above writer and many others have done. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD,” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV).

I believe that God is infinite. Our logic and best efforts to restate God in our own words falls infinitely short of his power and grace. I believe that God will honor his promises to the fathers of Old Testament Israel and he will honor his promises to New Testament saints at one and the same time. These are not mutually exclusive. God can be faithful to the Old Testament fathers and faithful to his Gentile believers now. The two are no longer distinguishable.

One thing I do know, a particular Study Bible does not have the final word on either God or his outcomes. Saying, This is what God means and what he must be bound to, does not make it so. That is human interpretation. I will not be robbed of portions of God’s biblical promises to David because a certain interpreter says, that as a Gentile believer, I have no stake in these promises. Nor would I rob anyone else. This is for God to settle, not we his people.

However, as far as this blog is concerned, I pray that I will always take the high road of placing Christ, not physical Jerusalem, at the center. I pray that I will place Christ, not ethnic Israel, at the center of my interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Application to Isaiah?

What do the biblical books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians have to do with the book of Isaiah? Simply this. When I, as a 21st century non-Jewish Christian, read God’s words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” can I apply these words to myself? I believe that the New Testament teaches that yes, I can. God is also speaking to me. And, the Holy Spirit within me says, yes, I am God’s child, every bit as much as his Old Testament people. For I, as a believer in Christ, am one of “God’s people.” This is basic Christianity.

To say that the New Testament church is co-partaker with God’s Old Testament people, Israel, by no means implies an either/or situation. All the promises in Christ are yes (2 Corinthians 1:19-22). Because God through Christ grafted Gentiles into Israel’s native olive tree does not by any means imply that Israel will no longer receive God’s promises. However, I believe that those who wish to make an application of any of God’s promises to Israel only, excluding the church, are misreading Scripture and making assumptions that God never intended.

What does it mean when Scripture says, he who is our peace “made us both one” (Ephesians 2:11-22)? The context of these words is ethnic Jewish believers and ethnic Gentile believers. Doesn’t the plain sense of the words indicate that literally, concretely, both of these groups in their entirety are one in Christ? Paul makes no disclaimers. He does not say, “I am speaking spiritually here. I do not mean that “literally” they are one. Of course literally they are still separated. Only in the Spirit are they one.” Paul did not write that.

That is not what the biblical text states. Christ does not say yes yes and no no (2 Corinthians 1:17-19). Scripture does not say to the church, yes to the “spiritual” and no to the “concrete”. Using plain words, Isaiah did not distinguish–this is “literal,” and this is “spiritual.” Those who see such distinctions are reading their own desires into Scripture. For we are all one in Christ. In plain English, one means one.

Paul follows Isaiah. He clearly states, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise,” (Galatians 3:29 ESV). Paul does not qualify his statement by explaining that he means, “heirs of the spiritual blessing that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant.” (1) Paul states, “heirs according to promise,” not, Heirs of spiritual [only] blessing. I repeat, God is big enough to fulfill all the biblical promises he has ever made at every level, spiritual and concrete, without excluding anyone. It is a shortage of insight and love that causes some to set these prophecies up as an either/or situation.

The Very Next Verses Introduce the Church

Volume 2 of Isaiah opens with Isaiah 40:1-2 announcing comfort to God’s people and the perfect, complete putting away of Jerusalem’s sin [i.e., the people of Jerusalem’s sin].  Why does the Lord introduce the church in the very next verse? Someone might say, “But where is the church?” Verses 3-5 announce the Incarnation of the Lord God, and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” (verse 5).

This would be a very odd juxtaposition if verses 1 and 2 apply only to the ethnic people of God and a physically destroyed Jerusalem, both in the prophet’s own day. The introduction of Messiah at this point signals a much grander plan, a fuller pardon, and a far wider scope than a purely local fulfillment to be accomplished by the return of the exiles to their native land.

Nor does Isaiah specify when or by what means God’s pardon occurs. He does not state the specifics of when or how Jerusalem’s having received “double” for her sins has transpired. I believe God placed the next three verses to indicate that Messiah is for all ages and all people. “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Christ’s atonement works for all peoples of all times. His atonement worked backward to the prior centuries of Israel’s guilt and forward to our time. Why else would Scripture place this prophetically clear announcement of Christ’s birth just here? (See Matthew 3:3, 11:10; Mark 1:2,3; Luke 1:76, 3:4, 7:27; John 1:23; and Malachi 3:1.)

Conclusion

This post is long, I realize. Nevertheless, the first five verses of Isaiah chapter 40 are a unit. They should be read together. They deal with the same topic: God’s pardon and plan of salvation for his own people and for all humanity, at one and the same time. What is amazing is that Scripture can pack so much into so few words. Truly, God is to be praised.

Because I have dealt so fully with my biblical preferences and biases (presuppositions) here, perhaps I will not need to do so as we progress through Isaiah, Lord willing.

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1 MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, page 1763.

Introduction to Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2

Previously published by Christina M Wilson on September 12, 2021 at https://justonesmallvoice.com/septuagint-isaiah-introduction-to-volume-2/.

Septuagint Isaiah Introduction to Volume 2: Why Divide into Volumes?

In this Introduction to Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2, I want to answer the question, “Why divide into volumes?” I stated in the Introduction to the series, “I am too old to begin an academic study of Isaiah… Nor would I want to.” There are already plenty of academic approaches to this awesome book of Scripture. Many of them include greatly detailed discussions of whether one, two, or even three authors wrote the book. One more “scholarly” study by someone not qualified to undertake such a task would just muddy the waters. My approach is that of an ordinary devotional reader, just one small voice who wants to share her love for Jesus Christ. More basic than this, I personally am not interested in the academics of Isaiah. Rather, guided I believe by the Holy Spirit, whose promise to every believer is to do so, I am a seeker of Christ.

So Why the Division?

So why, then, the division into two volumes?

  1. First, the closing of Chapter 39 and the life of King Hezekiah is a natural stopping point. It is a good place to pause and refresh oneself before beginning the journey again. I did take such a break.
  2. The last words of Isaiah the prophet to King Hezekiah informed him that the Babylonians would come and take some of his own sons to “be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon,” (Isaiah 39:7).
  3. In a certain sense, the history of the Old Testament closes down, as a funnel, to the Babylonian captivity. Yes, Old Testament Scripture does record the return from captivity, the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls, the struggles of the people, and the sins they again fall into. These were the same sins they had previously committed. (See the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai.) Nevertheless, after the return from captivity, the Old Testament quietly diminishes and fades softly into centuries of silence. For those who never awaken to the dawn of Christ, the story ends in a kind of whimper.
  4. But Isaiah 40 clearly opens with a powerful dawn. The turning of the page begins a new, victorious chapter in the chronicles of God’s people. God announces, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” (Isaiah 40:1 LXE). These words toll like a clear bell calling out a new era of God’s favor and forgiveness.
  5. That era is Christ in his Incarnation, followed by his reign of glory. The Holy Spirit, who authored the Bible, scattered splashes of Isaiah’s message throughout both the Old and New Testaments. We will read of these in ensuing posts.

Differences Between Volume 1 and Volume 2

As a general summary, “Volume 1” of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, speak of failure and judgment of both God’s own people and of the nations. It includes brief flashes of the coming Messiah. Yet the bulk of this portion of the book devotes itself to demonstrating why a new, Messianic King is needful. Again, as a generalizing summary, the bulk of “Volume 2” of Isaiah speaks of the coming King in clear words. It describes his Passion and his triumphant glory. In Volume 1, we see the coming King as through a “mirror, darkly.” In Volume 2, we see very nearly “face to face.”

I personally love this latter part of Isaiah. The first two-thirds entail struggle, effort, halting steps, and much stumbling. In comparison, the prophet speaks plainly enough in the last portion, so plainly, that even “small” people, such as I am, can hear him.

Hezekiah’s Pride Part 5: Isaiah Journal 85

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/hezekiahs-pride-part-5-isaiah-devotional-journal-85/.

2 Chronicles 32    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Hezekiah-Part Nine: Hezekiah’s Pride

Not to Be Found in Isaiah

Hezekiah’s pride is not to be found in Isaiah. Readers must intuit his pride from context alone. We’ve been considering this king’s life for the past several posts. In Isaiah 39, it appears that King Hezekiah naively followed a prideful desire to boast over his wealth to a visitor from a far off land (Isaiah 39:2). Turns out, this man was the son of the king of Babylon. Babylon would one day rob the entire wealth of Jerusalem. They would also carry into captivity Hezekiah’s progeny. Babylon would make some of them eunuchs in the palace of its kings. Hezekiah responded to this prophecy from Isaiah with gratitude–gratitude that in his own day there would be peace and righteousness (Isaiah 39:8). Was this pride on Hezekiah’s part? Perhaps just plain selfishness? How can a reader be sure? Isaiah makes no comment. The book simply states the facts.

We’ve studied nearly everything the Bible reports concerning Hezekiah.

  1. His personal worship and leadership in spiritual revival of the nation (2 Chronicles 29-31; 2 Kings 18:3-6).
  2. The miraculous salvation of Jerusalem from the army of the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:13-19:37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-22; Isaiah 36-37).
  3. The supernatural sign God gave Hezekiah when he healed him from a mortal illness (2 Kings 20:1-11; 2 Chronicles 32:24; Isaiah 38).

Hezekiah was an amazing king, yet he wasn’t perfect. Nevertheless, by reading Isaiah alone, readers would be given no insights into the causes of what by our standards appears to be his poor behavior in chapter 39. Nor would the book of 2 Kings help explain his behavior and reactions concerning Babylon. In fact, 2 Kings 18:3-7a and 2 Kings 20:20-21 give him much approbation. Fortunately for biblical readers, however, 2 Chronicles 32 provides details that help fill in the backstory.

2 Chronicles Reveals the Backstory

I The People Loved Hezekiah

King Hezekiah had won the hearts of his people when he was still young. He cleansed the nation of its idols (2 Kings 18:3-4). He instituted a series of religious reforms (2 Chronicles 29:3-36) and caused Passover to be celebrated in a biblical way for the first time in generations (2 Chronicles 30:26). The people were so glad in this, that they extended the Passover for a second week beyond what Moses prescribed in the law (2 Chronicles 30:23). They also expressed their pleasure with their king by bringing the full quantity of tithes and offerings (2 Chronicles 31:6-9). Even further, the people voluntarily went out into the cities of Judah and cleansed them of the objects of idol worship (2 Chronicles 31:1).

So far, so good. Hezekiah responded to all this in a way that was “good and right before the Lord his God.”

2 Chronicles 31:20 And Hezekiah did so through all Judah, and did that which was good and right before the Lord his God. 21 And in every work which he began in service in the house of the Lord, and in the law, and in the ordinances, he sought his God with all his soul, and wrought, and prospered. (CAB, LXE)

II They Continue to Obey and Love Him

When Assyria showed up at the walls of Jerusalem with a huge army, the people continued to display their approval of their king, Hezekiah, in the way they obeyed him. They followed his instructions exactly (2 Kings 18:36; Isaiah 36:21). They remained quiet on the wall as Assyria’s king insulted their king, their nation, and their God. Such discipline could occur only because they liked and respected their king, Hezekiah.

III Military Preparations

Hezekiah was king throughout the siege and lockdown (1). He had stopped up the spring outside the walls (2 Chronicles 32:2-4). He had built a reservoir and aqueduct to bring water into the west side of the city of Jerusalem, away from the attacking army. This in itself was an amazing engineering feat (2 Kings 20:20). He built up all the old walls that had broken down, raised up towers for protection, and built another wall outside the first. He also repaired the fortress of the City of David and made many weapons (2 Chronicles 32:5). He organized his army into divisions and named captains over them (2 Chronicles 32:6). And, he encouraged his soldiers to trust and rely on the might of the “Lord our God,” who was on their side to fight with them (2 Chronicles 32:7-8). The people responded with their whole hearts to the words of their king.

…”with us is the Lord our God to save us, and to fight our battle.” And the people were encouraged at the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:8, CAB, LXE).

III The Saving Miracle

After years of austere living under vicious threats, delivery came. The whole city had been cooped up in a massive lockdown with the Assyrian army just outside their walls (Isaiah 37:30). No one went out, and no one came in. Then suddenly, in a stunning miracle, God slew the entire Assyrian army overnight (2 Chronicles 31:20-22; Isaiah 37:36). In order to understand the magnitude of this military defeat, it’s important to remember that Assyria to this point had remained unchallenged. Israel to the north had fallen, as well as all the outlying cities of Judah. Assyria had overrun every country they went up against. Jerusalem was the one hold-out–a single city. And herein lay the difficulty–the enormity of this miraculous deliverance.

Waking up and finding an army of 185,000 miraculously dead overnight, the joy and excitement in Jerusalem must have been overwhelming. People would talk about this. They would tell their friends and relatives in other places. News would spread to the rest of Judah, into Israel, and into nations beyond. There would be a clamor of celebration as the years-long threat suddenly ended. And Hezekiah was king…

IV The Celebration

Chronicles sums up the defeat of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in one sentence.

2 Chronicles 32:22 So the Lord delivered Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem out of the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria, and out of the hand of all his enemies, and gave them rest round about. (CAB, LXE)

And the whole land celebrated by sending gifts to Jerusalem and King Hezekiah.

2 Chronicles 32:23 And many brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah; and he was exalted in the eyes of all the nations after these things. (CAB, LXE)

Hezekiah reveled in the inflow of material goods that testified to the peoples’ adoration. But Chronicles records how he used this material thankfulness for his own benefit, rather than the benefit of the house of God.

2 Chronicles 32:27 And Hezekiah had wealth and very great glory. And he made for himself treasuries of gold, silver, and precious stones, also for spices and stores for arms, and for precious vessels; 28 and cities for the produce of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls and mangers for every kind of cattle, and folds for flocks; 29 and cities which he built for himself, and store of sheep and oxen in abundance, for the Lord gave him a very great store. (CAB, LXE)

V Victory Followed by Spiritual Failure

Celebration and rest, peace and safety…a period of relaxation after intense struggle and stress…how often this very thing leads to spiritual downfall. For the very next verses after the summary of victory over Assyria state this fact:

2 Chronicles 32: 24 In those days Hezekiah was sick even to death, and he prayed to the Lord. And He hearkened to him, and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not recompense the Lord according to the favor shown him, but his heart was lifted up. And wrath came upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. (CAB, LXE)

Chronicles records Hezekiah’s illness along with its report of Hezekiah’s fame. The biblical account further indicts Hezekiah.

2 Chronicles 32:31 Notwithstanding, in regard to the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who were sent to him, to inquire of him concerning the wonders which came upon the land, the Lord left him, to test him, to know what was in his heart.

Was Hezekiah’s illness part of the wrath of God that came upon him as a result of his heart being lifted up? (verse 25 above). Perhaps. Hezekiah humbled himself in the face of his illness, “he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 32:26). Therefore, God postponed his wrath, so that it did not fall in Hezekiah’s lifetime. Overall, then, it would seem that Hezekiah fared well in his dealings with the Lord.

2 Chronicles 32:26 And Hezekiah humbled himself after the exaltation of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (CAB, LXE)

Would We Behave Differently?

It seems so easy to read Isaiah 39 in isolation and glibly condemn Hezekiah for what appears to be his hardness of heart. But, let’s be honest with ourselves, would we behave differently under similar circumstances?

Spiritual successes seem always accompanied by the temptation to spiritual pride. Hezekiah experienced enormous spiritual and practical success. God blessed him with two supernatural miracles (overnight defeat of the Assyrians and the shadow of the sun moving backwards). As a result of these, he received immense praise and adoration from his own people and their neighbors. In the end, his several successes in the area of faithful obedience to the Lord led him to succumb to pride.

Is Hezekiah so very different or worse than everyone else? Just think of all the biblical characters in the Old Testament. How many fell when tempted with spiritual pride? Then think of our modern day spiritual heroes and giants of the Christian faith. Have not many of these fallen? Satan’s great sin was pride. Moses struck the rock in his pride. David grew spiritually lax after his military victories. Solomon, to whom the Lord appeared twice (1 Kings 11:12), fell away and ended up worshipping pagan gods. King Saul grew prideful in his heart and turned away from the Lord. Satan in Luke 4 appealed to human pride when tempting God’s Son. But Jesus had none.

It is not for no reason that Jesus pronounces blessing upon the meek and lowly (Matthew 5:3, 4, 5). Humbleness before the Lord is one of the first requirements of spiritual blessing and success. It seems that various modes of pain keep the human heart humble. The Apostle Paul states this fact directly.

2 Corinthians 12:7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me– to keep me from exalting myself! (NAU) (3)

A Warning for Us All

As stated previously, Scripture devotes eleven entire chapters, spread over three different books, to speak about King Hezekiah. Therefore, he must be important. At the very least, he provides great warning for Christians of all stations in life. The warning is to pay attention constantly and take heed to the movements of our own heart. Neither greatness nor smallness is sufficient protection against pride. And rather than shield us from pride, past spiritual successes work the opposite effect. They cause us to be susceptible to the temptation of the first and greatest sin. The great sin of pride is that it causes us to value ourselves more than we value God.

I would even go so far as to say that when we suffer as Christians, there is at least one thing for which we can thank God in the midst of our pain. We can thank him that the enduring the pain of our trial humbles us to the point that we cry out to him. Crying out to God is the antidote of a prideful heart.

Apology and Conclusion

Apology

These last posts of Isaiah concerning King Hezekiah have gone way over the limits of “short and concise.” This post is already exceptionally long. I apologize for that. My thoughts on Hezekiah were like a tough plant with deep roots that didn’t want to be pulled out. King Hezekiah has always been one of my favorite biblical characters. I’ve known him for many years in some of the most difficult seasons of my life. He has been an example to me in many ways.

Conclusion

This post is also the end of Volume One of Isaiah Devotional Journal. We’ve seen in these thirty-nine chapters that Israel the northern kingdom failed God’s purpose for them as his ambassadors to the world. Judah failed as well, as did all the nations under the sun. None of the nations represented God’s heart of integrity and love to their neighbors. They failed to live out fully and continuously God’s plan of obedience and blessing. Isaiah also pointed strongly towards Messiah, God’s own, special envoy, who will succeed in all God intends for him. Volume Two will point to Messiah even more strongly than these first thirty-nine chapters.

__________

1 2 Kings 19 records two separate waves of assault by Assyria on Jerusalem, whereas 2 Chronicles compresses Assyria’s military activity into one account (2 Chronicles 32).

2 2 Chronicles 32:24 tells the entire story of Hezekiah’s miraculous healing with a single verse. For a complete account of this episode, see Isaiah 38 and 2 Kings 20:1-11.

3 Although the text’s double use of the phrase, “to keep me from exalting myself” may seem awkward and of poor style in English, Paul does indeed use the exact words twice in one sentence for emphasis.

Hezekiah’s Pride Part 4: Isaiah Journal 84

By Christina M Wilson. Published previously at https://justonesmallvoice.com/hezekiahs-pride-part-4-isaiah-devotional-journal-84/.

Isaiah 38; 2 Chronicles 32:24    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Hezekiah-Part Nine: Whole-hearted Obedience

Introduction

Scripture supplies a full picture of King Hezekiah’s spiritual testing. The concern of this portion of Isaiah is to explain how a godly man fell to pride. There are three areas of testing which Scripture fully develops in the reign of Hezekiah as king of Judah.

  1. duties in the realm of worship
  2. military leadership
  3. personal life

We have been examining Hezekiah’s spiritual successes and the concrete actions he took as a result of his whole-hearted obedience to the Lord. He did very well in the areas of personal and leadership worship (see Journal 82). He also did great in the area of military leadership (see Journal 83). Now we come to how the Lord tested him in his personal life, when he became mortally ill. (See Journal 79 for this material with an emphasis on Hezekiah’s prayer life.)

III Hezekiah in His Personal Life

Timing

By looking at Kings, Chronicles, and Isaiah together, readers can make a timeline of Hezekiah’s life. It appears that just about the time Assyria attacked and took the cities of Judah, Hezekiah became sick to the point of death. His illness occurred after his spiritual successes in the area of personal worship. He had also led a national spiritual revival. Then, Scripture writes that God allowed the enemy to attack.

After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself. (2Chronicles 32:1 ESV)

According to the text of Scripture and the construction of a timeline of his life, Hezekiah fell ill at this same time, more or less.

 Isaiah 38:1And it came to pass at that time, that Hezekiah was sick, even to death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, came to him, and said to him, Thus says the Lord, Give orders concerning your house; for you shall die, and not live. (CAB, LXE) [“in those days”–ESV]

I personally think it likely that Hezekiah fell ill and recovered after Sennacherib’s general arrived at the city gate. It may have been during the three year period (Isaiah 37:30-31) after Isaiah prophesied Assyria’s defeat and the angel of the Lord miraculously slaughtered one hundred and eighty-five thousand of its soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). In any event, Hezekiah’s first response to his illness was to pray. Recall that he had also responded with prayer to the threat of Sennacherib (Journal 78). In all this, he did well.

Hezekiah Calls Upon the Lord

When Hezekiah became ill, he immediately turned to the Lord in prayer.

Isaiah 38:1 And it came to pass at that time, that Hezekiah was sick, even to death… 2 And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, (Complete Apostles’ Bible, Brenton Septuagint)

“TURNED HIS FACE TO THE WALL”

What does this scriptural phrase mean, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall”? It appears from the literature to have entered the English language from this very passage.

  1. Literally, ancient near eastern couches, or beds, were placed alongside the walls. The corner of any room was the place of honor. Most likely, the sick king turned onto his side to face the wall. By doing so, he hid his face from the center of the room and any guests or attendants who may have happened to be there.
  2. Having done this, he prayed. Therefore, the spiritual significance of turning his face to the wall would amount to entering his prayer closet.  He achieved the maximum privacy available to him.

SCRIPTURE RECORDS THE KING’S PRAYER

Scripture records Hezekiah’s prayer in two separate places. The first, Isaiah 38:3, provides a simple, one sentence account of his actual words.

2 And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3 Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before You in truth, with a true heart, and have done that which was pleasing in Your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (CAB, LXE)

The second, Isaiah 38:9-20, combines a narrative recall with a fresh prayer of adoration directly praising the Lord. The Bible labels this passage as prayer.

9 The prayer of Hezekiah king of Judea, when he had been sick, and was recovered from his sickness:

The structure of Isaiah 38:10-20 is interesting. It divides into halves.

  • In the first half (verses 10-15), the king narrates his traumatic experience from a vantage point after his healing. He sums up the content of his prior prayer and how he felt at the time about his impending death. He does this as though he were telling a listener about his illness after the fact.
  • The second half (verses 16-20) of the passage, however, becomes a fresh prayer addressing the Lord directly. Hezekiah no longer recollects. Rather, he confesses the Lord, praises him, declares his intent to teach children about the righteousness of the Lord, and vows to bless the Lord with the psaltery (a stringed instrument) all the days of his life (Isaiah 38:16-20).
  • Readers will discover no sin or pride in this portion recounting King Hezekiah’s personal life.

What Did Hezekiah Pray?

Hezekiah never asked the Lord to heal him (Isaiah 38:3; 2 Kings 20:2-3). Clearly, however, his emotions spoke the fact that he did not want to die.

13 In that day I was given up as to a lion until the morning; so has He broken all my bones; for I was so given up from day even to night. 14 As a swallow, so will I cry, and as a dove, so do I mourn; for my eyes have failed from looking to the height of heaven to the Lord, who has delivered me, 15 and removed the sorrow of my soul. (CAB, LXE)

The Lord Replies

God sent Isaiah his prophet to King Hezekiah to answer his prayers. His reply took two forms. First, he gave Hezekiah a sign. Second, he healed the king and added fifteen more years to his life.

The sign that God through Isaiah granted is nothing short of amazing and spectacular. The shadow of the setting sun went backward ten steps.

2 Kings 20:11 And Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and the shadow returned back ten degrees on the dial. (CAB, LXE)

The king chose this sign because it would be difficult to perform. Joshua 10:12-14 records how Joshua through the Lord commanded the sun to stand still, and it did. Scripture does not say that God stopped the sun for Hezekiah. Nevertheless, the shadow of the setting sun moved backward. And then, of course, Hezekiah recovered his health. He lived and did not die.

HEZEKIAH’S HUMILITY AND HIS PRIDE

  1. Humility: So far, in the biblical narrative of the book of Isaiah, Hezekiah does not commit the sin of pride. As already mentioned, he responds to his healing by turning again to the Lord in prayer. He acknowledges God alone as the source of his healing (Isaiah 38:9-20).
  2. Nevertheless, Isaiah 39 reveals that something is amiss.
  3. The book of 2 Kings does not address the issue of King Hezekiah’s heart.
  4. Pride: However, this book also reveals an underlying core of rot. 2 Kings 20:16-19 and Isaiah 39:5-8 are basically identical. Both identify the king’s prideful heart before the prince of Babylon. They both also identify his selfish weakness as regards his progeny. 
  5. How did this great change occur? Neither Kings nor Isaiah provide many clues. There is the third book, however, which does.

Conclusion

Fortunately, Scripture includes the book of 2 Chronicles to unfold its many details concerning the state of King Hezekiah’s heart. King Hezekiah truly was a good king. We’ve seen how God tested and proved him in the areas of worship (Journal 81 and Journal 82), military leadership (Journal 83), and his personal life (this post).

We will close up this section concerning Hezekiah, and with it Volume 1 of Isaiah, in the next post. There we will discover what 2 Chronicles reveals as the apparent source of King Hezekiah’s sinful pride.

To be continued…

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