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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.

The Enemy Cast Out: Isaiah Journal 74

By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at The Enemy Cast Out: Isaiah Devotional Journal 74 – justonesmallvoice.com.

Isaiah 33:14-24    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Where Is the Enemy?

The latter portion of Isaiah 33 contrasts the Zion that had been occupied by a foreign power with a Zion under the King’s rule.

The Enemy Has Been Cast Out

These Septuagint verses tell that the enemy no longer occupies Zion. (CAB, LXE)

  • 14 The sinners in Zion have departed; trembling shall seize the ungodly.
  • 18 Your soul shall meditate terror. Where are the scribes? Where are the counselors? Where is he that numbers them that are growing up, 19 both the small and great people? With whom he took not counsel, neither did he understand a people of deep speech, so that a despised people should not hear, and there is no understanding to him that hears.
  • 23 Your cords are broken, for they had no strength; your food has given way, it shall not spread the sails, it shall not bear a signal, until it is given up for plunder; therefore shall many lame men take spoil.

Yes, the English text appears difficult to decipher. The NETS translation includes a footnote to that effect in verse 19. However, when comparing the various English translations of both the Septuagint and the Masoretic, the overall sense of the chapter unfolds.

Description of the New Kingdom

Isaiah describes the new kingdom after the enemy has departed (verse 14).

Characteristics of Its Inhabitants

  • the righteous person (vs 15): walks in righteousness, speaks uprightly, hates lawlessness and wrongdoing, refuses bribes, is against capital punishment, shields his eyes from the enjoyment of evil
  • he will live “in a high cave of a strong rock,” where he will be fed with bread and water (vs16), i.e., the basic food of life
  • they will meditate on the past and the things and people who used to cause them fear, but are no longer present (vs 18)
  • they revere the name of the Lord (v 21)
  • not weary (v 24)
  • their sins forgiven (v 24)

15 He that walks in righteousness, speaking rightly, hating transgression and iniquity, and shaking his hands from gifts, stopping his ears that he should not hear the judgment of blood, shutting his eyes that he should not see injustice. (CAB, LXE)

Characteristics of the Place

  • foreign authorities will no longer be present (vs 19)
  • a place of safety (vv 14, 16, 18-19, 20, 21, 22)
  • a place of provision (vv 16, 20, 21)
  • spacious, providing room for all (v 21)
  • a place for the poor and injured (vv 23, 24)
  • a place of permanence (v 20)

20 Behold the city of Zion, our refuge; your eyes shall behold Jerusalem, a rich city, tabernacles which shall not be shaken, neither shall the pins of her tabernacle be moved forever, neither shall her cords be at all broken; (CAB, LXE)

Characteristics of Its King

  • glorious (v 17)
  • he is Lord, God, judge, ruler, King (v 22)

22 For my God is great; the Lord our judge shall not pass me by; the Lord is our prince, the Lord is our king; the Lord, He shall save us. (CAB, LXE)

Concrete-Literal or Spiritual-Literal?

Why do I use hyphens in concrete-literal and spiritual-literal? Why use the words concrete in concrete-literal and literal in spiritual-literal? Why not just say literal and spiritual?

A Definition of Terms

In common, everyday language, “literal” tends to mean real, actual, concrete, and historical. And, in much theological jargon, spiritual tends to mean abstract, not historical, and not really happening in the “real” world, the concrete world. Theology tends to be divided between those who think every prophecy of the Old Testament needs to have a “literal” fulfillment and those who see spiritual fulfillment in many of the same prophecies. Some theologians might even be thinking “imaginary” when they use the term “spiritual.” When they accuse another theologian of “spiritualizing” a text, it’s as if they were accusing them of erasing the truth of that text and replacing it with abstract imagination.

Those using the term “literal” as a direct synonym of true and real usually mean that Old Testament prophecy needs to have a historical, three dimensional, physical fulfillment in the world we see, hear, and touch. In order for a biblical prophecy to be true, it must have a physical, three-dimensional fulfillment.

But, if “literal” means “true” and “real,” then spiritual realities are also real and true. They literally exist. God is Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus Christ occupies believers’ hearts. The rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and forces of evil in the heavenly places that Paul describes in Ephesians 6 are real and true. They also happen to be spiritual beings, made of spirit rather than flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).

To cast the conversation about fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy with the terms literal vs spiritual is to introduce bias from the beginning. Therefore, I use the word “concrete” to mean that which can be physically seen with physical eyes, heard with physical ears, and touched with physical hands. The cities we live in, for example, are concrete. So, the term “concrete-literal” means a true reality within the physical world. And likewise, the term “spiritual-literal” means a true reality within the realm of spirit.

Repeating the Question

So, the question becomes, must every prophecy of the Old Testament have a physically concrete fulfillment? Or, did God intend that some of what appears to be physical description in Old Testament prophecy would have a spiritual-literal fulfillment rather than a concrete-literal fulfillment? Is Chapter 33 of Isaiah one of these times?

A Partial Concrete-Literal Fulfillment

I postulate that some portions of Isaiah 33 have already had a concrete-literal fulfillment. And further, when Isaiah spoke these words, God intended that these portions would be physically fulfilled relatively quickly in Isaiah’s lifetime. The context within chapter 33 and the context of its surrounding chapters speak of a concrete-literal fulfillment of the prophecies against Judah’s enemy Assyria.

For example, throughout Isaiah’s writing, a physical Israel had many physical enemies. In Isaiah’s lifetime, the greatest of these was Assyria. Isaiah repeatedly prophesies Assyria’s downfall (for example, see Isaiah 30:31). In terms of fulfillment, chapters 36 and 37 describe in detail how God miraculously defeated the Assyrians on behalf of Jerusalem and Judah. Chapter 33 contains strong indications that Isaiah refers to this time and event. It seems fair and likely that God through Isaiah intended the portions of Isaiah 33 dealing with the defeat of Assyria to have a concrete-literal fulfillment. Biblical history, as related in 2 Kings 18:17-19:37 and Isaiah 37, records such a fulfillment.

Obstacles to a Complete Concrete-Literal Fulfillment

But what about the portions of Isaiah 33:14-24 that speak of the new kingdom and the King who will rule there? Have these prophecies already found a concrete-literal fulfillment? Not really. Judah before and after its exile had some good kings (Hezekiah and Zerubbabel) who experienced some years of peaceful prosperity. But Israel’s independence ended. Not too long after the return from exile, the Old Testament ceased. God added no books to Scripture after Malachi. Throughout the entire Second Temple period various foreigners again ruled in Jerusalem, alongside the Jewish kings.

Then at the turn of the millennium, in New Testament times, Rome occupied Israel. Israel had no independent king seated on its throne. Further, within a few decades after Jesus’s ascension, Rome leveled Jerusalem (70 CE). Over the next century Rome oppressed the remainder of the Judean territory through bloody wars. Israel ceased to exist as an independent nation.

Currently, the physical Israel in today’s news does not match the description given by Isaiah in Chapter 33. It has no king, it is not entirely safe, and it is no more righteous than any other country on earth. It is not a Christian nation, nor do its citizens all necessarily believe in the God of their Scripture. It appears to be a secular country, rather than a country of faith.

Approximately 2,800 years have passed since Isaiah prophesied of a righteous Zion ruled by a glorious King. Have his prophecies not found fulfillment?

A Spiritual-Literal Fulfillment

I believe that Isaiah’s prophecies of a righteous Zion and a glorious, righteous King have received a spiritual-literal fulfillment in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36. By this he meant that his kingdom was not concrete-literal but spiritual-literal. Christians around the world have been living in and enjoying the benefits of Christ the King’s heavenly Zion for over 2,000 years.

Why does Isaiah use concrete words to describe a spiritual reality? The best answer I can give is to point the reader to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:1-16. Could Isaiah possibly have known these spiritual-literal realities? The heart of faith must surely answer, “Yes.” The Apostle John writes, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him,” (John 12:41). As we progress further in Isaiah’s book, we will find him more and more describing the spiritual-literal realities of Christ’s kingdom.

Septuagint Variation: Isaiah Journal 72

By Christina M Wilson. Simultaneously published at Septuagint Variation: Isaiah Devotional Journal 72 – justonesmallvoice.com.

Isaiah 32:9-20    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Before leaving Chapter 32, there is one more Septuagint variation that sheds light on the chapter as a whole.

Recap

The prior Journal entry, Isaiah Devotional Journal 71, shows how Chapter 32 alternates between desolation for the then-existing nation of Israel and blessing for those in the future kingdom of the righteous King. These sections alternate in large chunks, rather than single verses:

  1. The blessings of Messiah: verses 1-4
  2. Contrast between the foolish wicked and the godly wise: verses 5-8
  3. Warning of the desolation to come: verses 9-14
  4. Messianic blessings: verses 15-20

Verse 19 in the Masoretic

Verse 19, in the ESV, protrudes like a thorn in the middle of a wedding bed. Then verse 20 returns to blessing.

ESV Isaiah 32:15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, … 16 Then justice … righteousness … fruitful field. 17 … righteousness … peace … righteousness, quietness and trust forever. 18 … peaceful habitation, … secure dwellings, … quiet resting places. 19 And it will hail when the forest falls down, and the city will be utterly laid low. 20 Happy are you who sow beside all waters, who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free.

A Difficult Text

Deciphering what the biblical text reads for this verse must be difficult, since other translations in the Masoretic tradition vary widely.

  • For example, the Bible of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) reads, “Isaiah 32:19 And it shall hail, in the downfall of the forest; but the city shall descend into the valley.
  • NRS “The forest will disappear completely, and the city will be utterly laid low.
  • KJV “When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.
  • Amplified Bible “But it [the wrath of the Lord] shall hail, coming down overpoweringly on the forest [the army of the Assyrians], and the capital [2] city shall be utterly humbled and laid prostrate.”
  • NASB “And it will hail when the forest comes down, And the city will be utterly laid low.

NIV and NET

The NIV, NET, and a few other dynamic translations (paraphrased) come closer to the text in the Septuagint. These translations combine verses 19 and 20. The outcome is a combination of blessing and trial.

  • NIV “19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, 20 how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
  • NET “19 Even if the forest is destroyed and the city is annihilated, 20 you will be blessed, you who plant seed by all the banks of the streams, you who let your ox and donkey graze.

The blessing in the texts above is qualified. It appears to be due to a difference in geographic location. The forest and city suffer extreme damage. However, those living by the banks of the streams will be blessed, as they continue to farm and graze their animals.

The Septuagint Text Is Plain and Simple

15 until the Spirit shall come upon you from on high, and Carmel shall be desert, and Carmel shall be counted for a forest. 16 Then judgment shall abide in the wilderness, and righteousness shall dwell in Carmel. 17 And the works of righteousness shall be peace; and righteousness shall ensure rest, and the righteous shall be confident forever. 18 And His people shall inhabit a city of peace, and dwell in it in confidence, and they shall rest with wealth. 19 And if the hail should come down, it shall not come upon you; and they that dwell in the forests shall be in confidence, as those in the plain country. 20 Blessed are they that sow by every water, where the ox and the donkey tread.

Contrasts Between the Septuagint and the Masoretic

1. Verse 19 in the Septuagint brings no contextual contradictions that must be explained. The verse smoothly follows the theme of blessing found throughout the passage.

2. All geographic areas are blessed. There is no distinction among them. The city will be blessed, the forest blessed, the plains blessed, and the waterways blessed.

3. Unlike the Masoretic, verse 18 of the Septuagint specifically states that “His people shall inhabit a city of peace.” Then, verse 19 brings no calamity upon that city. In contrast, verse 18 of the Masoretic makes no mention of a city. However, in verse 19 various calamities fall upon “the city,” depending upon the version.

    • JPS: the city shall descend into the valley
    • NRS: the city will be utterly laid low.
    • KJV: the city shall be low in a low place
    • Amplified: the capital [2] city shall be utterly humbled and laid prostrate.
    • NASB: the city will be utterly laid low.
    • NET: Even if … the city is annihilated,
    • NIV: Though … the city is leveled completely,

4. In both textual traditions, the occurrence of hail appears either certain or likely. But only in the Septuagint does the hail harm no one.

Concrete-Literal or Spiritual-Literal

The Septuagint text of Isaiah 32:19 states, “And if the hail should come down, it shall not come upon you.” When does falling hail not harm objects or people it may hit? The Masoretic translations present a catastrophic hailstorm that flattens forests and cities. But the hail that falls in the Septuagint does not harm the people who inhabit every corner of the righteous King’s kingdom.

In the prior post, Isaiah Devotional Journal 71, I presented the argument that in Chapter 32 Isaiah writes using concrete terms for spiritual realities (1). Verse 19 adds evidence to this hermeneutic. Although it speaks to us by means of concrete (physical) language, the realities this verse describes are spiritual. See, for example, John Calvin’s description of this passage.

While Isaiah thus prophesies concerning the reign of Hezekiah, all this is declared by him to relate to the kingdom of Christ as its end and accomplishment; and therefore, when we come to Christ, we must explain all this spiritually, so as to understand that we are renewed as soon as the Lord has sent down the Spirit from heaven, that we who were “wildernesses” may become cultivated and fertile fields. Ere the Spirit of God has breathed into us, we are justly compared to wildernesses or a dry soil; for we produce nothing but “thorns and briers,” and are by nature unfit for yielding fruits. Accordingly, they who were barren and unfruitful, when they have been renewed by the Spirit of God, begin to yield plentiful fruits; and they whose natural dispositions had some appearance of goodness, being renewed by the same Spirit, will afterwards be so fruitful, that they will appear as if they had formerly been a “wilderness;” for all that men possess is but a wild forest, till they have been renewed by Christ. Whenever, therefore, the Church is afflicted, and when her condition appears to be desperate, let us raise our eyes to heaven, and depend fully on these promises. (2)

In the life of the Spirit in a believer’s heart, the “hail” of real-life difficulties and circumstances shall not harm the believer’s faith or persistent peace, security, and well-being in Christ. Is this Isaiah’s intended meaning? Rather one should ask, Is this God’s intended meaning for this text? Within the context of the Septuagint Gospel of Isaiah, yes, I believe that God intends us to find the Spirit of Christ in this passage.

Right or Wrong?

When trying to answer the question, “Which text is right and which text wrong?” there is no exact answer. The truth is that two completely different textual traditions have been handed down to us. A “textual tradition” encompasses many hundreds, or even thousands, of years. The Septuagint began as a translation of Hebrew approximately three centuries before the birth of Christ. Readers should not hold this fact of birth against it (3). Later scholars and religious persons have edited both the Greek and Hebrew texts within their own tradition. The Masoretic Bible we hold today did not reach its final form until centuries after Christ.

One thing is clear, however. Jesus of Nazareth and his followers accessed the Septuagint. Greek was the “lingua franca” of Christ’s day. And, the New Testament writers often quoted from the Septuagint. I am fully satisfied to use the Septuagint translation as my devotional Bible for the book of Isaiah. I like it because there is so much of Christ in it.

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1 “Because the time markers fail to represent accurately the concrete-literal history of Israel, it is good biblical hermeneutics to interpret the language of this chapter spiritually. Using concrete-literal language, Isaiah prophesies the spiritual demise of one kingdom and the arrival of a new King. The new kingdom will be eternal.” Isaiah Devotional Journal 71

2 Calvin, John. “Commentary on Isaiah 32:15”. “Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-32.html. 1840-57. These files are public domain.

3 For readers who would like to learn more about the Septuagint translation of the Bible, the following post might be a good place to start: Psalm 28: Why the Septuagint? Part 1-Background – justonesmallvoice.com

Messianic Kingdom Part Two: Isaiah Devotional Journal 70

By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at https://justonesmallvoice.com/a-messianic-kingdom-part-wto-isaiah-journal-70/.

Isaiah 32    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Variations in Septuagint Isaiah 32:1-8 Part Two

Septuagint Isaiah 32:1-8 describes the messianic King and his messianic kingdom followers. The Hebrew scripture loses the poignancy of this messianic passage when compared to the Greek. In the Septuagint, the King and his kingdom remain in sharp focus throughout.

A Short Review

Let’s do a short review of verses 1 and 2 before beginning with verse 3. Verses 1 and 2 introduce the reign of a righteous king in Zion. He shall appear as a glorious, rushing river in a thirsty land. This King is Christ. The ministry and life of Jesus of Nazareth match the prophetic words Isaiah spoke many hundreds of years earlier. (See the following links to Part One and a Devotional concerning Christ.)

Isaiah 32:1 For, behold, a righteous king shall reign, and princes shall govern with judgement.
2 And a man shall hide his words, and be hidden, as from rushing water, and shall appear in Sion as a rushing river, glorious in a thirsty land. (CAB, LXE)

The Issue of Trust in Isaiah

Now, moving forward, verse 3 in the Masoretic (Hebrew) text presents a quite positive statement. It sounds good! Who wouldn’t want this?

Isaiah 32:3 Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will give attention. (ESV)

Yet, the Septuagint (Greek) presents a picture with a somewhat different emphasis, which later Scripture fulfills. 

Isaiah 32:3 And they shall no longer trust in men, but they shall incline their ears to hear. (CAB, LXE)

Isaiah emphasizes the issue of trust throughout his writing. God’s people are to trust God, not men. Oddly, however, the following verse, which spells out this principle appears in the Masoretic but not in the Septuagint.

Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in human beings, whose life’s breath is in their nostrils. For why should they be given special consideration? (NET)

Trust Messiah

When Septuagint Isaiah states in verse three, “And they shall no longer trust in men, but they shall incline their ears to hear,” he implies that when they bend their ears forward to hear, they will be hearing God.

Jesus Christ in the New Testament fulfills the very behavior that Isaiah enjoins in 32:3.

John 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (ESV)

Septuagint Isaiah 2:22 sounds like John the Apostle’s, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie– just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1John 2:27 ESV) This matches the rushing river/water analogy of the Holy Spirit in the prior verse. The presence of Christ within believers is like the rushing river of the Holy Spirit (John 4:14).

The ESV (Hebrew Masoretic) of verse 3 in Isaiah is also good, because there’s a reversal of  the blind eyes and deaf ears of Isaiah 6:9-10. However, Jesus never said that the leaders’ eyes and ears had opened. In fact, he said the opposite. 

John 12:39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (ESV).

Therefore, Isaiah 32:3 applies to the common people who followed Christ, rather than to the religious leaders of his day. Gospel history shows that while the Jewish religious leaders as a whole failed to trust God and his emissary, Messiah, the common people did choose to trust him, rather than men. Along with Isaiah, they “saw his glory” and believed. 

The Heart of the Weak Ones

Verse 4 of the Septuagint continues from verse 3. It openly states that those who hear are the “weak ones.” Another common way of translating the Greek word for “weak” is “sick.”

Isaiah 32:4 And the heart of the weak ones shall attend to hear, and the stammering tongues shall soon learn to speak peace. (CAB, LXE)

And in similar fashion, Jesus stated that he came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (ESV) (See also Matthew 9:12 and Mark 2:17.)

The Masoretic, in contrast, seems to lack the immediate tie to the King of verse 1. “The mind that acts rashly will possess discernment and the tongue that stutters will speak with ease and clarity.” (Isaiah 32:4 NET). Although not specifically mentioned in these later verses, the King of Septuagint Isaiah 32:1 appears to be he to whom the hearts of the weak ones attend to hear in verse 32:4.

Fools Who Rule

While the Masoretic of verse 5 sounds like a good proverb,

The fool will no more be called noble, nor the scoundrel said to be honorable. (ESV)

the Septuagint goes one step further. It identifies the “fool” as the ruler.

And they shall no longer tell a fool to rule, and your servants shall no longer say, Be silent. (CAB, LXE)

Verses 6 and 7 further describe the fool who rules.

6 For the fool shall speak foolish words, and his heart shall meditate vanities, and to perform lawless deeds and to speak error against the Lord, to scatter hungry souls, and He will cause the thirsty souls to be empty. 7 For the counsel of the wicked will devise iniquity, to destroy the poor with unjust words, and ruin the cause of the poor in judgment.

Who cannot hear echoes of this Isaiah description as Jesus repeatedly proclaims “woe” upon the religious rulers of his day?

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (ESV) (See also Matthew 23:15, 17, 23, 25, 29; and John 10:10.)

Matthew 23:17 You blind fools!… (ESV) 

“Fools” in Matthew 23:17 is the same Septuagint Greek word that Isaiah uses. In more ways than one, Jesus came to cleanse his temple of the “blind fools” who ruled there. And as previously discussed, the eyes of the rulers remained blind. Nor did they incline their ears to hear. God reserves for the meek and humble the blessing of seeing and hearing him.

Contrast with Messiah’s Kingdom

Continuing in the same vein, verse 8 closes this Isaian messianic passage of Messiah’s kingdom with a contrasting description of the leaders of the early biblical New Testament church.

8 But the godly have devised wise measures, and this counsel shall stand. (CAB, LXE)

The writers of the letters of the New Testament amply demonstrate fulfillment of this prophesy. Each of the apostles and elders of the early church repeatedly enjoin Christ’s followers to behave decently and in love for one another. I give but one of a multitude of examples. This is the “counsel” of the “godly” that replaces the “counsel of the wicked,” the “blind fools” who ruled in Jesus’s day.

 Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

Summary

Isaiah 32:1-8 describes the messianic King and his followers. The flow of the Septuagint in Isaiah 32 is smooth. The verses connect well one with another, as they keep the focus upon the King of verse 1. The king, though no longer directly mentioned, interacts with the sick and the weak of later verses. The Masoretic, on the other hand, takes a step into stiff formality. The “king who reigns in righteousness” is almost forgotten in the later verses. Unlike the Septuagint, the Masoretic passage appears to be more about a certain prophesied period of time, rather than a person. The poignant prophesy of the Septuagint dissolves into a mechanical abstraction in the Masoretic.

But the Septuagint was the “Scripture” of Jesus’s day. Fortunately, in the Septuagint, the presence of the “righteous King” permeates the characters portrayed in the ensuing verses. As we continue in Septuagint Isaiah, we see that both Jesus and the writers who chronicled his life were steeped in this Old Testament gospel account.

Songs for “In That Day”: Isaiah Devotional Journal 48

See also Songs for “In That Day”: Isaiah Devotional Journal 48 – justonesmallvoice.com

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 25    Septuagint Modernized

Celebratory Songs for “In That Day” (Part One)

Isaiah 26:1 In that day they shall sing this song in the land of Judea; Behold a strong city; and he shall make salvation its wall and bulwark. (Septuagint)

The celebratory songs for “in that day” begin with Isaiah 25:1, even though the prophet doesn’t use that exact phrase until chapter 26. Imagine the scene in the movie, Harry Potter, when the dark lord is finally, totally, and forever banished. Isaiah’s celebration is much greater than that. Or, think of any city when the favored troops have completely vanquished the oppressive enemy. Isaiah’s songs for “in that day” are that kind of celebration.

When?

I think it’s fair to say that Isaiah had never heard of a period of time called the “millennium.” In Isaiah, there are three basic time zones: 1) his day, including everything up to the incarnation, 2) the day of Christ, including his incarnation and up to and including everything before his second coming, and 3) the final day when Christ comes again and the enemy is forever, finally, totally, destroyed.

Unfortunately for us, as readers, Isaiah doesn’t clearly label his time frames. Nor are they always exactly discernible. Consider for example Isaiah 22:20-25.

Isaiah 22:20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (ESV) 

We know from Revelation 3:7 that this passage is about Christ.

Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (ESV)

But what is the time frame in the Revelation passage? Wasn’t it true of Christ during his incarnation? And after his ascension? And into his glorious eternity? Similarly, none of these time frames are ruled out in Isaiah 22:20-25.

Already, Not Yet

There is a phrase to describe prophecy’s fulfillment that is making its rounds in Christian circles. This phrase is “already, not yet.” The idea is that much Old Testament prophecy, including Isaiah, has already been fulfilled in Christ. He is already crucified, buried, risen, and ascended into heaven. There he sits at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). But the very end of the ages, when the eternal kingdom is ushered in, is “not yet.”

Scripture is not clear on the exact timing of the transition from “already”, that is–right now– to “not yet.”

 Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (ESV)

And, in the days of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, that timing was even less clear. Peter bluntly states how much was revealed to them.

 1 Peter 1:10 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. (ESV)

The Timing Not Clear

An honest evaluation of Peter’s words reveals that the timing revealed to the Old Testament prophets was general, not specific. For them, it was plenty exciting just to know that the Christ would come!

While I am not endorsing a particular faith tradition, I often like The Orthodox Study Bible (1). This is because its translation is based on the Septuagint (Old Greek translation). And, I like the Septuagint, because it is often easier to find Christ in its pages than in translations based on the Masoretic textual tradition (2). Here is what The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Revelation 20:2.

20:2 Though most did not, a few early Fathers and writers believed in a literal thousand year binding of Satan and reign of Christ and the saints on earth (vv. 2-7). The Church, however, authoritatively rejected this teaching (called chiliasm) at the Second Ecumenical Council. In apocalyptic literature, numbers have symbolic significance. “Thousand” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a long period time, a great quantity, completion, perfection, thoroughness (Job 9:32Pt 3:8). Here, a thousand years (vv. 2-7) is interpreted as the Church age, when Jesus reigns on earth in those who believe. It is that era between the first and second comings of Christ, also called the “last times,” when Satan’s effectiveness at deceit is restricted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the saints share in Christ’s earthly reign through the Church. For these persecuted Christians threatened by martyrdom, this is a consoling hope.

Therefore, anyone who points to Isaiah chapters 25-27 and states that this is the “millennium,” is reading into Scripture. This is because the “millennium” is a word that Scripture never uses. And, if such a distinct period is not clear in Revelation, then it certainly wouldn’t be clear in Isaiah. But, good news! Chapters 25-27 in Isaiah are definitely about the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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

2 A brief introductory post concerning my use of the Septuagint is available here: Which Bible Should I Use? – justonesmallvoice.com   

Songs for “In That Day” To Be Continued 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–11

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

{1) Gr. written for life}

Does this verse ring any Christian bells?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, what book?

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

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

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

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

Galatians 4:25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (ESV)

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

 Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–9

Is This a Christian Passage?

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

{1) Gr. written for life}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–4

Devotional: Isaiah 2:6 LXX (LXE, Brenton) (1) For he has forsaken his people the house of Israel, because their land is filled as at the beginning with divinations, as the land of the Philistines, and many strange children were born to them. (2, 3)

What is startling about this verse is the phrase, “as at the beginning.” The land of Israel, formerly known as Canaan, was in God’s eyes, according to Scripture, formerly a land of unholiness, just as the Israelites themselves were unholy while they were in Egypt. God’s command to Joshua had been to engage the Canaanites in war and to utterly defeat them. He was giving the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham. It was to be a land of holiness for a holy people, whom God had chosen for this purpose (see Deuteronomy 12f., and Joshua 24). He wanted them to live their lives in reflection of his own holy nature, so that the world around them could see and know the difference.

Isaiah tells the people in 2:6 that God has forsaken them, because just as “at the beginning,” the land was filled with false religion and children of careless intermarriage with those who did not worship God (Philistines). What is strikingly sad is that after nearly 500 years, God found no difference between the character of the nation inhabiting the land then, which was Israel, and the way it was before their arrival.

Such a statement has tremendous application today. How would I feel if the summation of the legacy of my life was that I made no difference? Everything at the end of my life was just as it was at the beginning, before I was born? What about our churches? Some churches have been in particular neighborhoods for fifty years or more. Have they made a difference? Or, are things just as they were “at the beginning,” before the church ever arrived?

God will have his way. Christ introduced a holiness among men that cannot be polluted, diluted, or destroyed. Only as I adhere to Christ, as a branch to its vine, will I ever make a difference. I pray we all do.

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1 For those who may be interested, my personal preference for an English translation of the Septuagint in most cases is Lancelot Brenton. Other translations are available. One is the translation by Moisés Silva in the NETS Bible (New English Translation of the Septuagint), available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/. He writes in the introduction, “To the Reader,” about Brenton’s translation, which he thinks highly of, and his own. Having compared verse 6 with the original Greek text of Rahlf’s, the NETS translation, the English translation in The Orthodox Study Bible (Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), and Brenton’s translation (Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970, available in an online version at https://ebible.org/eng-Brenton/ISA02.htm), I find that I prefer Brenton’s translation: 1) it is accurate to Rahlf’s text, which Silva states is adequate for the vast majority of verses, and 2) it is the most pleasing of the three to my English ear. 

2 English translations based upon the Masoretic (Hebrew) text differ for this verse. For example, the ESV has, “For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.” The difference is that where the ESV has the phrase, “full of things from the east,” the Septuagint has, “filled as at the beginning.” The BDB Hebrew lexicon available to me (Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew-Aramaic and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Abridged BDB-Gesenius Lexicon) (Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997), BibleWorks, v.9) gives three meanings for the Hebrew of this word: 1) front, 2) east, and 3) aforetime, or formerly. My speculation is that the translators of the Hebrew text into the Greek Septuagint, some three centuries BC, or BCE, chose meaning three.

3 I really prefer to do my devotions, where possible, from the English Septuagint. It’s often provides much more “spiritual meat” than the Masoretic, which in comparison tends toward “dry neutrality.” The phrases in quotations are both my own.

 

 

 

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