Luther, Martin, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, translated by Herbert J.A. Bowman) Luther’s Works, Vol. 16, Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 1-39. St. Louis: Concordia, 1969. Logos Electronic Edition. In some environments page numbers are visible but in others they are not. I will generally provide a page number and make sure the reader knows what verse Luther is commenting on.
“Isaiah Chapter 7” pp. 78-87.
I apologize for the lack of Tuesday posts for the past month. I had some difficulty staying on top of some projects and this one went to the back burner.
Chapter seven of Isaiah begins with a new date. The king is now Ahaz, son of a godly king, Jotham. Because Ahaz was ungodly, establishing idolatry, Isaiah began to prophesy again (LW 16, 78). Luther discusses Ahaz’ worship. “Ahaz certainly did not worship trees but rather a divinity, only he did not do so with the right kind of worship. Idolatry consists in believing someone else rather than God alone. The Christian religion consists in believing in the mercy and goodness of God for Christ’s sake” (LW 16, 78). Ahaz’ zeal for some sort of worship created the same enthusiasm in his followers, a tendency Luther identifies as dangerous in every age.
Ahaz is concerned about a prospective attack of Samaria, which is allied with Syria. Luther observes that Ahaz should have been worried about his ungodliness, but is rather shaken by the physical attacks against his territory (LW 16, 79). Because of their lack of faith in anyone outside of themselves, Ahaz and his people were fearful. They were unable to trust in God’s protection. The Lord directs Isaiah to go to Ahaz and deliver counsel to him (LW 16, 80). Ahaz is to “take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint” (LW 16, 80). God expresses his contempt for the enemies of Judah, calling them “stumps of firebrands.” They are not only stumps, but they are only smoldering. Their anger and assault will not be effective against God (LW 16, 81). On the contrary, Samaria and Syria have their boundaries and Judah will remain the house of David forever (LW 16, 81).
Luther thinks that in verse nine the king had seemed not to believe Isaiah’s words. Isaiah therefore insists that God’s Word will accomplish all that is needed. Again, Luther applies this doubt of the power of God’s Word to his own day. Faith must rest solidly on God’s promises, which will be found reliable (LW 16, 82). Despite Ahaz’ rejection of God’s Word, in verse 11 God offers a sign which will show Ahaz God’s power. Ahaz continues to reject God’s grace be denying that a sign is necessary. God then responds by chastising Ahaz and promising a sign anyway. Luther observes that signs are important. “God is almost always accustomed to add a sign to the Word, just as here, too, he would have added one, provided that the king would have accepted it.” (LW 16, 83). God’s signs are given by his grace. To reject them is, according to verse 13, to weary God (LW 16, 84).
The sign God promises in verse 14 is the sign of Immanuel. A young woman, a virgin, conceives. Luther affirms that “it is necessary that the conception and birth be in a different manner than is commonly and naturally the case, for it would not be a sign if one who today is a virgin would become pregnant after half a year” (LW 16, 84). Luther sees this as explained very clearly in the first chapter of Matthew, where the promise is applied to Mary and Jesus. The Son will be “Immanuel, God with us (LW 16, 84). Just like any human he will be raised, eating normal foods (v. 15). He learns judgment and reason, but even before then Ahaz will see that the Lord will bring the Assyrians and Egyptians against Judah (v. 17) (LW 16, 85). He will bring these enemies against Judah in great numbers and with great anger, like flies and bees (LW 16, 86). There will be no hiding. In verse 20 Isaiah says the Assyrians are shaving Judah like a razor, something used to disgrace men by removing their hair and beard (LW 16, 86). The destruction will reach to the highest (the beard) and the lowest (the feet). In verse 21, the people who have remained in the land strive to live by keeping a cow, not their great fields of grain and vineyards which they formerly had (LW 16, 87). The land will be desolate and receive its rest, which has been neglected for many years.