Tuesdays are for the Old Testament
Luther, Martin, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, translated by Herbert J.A. Bowman) Luther’s Works, Vol. 17, Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66.St. Louis: Concordia, 1972. Logos Electronic Edition.
“Isaiah Chapter 61” pp. 329-342.
In Isaiah 61 the prophet turns from a discussion of the kingdom of God to the head of God’s kingdom. Luther sees the New Testament interpretation of this passage in Luke chapter 4. Here the Christ is described. In particular he is recognized as a spiritual king (LW 17, 329). He is the one anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring good news (LW 17, 330). Luther notes the care of the Lord described in this passage. “It is because of His humanity and His incarnation that Christ becomes sweet to us, and through Him God becomes sweet to us. Let us therefore begin to ascend step by step from Christ’s crying in His swaddling clothes up to His Passion” (LW 17, 331). Wherever there is human suffering, Luther finds Christ, the one who has loved his people and will care for them. In this passage we see the distinction between the time of God’s vengeance and the time of the Lord’s favor. Luther finds this as the division between law and gospel. “The despondent set terrible things before themselves, and then Satan comes and terrifies them. Those who are experiencing such affliction are to be consoled. The presumptuous, on the contrary, are forever flatter”ing themselves and ascribing all manner of good and pleasant things to themselves, in such a way that they are always being hardened. They are to be terrified (LW 17, 333). Oddly enough, one of the ways in which the hardened presumptuous are terrified is through pressure from ungodly people. These will bring persecution upon the Christian, which can move one from presumption to mourning. And those in mourning will receive comfort (LW 17, 335). They will be planted by God and will grow so as to care for God’s other people. The description then moves from people being downtrodden and oppressed to being fruitful trees bringing comfort to others (LW 17, 336). The text even pictures leaders coming from other nations. Luther takes the foreigners in verse 5 who feed the flocks to refer to Gentiles who serve as spiritual leaders in the Church (LW 17, 337). Luther does note that the text speaks to tyrants who persecuted God’s people and who will give them honor later. This he views as a double edged sword. Many have taken the text to refer to Constantine and the state sponsorship of the church. However, while this may give some benefits, it also hinders the work of the Word of God (LW 17, 339). At issue is faithfulness to God who justifies. Whether the governmental authorities or any other human should recognize the work of God’s Word is not an issue. God’s justification is (LW 17, 340). God is the one who makes an everlasting covenant with his people. This is the priority of every Christian - recognizing and remaining within God’s covenant (LW 17, 341). In this covvenant, in verses 10 and 11, God clothes his people with salvation and fills them with joy (LW 17, 342).