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 46” pp. 137-145.
Isaiah 46 continues to deal with Cyrus, king of Persia. At the outset of the chapter, the Babylonian idols are identified as just that, idols. They would have to bow down to the true God. However, their followers think Isaiah and God’s people are the ones who are foolish (LW 17, 137). Luther identifies this as a tendency in his time as well. “Under these idol forms they [the Babylonians] wanted to worship God. So the monk wants to adore his own cowl and think that God is pleased with it. Therefore every idolatry comes from the inner ungodliness of the heart and from one’s own choice” (LW 17, 137-138).
Luther considers that the actual new theme, indicating an appropriate chapter break, is after Isaiah 46:2. In verse 3 God calls his people to hear him and to know that he is the one who actually takes care of them. This is opposed to our own tendency to trust ourselves. Yet the refuge given in Isaiah is clearly God, not us (LW 17, 138). God is portrayed as the mother who carries her child, the safest place there can be for the small child. “The uterus and womb of God is the divine Word, by which we are fashined and borne” (LW 17, 139). From before we are born even to old age, God will carry his people. He does this because he made us. He is the one who wishes to carry our burdens and take care of them (LW 17, 139). In verse 5 he describes himself as unlike any of the other gods. He is unique. In contrast, Luther observes that humans make different types of gods. “When I fashion a god outside of the Word, I soon fashion a god to suit my own opinion...idolatry is nothing else but an opinion apart from the Word of God” (LW 17, 140). The utter foolishness of this opinion is evident in Isaiah 46:6, when the people bring forth gold and pay someone to make them a god (LW 17, 141). In contrast to making gods who need to be paid for and carried around, in verse 8 God reminds his people that he is the one who will carry them. He has promised deliverance from enemies, something else the idols of gold cannot do. Again, this is all because God is unique. There is no other God (LW 17, 143). He is the one who accomplishes his purpose (v. 10). And in this time, he will accomplish his purpose by moving people to activity, even though they may not understand it (LW 17, 144).