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 43” pp. 84-102.
Isaiah 43 begins with words of consolation. Luther asks why the church would continue to need consolation. “You see that the church is forever about to fall, and therefore there must always be consolation. Although there would scarcely be a remnant, God is the protector of this poor little church” (LW 17, 84). He goes on to speak of societal rejection of the church. “This smallness of the church is the supreme offense in the world. ‘Do you think you are the only ones who count?’ they say. Here there must be an apostolic faith against this offense. Therefore the prophet consoles the church with these grand words, ‘Do not be offended.’ While Christ was hanging on the cross, the church was paractically nothing. It began with the malefactor, then came to the apostles, etc.” (LW 17, 84). The church eventually grows to reach to the whole world. As God’s reation, there should be no fear. It is the very same God, the only true God, who created and redeemed the world (LW 17, 85). Verse 2 piles up trials which can come upon people. No matter the trial, God’s people are safe. If Christians can remember that the Holy One of Israel, Christ, is the strong one, they will always be guarded by God (LW 17, 87). Luther acknowledges our perception to the contrary. We feel abandoned, lonely, rejected, unprotected. But our eyes don’t always see accurately. When we view the world through God’s Word we find that we are secure in Christ (LW 17, 89). In verse 7 we see that the people called by God’s name are intended for His glory. They were made by God. It is by his care and attention that his people thrive (LW 17, 90). It is for this reason that Christians form conclusions about good and evil, about what it means to do well or do badly. There is certainty to be found in God’s promises. Luther does not find this in the “papists, Sacramentarians, and Anabaptists” (LW 17, 92). They can reason from Scripture but ultimately move to a conclusion which contradicts the Scripture.
In verses 11 and following, the prophet is adamant. God is the savior. There is no other. He has always rescued people by his word and by his deed (LW 17, 94). God’s work is to hold and protect his people. Because of this work, Luther observes that God sometimes uses a variety of powers in the world to accomplish his will. Luther mentions the Islamic attempts to overcome nations which have also been resistent to the Gospel. He mentions the Romans and their international treaties, making it easy to bring the Gospel to many nations (LW 17, 95). Again, when seen in the Scriptural light, God is at work despite all his enemies.
In verse 19 the prophet sees God making a new way. The people of God, called by his name, are going to be provided for in ways they have not seen in the past. This will bring glory and honor to God’s name (LW 17, 97). When God’s people did not call on God, as in vv. 22-24, God has not shown them the blessing he might otherwise. Luther takes this as a reminder that we need to trust God’s deliverance, not our own efforts (LW 17, 98). Trusting in our own works proves a burden to us and to God. Trusting Christ lifts our burden (LW 17, 99). Here we need to evaluate the teaching we receive. If we have been taught to neglect the Scriptures we must turn away from that teaching toward God. This is essential to the life of the Church (LW 17, 101).