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 65” pp. 375-394.
Luther notes that in Isaiah 65 “the prophet begins to depict the future calamity in the time of Christ. This is the last and final threat” (LW 17, 375). It is a picture of a final judgment, which Luther sees in his present reality of Islamic invasions. At issue is the presence of a different people, those wo were not among the Jews, God’s chosen people. Those people will seek God. But it is not from the efforts of others to seek God that he will be found. He is found in “the Word, where God offers Himself. It is not we who seek, but God Himself seeks us by means of the Word” (LW 17, 375). Seeking God outside of his Word leads to all manner of heresies. Luther observes that since God is the one who has revealed his will and a means of recognizing his will, we have no excuse for our unwillingness to accept the Word of God (LW 17, 376). The prophet condemns this unwillingness as rebellion (v. 2) which provokes God to anger (v. 3). It is a form of idolatry (LW 17, 377). When the people choose their own places and manners of worship they are acting contrary to God’s revealed will. Luther aplies this to all the acts of devotion which people in his day might depend upon rather than God’s Word (LW 17, 378).
In verse 6 and following, the prophet speaks of the sins of Judah. They are clearly written so as to bear later witness. God promises to give the people a reward appropriate for their sins (LW 17, 380). However, in verse 8, there is the promise that where there is a remnant, some sort of blessing, God will preserve his people (LW 17, 381). The people of God will again inherit the land of promise. Those who have forsaken the Lord (v. 11) will not partake of the inheritance (LW 17, 382).
The end result, then, is that God’s people receive his mercy according to his decree. They do not seek God according to their own plans. God ordains a means by which he will care for his people. Those who try to alter the plan are found in rebellion against God (LW 17, 384).
Luther notes that the kingdom of God, since it is not according to our choice, may often appear hidden. In many ways it is imperceptible. It is a spiritual kingdom of faith. Though it normally results in actions, those actions are not clearly and easily defined. Therefore, Luther finds the Kingdom of God as an invisible entity (LW 17, 387).
The prophet moves in verse 17 to describe the new creation of God. The invisible kingdom consists in a “new heavens and a new earth” (v. 17). Luther compares this to a bag being turned inside out. Everything that was inside before is now outside, that which was outside is inside. It is still the same bag, but everything has been changed (LW 17, 388). “The kingdom of Christ does not have its place in the senses. The treasure lies in the certainty of life. Feelings of despair and afflictions have to do with the sack…” (LW 17, 388). The real kingdom of God is found in the Word of God. This is where God works joy and life. In verses 20 and following the prophet speaks of all things coming to maturity. Luther sees that a life according to our own design will never come to maturity, but living according to God’s Word received by faith is truly permanent (LW 17, 389). Isaiah and Luther give a number of different examples of the kind of permanence found in God’s kingdom.