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 45” pp. 122-136.
In Isaiah 45, the prophet calls Cyrus “the anointed one.” Luther notes that this is the title Israel used to refer to their kings. The implication is that Cyrus has been ordained by God (LW 17, 122). If Cyrus knew and believed this prophecy, Luther considers that he was in fact a very great king, as he restored the people of Judah after their exile. In verses 1 and 2 the fall of Babylon, though it appeared invincible, was brought low with minimal force. The text of Isaiah is confirmed by other commentators and historians, as Luther notes (LW 17, 123). Verse 4 further says that the king, Cyrus, would be called by God even though he didn’t know God. This was done, as Luther notes, for the care of God’s people in Judah (LW 17, 124). The claim of God through the prophet is that God is the one who appoints to power, who removes from power, who arranges for good and for bad circumstances. Luther considers his questioners, who would require us to know why good and bad happens in the world. He does not answer the question, observing that the real meaning of the text is that God’s people would be rescued from bondage by God’s servant, the Persian king (LW 17, 125). The text which follows urges God’s people to continue crying out for deliverance (LW 17, 126). God is then identified as the one who cares for all the heavens and the earth, as a potter (v. 9) working with clay. Luther notes the parallel idea in Job 3.3 and Jeremiah 20.14 (LW 17, 127). It is not our place to ask why God would allow his people to endure suffering. Rather, we would want to ask why God has ever considered us worthy of the Gospel (LW 17, 128). Luther calls us, based on verse 11, to judge based on God’s Word rather than our own ideas. He is the one who governs the world and can give peace and protection (LW 17, 129).
As God’s people wait on permanent rescue, in verses 12-13 God says he has raised up his servant. This is the one who is righteous and will build God’s city. Surprisingly, Luther does not seem to note the possible foreshadowing of Christ and His Kingdom (LW 17, 130). The text is rather focused on Cyrus building the city at his own expense and requiring other nations to assist him and the Jews. Luther even notes that “Hilary applies this whole passage to Christ and His divinity, but the text is here speaking about Koresh” (LW 17, 131). God, then, in verse 15, is the one who works in a hidden manner. He is not comprehensible. Yet he puts his enemies to shame (v. 16) (LW 17, 132). Unlike the other gods, Israel has a God who provides everlasting salvation. Luther notes that in verse 17, God protects the line of the Christ through Cyrus the king (LW 17, 132). God has made this clear and plain. His intention is to fill the earth with the people who reflect his glory. This may mean the downfall of those who do not believe him. However, the work of Cyrus points up the fact that people from outside of Israel will be among God’s servants (LW 17, 133). Again, in verses 20 and following, it is the true God who is able to cause this to happen. The gods made by humans are powerless (LW 17, 134). God, however, is the one on whom people can and should call. He is the one who gives confidence. he is the one who is glorious (LW 17, 136).