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 55” pp. 249-259
Isaiah 55:1 calls all those in trial to come to God. Luther sees this as a forceful exhortation. People who are trained in God’s Word forget their training and fail to look to God. This passage calls God’s people back to him (LW 17, 249). The difficulty Luther sees here is that people do not receive that which is free. They prefer to have something which appears costly. “All things that are free are accounted worthless. Thus the Gospel, offered to the world free of charge, is not accepted” (LW 17, 249-250). Verse 2 speaks of the need to use resources rightly. The energy we expend will gain things, but they are not the kind of things that last forever. Toiling for what is not bread is fruitless. “Our endeavors do not produce bread for us but leave our souls hungry and faint” (LW 17, 251). On the contrary, as we hear God’s Word we receive from his grace all that we need in eternity. For this reason, verse 3 directs the reader to listen to God’s Word. In this word of God, those who listen receive an everlasting covenant, one of mercy (LW 17, 252).
Verse 4 shifts the attention from a group to an individual, the promised son of David. “The old covenant has its terminus in the people of Israel. But this testament will attack not only us but also the nations” (LW 17, 253). Luther identifies this as Christ reigning. The leadership of Christ is by the Word of God, as opposed to the armed force that earthly rulers use. Again, in verse 6 and following we find an exhortation to seek the Lord. He has made himself available to those who would hear (LW 17, 254). Seeking the Lord does involve lifestyle change. Verse 7 calls for a change of behavior and attitude. Luther considers that these commands seem foolish to those who consider themselves adequate. They are not willing to be changed by God. However, God’s thoughts are not like ours. Verse 8 calls us to be changed by God’s Word rather than cling to our own reason (LW 17, 255). However good our ways are, they are not God’s ways (LW 17, 256). Although God’s Word sometimes seems gentle, even weak, verses 10-11 affirm that it does work. The comparison here is to rain and snow. It may seem gentle and even insignificant, but it does produce crops (LW 17, 257). The work of God to bring forgiveness and peace can be compared to the Exodus, releasing people from bondage (LW 17, 258). Whether times are good or bad, the Christian can have joy due to God’s Word.