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 51” pp. 197-205.
As he begins his comments on Isaiah 51, Luther draws our attention to the New Testament quotations and allusions to Isaiah. In this chapter, the prophet shows “that the Gospel is a consolation of peace and that we should patiently bear the cross to attain that inner peace” (LW 17, 197). This is the same message the apostle Paul proclaims in Romans, using Abraham and Sarah as an example for all who would seem hopeless. Here, the people are to look to God, the one who was able to bring children to Abraham and Sarah. In verse three we find that it is the Lord who brings comfort through his Word. Luther calls people in his day to remember the strength of God’s Word (LW 17, 198). Through God’s Word, in verse four, there will be a new law of faith and righteousness (LW 17, 199). The response of God’s people is to look to God in hope and wait for him. “This requires an immeasurable faith, since there is nothing feebler than voice or sound, and yet it must become so great that heaven and earth must be held as nothing. Therefore this righteousness is so fixed and eternal that even heaven and earth will more quickly be dispersed like smoke. The Word of God will continue in its effect when princes and tyrants will be completely blotted out. This requires a faith that must not be despised and that is not feeble” (LW 17, 199). Yet God calls his people to awaken to his power. He is able to accomplish salvation, just as he always has done (LW 17, 200). Verse 11, then, describes God’s people returning to him in joy. They will find that God revives them and gives them inexpressable joy (LW 17, 201). The proof which the prophet gives of God’s power is his creation. He has always been able to sustain his world, to provide food for his people, to deliver his word which bears his power, and to protect his people from all evil (vv. 13-16) (LW 17, 202).
Counter to the people of God, in verse 17, Isaiah brings us to the troubles his adversaries have. Because they have no living hope in God, his detractors receive no comfort. They seek answers in themselves but only find more questions. In vese 17 and 18 he compares these adversaries to people who are drunk and don’t have guidance to arrive at their destinations (LW 17, 203). They will find no mercy. The adversaries of God will accuse Christians of all manner of evil. However, Luther observes, Christians have a calming and gentling effect on society. “Yet the rebuke of the Lord arouses them [the adversaries] to the Word of God to such an extent that in a most violent manner they upbraid us with reproaches and overwhelm us with afflictions” (LW 17, 204).
The chapter closes, in verses 21-22, with God’s promise to comfort the afflicted and to restore them. He is the one who will restore his people, as they lay down their own ideas and look to God’s Word (LW 17, 205).