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 47” pp. 146-154
Isaiah chapter 47 speaks a powerful lament. The one who is puffed up, portrayed as the “virgin,” is going to face humiliation. The boasting and self-assurance will come to nothing (LW 17, 146). The downfall, in verse 2, involves the hard labor of a slave. The virgin daughter who stands humiliated is rejected by God. She has been stripped of all that is good (LW 17, 147). In verse 6 it is clear that the anger of God is motivated by the people’s sins. The people of God did not fear God and were turned over, consigned to unbelief (LW 17, 148). Yet, Luther observes, this unbelief is not what we would normally recognize as unbelief. In verse 9 it is, “In spite of your many sorceries. This refers to the religions. Who is it that makes our princes so smug in their sins? None but the religionists, who strengthen them in their counterfeit presumption” (LW 17, 149). It is the religious departure from the truth of God’s revelation which will bring the society to its downfall. Luther considers this to be the very same in his own time. He says, “no pestilence is more pestilential than a pastor who is presumptuous and smug. He also renders the prince and the king smug and presumptuous” (LW 17, 150). This is the case not only in Rome, but among the Enthusiasts. Sadly, it leads to destruction (LW 17, 151). The best strategy, says Luther, is avoidance. “When we see a heretic rising up against us, let us flee him after he has been twice admonished” (LW 17, 152). When society is ready to fall into ruins, it is best to avoid the fall. Just the same, verse 13 notes the difficulty in interpretation. The different advisors and many sorts of counsel are tiring due to their complexity. The fortunetelling, astrology, and other prophetic attempts create fatigue and darkness, rather than vigor and life. They dessicate the world, as a field after harvest is prone to fire (LW 17, 153, v. 14). The fire to come is violent and destructive. It isn’t a place for rest and warmth. It is a place of desolation. The prophet says in verse 15, “Such are your priests.” Isaiah, then, sternly warns the people to beware of their religious leaders.