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 54” pp. 233-248.
Luther notes that Isaiah 54 follows very naturally from the preceding chapter. “The prophet, having described the King and His work, proceeds in this chapter to describe the kingdom of Christ and now endeavors to describe His fruit and seed that will long prosper” (LW 17, 233). Therefore, he describes the Church. Luther makes a distinction between the old and the new - synagogue and church, a old law which binds and a new law which frees. While the Church appears to be like a barren woman, one without joy, verse 1 calls for a response of singing. Luther points out that Christianity, while it may appear humble and barren, is that which will break into praise (LW 17, 234). He therefore applies the growth in offspring from verses 2-3 to the growth of Christianity, surviving and thriving despite all opponents (LW 17, 235). In verse 4 the metaphor of a widow shifts to a woman betrothed to a husband. This husband, who will make her fruitful, is the Lord. He is the one who will bring consolation and protection (LW 17, 237). Even when the Church feels rejected, Luther says, it is not permanent. There is consolation, as we see in verse 7. Our tribulation is brief, though it seems eternal. Yet in God’s eyes it lasts only for a moment (LW 17, 238). God’s compassion, however, lasts forever. Verse 9 adduces the example of Noah. Though the world was chastised in the time of Noah, Noah himself was preserved, though in the midst of hardship (LW 17, 240). Out of this hardship, comes consolation. God raises up his people as jewels. Luther does admit that the different jewels may hve different values. But they are all jewels (LW 17, 242). In verse 13, we read that the value comes as people are taught by God. “All Christians have been taught by God, because reason cannot discover Christian doctrine, yea, having found it, cannot grasp it; yea, reason persecutes it, because it does not speak of things that are evident but rathr there seems to be nonsense here. All the wisdoms of the world speak of things that are evident. Contrary to reason, Christianity teaches concerning things that are not evident, and therefore reason collapses and is offended” (LW 17, 243). Counter to the Enthusiasts, Luther does not say that Christianity is an unintelligible internal matter. He simply says that it does not follow all the naturally occurring forms of reasoning. Therefore, God teaches his people through the Word of God, nurtured by the doctrine of the Church. This will give peace. It is described by Isaiah as prosperity of righteousness (v. 14). It protects God’s people from injury, fear, and attack (LW 17, 245). As the chapter ends, those who would strive against God’s people have a tendency to destroy themselves. They become so outlandish in their opposition that thos who would support them also turn against them (LW 17, 247).