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 59” pp. 295-310.
Luther compares the situation at the start of Isaiah 59 to that in his day. There are many who are very aware of hardship and injustice in society. They will blame these challenges on God and then will rise up against God’s people, especially his prophets. They would rather trust in their own wisdom. The encouragement in verse 1 is that God is certainly able to save his people (LW 17, 295). Isaiah counters the claims of the unbelievers by saying that their own unfaithfulness has prevented God from saving them. Luther sees this as a struggle which is never ending. There will always be those who reject the truth (LW 17, 296). In verse 5, the people who reject God do what they consider to be good works, yet those works bring forth only trouble (LW 17, 297). The exhaustion and frustration caused by this kind of lifestyle becomes clear in verse 6. In verse 7 we see the prophet’s assessment that those who reject God hurry to do harm as well (LW 17, 298). Counter to the anger and frustration of the unbeliever, the Christian can find peace and justice (LW 17, 299). Luther considers King Ahab as the Bible’s primary illustration of this idea. As he sought justice and peace according to his own means the situations he was involved in continued to become worse until his government collapsed (LW 17, 301). In verse 12, Isaiah returns to his original point. The reason we suffer is because of the tyranny of our sin. All our religious observance without holiness before God will accomplish nothing but our condemnation (LW 17, 302). The true cure, as Isaiah goes on to say, is justice and truth, which comes from God’s Word. Yet God knows what we think and do. In verse 15, He is observing people in this earth. He is displeased, nobody pursues true justice. Furthermore, there are not even those who would advocate for the truth. “God is aghast that there is no man to intercede” (LW 17, 304). The warning of God in verses 17 and following is that He will work judgment himself. God’s Law will become clear to all so that they will fear him. Paradoxically, God brings judgment, but in verse 21 He brings that judment in the form of a redeemer, one who establishes a covenant with Israel. Luther, with Paul, applies this specifically to Christ (LW 17, 307). The covenant of God is enduring. “As long as the Word remains, God can always save people through this means. Who knows the potential of that nation? There might be more and better Christians in thier midst than in ours. For thought not all Jews will be converted, some persons will be. This is the mystery of Israel, that the remnant is to be converted” (LW 17, 308). Those who turn from sin to God will indeed be God’s people. God has made that covenant promise clear in the Scripture. God’s Word applies at all times and in all places. God’s Spirit will always work through the Word (LW 17, 309).