Every Tuesday my intention is to post some notes drawn from a commentary on some part of the Old Testament. Drawing on scholars who take a high view of history, integrity, truth, and Scripture will help with our day to day focus. These notes are pulled from Martin Luther’s works, volume 16 in the American Edition. His lectures on Isaiah were given between 1527 and 1532. Much of the preserved information is a transcription of student notes taken during the lectures. In Isaiah chapter 5 we explore the idea of the distinction between the godly and the ungodly.
Luther, Martin, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, translated by Herbert J.A. Bowman) Luther’s Works, Vol. 16, Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 1-39. St. Louis: Concordia, 1969. Logos Electronic Edition. In some environments page numbers are visible but in others they are not. I will generally provide a page number and make sure the reader knows what verse Luther is commenting on.
“Isaiah Chapter 5” pp. 57-68.
As he begins to comment on Isaiah chapter five, Luther immediately makes a distinction between believing and unbelieving people. The ungodly claim God’s promises for themselves but deny or apply God’s penalties to godly people (LW 16, 57, Is. 5:1). The song here, in contrast, is rightly about Christ, the Beloved. The hill referred to in verse 2 is a fruitful place (LW 16, 57, Is. 5:2). There is a strong fence around the vineyard, which Luther says applies to the Law, guarding God’s people (LW 16, 58, Is. 5:2). Verse 2 also refers to a tower, the focal point, which Luther interprets as the worship of God which goes on (LW 16, 59, Is. 5:2). The winepress he sees as the place where believing people are changed, the mortification of the flesh. Sadly, the vineyard brings forth grapes which are no good. In verses three through five the demand is to judge between God and his vineyard. God has done no wrong, but his vineyard, his people, prove defective (LW 16, 59). As a result, in verses five and six the protection of Israel is taken away. Luther identifies this as a description of Israel’s exile to Babylon, where they are not guarded by the Law (LW 16, 60). The various types of neglect and destruction may be seen in the removal of the protection of God’s Law. In verse seven Isaiah applies the parable clearly to Israel (LW 16, 61). The judgment is then explained in detail and very clearly in verses eight and following. Greed and evil speech are harmful (LW 16, 61, Is. 5:8-9). Those who presumptuously expect money regardless of laziness or dissipation will find ruin (LW 16, 62, Is. 5:10-12). In verses 13-15 the people will go into captivity, receiving even plague and death, something Luther sees happening in his age as well as in Isaiah’s (LW 16, 63). There is, however, a hope and a future. Starting in verse 16, the result of people being humbled is the Lord being exalted. People from Israel and other nations will look to him in hope (LW 16, 64). Verse 18 returns to another form of disobedience - falsehood (LW 16, 64). The confusion of evil and good in verse 20 and the considering of oneself as wise in verse 21 Luther relates to the idea of falsehood, as it places reliance upon ourselves rather than God (LW 16, 65). Verse 22 returns to the idea of being bold at drinking. Luther thinks the earlier reference is to nobility and this one to common people (LW 16, 66). Regardless of the person, calamity comes upon the ungodly (LW 16, 66, Is. 5:24-25). This destruction comes from God at the hand of other nations (LW 16, 67). As the chapter closes, Isaiah leaves a picture of grim darkness (LW 16, 68).
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