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. Isaiah chapter six details Isaiah’s call to the prophetic ministry, through an ecstatic experience in the temple at Jerusalem. Luther picks up on many of the details of the vision, showing how they point ultimately to God’s sending of his Son.
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 6” pp. 69-77.
Addressing Isaiah chapter six, Luther first observes that many make comments on the passage (LW 16,69). Verse 1 describes the specific time of Isaiah’s vision. He sees the Lord who is much too great to fit in the temple. God’s great majesty cannot be apprehended by our own abilities. In verse 2 even the seraphim cannot look upon God (LW 16, 70). They shout out a confession before God, simply of his holiness. Luther contrasts this pure confession with the way ungodly people try to approach God (LW 16, 70). God’s presence is shown as great, mighty, and incomprehensible in verse 4 (LW 16, 71). This reduces the prophet to silence and mourning (LW 16, 72). Luther compares this to the conviction which comes from God’s Law. Verse 6, Luther says, is a show of resurrection. The prophet knows he is lost. God makes him pure (LW 16, 73). This cleansing is shown by the act of purifying the prophetic lips. God also reveals his purpose in verses 9-10. He will receive those who turn to him in humility but will turn away those who harden themselves against him (LW 16, 73). To accomplish his purpose, God calls his messenger, Isaiah, to speak to the people (LW 16, 74). The text of verses 9-10 is quoted in the Gospels, though with variants. The sense is always that the proclamation of God’s Word will be received by some and rejected by others, softening those who believe and hardening those who reject (LW 16, 75). Verses 11-13 point to a scattering of Israel and preservation of a remnant, something Luther applies to the Roman captivity of Israel, awaiting Christ (LW 16, 76).
Luther then moves into an allegorical interpretation of the passage, with God appearing in the humanity of Christ. His messengers bring the Word of God in the Law and Prophets. The life of the godly is veiled in Christ, while the feet of the creatures show Christian conduct. The preaching is God’s holiness, which will be repeated by people (LW 16, 76). The Gospel will do its work burning and purifying like the burning coal (LW 16, 77).
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