(63 verses, 10:03 to read)
What I am about to READ
- This is a lengthy allegory of the relationship God began with His people, how they chased after other Gods, how he will punish them, and how He will atone for their sins. Because of the length of this chapter, I will make comments in the ‘Mark’ section and forgo the normal ‘Learn’ section.
MARK and LEARN
- vv. 1-7: The Lord describes Israel’s origin. In describing Israel’s heritage as coming from the Gentile nations, the Lord emphasizes how He chose Israel purely out of His own goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in them. In much the same way, God His saints not based on anything in them, but purely out of love for the sinner. God does not chose a person for salvation because they may come to faith at some point in life or in view of faith. Instead, faith is a result of God’s call to the Christian. This means God is totally responsible for the salvation of the sinner, and that sinner can be assured of God’s love for him. God simply speaks the word of life to the sinner dead in trespass, and like Lazarus, comes out of the grave.
- vv. 8-14: The Lord describes the covenant with Israel. The image here of being cleansed and clothed in splendor is a clear reference to the righteousness and holiness with which God clothes His people. For the Church, this is a connection to Holy Baptism, but this is a reminder that the people of the Old Testament were not saved in a different way than we are. All of God’s saints are made righteous through faith by God’s work of reconciling the world to Himself in Christ Jesus. The temple sacrifices all pointed to the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, while Holy Baptism incorporates us into that death. The imagery here is one of marriage, which is a common Biblical image of Christ’s relationship to His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5). This image will dominate the rest of the chapter.
- vv. 15-34: Israel trusts in her own beauty, rather than in the God who made her beautiful. This is not unlike (or unrelated to) Hezekiah’s reception of the Babylonian envoys, wherein he showed them all the wealth of his house (II Kings 20). There, Isaiah condemns Hezekiah, and the implication is that he trusted in his own power and wealth as a guard against a foreign power. Instead of giving thanks to God for the gift, Israel began to think that her status among the nations was of her own doing. This is idolatry, which God condemns here as “whoring.” The marriage vow was broken, as Israel sought comfort outside of the bond of marriage to her Lord.
- vv. 35-58: As a result of Israel’s adultery, God will punish them. This is a stern warning that God is a just God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him. This is what it means to “fear” the Lord, as in “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” We do respect God’s might, but it is truly His power and authority to punish those who ignore His commands. This discipline, however, comes out of love. God seeks to strip Israel of their idols, that they might learn to trust in Him alone. This is why Christians cannot live apart from the Law. Though it has no power to save, it testifies to the righteousness of God and points us to the righteousness that God gives–the righteousness of faith to all who believe in Christ Jesus. This punishment for Israel shows the kind of punishment God gives. In Romans, St. Paul tells us that God gives sinners over to the desires of their hearts. Here, God gave Israel over to those who worshipped false gods, which would have been utterly humiliating for them.
- vv. 59-63: The Lord remembers His covenant. As I already said, the Law is brought to bear in order to make way for the Gospel. The Law kills the sinful flesh, but the Gospel creates life from death. Eventually, the Lord will restore Israel, and those who were her sisters will now becoming her daughters. This is to show that God’s kingdom will include people of every nation, who will be made into one family through the blood of Christ Jesus. Israel’s ultimate restoration is accomplished not in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, but in the flesh and blood temple of Christ’s body. He would make atonement for His people by taking on their sins (and ours!) as the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the world. This covenant will last into eternity, and is our only hope in a world of sin and shame.
- Prayer: O Lord, do not discipline us in Your wrath, nor remove the lamp of Your Word from before our eyes. Teach us Your way, that we may not go down to the pit of destruction. Restore us through the merit and mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and bring us out of death to life, through the same Jesus Christ. Amen.
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-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN
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