Gleanings from Isaiah 41
Continued from Prior Posts
VI. Isaiah 41:17-20 Gleaning #6
“The Poor and the Needy”
17And the poor and the needy shall exult; for when they shall seek water, and there shall be none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord God, I the God of Israel will hear, and will not forsake them… 20 that they may see, and know, and perceive, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has wrought these works, and the Holy One of Israel has displayed them. (LXE, Brenton)
(οἱ πτωχοὶ καὶ οἱ ἐνδεεῖς) (ee p-toe-khee kay ee-ende-eess)
The word “poor” in Greek is the same as in Matthew 5:3, mGNT, or simply Matthew 5:3. It signifies either one who is concretely poor in this world’s goods or metaphorically oppressed, beaten down. The second word “needy” is rare. It occurs only here in the Septuagint and once in the New Testament in Acts 4:34, ESV. It also means poor in this world’s goods. The passage in Isaiah 41:17-20, LXE could work both ways, concrete-literally and metaphorically.
An example of an explicitly metaphorical passage in Isaiah that speaks of water is Isaiah 58:11, LXE.
Isaiah 58:11 and thy God shall be with thee continually, and thou shalt be satisfied according as thy soul desires; and thy bones shall be made fat, and shall be as a well-watered garden, and as a fountain from which the water has not failed. (LXE, Brenton)
God’s Attitude Toward the “Poor and Needy”
What is God’s attitude toward the poor and needy?
Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy; the Lord will take care of me; thou art my helper, and my defender, O my God, delay not. (LXE, Brenton)
Psalm 70:5 But I am poor and needy; O God, help me: thou art my helper and deliverer, O Lord, delay not. (LXE, Brenton)
The passage in Isaiah clearly spells our God’s intended blessings upon the poor and needy. The blessing appears as future to Isaiah’s point of reference.
Isaiah 41:17 And the poor and the needy shall exult; for when they shall seek water, and there shall be none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord God, I the God of Israel will hear, and will not forsake them: 18 but I will open rivers on the mountains, and fountains in the midst of plains: I will make the desert pools of water, and a thirsty land watercourses. 19 I will plant in the dry land the cedar and box, the myrtle and cypress, and white poplar: 20 that they may see, and know, and perceive, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has wrought these works, and the Holy One of Israel has displayed them. (LXE, Brenton)
Readers should bear in mind that all of Chapter 41 is future to Isaiah’s time frame, however one calculates when he prophesied Volume 2. Minimally, God’s people haven’t yet returned from exile to Babylonia. If the prophecy were intended to be physical-concrete only, it might seem strange to the exiles in a foreign land, who may or may not have had sufficient water there.
From a Christian standpoint, however, the words are spiritually highly applicable. First, there is Jesus’s own ministry to the poor and needy peoples of Palestine. They were both concretely-literally poor and spiritually poor and oppressed.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (ESV)
Second, Jesus used imagery of water freely flowing to signify the Holy Spirit.
John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ESV)
John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (ESV)
VII. Isaiah 41 Gleaning #7
God Is For Us!
Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (ESV)
The sum total of Isaiah 41 is that “God is for us!” Who is us? The chapter teaches that God is for his people, the seed of Abraham, his servant. Who are the seed of Abraham? The New Testament teaches that all those from any ethnicity whatsoever who believe as Abraham believed are Abraham’s seed. There is no need to be physically descended from Abraham to be a child of God.
“Us” includes the poor and needy. God is for the poor and needy of every ethnicity who depend upon him. But, Isaiah 41 teaches that those of any ethnicity who gather together against God and his Anointed are not God’s people (“You are of your father the devil.”) Yet, if they repent, they can be. God is not stingy, nor unkind. He all but begs, rather he does beg, people everywhere to turn to him and be saved.
Isaiah knew these facts about God. He prophesied the gift of Messiah’s coming well. That is why New Testament authors and characters quote him so freely. Isaiah knew that God is for us.