God Rebukes Doubt: LXX Isaiah 2.3

Jesus as Creator

Christians know that Jesus created the world.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… 10… the world was made through him…

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

Divisions of Isaiah 40

  1. Verses 1-11, the Coming One
    1. verses 1-2, Introduction
    2. verses 3-11, Messiah comes, who is God the good shepherd
  2. Verses 12-31, God the Creator
    1. verses 12-26, facts about God the Creator
    2. verse 27, chastisement
    3. verses 28-31, corrective to the disbelief exhibited by Israel in verse 27
    4. verse 31, promise of renewal that leads to sustained hope

Who Is Who in Chapter 40?

The prior post records how Isaiah 40:1-11 speaks of the Coming One whom John the Baptist announced. This one is Jesus of Nazareth. But readers must look carefully at the referents Isaiah uses. Of whom does he speak?

“God” and “Lord” the Same in Isaiah 40:1-11

The Septuagint translation uses the name “God” (theos) five times in Isaiah 40:1-11. It uses the name “Lord” (kupios) five times. Plain speech leads everyday readers to conclude that the text uses these names synonymously. There is nothing in the text to indicate otherwise. Only the New Testament reveals that the voice which cries in the wilderness speaks of Jesus Christ.

This is exactly the point.

In this first section of Isaiah, the prophet does not distinguish between “God” and “Lord.” They are one and the same.

Therefore, when New Testament Scripture reveals the God and Lord of verses 9 and 10 to be Jesus Christ Messiah, Isaiah has already identified these names to be identical, synonymous. Messiah, the Lord (Jesus) is God. Realizing this helps explain to readers today why the Pharisees bore such passionate hatred to Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. They understood that he claimed to be God. Obviously, they rejected this man as Messiah. He did not exemplify the kind of God they wanted.

From Comfort to Chastisement

Isaiah 40 opens with comfort.

1 Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God. 2 Speak, you priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away; for she has received of the Lord’s hand double for her sins. (CAB, LXE) (1)

But the prophet employs a tone of chastisement, of mild rebuke, in verses 12-31. God chastises Jacob, that is, Israel (verse 27).

Isaiah 40:27 For do not say, O Jacob, and why have you spoken, O Israel, saying, My way is hid from God, and my God has taken away my judgment, and has departed? (CAB, LXE)

(2) In today’s American English, verse 27 appears to be a “throwback” to earlier chapters of Isaiah. Careful readers should notice and store up these nuances. Why? The tone differs so greatly between Isaiah 40:1-2 and Isaiah 40:12-30 that a careful reader might question whether Isaiah speaks to the same group of people. Does the “My people” of verse 1, to whom God speaks so tenderly, refer to the same “O Jacob,” “O Israel” of verse 27? God chastises doubters and naysayers in verse 27. Are these two groups the same groups? Or, is God schizophrenic? These are questions to store up in our hearts as we continue reading. (3)

How Does Division 2 Relate to Division 1?

How do the two divisions of this chapter connect? As noted above, the two “divisions” in Chapter 40 differ in tone. The first is favorable and tender. The second challenges disbelief. These read as though something is missing in the middle. Perhaps in the second division God answers Israel’s response to his overture of forgiveness and comfort from verse 2. If so, Israel’s response itself has not been recorded.

Certainly, verse 27 reveals Israel’s doubts concerning the nearness of God. They perceive themselves as far removed from God, hidden. They perceive God as having packed his bags, so to speak, and departed. The phrase “my judgment” in verse 27 is difficult for the modern ear. This way of thinking is not part of our lives. It could be used as a recently pardoned criminal might use it. Their condemnation is removed. They’re now invisible to the law, free. Or, it could be used as a child might speak of their parent. If a parent were to depart, then their guiding hand of discipline, both positive and negative, would have departed with them. The following translation captures, I think, the intended meaning in its context.

Why do you say, Jacob, and declare, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD my God ignores my predicament”? (Isaiah 40:27 CEB, Common English Bible)

What is clear is that God through the prophet represents Israel as confessing a separation from God. This would indeed match the scenario of a people in exile after a period of seventy years. They feel that they are on their own, invisible to him. God is not pleased with their doubt. Thus, he replies by describing his power and might. His reply appears to be a combination of mild rebuke and a pep talk designed to inspire belief and motivation.

  • In verses 12-17, God compares himself with all the nations. He is a giant of unfathomable size and might. All humanity is nothing in comparison.
  • Verses 18-20 describes the temporary, corruptible nature of human idols
  • God on the other hand created all things in heaven and on earth, verses 21-26

God’s Point

The point, then of verses 12-26, is God answering the doubts Israel expresses in verse 27. He sums up his position in verse 28.

28 And now, have you not known? Have you not heard? The eternal God, the God that formed the ends of the earth, shall not hunger, nor be weary, and there is no searching of His understanding. (CAB, LXE)

To support his claim, God provides examples of his power over human beings. These examples indicate that God often turns things topsy-turvy to our expectations. He does the opposite of what might be suppose will happen.

  • he gives strength to the hungry (v 29)
  • he gives sorrow to those who do not mourn (v 29)
  • youths (young people) will faint and grow weary (v 30)
  • the elect (chosen ones) will be without strength (v 30) (good to consult various translations for this verse)

But… Application for Today

Verse 31 provides the capstone for division 2 of Chapter 40.

31 but they that wait on God shall renew their strength; they shall put forth new feathers like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. (CAB, LXE)

This verse encourages people who have endured much and waited long. God’s promise is for us today, as well as for the Israelites in captivity. It applies also to Anna, Zechariah, and the other saints, few in number, who understood God’s promise to send a Messiah, Savior, to them. They faithfully waited. They endured the keeping of their hope alive to the full length of their lives. Most likely, they had no daily encouragement, no little signs along the way. They heard, understood, and treasured God’s promise of Messiah in their hearts, faithfully waiting until either fulfillment or the end of their lives. For Anna, he waiting yielded fulfillment (Luke 2:36-38).

We should continue to wait patiently on the Lord. He is not like us (Isaiah 40:12-29). His promises never fail.

Conclusion and Summary

One other important application is to do as Mary did, “to treasure up” these things in our heart (Luke 2:19). As we continue to study Septuagint Isaiah together, let us bear in mind Isaiah 40:3-11. This portion does not fit the scenario of God’s returning a captive people back to their homeland after exile in Babylonia. It doesn’t blend in at all with our development of this chapter in the traditional way–that is, God’s challenging a doubtful people to believe him. Yet, Isaiah has given verses 3-11the place of prime importance, the beginning of Chapter 40. Chapter 40 introduces the rest of the book.

And, verses 3-11 dovetail beautifully with Isaiah 40:1-2. Therefore, I prefer to think of what I have called Division 1 (Isaiah 40:1-11) as a separate section entirely. Isaiah never meant it to “blend in” with the rest of the chapter. In this way, Division 2 would be local to Israel’s historical position of nearing the end of their captivity in Babylon. Division 1, a stand-alone section, looks to the then far future of the coming Messiah. Its weight and scope is eternal.

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Complete Apostles’ Bible, Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito. (The CAB is a recent translation in today’s English of the ancient Greek Septuagint text, as translated by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton (LXE, Septuagint English Version).

2 Notice that in this portion, Volume 2, the text loses the distinction between Israel (the northern tribes) and Judah. Throughout Volume 1 (the first thirty-nine chapters), Isaiah had fairly consistently maintained that distinction. This fact is another indication that the book has shifted its focus. In a certain sense, a reader might even conclude that the generalizing use of “Israel” in reference to the twelve tribes is a form of metaphor.

For example, if, as many commentators say, Isaiah in these verses addresses the exiles in Babylonia, aren’t they predominately from Judah? Yet, by calling Israel Jacob, the prophet draws specific attention to the twelve tribes. Yet the northern nation ceased to exist over a century before the southern. Therefore, by speaking to the whole of the original nation in this way, the flavor of the appellation takes on a rather idealistic tone–as stated previously, a metaphorical tone. “Israel” and “Jacob,” without regard to the facts of the specific histories of these two kingdoms, appear to mean “God’s people,” as opposed, perhaps, to the Gentile races.

3 Readers might recall all of Isaiah’s references to the “remnant” in Volume 1. For example, see Isaiah 10:20-22 and Isaiah 37:32.

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