Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX: Introduction
The book of Isaiah simultaneously prophesies the best news in the world and the worst news in the world. The best news is the Advent of God’s Servant, Messiah, the second Person of the Trinity. As God’s Servant, he comes to bring salvation to Israel and light to the whole Gentile world. The worst news is that death and sorrow will result for those who treat him poorly.
As readers progress through Volume 2, the theme of God’s Servant grows larger and more dominant. Chapter 50 reaches a crisis point–a fork in the road. In Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX, Isaiah the man perceives the implications of what he reports. It is as though he runs onto the stage in verse 10 and proselytizes on his own. He encourages those who revere God to trust in him and listen to the voice of his Servant.
A Brief Transition
Isaiah’s message has reached a critical juncture. God through Isaiah has been revealing the Advent of his Servant to his people Israel. The Servant himself has spoken several times (Isaiah 42:1-4; 48:16; 49:1-6; 50:4-9). Soon the people must decide: will they open their ears to understand and obey the voice of God’s Servant, or will they hurl their rebellious abuse at him (Isaiah 50:6)?
God recounts throughout the previous chapters how his people have been all too willing to worship idols which their very own hands had formed from non-living materials. Yet there are a few people, a remnant, who have not done so. These remain faithful to God, however imperfectly so. Addressing this group, verse 10 marks a brief transition from God’s previous speeches. The voice of Isaiah the prophet himself breaks through.
A Change of Speakers
Isaiah 50:10 LXX Who is among you that fears the Lord? let him listen to the voice of his servant: you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God. (Septuagint, Brenton, LXE, modernized)
Even though the name of the book is Isaiah, and even though God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, the voice of the prophet himself remains mostly silent in Volume 2, beginning with chapter 40. Readers mainly hear the voice of God. In Isaiah 50:10, however, readers hear the voice of Isaiah the man. The following paraphrase sums up the urgency of the prophet’s outburst.
Listen, O you people, my fellow Israelites! I know you’re out there–that small number of you who fear (worship, adore, reverence, and obey) the Lord. There’s something new going on here. Our dear and precious, familiar Yahweh is doing something new. He is about to send his Servant, whom he favors, to visit us. Yahweh’s Servant will accomplish Yahweh’s work. Listen to the voice of his Servant. It is imperative that you do.
I know you walk in darkness. We’ve been in exile a very long time. I know you have no light, but do this one thing. Trust in the name of the Lord and stay fixed upon God. We’re getting near the end here. Something new is about to happen. We are approaching the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up or go astray now. There will be great peril and destruction for those who ignore and rebel against Yahweh’s Servant. Don’t be one of them.
Verse 10 in Its Context
In the culture of today’s church vocabulary, verse 10 is an altar call wedged between two warnings of “hell.” The Servant himself warns of death and corruption in verse 9. Then God warns of great sorrow in verse 11. In between these two divine voices, Isaiah the prophet makes his plea to the people.
[The Servant:] 9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all you shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you.
[Isaiah the Prophet:] 10 Who is among you that fears the Lord? let him listen to the voice of his servant: you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God.
[God:] 11 Behold, you all kindle a fire, and feed a flame: walk in the light of your fire, and in the flame which you have kindled. This has happened to you for my sake; you shall lie down in sorrow. (LXE)
Notice how the statements of both the Servant and God resemble warnings the incarnate Christ gives.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, (Matthew 6:19 ESV)
“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47-48 ESV)
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42 ESV)
Darkness and Light
The themes of darkness and light dominate these verses. The prophet in verse 10 acknowledges that the then current season of Israel’s history in exile is dark. There is no light. He offers the people a choice, a way out. The way out is to listen to the voice of Yahweh’s Servant, to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay fixed and focused upon God, “… you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God.” (1)
Notice the timing. Isaiah speaks when the people are in exile, or even before then. The return from exile occurs many hundreds of years before the Servant arrives. Therefore, the context indicates events much larger than the merely local, historical return from exile.
God appears to foresee in verse 11 that his people will ignore his prophet’s warning. The alternative to the light that God will provide through his Servant is ordinary physical light–a fire, a torch, a flame. Go ahead, God says (paraphrase). Continue in the path you have chosen for yourselves. Kindle a physical fire, feed a physical flame, walk in the physical light of the fire you have provided for yourselves. Continue ignoring me and the voice of my Servant. Believe me, everything bad that befalls you is on account of me. Conditions will not improve for you. You shall lie down in sorrow.
WHERE ELSE IN ISAIAH DO DARKNESS AND LIGHT APPEAR?
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; who make darkness light, and light darkness; who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter. (LXE)
Isaiah 9:2 O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: you that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you. (LXE)
Isaiah 42:16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and I will cause them to tread paths which they have not known: I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight. These things will I do, and will not forsake them. 17 But they are turned back: be you utterly ashamed that trust in graven images, who say to the molten images, You are our gods. (LXE)
Isaiah 45:7 I am he that prepared light, and formed darkness; who make peace, and create evil; I am the Lord God, that does all these things. (LXE) [Why then, Israelites, do you insist on walking in the paltry light of the flame that you fashion for yourselves? Turn to me, who creates the light that accompanies life.]
NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLMENT OF ISAIAH’S PROPHESIED LIGHT
Both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John open with the Servant’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesied light.
76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79 ESV)
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)
Chapter 50 ends with God speaking. In Chapter 51, God continues to speak. That will be the topic, Lord willing, of the next post.