Septuagint Isaiah 59–Covenant: Devotional 2.77

Septuagint Isaiah 59
The Covenant

“Covenant” is a huge word in Christian history. Enormous doctrines have grown out of it. And here Isaiah slips in the new covenant quietly, within a single verse.

And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21

With Whom Is the Covenant?

The text states that God makes a covenant with “them.” Clearly, “them” is plural and refers to his people. These are the people on behalf of whom Isaiah repents (Septuagint Isaiah 59:11-15). Isaiah elsewhere calls these people “the remnant” (Septuagint Isaiah 4:2-3, for example).  They are also the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 (1).

God does not address the people in the first phrase of 59:21. Rather, he speaks about them. The word “them” is plural. If God addresses “them” directly, wouldn’t the text read, “And this shall be my covenant with you (plural)”? God in the first phrase makes his covenant with “them,” his repentant people. Yet he speaks to someone else. This other person to whom God speaks about “them” he addresses as “you.”

Who Is You?

The second portion of God’s statement includes “you” and “your.” The word “you” (“My Spirit which is upon you”) is singular. The same sentence uses the word “your” three times. All these uses are singular. Therefore, God addresses directly someone he calls “you” about someone he calls “them.” Who is this person whom God addresses as “you”?

Only two main possibilities exist for who “you” might be.

1. “You” might be God’s special Servant.
2. “You” might be “them” of the first phrase. If this were the case, then God would change from speaking to someone about “them” and turning, speak directly to them.

Grammatically, “you” might refer either to God’s special Servant or to God’s people as a whole. In Isaiah’s overall context, and in the context of the totality of Scripture, it seems highly likely that “you” refers to God’s Servant. The Servant in Isaiah exists on a par with God. More specifically, verse 17 (just previous to verse 21) refers to God’s Servant. God himself rescues his people when he takes on the form of his Servant (Septuagint Isaiah 59:17; Philippians 2:5-7).

“MY SPIRIT WHICH IS UPON YOU”

The most obvious reason why “you” cannot refer to God’s people is that up to this point God’s Spirit is not upon them. Verses 2 through 16 of this chapter amply demonstrate this truth. Verse 13 below provides just one example from the whole.

59:13 We have sinned, and dealt falsely, and revolted from our God: we have spoken unrighteous words, and have been disobedient; we have conceived and uttered from our heart unrighteous words. (LXE)

Contrary to the above statement of fact, 59:21 states, “My Spirit which is upon you and the words which I have put in your mouth” (LXE). The Spirit of God and the words of God are already upon the person and in the mouth of the person God addresses as “you.” This person cannot be the people. But the Servant in Isaiah speaks with God in the timeless past, because he is divine.

And he said to me, It is a great thing for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth. (From the “Second Servant Song”, Septuagint Isaiah 49:6)

The words God speaks to his Servant in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 find their ultimate fulfillment when the Servant begins his public ministry during the time of his incarnation.

The Spirit

John 1:32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” (cf. Luke 3:21)

Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.

The Words of God

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

John 17:8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

The Covenant

God’s people are those who repent and believe according to his will. As the discussion concerning the barren woman (1) amply demonstrates, the seed of the believing remnant includes Gentiles.

The nature of the covenant God presents in Isaiah is spiritual. It is not based upon ethnicity but upon belief in God and in the redemptive work of his Servant. The guarantee of the covenant is God’s word and the trustworthiness of the Savior to completely carry out the mission of God with total reverence and submissive obedience.

The Servant/Christ amply fulfills his covenantal role when he lives, dies, lives again, and ascends into heaven.

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do… 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world… 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. (ESV)

Through his death on the cross, he became the mediator of the covenant God speaks of in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21.

Matthew 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV)

Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (ESV)

 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant… 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant… (ESV)

“Your Seed” 

Just as Adam was created first among all human beings, Christ the God-man is firstborn among many brethren (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:11-13; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18). The Servant/Christ is now the head of the believing remnant of God’s special people and the Gentiles who join with them. All believers are the seed of the Servant/Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)

When Is the Covenant

And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21

The covenant begins as soon as God speaks it, “… for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever.” The Servant exists in the timeless realm with God. In him, the terms of the covenant specify “now and forever.” It appears to be a genuine wedding vow without the caveat, “until death do us part.” There will be no death for those who partake of God’s covenant.

Some who write about Isaiah specify an ethnic element to the covenant. They say that fulfillment of the covenant awaits a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel. But 2,000 years of Spirit-filled Christianity that hugs the word of God and dies for it speaks against an interpretation which appeals to the flesh only. For clearly, the very terms of the covenant are spiritual.

Elements of the Covenant

The two elements of the promise God makes to all the seed (both Jew and Gentile) of the believing remnant of God’s people Israel are God’s Spirit and God’s word. The covenant states that these two will abide among believers from now and forever. The New Testament bears witness to the fulfillment of these promises.

First, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came as a rushing wind and abides still. The Spirit’s presence indwells every believer (John 3:5-8; 4:19-26; Romans 8:8-11) both Jew and Gentile alike. Second, Christians around the world (many of whom are of ethnic Jewish descent) seek out and wrestle daily to understand God’s word for them. Paul emphasizes the spiritual nature of the understanding of God’s word.

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (ESV)

Finally, this prophecy of the “new” covenant in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 interlocks well with Jeremiah’s prophecy.

 Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (ESV) (Cf. 1 John 2:27)

A Small Peek Ahead

Taking a small glance forward into the next chapter, readers may perceive that nothing there contradicts what Isaiah has said to this point.

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1 For the “barren” woman see Devotional Journal 2.54 through Devotional Journal 2.68. The latter post summarizes the entire series.

Love to Hear from You