The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 29:11-19 and describes how the hardened hearts of the people will keep the prophetic word from being heard (11-13). But then, by the actions of the LORD God even the deaf will hear, and the eyes of the blind see (14-19). However, we should not mistake these actions by the LORD as being marvelous and wonderful according to human wisdom. In fact, these acts of the LORD are wonderful because they provide the shock treatment needed to bring about a positive change in the people. It is unlikely these wonderful actions will be pleasant—the results, however, will be a different story.
The language concerning the deaf hearing and the blind seeing (18) along with the meek and the poor (19) should get our attention. This is “Messianic Age” language which helps us to know what is going on in verse 17 where Lebanon/Assyria is being brought low. With the advent of the Messiah all the kingdoms of the earth are brought low in order that they might be raised up because Israel is blessed to be a blessing. This is an interesting Law/Gospel move which should be familiar to us. For the people hearing Isaiah’s words as well as the foreign nations, there will be a time when God acts in ways that bring them down (Law). But in so doing their eyes will be opened and the LORD will raise them up in Christ Jesus (Gospel).
It appears the biggest issue being addressed in the text is a common theme in Isaiah: Public worship that is just a “going through the motions.” Hypocrisy continues to rear its head as the formalistic worship and worshippers neglect their LORD and their neighbor.
Finally, there is the language of potter and clay in verses 15-16. The point is the LORD is the Potter, but the people regard Him as the clay. They believe they can manipulate Him, create Him in their own image. This is a low opinion of God. Can we truly hide our thoughts from Him? Can we deny the Creator and the mark of His hands? We see Potter and Clay language also in Isaiah 45:9 and 64:8 (additionally see Jeremiah 18:4 and Job 19:9).
Can we truly hide our thoughts from Him? Can we deny the Creator and the mark of His hands?
29:11 חָזוּת (cha-Zut) “revelation; vision”
הֶחָתוּם (he-cha-Tum) root: חתם (khaw-tham) Qal: “to seal; fasten shut by sealing”
29:12 נָא־זֶה קְרָ֣א (ke-Ra na Zeh) Qal, Imperative: “Read this,” or, “Please read this”
29:13 יַעַן (Ya-an) “because; on account of”
*The language of “draw near” indicates a worship setting. Thus, the people draw near to worship at the Temple, yet their hearts are far away, indicating a formalistic worship with the lips but a lack of faith.
רִחַק (ri-Chak) Piel: “to be far away: be distant”
מְלֻמָּדָה (me-lum-ma-Dah) root: למד (law-mad) Pual, Participle: “to be taught; be instructed”
29:14 לְהַפְלִיא (le-haf-Li) root: פלא (paw-law) Hiphil, Infinitive: “to do wonderful things; to deal with in an amazing/marvelous way”
וָפֶלֶא (va-Fe-le) “something special; unusual; miracle; wonder”
וּבִינַת (u-vi-Nat) “understanding; discernment”
תִּסְתַּתָּר (tis-tat-Tar) root: סתר (saw-thar) Hithpael: “to keep oneself hidden; hide oneself”
29:15 הוֹי (Ho) “Alas! Ah! Woe!”
הַמַּעֲמִיקִים (ham-ma-a-mi-Kim) root: עמק (aw-mak) Hiphil, Participle: “to bury deeply; make deep”
לַסְתִּר (las-Tir) root: סתר (saw-thar) Hiphil: “to hide; conceal”
עֵצָה (e-Tzah) “counsel; plan”
בְמַחְשָׁךְ (ve-mach-shoCh) from: מַחְשָׁךְ () “secret place; dark place”
29:16 הַפְכְּכֶם (haf-ke-Chem) from: הֵפֶךְ (ho-fek) “perversity”
כְּחֹמֶר (ke-Cho-mer) “clay”
הַיֹּצֵר (hai-yo-Tzer) “potter; the potter”
This may be translated literally as: “A perversity! Shall as clay be the potter?”
וְיֵצֶר (ve-Ye-tzer) “pottery; something fashioned into a shape”
לְיוֹצְרוֹ (le-yotz-Ro) from: יָצַר (yaw-tsar) “potter”
29:17 מִזְעָר (miz-Ar) “a small thing; trifle; little”
לַכַּרְמֶל (lak-kar-Mel) from: כַּרְמֶל (kar-mel) “fruitful land; orchard; garden-land”
*The imagery here is interesting: Lebanon, known for its huge cedars, is now a fruitful field or garden plot. How the mighty have been brought down!
לַיַּעַר (lai-Ya-ar) “thicket; forest”
29:18 הַחֵרְשִׁים (ha-che-re-Shim) from: חֵרֵשׁ (khay-rashe) “deaf; deaf ones”
וּמֵאֹפֶל (u-me-O-fel) from: אֹפֶל (o-fel) “darkness; gloom”
עִוְרִים (iv-Rim) from: עִוֵּר (iv-vare) “blind; blind ones”
29:19 עֲנָוִים (a-na-Vim) from: עָנָו (aw-nawv) “poor; weak; bowed”
שֹמְחָה (sim-Chah) “joy; gladness”
וְאֶבְיוֹנֵי (ve-ev-yo-Nei) “needy; poor”
יָגִילוּ (ya-Gi-lu) root: גיל (gheel) Qal: “rejoice; shout in exultation; exult”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 29:11-19.
Lectionary Podcast- Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Isaiah 29:11-19.