The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 42:14-21 and provides us with some strange metaphors for the LORD God. Verse 13, which precedes this pericope, uses the metaphor of a “mighty man,” a “warrior” for the LORD and this is not too much of a stretch for us. However, our text begins with the metaphor of a woman in child birth. The thought of the LORD being like a woman crying out in labor is a bit more on the edge for us. In speaking of this, Reed Lessing writes in his Isaiah 40-55 commentary:

“The metaphors work together because of their shared entailments. Both concern people who have a passion and fever; both warriors and birthing mothers cry out and shout aloud. Yahweh’s power and compassion are likewise set alongside of each other in 40:10-11; His arm rules for Him, yet the same arm gently gathers lambs into His bosom as He leads nursing ewes. Whereas Yahweh’s arm is the motif in 40:10-11, in 42:13-14 the action of crying out links His characteristics of toughness (Warrior) and tenderness (birthing mother)” (p. 281).

Israel is soon to be birthed out of bondage into new life. Feminine imagery involving the LORD is not unusual in Scripture. In the Old Testament examples are found in Isaiah 42:14; 45:10; 49:15 and in Deuteronomy 32:18. In the New Testament the most familiar are in the words of Jesus Himself: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have long to gather you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks…” However, the LORD is never called a woman, nor are feminine pronouns used referencing Him.

In verse 17 we see the language reminding the people, and us, of the Golden calf incident in Exodus 32:8, and then beginning in verse 18 we read of TWO servants. The deaf and blind servant is God’s servant/people Israel who are completely hopeless apart from hope in the LORD’s true and suffering Servant, our LORD Jesus Christ.

One more thing of note is the language of change. First, creation/nature itself is changed in verse 15, and then the people are changed in verse 16. Of course, the “change agent” is God, more specifically the One for whom the people are to prepare for, the coming Servant, the Messiah.

42:14 הֶחֱשֵׁיתִי (he-che-Shei-ti) root: חשׁה (khaw-shaw) Hiphil: “to keep silent; to be silent; to exhibit silence; to be still”

אַחֲרִישׁ; (a-cha-Rish) root: חרשׁ (khaw-rash) Hiphil: “to keep silent; to be silent; to be still”

אֶתְאַפָּק, (et-ap-Pak) root: אפק (aw-fak) Hithpael: “to restrain; to control oneself; to refrain” This verb occurs only in the Hithpael.

אֶפְעֶה, (ef-Eh) root: פעה (paw-aw) Qal: “to moan; to groan” Hapax Legomenon

אֶשֹּׁם, (esh-Shom) root: נשּׁם (naw-sham) Qal: “to pant; to puff”

וְאֶשְׁאַף> (ve-esh-Af) root: שׁאף (shaw-af) Qal: “to gasp; to pant”

יָחַד (Ya-chad) “at the same time; at once”

42:15 אַחֲרִיב (a-cha-Riv) root: חרב (khaw-rab) Hiphil: “to cause to dry up; to cause to run dry; to make desolate” Note the causing agent is the LORD.

וּגְבָעוֹת (u-ge-va-ot) “hill; height”

עֶשְׂבָּם (es-Bam) “weed; herb; herbage; vegetation”

אוֹבִישׁ (o-Vish) root: יבשׁ (yaw-bashe) Hiphil: “to make dry; to cause to wither; to wither”

לָאִיִּים (la-i-Yim) from: איi (ee) “islands; coastlands; distant shore”

וַאֲגַמִּים: (va-a-gam-Mim) “pool; pond”

42:16 עִוְרִים (iv-Rim) “blind”

בִּנְתִיבוֹת (bin-ti-Vot) “path”

אַדְרִיכֵם; (ad-ri-Chem) root: דרך (daw-rak) Hiphil: “to cause to tread on; to lead”

מַחְשָׁךְ; (mach-Shach) “dark; dark place; darkness”

וּמַעֲקַשִּׁים (u-ma-a-kask-Shim) “uneven land; rough ground; crooked place” Hapax Legomenon

לְמִישׁוֹר. (le-mi-Shor) “plain; level land; level ground”

42:17 נָסֹגוּ (na-So-gu) root: סוג (soog) Niphal: “to turn back; to withdraw; to be turned”

בֹשֶׁת (Vo-shet) “shamed greatly”

בַּפָּסֶל; (bap-Pa-sel) from: פּסל, (peh-sel) “idol; image; divine image”

לְמַסֵּכָה (le-mas-se-Chah) “cast image; metal casting; molten image”

42:18 הַחֵרְשִׁים; (ha-che-re-Shim) from: חרשׁe (khay-rashe) “deaf”

שְׁמָעוּ (she-Ma-u) Qasl, imperative: “to hear”

הַבִּיטוּ; (hab-Bi-tu) root: נבט (naw-bat) Hiphil, imperative: “to look up; to look”

42:19 כִּמְשֻׁלָּם (kim-shul-Lam) root: משׁל (mah-shal) Pual, participle: “one in a covenant of well being; one who is at peace with; one who is dedicated to”

42:20 ראית: (ra-ot) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal, infinitive absolute: “to see”

פָּקוֹחַ (pa-Ko-ach) root: פקח (paw-kakh) Qal: “to unstop; to open”

42:21 חָפֵץ (cha-Fetz) Qal: “to be willing; to be pleased; to desire; to delight”

יַגְדִּיל (yag-Dil) root: גדל (gaw-dal) Hiphil, imperfect: “to make great; to magnify”

וְיַאְדִּיר> (ve-ya-Dir) root: אדר (aw-dar) Hiphil, imperfect: “to make glorious; to make majestic”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 42:14-21.