The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Text is Isaiah 64:1-9 and as we enter the Advent season there are few better Old Testament texts to point towards the longing and anticipation as the people await the coming Messiah. This pericope is part of a longer section, often called “Isaiah’s Lament” (63:7-64:12). However, there is a change in the character of this lament that marks the beginning of our text. The first section (63:7-19a) focuses on complaint, but in 63:19b-64:12 the tone and language are that of petition. Historically, it is interesting to know that 64:1 (in the English translations) was a verse consistently used by the Jews during the Holocaust. “Oh, that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down,” was lamented amid the most horrendous persecutions and atrocities. The LORD God had promised He was coming, and they were certain there could be no better time for Him to fulfill His promise. They understood that only the LORD could save them as He had promised to do by coming into the world. As Christians, we find the same sentiment and understanding expressed in the pages of the Revelation of Saint John (Revelation 22:20); “Come LORD Jesus!”

It is important to point out that the English versions follow the Vulgate versification not the Masoretic Text. Thus, 64:1 in the English versions is 63:19b in the Hebrew. I would also like to give credit to Reed Lessing and his work in the Concordia Commentary Series on Isaiah 56-66.

The LORD God had promised He was coming, and they were certain there could be no better time for Him to fulfill His promise.

63:19b (64:1 Eng) לוּא (lu) “If only! O that; would that”

קָרַעְתָּ (ka-Ra-ta) root: קרע (kaw-rah) Qal: “to tear open; to rend”

נָזֹלּוּ (na-Zol-lu) root: זלל (zaw-lal) Niphal: “to shake; to quake; to tremor”

*The language indicates that while this was an expected reality in the future, the people were petitioning the LORD to bring it about sooner.

64:1 (64:2 Eng) כִּקְדֹחַ (kik-Do-ach) root: קדח (kaw-dakh) Qal: “to kindle; to set fire to”

הֲמָסִים (ha-ma-Sim) “brush; brushwood”

תִּבְעֶה (tiv-eh) root: בעה (baw-aw) Qal: “to bring to boil; to cause to boil up”

לְצָרֶיךָ (le-tza-Rei-cha) from: צַר (tsar) “enemy; adversary; foe; narrow; tight”

לְהוֹדִיעַ (le-ho-Di-a) root: ידע () Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to cause to make known”

יִרְגָּזוּ (yir-Ga-zu) root: רגז (raw-gaz) Qal: “to tremble”

64:2 (64:3 Eng) נוֹרָאוֹת (no-ra-ot) root: ירא (yaw-ray) Niphal, participle: “fearsome things; awesome things”

נְקַוֶּה (ne-kav-Veh) root: קוה (kaw-vaw) Piel: “to hope; to await; to look eagerly”

64:3 (64:4 Eng) הֶאֱזִינוּ (he-e-Zi-nu) root: אזן (aw-zan) Hiphil: “to use one’s ears; to listen”

זוּלָתְךָ (zu-La-te-cha) “besides; except”

לִמְחַכֵּה (lim-chak-keh) root: חכה (khaw-kaw) Piel, infinitive: “to wait; to long for”

*The waiting ones are believers—the people of faith.

64:4 (64:5 Eng) פּגַעְתָּ (pa-Ga-ta) root: פגע (paw-gah) Qal: “to find; to meet; to encounter”

שָֹשֹ (sas) root: שֹישֹ/שֹושֹ (soos) Qal: “to rejoice; to display joy; to exult”

קָצַפְתָּ (ka-Tzaf-ta) root: קצף (kaw-tsaf) Qal: “to be angry; to be furious”

וְנִוָּשֵׁעַ (ve-niv-va-She-a) root: ישׁע (yaw-shah) Niphal (in this context should be taken as a modal): “But can we be saved?”

64:5 (64:6 Eng) כַטָּמֵא (chat-ta-Me) from: טָמֵא (taw-may) “unclean”

וּכְבֶגֶד עִדִּים (u-che-Ve-ged id-Dim) “filthy rags; menstrual garments; menstrual rags” עִדִּים (id-Dim) is a hapax legomenon.

וַנָּבֶל (van-Na-vel) Qal: “to fade; to wither; to decay; to fall”

כֶּעָלֶה (ke-a-Leh) “leaf; foliage”

*The understanding is the blood of menstruation represents death and renders the woman unclean or impure. It is more than dirty of even filthy. This uncleanness separates her from God—as do all the deeds we carry out with the idea of making ourselves acceptable in His eyes. Indeed, the effect is the opposite of what is hoped for.

64:6 (64:7 Eng) מִתְעוֹרֵר (mit-o-Rer) root: עור (ur) Hithpolel, participle: “to pull oneself up; one who pulls himself up (rouses himself)”

הִסְתַּרְתָּ (his-Tar-ta) root: סתר (saw-thar) Hiphil: “to hide; to cause to be hidden”

*When God hides His face, it is a sign of rejection, ultimately resulting in death. So, in the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6, God shines His face on His people.

וַתְּמוּגֵנוּ (vat-te-mu-Ge-nu) root: מוג (moog) Qal: “to waver; to cause to melt”

64:7 (64:8 Eng) הַחֹמֶר (ha-Cho-mer) “clay”

יֹצְרֵנוּ (yo-tze-Re-nu) root: יצר (yaw-tsar) Qal: “to form; to fashion; to create”

64:8 (64:9 Eng) הַבֶּט (hab-bet) root: נבט (naw-bat) Hiphil, imperative: “to look”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 64:1-9.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 64:1-9.

Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Walter A. Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Isaiah 64:1-9.