The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 65:1-9 and is part of the greater, eschatological section of Isaiah chapters 55-66. This pericope is preceded by Isaiah’s great lament from 63:7-64:12. Then in chapters 65-66 we hear the LORD’s answer to this crying out. The answer of 65:1-16 is followed by the “ultimate” answer; “The New Heavens and the New Earth” of 65:17ff.
Verses 1-2 provide an introduction to the major thrust of chapters 65-66. While there is some disagreement, the majority of scholars hold that verse 1 is speaking of the LORD reaching out to the Gentiles, while verse 2 speaks of Israel who has rejected the LORD and His outstretched arms and moved to other gods and syncretistic practices. In verse 1 we see a beautiful example of the grace of God. The LORD God is seeking after those who have not sought Him! He calls out to those who have not been called by His name. Obviously, this provides the perfect picture of how the LORD seeks us out even when we are helplessly lost, without any ability to seek the LORD, or perhaps any notion the LORD even needs to be sought! Still, the LORD reaches out and calls out, “Here am I!”
Of course, it is equally disturbing how the LORD is bearing witness to the, “called people of Israel,” and their rejection of Him. However, as the text continues, we need to understand the LORD is not rejecting or excluding the entire people of Israel. As verse 8-9 tells us, there is a remnant of the faithful among the chosen people. What we see described in this pericope is the split of the community of Israel—a split between the apostate and the faithful (syncretistic worship vs. orthodox faith). So, in verse 8 we hear of the preservation of this remnant and in verse 9 it tells of their inheritance… one which they share with all believers, Jews and Gentiles.
Therefore, Reed Lessing writes in his commentary, “Chapters 65-66 not only include Yahweh’s answer to Isaiah’s lament (63:7-64:11 [ET 63:7-64:12]) and envision the final separation between the believing remnant and idolaters, but they also serve as the book’s eschatological climax: unbelievers are banished from the holy city to rot forever (66:24), while believers enjoy the new heavens and new earth forever (65:17-25; 66:22). These motifs connect Isaiah 1 with chapters 65-66” (p. 413).
Thanks go out to Reed Lessing and his Isaiah 55-66 Commentary in the Concordia Commentary series. This is a very helpful resource in unwrapping Isaiah’s prophecies.
65:1 נִדְרַשְׁתִּי (nid-Rash-ti) root: דרשׁ (daw-rash) Niphal: “to seek”
נִמְצֵאתִי (nim-Tze-ti) root: מצא (maw-tsaw) Niphal: “to find” (also 65:8) Lessing calls these verbs “tolerative niphals” Therefore, “I allowed myself to be sought… I allowed myself to be found…” This captures the sense of the Hebrew nicely.
בִקְשֻׁנִי (vik-Shu-ni) root: בקשׁ (baw-kash) Piel: “to seek”
הִנֵּנִי הִנֵּנִי (hin-Ne-ni hin-Ne-ni) “Here am I! Here am I!” Note the reversal—people (like Isaiah in chapter 6) speak these words as they volunteer for service to the LORD, but here it is the LORD who is ready to serve the Gentiles.
65:2 פֵּרַשְׂתִּי (pe-Ras-ti) root: פרשׂ (paw-ras) Piel: “to hold, to keep (hands) stretched out” In the Qal it refers to the act of stretching out, reaching out.
סוֹרֵר (so-Rer) Qal , participle: “to be stubborn; to be rebellious”
מַחְשְׁבֹתֵיהֶם (mach-she-vo-tei-Hem) “thought; intent; plan; purpose”
65:3 הַמַּכְעִסִים (ham-mach-i-Sim) root: כעס (kaw-as) Hiphil, participle: “to provoke to anger; to vex; to offend” This verb is often used in connection to idolatry.
בַּגַּנּוֹת; (bag-gan-Not) from: גנה: (gan-naw) “garden”
וּמְקַטְּרִים (u-me-kat-te-Rim) root: קטר (kaw-tar) Piel, participle: “to make sacrifices smoke; to offer by burning”
הַלְּבֵנִים (hal-le-ve-Nim) A disputed word. “bricks; roof tile; vessel of clay; plaster; altar of incense” Certainly, some kind of burning sacrifice is involved with this object… and not a God-pleasing one!
65:4 הַיֹּשְׁבִים (hai-yo-she-Vim) root: ישׁב (yaw-shab) Qal, participle: “to sit; dwell” “the ones sitting; those who are sitting…”
בַּקְּבָרִים; (bak-ke-va-Rim) from: קבר, (keh-ber) “grave; tomb” (see also Is. 57:6)
וּבַנְּצוּרִים (u-van-ne-tzu-Rim) root: נצר (naw-tsar) Qal, participle: “to watch; guard; keep secret”
יָלִינוּ (ya-Li-nu) root: לוּן לין (loon) Qal: “to spend the night; pass the night; stay overnight”
הָאֹכְלִים (ha-o-che-Lim) root: אכל (aw-kal) Qal, participle: “to eat” “the ones eating; the ones who eat”
הַחֲזִיר; (ha-cha-Zir) “swine; pig”
פִּגֻּלִים (pig-gu-Lim) “unclean sacrificial meat”
Verses 3-4 use the participle form to list several examples of pagan/apostate worship which are being indulged in by many in Israel.
65:5 קְרַב. (ke-Rav) Qal, imperative: “to draw near (to yourself); keep to yourself”
יֹקֶדֶת (yo-Ke-det) root: יקד (yaw-kad) Qal: “to burn; kindle”
Holiness is frequently considered to be something which “gets on you” in the Old Testament. In this case, the apostate is of the opinion his holiness is so great that it will infect anyone who comes near. This is a direct affront to the Holy One of Israel who is the ONLY One who is truly holy.
65:6 כְתוּבָה. (che-tu-Vah) root: כתב (kaw-thab) Qal, participle: “to write”
אֶחֱשֶׁה, (e-che-Seh) root: חשׁה (khaw-shaw) Qal: “to be silent” Note the probable scribal error from שׁ to שׂ
שִׁלַּמְתִּי (shil-Lam-ti) root: שׁלם (shaw-lam) Piel: “to repay”
חֵיקָם (chei-Kam) “upon the lap; bosom; the fold of the garment above the belt”
65:7 חֵרְפוּנִי (che-re-Fu-ni) root: חרף (khaw-raf) Piel: “to taunt; to reproach; to revile”
וּמַדֹּתִי (u-mad-do-Ti) root: מַדד (maw-dad) Qal: “to measure; to deal out”
פְעֻלָּתָם (fe-ul-la-Tam) “punishment; recompense; work” Usually used in a Gospel context, but here it references the LORD’s payback for the sins of the apostates.
65:8 הַתִּירוֹשׁ (hat-ti-ro-Vosh) “new wine”
בָּאֶשְׁכּוֹל (ba-esh-Kol) “bunch; cluster”
תַּשְׁחִיתֵהוּ (tash-chi-Te-hu) root: שׁחתֵ (shaw-khath) Hiphil: “to spoil; to ruin (a crop)”
Note the flow of this text: In 65:1, the LORD is offering to Gentiles His salvation, then in verse 2-7 He lays out His anger and judgement on the unfaithful of Israel, but now, in verse 8-9 the focus is on those who remain the faithful remnant within Israel.
65:9 וְהוֹצֵאתִי (ve-ho-tze-Ti) root: יצֵא (yaw-tsaw) Hiphil: “to bring forth” God is the causative
agent of bringing-forth seed.
יוֹרֵשׁ (yo-Resh) Qal, participle: “to inherit; possess” “one inheriting; heir”
בְחִירַי (ve-chi-Rai) “chosen; elect”
The chosen, elect, remnant will include Gentiles along with the faithful ones in Israel. This is an excellent Old Testament text to follow Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sunday as it shows the Gospel will now be going to the ends of the earth… to and for all people.