The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 66:10-14 and is a portion of the LORD’s response to Isaiah’s prayer. Chapter 66 is divided into two main sections. There are verses 1-16, which are poetry, and verses 17-24, which are written in a prose style. Beginning in verse 7, we see an address to the “faithful” of Israel. The message is quite uplifting and indicates how the remnant has an amazing future as the people of God. Although the pericope begins with verse 10, the preacher may want to begin with verse 7 which is the start of a specific section using the language of birthing, nursing, and mothering. This progression is spelled out by Reed Lessing in his Isaiah 56-66 commentary from the Concordia Commentary Series:
“This section’s movement is from the miraculous birth of the male Child, who is the Christ (66:7), to the birth of a land, a nation, and more children, which are the Church (66:8). It continues with a celebration of God’s people (66:10), with His care for the Church (66:11-12), and then with 66:13, where each child has grown and is still comforted by the Church” (488).
There seems little doubt these verses were meant to be read/heard together. The barren womb motif is fulfilled as God provides the male child, Jesus, from the barren womb (the Virgin Mary) and now the womb which bears children is that of the Bride of Christ, the Church (Acts 2).
Another interesting aspect of this text is recorded in verse 14 using the language of “flourishing bones” or “blossoming bones.” This points to an interesting connection in the Old Testament between bones and life. At first, one might think bones would strictly be associated with death, but in the Old Testament the most significant references to “bones” are associated with life and even resurrection from death. We see the first example when Adam refers to his helpmate Eve as “bone of my bones” (Genesis 2:23). Eve has been newly fashioned from Adam’s rib - new life. None of the Passover Lamb’s bones are to be broken (Exodus 12:46) because they point to the Lamb of God whose bones were not broken on the Cross, a life-giving sacrifice. When a dead body is thrown into Elisha’s grave and comes in contact with the prophet’s bones it is resurrected to new life (2 Kings 13:21). In the famous “dry bones” passage from Ezekiel 37, the Spirit brings together the bones, fleshes them out, and breathes life into them. This bone/life motif was widely recognized by the Jewish community and is also found in Enoch, Baruch, etc. where bones sprout forth life.
Again, a note of appreciation to Reed Lessing and his insightful commentary on Isaiah 56-66. This is an excellent resource for the preacher of these texts.
The barren womb motif is fulfilled as God provides the male child, Jesus, from the barren womb (the Virgin Mary) and now the womb which bears children is that of the Bride of Christ, the Church.
66:10 שִׂמְחוּ root: שׂמח Qal, imperative: “to rejoice”
וְגִילוּ root: גיל Qal, imperative: “shout with joy/exultation; to rejoice; be glad”
שִׂישׂוּ root: שׂושׂ שׂישׂ Qal, imperative: “to rejoice; be joyful”
*Note the string of three imperatives.
אֹהֲבֶיהָ root: אהב Qal, participle with suffix: “to love”, “those who love her; her lovers”
מָשׂוֹשׂ “joy; exultation”
הַמִּתְאַבְּלִים root: אבלִ Hithpael, participle: “to lament; to mourn”
*Note the faithful remnant is designated as “mourners”.
66:11 תִּינְקוּ root: ינק Qal: “to suck; to nurse”
וּשְׂבַעְתֶּם root: שׂבע Qal: “to be sated; to drink one’s fill”
מִשֹּׁד from: שּׁד “breast; fullness; abundance”
תַּנְחֻמֶיהָ “comfort; consolation” (from the breast of her comforts)
* “Breast” is seen here as a source of sustenance and even salvation (god’s love). Western culture has abandoned this idea as “breast” has come to be seen as more sexual/erotic in nature.
תָּמֹצּוּ root: מֹצץ Qal, perfect: “to slurp; drain out” Hapax legomenon.
וְהִתְעַנַּגְתֶּם root: ענג Hithpael: “to find delight; to refresh oneself; to take exquisite delight”
מִזִּיז “full breast; abundance”
*Lessing translates: “Her glorious nipple”
66:12 נֹטֶה Qal, participle: “to extend” “about to extend”
שׁוֹטֵף Qal: “to overflow”
כְּנָהָר שָׁלוֹם. “peace like a river” This image points the reader/hearer back to the Garden of Eden and its four rivers flowing, and then points to Ezekiel and the New Temple (Heaven) with the river flowing out from it. And, of course, it has its fulfillment in Rev. 22 and the River of Life flowing around the Tree of Life in the courts of heaven.
תְּשָׁעֳשָׁעוּ root: שׁעע Pilpel: “to be dandled”
66:13 תְּנַחֲמֶנּוּ root: נחמ Piel: “to comfort” This verb appears 3X in this verse. The first two are Piels and the third is a Pual. Note that it is the LORD who is the Comforter.
66:14 וְעַצְמוֹתֵיכֶם from: עצם “bone”
כַּדֶּשֶׁא; “vegetation; grass; what is green”
תִפְרַחְנָה root: פרח Qal: “to sprout; send out shoots; to bud; to shoot”
וְנוֹדְעָה root: ידע Niphal: “to know”
וְזָעַם > Qal: “to curse; to be indignant; to scold; to have indignation”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 66:10-14.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 66:10-16.