Epiphany and Isaiah 63

We have been using the Narrative Lectionary (NL) for the past 2 ½ years. It has proven to be a blessing in following the Biblical narrative through the Old Testament and each Gospel. Year 1 (current year) is focused on Matthew as the Gospel readings.

In the original NL, there was only one reading each Sunday; from Christmas to Easter, the focus was on Gospel readings. However, over the past 2 ½ years I have added complementary readings (hence in Gospel time, I added Old Testament, Psalm, and Epistle readings) so that it offers the full liturgical complement of Scripture.

Jan. 4, 2015 the readings

Isaiah 63:7–9

Psalm 111:1–4

Galatians 4:4–7

Matthew 2:1–23

(Because of other issues, I have combined two Matthew readings for this Sunday)

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, you sent your only Son as the Word of Life for our eyes to see and our ears to hear. Help us to believe with joy what the Scriptures proclaim, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen

Isaiah 63:7-9 NAS

The following posts on the NL are not definitive, complete in any way. They are some thoughts about the text, translation, and focs.

7 I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD,
According to all that the LORD has granted us,
and the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has granted them according to His compassion
And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses.

8 For He said, “Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.”
So He became their Savior.
In all their affliction He was afflicted,

9 And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

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63: 7 “Lovingkindesses” (חַֽסְדֵ֨י), the plural seems odd to us. Some (LXX, Luther, et al) understand the plural in the construct to be a character (abstract quality). But as Pieper notes, this use refers to “acts of lovingkindness.” The next plural (תְּהִלֹּ֣ת) is also translated as plural, “praiseworthy acts.” The third plural in parallel “compassion” (כְּֽרַחֲמָ֖יו) is an abstract, hence the singular translation. NAS follows that same understanding of the three words in translation.

HCSB: “faithful love” as abstract but then translates the next plural (תְּהִלֹּ֣ת): with “praiseworthy acts” then the last “compassion,” as abstract.

NIV: “kindnesses” and “compassion” and then the third: “the deeds for which he is to be praised”

NLT: translates all three plurals as singulars, hence indicating all are abstract qualities.

GW: Interestingly GW follows NAS and NIV in understanding each of these.

63:8 “Surely” (אַךְ), which Pieper notes is “strongly affirmative,” as translated by NAS and NIV. HCSB uses “indeed” but by moving it to the middle of the sentence seems to lose some of its emphatic sense; that may just be me.

Thoughts on Isaiah 63:7-9

The key is “they are My people.” Nothing could interfere with God’s lovingkindnesses, compassion for His people. His promises are dependent on His acts in behalf of His people. In following phrase “My people” is broadened to describe what His saved people are like, hence “sons who will not deal falsely” (NAS) or “children who will be true to me” (NIV. In other words of Exodus 20 come to completion when God delivers His people. The ten commandments in Exodus 20 describe how delivered people (Exodus 20:2) live (Exodus 20:3-17).

In this section, 63:7-14, Isaiah is recounting the deliverance(s) of God in history beginning with the Exodus and repeated in the period of the Judges and Kings. There is a sense in each deliverance of the actually ‘lifting up” but also in the daily care and nurture of His people.

Prophetically looking ahead, Isaiah shows that the fullness of this prophecy involved more than deliverance from Egypt and Exodus 20, Isaiah emphasizes that God will be their constant delivered. And fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who delivered not just Israel, but all who become “My people.” That is seen in the next phrase “ In all their affliction He was afflicted.”

Connections to Gospel reading:

In Matthew 2, we find that God’s acts of lovingkindness coming into play once again. God acts to bring the wise men from the east. They had the visual confirmation of something special, a king being born. But God brings them to Jerusalem to interact with the written proclamations about what they were seeking.

God further protects them from Herod when he wanted to use their new information to find the child and kill him. God warned the wise to take a different route back to their homes.

God’s protective care of His people, and specifically, “His Son,” continues when God warns Joseph to take the Child to Egypt. And then later brings Him out of Egypt in fulfillment of the greater deliverance (prophesied by Hosea, 11:1).

All for the purpose of delivering “My people.” And the death of the children of Ramah brings the reality of “in their affliction He was afflicted.” Jesus doesn’t die at this point, but this points ahead to Jesus’ own death, identifying with and delivering those who have died because of sin in the world. In other words, He died for all of us.

More thoughts tomorrow.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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