For the Love of God, Volume 2/June 22
From Gospel Translations
Deuteronomy 27:1—28:19; Psalm 119:1-24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2
REPEATEDLY ISAIAH’S PROPHECY has anticipated “peace,” the total well-being that flows from a right relationship with the living, Sovereign Lord. Early on he tells us that the Messiah would be “the Prince of Peace” (9:6), introducing a reign of everlasting peace (9:7). Ultimately it is the Lord who establishes peace (26:12). But while this is good news (52:7), such peace is reserved for those who trust him (26:3). “There is no peace . . . for the wicked” (48:22). Those who trust God become witnesses who fully and gladly recognize that their reconciliation with God has been accomplished by the Servant: “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (53:5). The result, in Isaiah 54—55, is great peace for Zion’s children (54:13), a “covenant of peace” that will never be removed (54:10), a great procession of God’s people who “will go out in joy and be led forth in peace” (55:12).
In Isaiah 54, this glorious prospect is heralded as a “covenant of peace” (54:10) that in some ways fulfills three other great covenants:
First, the covenant with Abraham comes into view (54:1-3). References to the “barren woman,” the “tent,” and promised “descendants” who dispossess the nations call it to mind. God will overcome Zion’s desperate circumstances during the exile as readily as he overcame Sarah’s barrenness. Abraham’s descendants eventually dispossessed the nations in the land of Canaan; the returning exiles will do the same—or is there a hint that the children of this new covenant of peace will ultimately dispossess nations more comprehensively as they “spread out to the right and to the left” (54:3)?
Second, the Sinai covenant enters the picture, with the reminders of the shame of Israel’s youth (the slavery in Egypt, 54:4), of Israel’s “Maker” as her “husband” (54:5), and of her widowhood in exile (54:5-8). But now God discloses himself as their Redeemer still, though now in the light of the great redemption secured in 52:13—53:12: “with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you” (54:8), he declares, establishing the direction of the Sinai covenant’s continuity.
Third, the covenant with Noah is probed (54:9-17), temporally out of sequence but entirely appropriate, as it was a covenant made not with Israel but with the entire human race. The exile is likened to the Flood, and Zion’s children to Noah’s descendants. They will not be destroyed; indeed, the “servants of the LORD” (54:17) follow the pattern of the Servant of the Lord in suffering and ultimate vindication.