Posted by: Johnold Strey | December 31, 2010

Luther on Isaiah 60:1-6

This Sunday we will celebrate Epiphany at my congregation.  Epiphany technically occurs on January 6, but moving it to the Second Sunday after Christmas allows us to celebrate an important occasion in the church calendar that might otherwise be omitted and left unnoticed.  (For thoughts about including Epiphany in a congregation’s worship plans, see the post from January 23, 2010, How to Handle Epiphany).  The First Lesson for Epiphany is Isaiah 60:1-6, and I’m using that reading as the sermon text for this weekend.  I’ve reviewed some of Luther’s comments in preparation for the sermon.  Here are a few thoughtful excerpts from Luther’s lectures on the opening verses of Isaiah chapter 60.

(Introduction)  This text is well enough known in congregations and churches. It is easy for us too. Well-known and plain texts call for the greatest attention. The subject matter treated here is very important. …

(Verse 2)  As the sun brings light and useful function to all things, so the Gospel gives strength to all others. Meanwhile, however, the Gospel appears to be the worst and the most poisonous teaching. To the believer it is life, salvation, and God. To the ungodly it is death and darkness. Meanwhile they have their own idea of the light, but their light will be excrement and a detriment conducive to all evil. …

(Verse 3)  [Isaiah] simply cannot get away from the light. He is clearly repealing all of Moses and enlarging the church beyond the limit of the synagog and extending it to the Gentiles, since the light and the glory will be spread and poured out. There will be no law to oppress the people. …

(Verse 6)  Because the Gospel is richly and widely published in the world, it is certain that many will be converted. All will have the Gospel, even though not all believe.  Some apply this [verse] to the Magi (Matt. 2:11). I am well satisfied with that application. The proper meaning is that these people revere God and the Gospel with the same zeal and wealth with which they do homage to other kings. Now that the Gospel has arisen, they do homage to the Gospel with every kind of wealth. This happens in our case when we receive the glory of the Lord and for its sake are ready to give up body and life, our money, etc.

-Luther’s Works, Volume 17

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