Martin Luther.

The precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) online

. (page 29 of 29)
Online LibraryMartin LutherThe precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) → online text (page 29 of 29)
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concerning you. You must have patience for a time, see-
ing not. You must endure apparent insignificance and bear



the cross."



EPIPHANY. 333

48. The expression is a natural one. Our eyes are prone
to turn away from what we do not wish to see ; but toward
the things we desire they pleasantly and readily turn, to ad-
mire and enjoy. Hence the proverb, "Where the heart is,
the eyes turn." We may aptly say, "He does not see,'*
when we mean, "It does not please him." Of all our mem-
bers, the eyes are the best index of the heart's pleasure or
displeasure.

49. The word "radiant" here also implies pleasure and
comfort. For it is said of one who is successful and de-
lighted, his countenance is radiant. Whatever is soft is
pliable and yielding ; but that which is dry, hard and rough
is inflexible and suggestive of trouble and displeasure.
Isaiah's thought is, then: "You shall see what is pleasing
to your heart, and consequently be filled with delight. Your
pleasure will m^ake you radiant to perform your duty and
to endure all things joyfully, cheerfully and promptly, with-
out trouble or unpleasantness." This is the fruit of the
Spirit, the outcome of the comfort the divine promise yields.
Thereby all men are rendered mild, happy and radiant, and
always content with their circumstances.

50. In the third place, how does the statement, "Thy
heart shall thrill," or be amazed, accord with the thought
of pleasure? Real pleasures, those so great as to exceed
our thoughts and desires, induce a thrill of amazem.ent in
their very transcendance of our expectations. When at Pet-
er's preaching the Holy Spirit fell on the gentiles— on Cor-
nelius and his company — according to Luke (Acts 10, 45)
they "were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because
that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the
Holy Spirit." The gift was something they did not in the
least expect. Similarly, Isaiah says that Jerusalem in her
great joy shall be thrilled with amazement in heart, because
of the vast multitude of gentiles joining themselves unto
sucfi a poor little persecuted flock.

51. Fourth: "Thy heart . . . shall be enlarged.'*
Plainly, this phrase suggests true greatness, security and
freedom. These things are the result of the comfort of the



334 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

Spirit and the joy of heart experienced when God does for
us in excess of our expectations and desires. Such is God's
way of doing, as Isaiah here teaches. And similarly Paul
says (Eph 3, 20) that God always does "exceeding abun-
dantly above all that v/e ask or think." And thus did God
deal with this his little flock. He permitted the small band
to be persecuted and decreased until apparently it was
destitute of life and influence. But almost before one m.ight
face about, Christianity had spread throughout the world
and surpassed in strength and influence all its enemies. This
is amazing in our eyes.

"The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the drome-
daries of Midian and Ephah ; and they from Sheba shall
come: they shall bring gold and frankincense, and
shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah."
52. Having mentioned the nations coming from the
"abundance of the sea," west of Jerusalem, Isaiah nov7 re-
fers to the nations that are to come from the east. Midian,
Ephah, Sheba, the countries where men travel with camels,
lie east of Jerusalem. We read (Gen 25, 2-4) that Abraham
had six sons by his third wife, Keturah: Zimran, Jokshan,
Jvledam, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. The fourth son, Midian,
begat Ephah and Epher. There we have two, Midian and
Ephah, of whom Isaiah here speaks. Also we read there
that the second son, Jokshan, begat Sheba and Dedan.
Again, we read (Gen 10: 1, 6-7) that Noah begat Shem, Ham
and Japheth; that Ham begat Cush and his brethren, and
Gush begat Raamah; and that Raamah begat Sheba and
Dedan. These last two names are the same as those of
Abraham's sons.

Now, it is doubtful, and must ever be, whether Isaiah here
refers to the Sheba who sprang from Abraham, or to Ham's
descendant. That, however, is of little importance. It
comes to pass on earth that nation routs nation, and one
occupies the other's territory, as private property in cities
changes hands, is bought and sold, or passes from one land-
lord to another. As said before, the countries east of Jeru-
salem are variously named; not designated by the general



EPIPHANY. 335

name "gentiles" as are the Mediterranean countries. They
are called Chedar, Nabajoth, Midian, Ephah, Ishmael, Am-
nion, Edom, Moab, Sheba, according to their primary lords.
Moses says (Gen 25, 2-6) that Abraham separated from
Isaac the sons of his wife Keturah and sent them toward
the east. Hence undoubtedly they occupied many of the
countries mentioned, Midian, Ephah and Sheba becoming
the most important.

53. In the Latin and Greek geographies these people are
called Arabs. They divide all Arabia into three parts : Ara-
bia Deserta, Arabia Petrea and Arabia Felix; or, desert
Arabia, stony Arabia and fertile Arabia. Desert Arabia lies
between Egypt and Judea, east of the sea. It was through
this section Moses led the children of Israel. In the Hebrew
it alone is called Arabia, for the word means "desert."
Stony Arabia lies east of and touching the Jordan. It in-
cludes a large territory. But Isaiah does not here refer to
either of these countries.

Fertile and greater Arabia, far distant from Judea and be-
yond desert and stony Arabia, is called in the Hebrew
"Sheba." Whether it derives its name from the son of Abra-
ham or from ,the son of Ham is immaterial. Ephah is a
portion of fertile Arabia. From this Arabia, or from Sheba,
came the Turk Mohammed. His sepulcher is there in the
city of Mecca. The country is called fertile, or rich, from
its abundance of precious gold, fine fruits and particularly
frankincense, something produced nowhere else in the world.
The Queen of Sheba brought frankincense with many other
costly spices, to King Solomon. 1 Kings 10, 2. The Sultan
is today its absolute ruler, though he is not such in the eyes
of all the Turks. This is the Sheba and this the Ephah to
which Isaiah here refers. Their inhabitants used camels
and dromedaries. Midian, however, was a neighboring
country, bordering like them on the Red Sea, and lying be-
tween Egypt and fertile Arabia.

54. The thought of Isaiah is that camels and dromedaries
shall come out of Sheba and Midian, spreading in multitudes
over the country, as a vast army covers the land, moving



336 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

or encamped. And the idea is not of riderless droves. Car-
avans are indicated by the explanatory sentences: "All
they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and
incense ; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.'*
In other words: "In such vast numbers shall the inhabi-
tants of Midian and Ephah come, the multitude of their
camels and dromedaries shall cover thy country. And why
speak only of Midian and Ephah, portions of Arabia? For
all, every part, of fertile Arabia shall come."

55. It may be asked: Is the reference to actual camels
and dromedaries? Did they bring material gold and in-
cense? Did the entire inhabitants of fertile Arabia really
come to Jerusalem? We must admit that we do not read
of any of these things literally coming to pass. Many ex-
plain the passage as referring to the wise men who came to
Jerusalem from that country after the birth of Christ, as
the Gospel relates. But it cannot be said of these few that
their camels covered the country in great multitude. Nor
were they the entire population of Sheba; they were but a
small fraction of the people.

We must not interpret spiritually unless necessary. But
since these events have never transpired literally, nor may
we reasonably expect that they ever will ; since it is a thing
inconsistent with natural law that the whole population of
Sheba shall actually come to Jerusalem — a mighty nation
assembling in one city; since the foregoing portion of the
chapter has reference merely to the spiritual light of the
Gospel and of faith, and to a spiritual assembling and com-
ing, and since the gathering to the Church is not by any
means to be understood to refer to Christ's physical person
— considering all this, we shall maintain the same method
of the interpretation, feeling satisfied that the facts force
us to spiritualize this latter part of the chapter. We un-
derstand, then, the Christian Church shall see and be radi-
ant, her heart shall thrill and be enlarged, when not only the
abundance of the sea on the west shall be gathered to Jeru-
salem, but also the greatest and richest people of Arabia
from the east.



I EPIPHANY. 337

Further, many other things in the chapter inconsistent
with a Hteral coming force the spiritual conclusion upon us.
For instance, verse 7 : "All the flocks of Kedar shall be
gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall
minister unto thee; they shall come up with acceptance on
mine altar." Again, verse 10: "And foreigners shall build
up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee.'*
These things have never occurred in a literal sense, nor will
they ever occur.

56. Therefore, Isaiah's meaning must be: "The people
of the great country Arabia shall come in vast numbers to
the faith of the Gospel, offering up themselves and all they
possess — their camels and dromedaries, their gold, incense
and other things." For true Christians will always give up
themselves and all they have to serve Christ and his fol-
lowers. Note, among ourselves, the generous donations
made to the Church, and how all freely and willingly sur-
render self and property to Christ and his. Paul mentions
the. same practice among the Philippians and the Corin-
thians. 2 Cor 8, 1 ff.

57. The passage includes the greatest, richest nations,
the most numerous and powerful people, on earth — the
abundance of the sea and the wealth of the nations. In re-
spect to numbers and power, these represent the heart of
the earth's inhabitants. Arabia is regarded the richest and
grandest nation of the world. The thought is, the whole
world will be converted to the faith. Even were we to re-
gard the gold, the incense and the camels in a strictly literal
sense, we must still understand the "coming" and the "bring-
ing" as suggesting the spiritual Jerusalem. As to what the
spiritual interpretation is, we leave that for the Gospel to
teach us.

The phrase "All they from Sheba" does not imply that in-
dividually they will all become believers, but that the coun-
try as a whole will accept Christianity. There must re-
main, of course, some unbelieving mdividuals. Similarly we
may say of Germany, which has abandoned its old heathen
customs, that the country is now Christian. Though only



338 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

the minority are true Christians, yet for the sake of these
we call the German nation Christian. Again, the Jewish
people as a whole were called the people of God (Num 25)
when many of them worshiped idols.

58. Finally, Isaiah says, "They shall proclaim the
praises of Jehovah." The true, the special, work of a Chris-
tian is to confess his sins and his shame, and to proclaim
God's grace and work in himself. No man who fails to be-
hold God's grace and this light of the Gospel, can show
forth God's honor and praise. No man who clings to his
own light, his own human nature, who values his own
works, his own efforts, can perceive the grace of God. He
continues in his old, blind dead Adam nature. He does not
rise to behold the light ; he prefers to sound his own praises.
Isaiah exalts the people of wealthy Arabia because they are
true Christians who proclaim, only the praises of Jehovah,
taught to do so undoubtedly by the light of grace and the
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Online LibraryMartin LutherThe precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) → online text (page 29 of 29)