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Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

1. THE PROPHECY AND ITS CONTEXT.—In ch. 54 the prophet describes the new theocracy, the glorious work of the Messias, and shows forth the peace and security contained therein. In the present chapter Isaias begins, therefore, with an exhortation to relinquish the pursuit of vain and useless things and to seek the one true God, the source and author of life and safety, who will fulfil his promises made to David by giving the Messias as the centre-point of the nations (vv. 1–5). In order to effect this conversion to God, let them abandon all iniquity; the motives for such a conversion may be found in the great counsels of God which will surely be realized. Let all, therefore, leave their captivity with joy; the earth shall be renewed and the Lord shall reign forever. Thus the prophet renders the promises of the Messias practically useful in his own day. He fully understands that there is no other name given us in which we may be saved except the name of Jesus, our true Messias. He shows his contemporaries how they may share in the Messianic blessings by a living and lively faith in the future Messias.

2. MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY.—a. The words “behold I have given him for a witness to the peoples …” do not refer to David. It is true that such an explanation may be found in St. Thomas, Schegg, Knobel, Delitzsch, Orelli; they maintain that David was a witness to the peoples because he showed God’s power by his repeated victories over his enemies (Ps. 18:50; 56:10), because he spread the knowledge of God’s law by teaching the Mosaic precepts to the subject nations, and because in the preceding clause there is question of “the faithful mercies of David.” Still, there are, on the other hand, many reasons against these conclusions. (1) There is no special reason why David’s victories, his inspired praises of the Lord, and his work of zeal among the Gentiles should be mentioned in this passage. For these were not “the faithful mercies of David” that could bring consolation and comfort to the oppressed Israelites at Isaias’ time; and since the exile and the ruined state of the theocracy are accomplished facts in the eyes of the prophet, the preceding facts cannot serve to illustrate the Lord’s “everlasting covenant” with Israel. (2) It must be noted, moreover, that the prophet treats of a future covenant with which the past facts of David’s life had no connection. (3) Again, the title “for a witness to the peoples, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles” can hardly be applied to king David, as his history shows. Nor can it be said that we must apply the title “witness to the peoples …” to the whole royal line of Jesse, just as we apply “the faithful mercies of David” both to the king and his posterity; for the failings of David’s posterity are too manifold and too well known to admit such a name of praise and glory. (4) But it need not be said, on the other hand, that even in the clause “the faithful mercies of David” the name of the king stands for that of the Messias, as it is used in Os. 3:5; for the phrase is understood of David himself in both the historical books and the psalms. Should any one see in David the type of the Messias, so that Isaias passes from type to antitype, the interpretation would be satisfactory.

b. The words “behold I have given him for a witness to the peoples, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles” refer evidently to the Messias. Reasons: (1) This explanation sufficiently accounts for the waters, the wine, and the milk which are to be sought, and assigns also a worthy teacher by whose doctrine our soul shall be saved. (2) The titles by which this teacher is introduced are, in the preceding and the following chapters of Isaias, wholly consecrated to the Messias. (3) The transition to the Messias is natural, since he has been the subject of ch. 53, and since the Messias combines in his person all the “faithful promises of David.” (4) The Messias is a “witness to the peoples,” because he gives us the most reliable testimony concerning God’s promised covenant, himself fulfilling the necessary conditions and paying the price of the contract, and because he also gives us the most effective testimony for God’s salvific will and eternal faithfulness. (5) It is not then surprising to find that St. Jerome, St. Cyril, Eusebius, Theodoret, most Catholic commentators, and many Protestant writers understand the sentence in a Messianic meaning (cf. Rosenmüller, Hahn, Nägelsbach, etc.). (6) Finally, the Midrash on Ps. 13 refers Is. 55:12 to the Messianic times.

IS. 55

All you that thirst, come to the waters; and you that have no money, make haste, buy, and eat; come ye, buy wine and milk without money, and without any price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which doth not satisfy you? Hearken diligently to me, and eat that which is good, and your soul shall be delighted in fatness. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies of David. Behold I have given him for a witness to the peoples, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles. Behold, thou shalt call a nation, which thou knewest not; and the nations that knew not thee shall run to thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the holy One of Israel, for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God; for he is bountiful to forgive. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth, and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be which shall go forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it. For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall sing praise before you, and all the trees of the country shall clap their hands. Instead of the shrub shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle-tree; and the Lord shall be named for an everlasting sign, that shall not be taken away.

The Messias will, therefore, include the Gentiles in his ministry of grace; even brute creation shall be elevated in the Church. History shows us the fulfilment of the former prediction, and the Liturgy of the Church contains evident proofs of the realization of the latter.








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