IV. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

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Grapes of Wrath

YHWH plants grapes. He dug up the ground himself. He cleared the stones. He planted his vineyard with choice vines. He built a watchtower in the midst of it. He made a wine vat for the fruits of his labor. Isa 5.2 says, “He looked for it to yield grapes.” So Yahweh waits, “and gets stinkers” (Watts, Lecture 3). In fact his vineyard “yielded wild grapes” (5.2). Watts says, “This woman is a gold-digger. She’s been taking extraordinary gifts, yet her response is appalling” (Lecture 3).

Yahweh owns this vineyard. Is he to blame? No, he’s done everything correctly. He’s no ordinary farmer. In 5.6, he controls the rain. And since this vineyard has failed to produce good fruit (Matt 12.33), he won’t let it rain. He “looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!“ (5.7).

Six Woes (5.8-23)

There are Six Woes on Judah which I will very briefly describe.

First Woe: Judgment on Greed (vv8-10)

The people join houses and fields to kick others off the land. The year of Jubilee came around every 50 years to make sure the people had a stake in the land. If these idolatrous people have there way, everyone will be alone. They will lose their land, and it will remain unfruitful.

Second Woe: Judgment on Decadence (vv11-17)

For these people, their life is filled with pleasure. They have no understanding of God. They have no spiritual perception. They do not regard his deeds or his works (5.12). They will go into exile. They will hunger and thirst. They will be the first course on Sheol’s menu. In being like the nations, they get a similar judgment (this is why the judgment on Jerusalem in Is 22 falls in the midst of the judgments on other nations. If Jerusalem becomes like these nations, they will receive the same judgments).

Third Woe: Judgment on Cynicism (vv18-19)

“They mock God’s work, but they drag their cartload of sin” (Lecture 3).

Fourth Woe: Judgment on Moral Anarchy (v20)

They call evil good and good evil. They think siding with Assyria is a good thing!

Fifth Woe: Judgment on Self-Reliant Wisdom (v21)

Yahweh isn’t against learning nor a good education, but he had better be at the center. They have no fear of the Lord, so they have no wisdom

Sixth Woe: Judah’s Might and Strength (vv22-23)

These supposed heroes are “only great warriors at the bar” (Lecture 3). They don’t care for people. “It’s a great mark of a man who can get plastered at the bar” (Lecture 3).

“Therefore” (5.24-30)

As fire devours dry grass (v24), these people have rejected God’s Word and God is able to destroy mountains and people (v25). And He will do it by nations far away.

The Vineyard in the NT

In Mark 12 Jesus is telling the Parable of the Vineyard (or of the Wicked Tenants) to the Jewish leaders. After his condemnation of the tenants who killed the prophets, those tenants are so greedy that they kill the Son too so that they can receive the inheritance. They kill him and threw him out of the vineyard. Unburied. A shameful death. In v9 Jesus says, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

Matthew 21 is even more telling. Here in v41 it is the Jewish leaders themselves who answer Jesus. “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.’” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”

The tenants will not receive their inheritance for they have rejected Jesus. They perceived that he was speaking about them. They wanted to kill him. Did they know Jesus was the Son in this parable? It’s highly likely. My points is that the tenants were not producing fruit, so the kingdom of God would be taken away and given to a people who would produce fruit. In Matthew 24 Jesus foretells of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3.10). These leaders have rejected God’s word and God will destroy them by a nation not too far away (Rome in 70 AD).

Who are these people who will produce good fruit?

In John 15 Jesus describes himself as the “True Vine” (just as he is the true firstborn). “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (15.2, 4b, 5b-6). The disciples are commanded to love one another. They are told that Jesus chose them (like Yahweh chose Israel to be a pleasing vineyard) so that they “should go and bear fruit” (15.16).

Those who bear fruit are the disciples of Jesus, you, me, and everyone who professes Jesus as their Saviour and King. We can trust him to care for us and to produce fruit in our lives. “Any God who will die on a cross for me while I am yet his enemy will not play fast and loose with my life now that I am his friend” (Rikk Watts, Isaiah).


Thanks for sticking around. Tomorrow is my final post on Watts Isaiah class. It will be the review of his class.

III. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

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Following the Golden Nugget series on Watt’s Isaiah class, here is part three with a few more nuggets of information.

Parables of Hardness

If you’ve seen my posts on Virginity in Isaiah, Isaiah is told to preach so that people don’t see, hear, do (Isa 6.9-10). Afterward he gives King Ahaz a parable, and KA rejects God’s word (7.12-13). Then, upon rejecting God, God’s judgment will come upon Ahaz and Judah (see my previous posts for more info).

We have a pattern: Parables -> Don’t Listen? -> Judgment

In Mark 4.3, upon telling his first parable here, Jesus commands the people to “Listen!” Jesus then speaks about “hearing” 8 times, and Mark gives an extra ninth at the end of the chapter. Those who don’t listen will be judged. After this Jesus cleanses the “ritually unclean”: a demon possessed tomb raider, a hemorrhaging woman, and raises a dead girl. In Mark 7 Jesus is confronted by some too-much-hand-sanitizer Pharisees who have a bone to pick with his disciples’ washing habits.

Jesus responds by saying, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (7.6, quoting Is 29.13).

Paul, in 2 Cor 3.14 speaks about the minds of the Israelites being hardened against God.  The only other use of pōroō (‘hardened’) by Paul is in Rom 11.7-8, “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened (“pōroō”), as it is written, [and quoting Is 29.10-12 and Deut 29.2-4] “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” Israel denied God in the days of Moses, in the days of the prophets, and in the days of Jesus. God poured out a spirit of stupor on them so that they would be hardened.

The sealed book in Isa 29 is the Law of Moses, and it is veiled (Ex 34; 2 Cor 3). The people don’t understand the real meaning of the Law, or of God’s Commands, or of his Promises, because they don’t have Faith (2 Cor 3.14-15). When the Law is read in the synagogue, the true meaning remains hidden.

All throughout Mark Jesus has been teaching “not Sabbath keeping, but people keeping” (Watts). In Isa 1.11, the people are “kissing butt.” They’re brown-nosers (as a kid I always wondered where this phrase came from. It really shouldn’t take too long to figure out). They’ve intensified their religious activity. They’re praying more and giving more sacrifices. But the Lord is tired of it. Perhaps they should be caring for people more.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem in Mark 11. His authority is challenged in the end of Mark 11 and throughout Mark 12. When we arrive at the story of the widow, “If anything condemns the Temple, it’s that” (Watts). Here we have a magnificently wealthy center of worship, fantastic offerings, and yet the people don’t notice the widow. They aren’t loving their neighbour. They don’t “see” (in the sense of understanding and acting in love) that she is poor and in need of their help. They’d rather defer to the rich. And yet she gives more than the rest of them, for she trusts God. Unlike the rest, she isn’t showing off (Matt 6.1-4).

Isa 1.3 reads, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Dumb beasts can’t read or write, but they know food. Israel does not know who provides life, nor does the rest of unbelieving humanity (1 Cor 1.19, quoting Isa 29.14; 1 Cor 2.9, quoting Isa 64.4).

A Double Portion

Isaiah 40:2 says, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

That sounds pretty harsh. Yet to gain some insight into this we need to look at other biblical passages. Amos 3.2 speaks of Israel’s special status, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Israel is called God’s “firstborn son” in Exodus 4.22.

Of the firstborn Deuteronomy 21.17 says, “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.” As Israel is Yahweh’s firstborn son, they are receiving the double portion of all of their sins.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Isaiah 61:7 says about those who mourn in Zion (61.3), “Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.”

Jesus quotes Isa 61.1-2a in Luke 4.18-19. Jesus is the true firstborn Son who does what the other firstborn’s (Adam, Israel).could not do. He brings the good news to the poor by dying for the,. He proclaims liberty to the captives. He gives to those who mourn in Zion a double portion of everlasting joy. He is the one who lived perfectly. It is in him that believers will receive a double portion of everlasting joy (Isa 35.10; 51.11).


Come back tomorrow for one more nugget on Isaiah 5, the song of the vineyard, and the vineyard in the New Testament.

II. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

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Following the Golden Nugget series on Watt’s Isaiah class, here are a few more “nuggets” of information.

John 9 and the Works of God

How are the works of God displayed in this blind man? Why didn’t Jesus say “So that my works might be displayed in this man”?

In Isa 42 the Servant of the Lord has been called in righteousness (v6). He will be given as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations (9.2; 2 Cor 4.6). He will open the eyes of the blind (Isa 42.6). In Isa 42.16 Yahweh says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.“

So who heals the blind? Yahweh? Or the Servant? God the Father does it through God the Son, Jesus Christ, showing his deity as the servant who would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. More so, Isa 42.9 says, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare.” This paralleled with the new heavens and new earth (Isa 65.17), believers as new creations (2 Cor 5.17), and the consummation of the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21.4b-5).

Jesus is doing something new here in John 9. Not only is he healing the blind, this man sees the light! When every one fumbles their words before the Pharisees, this man stands boldly against them. This doesn’t know much about Christ, but he knows what Christ has done for him. He was blind, but now he can see. We might wonder why Jesus doesn’t come to this man’s rescue during the confrontation with the Pharisees, but once this man is cast out, Jesus appears to him. Perhaps those who deny Jesus’ works before man (i.g., the Pharisees) won’t be able to “see” or be with Jesus. John 9.39, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’

Swallow Your Pride

In Isa 3.16-4.1, the very things the people relied on, God takes it away. The people are so prideful in their luxuries that God lays bare their secret parts (3.16-17). “In that day” the Lord takes away their jewelries and earthly joys (vv18-23). Instead of perfume, a belt, well-set hair, a rich robe, and beauty, he gives them rottenness, a rope, baldness, a skirt of sackcloth, and branding (v24). The men shall die in battle, and the city will mourn and lament. Seven women will grab hold of a man and beg to have his name instead of theirs. Their names are full of reproach, and they need someone to take it away.

And while their guides mislead them and swallow them up, leading them to death (the blind leading the blind [Matt 15.14]), one day the Lord will “swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”

When does this finally happen? When are the enemies finally erased? Revelation 21.4,8, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Just as Egypt was “swallowed up” by the Red Sea in the great exodus event, so will death be “swallowed up” by the Lord at the end of our exodus event when we are finally in the fulfilled new heavens and new earth.


Come back tomorrow for a parable of hardness and a double portion of sin.

I guess that really doesn’t sound very inviting, does it?

I. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

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Since the book of Isaiah is so large, I simply can’t write down half of what I’ve learned in Watt’s Isaiah class. Simply, there would be too much to say. Instead, over the course of the next few days, I’ve decided to write out a few “nuggets” of information, some larger, some smaller. I hope this benefits you as it does me.


The One Who Shows Compassion

In Isaiah, it is the Lord Yahweh who shows compassion to people. This is seen in texts like Isa 9.17; 14.1; 27.11; 49.13, 15; 54.7, 8, 10; 55.7; 63.7, 15. In the Gospels, aside from two texts (Lk 10.33; 15.20), Jesus is the one who shows compassion on others (Matt 9.36; 14.14; 15.32; Mk 6.34; 8.2; 9.22; Lk 7.13).

In Luke 10.33 Jesus tells the parable of the ‘good’ Samaritan who has compassion on the injured man. The point here is that the man “desiring to justify himself” (10.29) is to be like Jesus and show compassion on all, even his enemies, for all are his neighbour. And in Luke 15.20 the father (representing God the Father) shows compassion on his prodigal son. After all of his partying (15.13), the son receives another (and better) party from his merciful father (15.22-23).


The One Who Forgives

In Isaiah 33 the “destroyer” and “traitor” has “not been destroyed.” But God’s people wait for the Lord. He is their arm and strength “every morning (vv1-2). When the Lord lifts himself up there is a “tumultuous noise” where people flee and nations scatter (vv2-3). The Lord’s spoil is leapt upon (v4).

In vv 10-12 the Lord announces that he will “now arise” and lift himself up. The best his enemies can do is give birth to fleeting chaff and stubble. Their own breath is a fire that will consume them. In vv14-16 the godless sinners in Zion tremble and ask, ““Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?” The answer? “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure” (vv15-16).

Jerusalem will be “an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” (v20). Yet “your (i.e., the enemies, rebels) cords hang loose” (v23). The Lord in his majesty will be for his people. He is our judge, our lawgiver, our king, and he will save (v21-22).

An abundance of prey and spoil will be divided, and “even the lame will take the prey” (even the lame will “leap” upon the spoil [v4]). And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick.” The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity (v23-24).

So the lame will walk and sins will be forgiven. Zion will be made pure. This is the main theme of Isaiah. In Isaiah we see “God’s plan of how He’s going to get a Jerusalem full of bloodshed and murder, and transform them into a true city of the great King that reflects his character that becomes a light to the nations and carries out and effects Israel’s initial call as a blessing to the people” (Watts, Lecture 1).

What happens at the end of Isaiah? Yahweh promises to create a new “Jerusalem,” one that is “to be a joy” (65.18).

The New Testament

When we look at Mark 2, what does Jesus do?

Mark 2.5-7, “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Jesus then heals the lame man and at the same time forgives his sins. The scribes think Jesus is blaspheming for two reasons:

  1. In their minds, Jesus isn’t God.
  2. Forgiveness isn’t proclaimed in houses, but in the Temple (on that point, see Jn 2.18-22; Heb 7.22-8.3; 9.7, 25-28).

Here, Jesus does what Yahweh promised to do: he heals and forgives. The lame man and his friends had faith. The scribes did not. The ex-lame man and his friends will be in the future New Creation. The scribes, if left to their own devices, being blind of Jesus’ deity, will not.


God’s Concern in Isaiah

God’s concern in Isaiah isn’t about getting us out of here.
It’s about constructing communities that actually look like God’s people.

It isn’t about abandoning creation.
It’s about transforming it through alternative communities where peace and justice happens under a different kind of King.

It isn’t about how you get to heaven.
It’s about how heaven gets here (Rev 21-22).

If people put something in God’s place, He will give them what they want. God gives people over to their idolatries, and it will be a judgment to them. Just read Romans 1.18-32. People become like what they worship.


Come back tomorrow for John 9 and the works of God, along with Swallowing Up.

Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse and Effect

In Rikk Watts’ Isaiah class, he says that chapter 6 of Isaiah is the theological hinge to the book.

Outline

  • 1.1-2.5: Introduction to Isaiah. A lawsuit is inaugurated on the basis of the Deuteronomy covenant/law code.
  • 2.6-5.30: On the basis of Israel’s present condition, a sentence is given. Judgment and salvation leads to…
  • 6.1-13: Yahweh’s appearing as the great King and Judge in his Temple. Isaiah is called to effect the sentence of ultimate sanction (with salvation for a remnant).
  • 7.1-9.7: The sanction inaugurated:
    • Syro-Ephraimite War
    • Judgment is brought on faithless Ahaz and salvation is brought through Yahweh’s Davidic prince – a contrast between kingships.

So Isaiah 6 is the commissioning call of the one who will implement the sentence of judgment on Israel. The blinding, deafening, and burning are all related to judgment on idolatry. Since Judah worships idols she will become as blind as they are, “hence she too will be burned in the fires of judgment, just as they are” (pdf handout, 55).

Structure of Isaiah 6

1. Vision (6.1-7):

The inescapable conflict between Yahweh’s “glory” and Israel’s “heavy” iniquity issues in Israel’s judgment.

  • Setting (vv1-4)
  • Purification (vv5-7)

2. Commission (6.8-13):

Isaiah’s purging with fire is to become Israel’s experience.

  • Commission (vv8-10)
  • Outcome (vv11-13)

Setting (vv1-4)

Isaiah 6 has been a famous Call to Christian Service” for many. Yet, as Watts rightly points out, this is not everybody’s call. Isaiah was called to preach, but nobody would listen. This is not the kind of call people dream of having. “I love it when nobody listens to me,” said by nobody.

This vision takes place in the year that Uzziah died. He has been the best king since Solomon, and there is plenty of uncertainty as to who will rule over Judah now. But Isaiah receives a vision of the true King of Heaven, and his heavenly council (see 1 Kings 22.19-28 where, like here, judgment is soon to be announced).

In contrast to “the haughtiness and self-examination of men” (2.11-14, p56), here it is YHWH, not Israel, who is high and lifted up. The attitude of the seraphim is one of reverence in God’s presence, covering their faces and feet and crying “Holy, holy, holy.” In contrast, Israel couldn’t care less about their sin. What Isaiah alone knows will soon be known by all.

Purification (vv5-7)

Isaiah identifies himself with Israel. Watts says the ‘unclean lips’ may be crucial because it indicates false confession (Exod 20.7). Perhaps Isaiah hasn’t grasped both the enormity of what it means to serve holy Yahweh and the enormity of Israel’s sin. It may be a metaphor for covenant unfaithfulness, that of Israel’s unclean confession (Isa 8.13).

The heated coal/stone is put on Isaiah’s lips, thus purifying his lips and rendering righteous confession. Isaiah’s purification is by fire. Israel too will be purified by the fires of trial and judgment.

Commission (vv8-10)

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed (6.9-10).

Other translations soften the Hebrew text.

LXX

And he said, Go, and say to this people, Ye shall hear indeed, hut ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Qumram

“Seeing you will understand and your eyes will be appalled at the idolatry surrounding idolatry.”

Though we see they do give at least one interpretive clue as to Israel’s problem: idolatry. G. K. Beale says that Israel’s blindness and deafness is connected to their following of idols, and this is seen is Psalms 115 and 135.

Ps 115.2-11

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
10  O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
11  You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.

Psalms 135

This psalm speaks of how the Lord does as he pleases. He has chosen Israel as his own possession. He is above all gods. He does what he pleases to do. In that we see his strength. He brings clouds, lightning, and rain. He struck down the firstborn of Egypt. He sent signs and wonder against Egypt. He struck down nations and kings and gave the land as a heritage to his possession Israel.

Yahweh deserves praise for he is good. He will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

He is unlike the idols of silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have eyes, ears, noses, and mouths, but they do not see, hear, breath, or speak. Those who make and trust them become like them.

De-creation

Israel has rejected God for so long that it is as if God says, “You want to follow after your idols? So be it. I’ll give you what you want then. I will make you to be like your idols… blind, deaf, dumb, and heard-hearted.” So Yahweh ‘creates’ Israel in the image of the gods they worship. “The people will become like the very idols they worship – blind and deaf” (57).

There is a back-and-forth debate in Isaiah about the wisdom of trusting Yahweh. Israel thinks they can see. They think they have wisdom, but it’s based on “idolatrous catagories.” They think they are clever and wise to partner with Assyria, but God gives them over to their own wisdom. God here, in his judgment, gives Israel up (Rom 1.24) to their own wants and desires, their own idolatries (the nation’s chief sin, 1.29-31; 2.6ff).

In Deuteronomy 4.15-28 the “primary sin against the covenant is… idolatry” (57). The result is “utter destruction and exile among the nations” (Deut 29.22ff; 31.16-18).

Outcome (vv11-13)

Isaiah asks how long this will happen. Yahweh responds that the cities will be laid wate, and if there is a tenth remaining they will be burned again. Again? When was the first?

Isaiah 1.29-31

For they shall be ashamed of the oaks
that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
that you have chosen.

For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.

And the strong shall become tinder,
and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
with none to quench them.

They shall be burned by their idolatries and by Yahweh’s judgments, just like their idolatrous trees. There is a stump that remains, and this might be a remnant, a holy seed. That might be the tenth (or ‘stump’) that remains. As this is already too long, in my next post we’ll look a bit at how Is 6.9-10 is brought over the the NT. If there is a remnant spoken of here in Isaiah, the NT Israel is it, and they are still idolatrous.