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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 1:19 All the Blessings of God

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, December 25, 2023

19 If you are willing and if you obey me,
you will eat the good things of the land.

Isaiah echoes the words of the prophet Samuel here. The earlier prophet had been speaking to the people when they first demanded a king. He replied: “If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands… then, good!” (1 Samuel 12:14). There were conditions at that time about the way the new king (Saul) would behave and serve, as well. Now Isaiah uses similar words to show Israel that God’s love and mercy were still there among them. He had not abandoned them, and if the people would simply show their faith with their actions, good things would follow. Let’s open this true bag of presents and gifts, and let’s see what we have here:

For Israel, the good things of the land came from the crops: apples, apricots, barley, beans (Middle eastern broad beans), bitter herbs (used in salads), carobs (for animal fodder, Luke 15:16), Cassia (Ezekiel 27:19), cucumbers, figs, flax, gourds, grass, herbs, hay, lentils, mallow (a kind of poor spinach, Job 24:24; 30:4), mandrakes, melons, millet, mulberries, mustard, nutmeg (a kind of pepper), olives, onions, garlic, leeks, dates, pomegranates, spelt, grapes (for wine, vinegar, and fruit cakes), and of course wheat.

There were nuts such as almonds, pistachios (Genesis 43:11), and walnuts (Song 6:11)

There was ample timber: Acacia (Isaiah 41:19); white almug (sandalwood or juniper, 1 Kings 10:11-12); box tree (an evergreen), broom tree (used for charcoal as well as for brooms), cedar, citron, cypress, ebony, various oaks, junipers and other evergreen trees, myrtle, olive wood, palms, true pines (such as the Aleppo Pine), the Plane, poplars, storax, sycamore, tamarisk and terebinth.

And there were other things, such as aloes, balm, the mysterious bdelium (a pearl or precious stone?), capers, castor oil plants (perhaps the ‘gourd’ of Jonah 4:6-10), cinnamon, coriander, cotton, cummin, dill, frankincense, galbanum (a resin, Exodus 30:34), henna (for dye), honey, hyssop, mint, myrrh, nard or spikenard, poisons such as gall and hemlock (used in moderation for medicines, Hosea 10:4; Lamentations 3:19), rue (Luke 11:42), saffron, and various other spices such as balsam and stacte.

Two of the three or four ancient kinds of alcohol are also present in the Scriptures: wine (going back at least to Noah, Genesis 9:20-21) and beer, which is always the “strong drink” of some translations (Proverbs 31:6). The northern European mead was unknown in the Middle east, and sake, or rice wine, was not invented until after Isaiah’s lifetime in China (perhaps 500 BC).

There were also the products of animals, from their various meats (from cattle, deer, sheep, goats, and poultry), eggs, milk, cheese, and many varieties of fish. Hides of animals were a vital product for clothing, sandals, shoes and boots, coverings, tarps, tents, and nets, harp strings and other things. The list does not include the many precious stones and other things the land provided, especially salt (Exodus 30:35; Ezekiel 43:24).

All these things were blessings for God’s people, to use or to sell. With these things they had a good life, full of variety and delight from the hand of God.

The root word of “obey” here is simply “to listen.” Moses had said about Jesus: “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you” (Acts 3:22). We understand that obedience is necessary under the Fourth Commandment—obedience to parents and also to other authorities, for the sake of good order and to keep the general peace. But obedience is also necessary under the First Commandment, for we submit to God in all things. This is the order “which obligates and binds all men to be obedient to God” (Formula of Concord). But our obedience is not only mandatory, but God tells us that this obedience must be perfect and flawless: perfect in our actions (no immoral or impure person is anything but an idolator, Ephesians 5:5); perfect in our words (everyone will give an account for every careless word they have spoken, Matthew 12:36); and perfect even in our thoughts and feelings (Matthew 5:22,28). This is a hard mirror to gaze into. It does not turn us to stone; it turns us into dust and ashes, for “there is no one who does good; not even one” (Psalm 14:3).

What goodness God has shown to us! “He has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What better care could we dream of? God himself has taken away our sins. God himself has provided us with all good things. God himself has made us his children, “for that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). And God himself will raise us from the dead, and bring us home to everlasting life.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you!

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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