I Made You Honorable

From Literal Commentary on Isaiah (ca. 1248-1254)

[Isaiah] does three things: first, he shows the privilege of divine love toward them; second, he excludes the sharing of divine power from the promised remedies: “all the nations are assembled together” (Isa 43:9); in the third, he sets out the sign of his love: “thus says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isa 43:14).

Concerning the first, he promises them three remedies. First, support in their punishments, casting out fear by the assurance of God’s presence: “that created you,” emphasizing the principle of their substance: is not he your father, that has possessed you, and made you, and created you? (Deut 32:6), “and formed you,” emphasizing the form he gave them: “and the Lord God formed man” (Gen 2:7); “I have redeemed you,” from evils: “I will deliver them out of the hand of death. I will redeem them from death” (Hos 13:14), “and called you,” to grace: “I will call that which was not my people, my people” (Hos 1:9).

He sets out the promise: “when you shall pass through the waters,” the Egyptians; “the rivers,” the Chaldeans; “the fire,” the Greeks; “the flames,” the Romans: for they were not entirely consumed: “we have passed through fire and water” (Ps 66:12). And he assigns the reason for this: “for I am the Lord,” above: “for God himself is my savior “(Isa. 12:2).

Second, he promises the commutation of their punishments, namely, that he would punish others in their place; and he sets out the commutation: “I have given Egypt for your atonement,” that is, that I may be propitiated toward you, as though by the punishments of those who provoked you to sin by hoping in their help.

And he assigns the reason, namely, the love of God itself: “since you became honorable,” that is, I made and reckoned you honorable; “I will give men for you,” for your liberation: “surely Ephraim is an honorable son to me” (Jer. 31:20).

Third, he promises them every kind of liberation from tribulation; and concerning this, he does three things: first, he promises the benefit of liberation: “fear not; from the east,” for they had been dispersed in every direction, above: “he shall assemble the fugitives of Israel” (Isa. 11:12); “behold I will bring them from the north country” (Jer. 31:8); second, he sets out their fitness for liberation: “and every one that calls upon my name,” I will lead into “my glory,” that he might glorify me, and that I might appear glorious in him: every one that shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved (Joel 2:32); third, he promulgates the command of liberation: “bring,” O Cyrus “forth,” out of the land of their captivity, “the people,” namely, of the Jews: “hear, O foolish people, and without understanding: who have eyes, and see not: and ears, and hear not” (Jer. 5:21).

St. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274) is sometimes described as the greatest thinker of the medieval Church. His various theological treatises, above all his Summa Theologica, seek to reconcile inherited Christian teaching with the newly rediscovered metaphysical writings of Aristotle. His Literal Commentary on Isaiah is his earliest surviving work, a text reconstructed from lectures he gave at the University of Paris. His modern feast day is January 28. This text has been slightly adapted for contemporary readers.

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