The Roles of the Trinity in OT

We have earlier looked at how revelation is trinitarian, and how this is apparent in the Old Testament.

Paul Blackham held this sermon one Trinity Sunday. What follows here is similar to it.

Isaiah 48:

12“Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called!
I am he; I am the first,
and I am the last.
13My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I call to them,
they stand forth together.

14“Assemble, all of you, and listen!
Who among them has declared these things?
The LORD loves him;
he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,
and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15 I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
16 Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.

As Blackham points out, this is a key passage is for Jewish Christian understanding of Trinity in that it shows that the God of the OT is no different form the NT – he is Trinity and has always been Trinity!

Let us first note, and this is pivotal, that although present in the ESV translation above, there are no quotation marks in the Hebrew original.

The quotation mark in the middle of v.16 reflects the translators’ interpretation of the text rather than what the original really communicates. The NKJV contains the whole verse within one quotation:

“ Come near to Me, hear this:
      I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
      From the time that it was, I was there.
      And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit
      Have sent Me.”

And the ASV does away with all quotations:

Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; from the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me, and his Spirit.

The ASV does this because there are no actual textual indicators of quotations and thus by dispersing with them they are on the safe side in not having to ‘take sides’.

The NKJV on the other hand does use quotation marks and includes the whole verse as a single quotation based on the semantic content of this verse as well as the surrounding context (i.e. other verses).

Can one person of the Trinity speak of another person of the Trinity in 3rd person? This happens all the time in the NT! (Father about son: Mt. 3:17; 17:5, Son about Father: Jn 2:16; 4:21; 5:17, Son about Spirit: Lk 11:13; 12:10; 12:12; Jn 14:26 to name a few). It also occurs in the OT e.g.  in Ps. 110:1 and Gen. 19:24.

There is thus an overwhelming evidence of one person talking about another in the NT and since God is unchanging (Mal. 3:6), this must also be true for the OT, as the OT passages indeed show.

What makes this verse, Isaiah 48:16, special is not the articulation of Trinity as such, nor is it the explicit persons of the Trinity but the fact that the verse explains for us the roles of the Trinity and as such the nature of God (who is Trinity). By revealing who God is it also reveals what he does and so it tells of the future (see verses 3-5 of the same chapter).

The ESV without the quotation mark goes:

16 Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.
And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.

Jesus is the One Sent by the Father. This is emphasised time and time and time again by Jesus in John’s Gospel (5:23; 5:36; 5:37; 6:44; 6:57; 8:16; 8:18; 8:42; 10:36; 12:49; 14:24; 17:21; 17:25; 20:21).

The Spirit is told by Isaiah to be upon “the shoot from the stump of Jesse” (11:1) when he comes (Is 11:2):

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
   the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
   the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

The Spirit rests publically on Jesus at the onset of his ministry with the Father speaking from heaven (Lk 3:22). We are also told that it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11).

Isaiah 61:1 also mentions the Spirit:

 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
       because the LORD has anointed me
       to preach good news to the poor.
       He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
       to proclaim freedom for the captives
       and release from darkness for the prisoners,

In Luke 4:20 Jesus actually claims to be that ‘me’ on whom “the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD” is upon.

What is more, when quoting another part of Isaiah (Is 6:19), John the Apostle writes that (Jn 12:41):

 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

If Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him then we can expect him to know the character of God (i.e. Trinity) and to know what he is talking about in 48:16.

In fact, what is outlined in Is 48:16 is how God always operates: All God does is always from the Father, by the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how the world was made (Col. 1:16)!

Jesus speaks to us through Isaiah the prophet about the nature of God, about Trinity. This is a reality that we see in part in the OT and that is fully revealed when the Son was sent by the Father with the Holy Spirit at a certain point in history.

This is why this verse is so precious to us!

More will follow on why Is 48:16 is not expressing future, when the historic event of the Father sending the Son to earth evidently lay in th future from the perspective of Isaiah…


One thought on “The Roles of the Trinity in OT

  1. I really like this lesson.
    The Lord God is the source of all life and will, and He is our dwelling place. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Yeshua is both the heart and the very will of the Lord made manifest. The Holy Spirit is the Life and Soul of the Lord founded in His unchanging Truth.

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