For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.
- Isaiah 59:17
One of the more interesting aspects of the Daily Office Lectionary in our 1928 Book of Common Prayer is the multiplicity of lessons assigned on Sundays, in which we are given at least two options for each lesson at both Morning and Evening Prayer. One of the Sunday morning lessons is marked with an asterisk or star, indicating that it was specifically chosen to compliment the Epistle and Gospel propers that are to be read at Holy Communion. This week, the 21st Sunday after Trinity, the Old Testament lesson with the asterisk was Isaiah 59:15b through the end of the chapter, obviously chosen because verse 17 (quoted above) is reminiscent of the Epistle reading from Ephesians 6 that includes the famous passage about the putting on the "whole armor of God." Indeed, the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation are mentioned in both Scriptures.
There is, however, one very fascinating difference: in Ephesians 6, the Christian is to put on the Armor of God. In Isaiah 59, it is God Himself who is putting on the armor. Why is God gearing up for a fight? Verse 16 gives us the answer:
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him, and his righteousness, it sustained him.
When God's people were surrounded by enemies, no one could rescue us but God Himself. There was no hero up to the task, so God got ready for war. Verses 19 and 20 go on to tell us how God accomplishes this rescue mission:
When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.
As we read the Scriptures it becomes apparent that the earthly enemies of God and His people are types that point to the real enemies: sin and the Satan. The Lord sends both His Spirit and the Redeemer to defeat the enemy and liberate his people. We know from the New Testament that the Redeemer is God the Son, who came do suffer and die that we might live. And we know that when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, both the Father and the Son send God the Holy Spirit to continue to minister to God's people, especially through the Scriptures and Sacraments. Ultimately, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity work together to establish God's people, reconciling us and bringing us into covenant relationship with Him:
As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; my spirit that is upon thee, and my words that I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
Indeed, God's victory becomes our victory from generation to generation. He gives us His Spirit. He gives us His Word, both the Written Word and the Incarnate Word. Thus equipped, we become more than conquerors. "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered." Amen and amen.