Summary: This is a sermon about God’s purpose for you and God’s purpose for the church. We are polished arrows meant for a very special purpose!
Isaiah 49:1-7 NIV
(Will be read later in the sermon)
A Polished Arrow
[The Light Revealed: As Inclusive]
To bring up a bit of background to this morning’s text… it comes in a time in Israel’s history that is filled with troubles. To help prepare us for this text, we need to have a quick glimpse of the historic timeline of the nation of Israel. Beginning with 900 years before Christ’s birth, the good and wise King Solomon dies, and the sons can’t decide who will lead in his place. The kingdom becomes divided into two… a church split.
Nine tribes form the Southern Kingdom known as Judah, and the three remaining tribes form the Northern Kingdom known as Israel. They enter a time of great stress and fighting between the two kingdoms. The one great nation of Israel… has now been split. Trouble.
Fast forward a few years, and we see Egypt’s rise to power… starts conquering land. Assyria rises to power and IT begins conquering land. You have the Babylonian Empire rising in power and conquering land. Trouble… trouble… and MORE trouble!
This leads us into 700 BC… (200 years after the death of the great King Solomon), the great Northern Kingdom… the nation of Israel… is fallen! Leaving just Judah. Trouble.
600 BC… Judah falls. This begins what is known as the Babylonian Exile. Israel and Judah are destroyed and decimated and all its people are scattered like dust in the wind. Trouble… trouble… trouble… trouble. Both kingdoms are gone… the people are no longer even together. All hope… (it seems) is lost!
That is the setting where our scripture text lives and breathes. Our scripture text is given to us by the prophet Isaiah, and he is writing in response to all of this “trouble”… he writes to his people: exiled… completely defeated and destroyed after all this conflict. He writes to his people, and he begins addressing the exiles back in Chapter 40… and his first words are this:
“Comfort, O comfort my people Israel, says my God”
“Comfort…. O comfort.” That is how he starts. And he keeps going for 20 more chapters… addressing a people who have been destroyed, a people who have been lost, a people who have been exiled to Babylon. What do you suppose they “hope” for? They are looking for a savior! A savior to rescue them and deliver them home.
And so, that is what Isaiah gives them. Here, in beautiful language… Isaiah gives them the savior they hunger for! So hear these words again, and listen closely knowing the context behind all of this:
Isaiah 49:1-7 NIV
Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
Now… pay very special attention to this next part:
“he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3 He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor." 4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;”
They’ve been kicked out of their homeland! They have lost the war! Their army is decimated! They are down and out and they shout at the Lord:
"I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God." 5 And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself,” (Here he’s talking about bringing them BACK HOME!) for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- 6 he says: "It is too SMALL a thing for you to be my servant (here he is talking about his servant Jesus and Israel together) to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. (If God was going to bring them home, that fine… but God wants them to know he has MUCH LARGER PLANS FOR THEM!)
He continues, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." 7 This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: (Again, he’s talking about Jesus… which is odd because they want a savior - a conquering king - to take them home, and here Isaiah is talking about their savior who is despised, who is abhorred, who is servant!) "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, (again were talking about Christ, Christ will bow down before princes), because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."