Summary: Through the Spirit, God's servant will be a light to the nations, bringing justice and release to prisoners.
Isaiah 42:1-9 “Piercing the Darkness”
For most of us our Christmas preparations have been completed or nearing their finished splendor. The Christmas tree is up and decorated. Garland has been hung around the house and special Christmas candles have found their place. The greenery that you purchased from the Desert Streams’ Youth is attached to doors or has been crafted into a Christmas centerpiece. Parties have been planned and invitations sent. Presents have been purchased and wrapped, except for a few of the super bargain hunters who wait for the sales on Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas.
We have prepared for the coming of Jesus the child. Have our preparations for Jesus’ coming as the King of kings reached a similar stage of completion? Those preparations are often more challenging and admittedly are not as specific as our usual Christmas preparations.
Today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah once again focuses on preparation for the coming of the Lord. In its verses we view God’s movement through us from a different perspective.
A CALL FOR ALL
This passage in Isaiah is one of several that are called servant songs. In these verses and others like them, God talks about sending his servant. Most scholars believe that the servant should be understood to be Israel. The Christian Church has understood the servant to be referring to Jesus. As disciples of Jesus Christ we take on the role of the servant, also.
The servant is called and chosen. When the water of baptism flowed over our head, we were called to be God’s servants. When we responded to God’s grace and determined to live our lives with Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we accepted the call to be God’s servant.
Not only has the servant been called, he or she has been equipped to carry out that call. God has given us, his servants, his Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God’s presence and power in our lives. The Spirit guides us and then gives us the ability to accomplish the tasks to which the Spirit leads us. As servants, we are never alone.
In verse four, God assures his servant that he or she will never be crushed. The tasks may not be easy and the goal may be distant, but the Spirit will not allow the voice of the servant to be silent, his or her actions to be stopped and the goal of justice to be thwarted.
A COVENANT AND LIGHT TO THE NATIONS
The servant song was spoken by a prophet we now call second Isaiah during the Jewish exile to Babylon. In the middle of their grief and their struggle with faith, God calls God’s people to be servants to others—to the nations. During a period of time when God’s people would naturally turn their attention to their own troubles, God calls them to look to others.
God’s people are to be a light to the nations. We pierce the darkness of the broken world in which we live with the good news of Jesus Christ. We announce God’s love and grace through our words and actions. We invite others to walk in the light of God’s kingdom.
The servants of God are a gentle light. There is no harsh judgment or unwanted shoving. As is says in verse 4 bruised reeds will not be broken and smoldering wicks will not be extinguished.
As God’s servants, we will give sight to the blind. Humans have the capacity to be blinded by so many things. We can be blinded by our lust for power, our attraction to material bling, our self-centeredness along with grief and personal struggles. God’s servants bring the light of God’s love and grace to those who are blind.
We are called, as God’s servants, to set the prisoners free. Most of us carry heavy burdens and are shackled by the chains of worry, anxiety, fear and feelings of helplessness.
JUSTICE BRINGS IN A NEW AGE
In three verses: one, three and four, Isaiah proclaims that the servant will bring justice to the nations. The cry for justice is constant through the history of humankind.
Justice is equality. People in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and Phoenix are crying for justice—that they may be treated equally by police departments. Gays and Lesbians are seeking equality and the ability to have access to the same rights and privileges that their straight brothers and sisters enjoy. We may argue whether or not their anger and cries of injustice are correct, but we should at least consider seriously what they are saying.
Justice is often seen as people getting what they deserve. In the cross of Christ we see Jesus receiving what he did not deserve so that people could receive God’s mercy and grace. We often view the idea of people getting what they deserve negatively—getting punished. Bringing in justice could also be giving people the love, respect, help, and forgiveness that they deserve.