This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.
My youngest daughter has me on a very high pedestal. Her trust in me is limitless. When something breaks, her response is, “Daddy can fix it.” When a comparison is drawn among her little friends, I am always the victor. When in fear she thinks, “Daddy will save me.”
The “servant of Yahweh” plays a central role in second Isaiah. It’s exegetically correct to note that nothing significant distinguishes who this servant is. However, Christians typically hold that this is a foretelling of Jesus. Jewish tradition holds that the servant is actually the community of Israel. In either case, the fact holds that the servant is faithful to Yahweh, in the midst of mistreatment.
This is one section of a more complete picture that second Isaiah is trying to paint of a singular “servant of Israel.” The entire narrative captured in Isaiah 49:1-50:11. The breakdown of the passage is as following:
The servant introduced 49:1-7
Reaffirmation of return and restoration 49:8-13
Israel’s statements of reluctance 49:14,24
Yahweh’s answers to their reluctance 49:15-23,25-26
Yahweh’s statements about exile 50:1-3
The obedient servant 50:4-9
Reprobation if they follow their own light 50:10-11
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 5th, 2017.
How many of us would love to have a congregation that God described as a people who “seek me and delight to know my ways…they delight to draw near to God.” (Isaiah 58:2)? This congregation would certainly fill the pews and sing, joyously, week in and week out. They would be attentive listeners to our sermons, and they would pray diligently during the times of communal prayer. It would be easy to show up every week with a fresh word to tell these people because they would surely deposit praise upon praise on us following each service. Isaiah’s congregation has returned from exile and resides once again in Jerusalem – this is a people happy to worship. However, even the best of churches have those people who continually wonder why they’re doing all of this wonderful worship and yet God is not heaping praise and reward on them. This is not to say that these churches are selfish and self-righteous, but rather that we have been formed into people who expect our great efforts to be rewarded in ways congruent with our own expectations. If I put in a hard day’s work, I would expect a payment equal to that work. Worship, though, is not about us. At least it is not about performing in order that I may receive some due payment from God. This is what God speaks to the people in Jerusalem through the mouth of Isaiah. This is what God is speaking to us today.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 22nd, 2017.
A quick glance at this passage might not inspire one to preach from it. The more complete form includes the entire poem through verse 7, but here we only get part of that message of hope. Plus, the entire poem was part of the lectionary reading for Christmas Eve, so if you happened to preach that night, you had a passage from the prophets that was primed and ready to be used as a referent to Jesus. So it makes sense to skip over this one and jump to the Matthew or 1 Corinthians text. However, turning this stone once more might reveal more than we expected.
The Christian calendar tells us we are in the season of Epiphany – the third Sunday after Epiphany, to be exact. Technically, though, Epiphany is a displaced part of Ordinary Time. We are not in the process of preparing for or celebrating the birth, death, or resurrection of Jesus. We are simply figuring out what it means to live in the world that has seen a great light. The difficulty with this, though, is that for many of us and for those in our congregations that great light is often hard to see, hard to hear, and even harder to understand. This passage sparks dissonance in the lives of many people as we struggle through the every day. As preachers, though, we are called to speak a word from The Word. We are to point towards what we see and hear in God’s Word as it comes to us. Speaking truth is becoming a lost art, but we are not simply encouraged to do so, we are commanded to (Matthew 28:20).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 15th, 2017.
What is a calling? When someone is asked about their calling many times that person will recall a specific time or event as the moment when there was an understanding that this was what God wanted to accomplish in their life. The servant, mentioned here, declared a specific call from God was received while still in the womb (49:1). Not only did this call provide a great sense of confidence for this servant, but there was also a sense of being specially prepared for the mission for which this servant was called.
The special equipping the servant received was a “mouth like a sharpened sword.” Additionally, the servant was “made into a polished arrow” (49:2). The fact that the servant had a mouth like a sharpened sword and was made into a polished arrow could possibly indicate that this servant’s message had the ability to pierce his hearers’ hearts. Regardless, the servant’s ability to communicate the master’s message was potentially effective.