“Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.” (Isaiah 49: 1 – 4)
Who did the writer of Isaiah mean when he wrote these things? Did he mean himself? Was he giving dialogue to another who lived during his time? Or was this written at the time of the writer of Isaiah but meant to be applied to another? It depends greatly who you ask. Many bible commentators will say it applies to the one who was to come – to Christ. But since I am not strictly speaking a bible commentator, I don’t have to say or endorse that – so I don’t.
I think the writer of Isaiah meant it for himself. I do not think it is hubris or an inflated image of one’s self that prompted these words. I think it was the knowledge and acknowledgment of the burden that the writer felt, that there were things that he thought we expected of him, and he strove to fulfill those expectations.
“And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength- he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Verses 5 – 6)
But no human person could fulfill all that. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ, prophets from many generations back were in known and unknowing ways preparing God’s people for the One who was to come.
“Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Verses 7)
We need to know who we are, in God’s plan and the grand scheme of things. We need to know what our place and purpose is. We need to find that place in this lifetime and in this world, because if we do not, we will be lost in the life and world to come.
“In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. ( Psalm 71:1-5)
The Old Testament is filled with stories of people who found their place in God. And people who did not find their place in God. And, the laments and prayers of those who did both.
“Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. I have been like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me, and those who watch for my life consult together. They say, “Pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken, for there is no one to deliver.” O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed; let those who seek to hurt me be covered with scorn and disgrace. But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more. (Verses 6 – 14)
Have you, beloved reader, heeded the lessons that are given to us in the bible? Do you know your place in the world, and in relationship to God? Is there a big difference in the way you relate to the world, and the way you relate to God? Do you think you should be worried about that?
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)
When the world demands on thing, and the Lord God is leading you towards another, which should you chose?
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (Verses 22 – 24)
You do not need to be worldly wise to know God; and it does not take worldly wisdom to know yourself. It takes intent and determination, though, to know who God is and what your place is within the Kingdom of God.
“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Verses 25 – 31)
Those who wish to be wise in a Godly spiritual way seek out God. One of humanity’s highest purposes is to seek out God and Jesus Christ; the Divine has made the God-self to be sought by humanity. And according to the writer of John, Jesus being sought out was a sign of the next step of Jesus’ ministry.
“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.( John 12:20-26)
If our purpose in this world is to accumulate wealth, possession, influence, and all those things that the world values – we have lost ourselves in the world and are captives of it. But if our purpose is to find out place in God’s Kingdom and accomplish those things that matter in the Kingdom, we will never be lost, and our place will be assured for all time. But let us not think or believe that Godly accomplishments we raise our stature or status in the world.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (Verses 27 – 33)
The writer of the gospel of John thought and wrote deeply, accessing spiritual understandings that were apparent to him, but may be obscure to us. Do not worry, beloved reader; the way to God being through Jesus Christ is simple to understand, but difficult to live out. Not because of lack of wisdom, but because of human tendency to chose the easier way of life.
“The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (Verses 34 – 36)
We know who the Light is – it is Christ. We know who sent the Light – it was God. The Light that may seem hidden to some is only hidden because they seek out the “darkness” that is wrong living. We are destined to become “children of the light.” That is what God created us for. And when we know Jesus, we will know how to be “children of the light.” May you, beloved reader, during this Holy Week come to know Jesus anew and come to know yourself as children of the light. Selah!