A Light to the Nations

In the prophecy in Isaiah 49:1-7, we overhear an interaction between “the Servant” (whom Simeon will identify as Jesus in Luke 2) and the Lord God. In this interaction, Isaiah gives us five aspects of this prophecy about Jesus the Servant:

First, the Servant’s Call: In v.1, the Servant is named by God while still in His mother’s womb, commissioned, as v. 3 says, to be the Servant who brings glory to God. That mission gets explained a bit more in v. 6: the Servant is called to bring wandering Israel back to God. That’s how He glorifies God; that’s what He’s called to do. Second, the Servant’s Mouth. What tool or weapon or instrument does God give the Servant to accomplish this mission? V. 2 tells us that God makes the Servant’s mouth like a sharp sword. The Servant accomplishes His mission with His mouth, through the preaching of the gospel. Third, the Servant’s Lament: In verse 4, the Servant says that He has labored in vain. His mission was a failure. Jesus voices this lament in Matthew 23:37, weeping over Jerusalem’s refusal to return to God. But since it wasn’t the Servant that failed, but rather Israel refused to listen, the Servant claims that his right and recompense remains with God. He faithfully carried out His mission, and Israel’s unbelief should not prevent His faithfulness from being rewarded. So, fourth, the Servant’s Honor: The Lord bestows honor and strength on the Servant for His faithfulness. In v. 6, God rewards the Servant by giving Him a greater scope to His mission. Jesus is too glorious to be the Savior of just Israel. The salvation of God is meant to reach to the end of the earth, and that’s a task worthy of the Servant. Fifth, the Servant’s Glory. The Lord, Israel’s Holy One speaks to the deeply despised Servant who is abhorred by the nation of Israel, and promises that kings shall see and arise, princes will prostrate themselves. “The nation” abhors Him, but “the nations” will see His light and come to worship Him. That’s how Jesus the Servant fulfills His calling and glorifies God!

Each of these five facets has a message for us. The first lesson comes from the Servant’s Call, where we learn that God desires to be glorified in Jesus. In Acts 13:47, Paul says “the Lord commanded us, saying: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” If you believe in Jesus, then God says to you: “You are my servant in whom I will be glorified.” Make that your identity this week: “Wherever I go, I am here to bring glory to God.”

Second, the way God wants us to glorify Him is by bringing people back to God with our mouths. That’s what we learn from the Servant’s Mouth. The gospel calls people out of sin and back to God, and that sharp sword now comes out of the Church’s mouth. So ask yourself: “Is my mouth a gospel sword?”

Third, an apparent lack of success in proclaiming the gospel does not change the mission or take away Jesus’ right to glory. This is what we learn from the Servant’s Lament, and this is particularly encouraging for us as a church. This is where our congregation is the weakest, this is where we haven’t been effective – in calling our neighbors and friends to Jesus. But not only does God not frown at us and get rid of us, He honors us by giving us another day, another chance.

And fourth, here’s more good news from the Servant’s Honor: God honors faithfulness with greater opportunities. Instead of giving up when our mission seems like a failure, we should think bigger and cast a wider net. Next-door neighbors don’t want to hear the gospel? Try two doors down. Is Annapolis already full of gospel-preaching churches? Plant a church at the ends of the earth. It is too small a thing for Jesus to be the savior of a few people in our church. Jesus deserves the glory of being the savior of Annapolis, of Maryland, of the United States, of the world!

Fifth, because the Lord is faithful, kings and nations will bow down to Jesus. Do some despise and abhor Jesus? Doesn’t matter. Kings will rise up before Him, princes will bow down to Him. That’s what we pray for and preach for, because that’s what God promises, because that’s the glory that Jesus deserves. Jesus is absolutely determined to serve God by bringing the nations back to Him, and God is absolutely committed to bringing glory to Jesus the Servant. May we share that goal and lift Jesus up as a light to the nations.

Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by CJ Bowen