“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the LORD your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
“See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
and reduce the hills to chaff.
You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the LORD
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
“The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Isaiah 41:8-20
The Lord speaks to Israel, whom he calls “my servant.” The people of Israel (also called Jacob) are God’s chosen people. After the exile, God will gather them and restore them. Their rescue from exile will reveal that he has not rejected them. They can trust him and note fear humans. His hand will strengthen them and uphold them. The vindication of God’s people will be evident in the judgement on their enemies. By their own power, the Israelites will be unable to free themselves from captivity or to overcome their enemies, yet God will help them. His power will bring desirable conditions: barren heights will have flowing rivers, springs will burst through parched ground, and the wasteland will become fertile. These descriptions portray the reversal of cursed conditions as God pours out blessing. The purpose of such displays of power is that people may see and know that the Holy One of Israel is real, powerful, worthy or worship, and does what the Idols cannot do. Israel is his servant who will do his will and make known his word to the nations. In that way, Israel is called to be a light for the nations so that the darkness of people’s unbelief and idolatry may be penetrated by the prevailing power of God’s Word. Isaiah 41:8 introduces the “servant” language that will appear multiple times in the coming chapters. The identity of the servant seems, at least initially, to be Israel-but will the Israelites be able to serve in this critical, appointed role? Or perhaps there is a true Israel coming, one who will perform God’s will and be the agent of God’s blessing and judgement.
Today’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 5-7, John 6:1-21, Psalm 106:13-31 and Proverbs 14:32-33