Reader: “The Lord has honored me,”
Response: “and my God has given me “
Scripture: Isaiah 49:5-15
And now the Lord speaks—
the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me,
and my God has given me strength.
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
I will make you a light to the Gentiles,
and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
The Lord, the Redeemer
and Holy One of Israel,
says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations,
to the one who is the servant of rulers:
“Kings will stand at attention when you pass by.
Princes will also bow low
because of the Lord, the faithful one,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Promises of Israel’s Restoration
This is what the Lord says:
“At just the right time, I will respond to you.
On the day of salvation I will help you.
I will protect you and give you to the people
as my covenant with them.
Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel
and assign it to its own people again.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’
They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures
and on hills that were previously bare.
They will neither hunger nor thirst.
The searing sun will not reach them anymore.
For the Lord in his mercy will lead them;
he will lead them beside cool waters.
And I will make my mountains into level paths for them.
The highways will be raised above the valleys.
See, my people will return from far away,
from lands to the north and west,
and from as far south as Egypt.”
Sing for joy, O heavens!
Rejoice, O earth!
Burst into song, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on them in their suffering.
Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;
the Lord has forgotten us.”
“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible,
I would not forget you!
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You’ll recall all the way back in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans and made a covenant. Part of that covenant stated that all nations would be blessed through him, his family, Israel, and eventually through the Messiah. The problem was that Israel, acting as God’s servant, was unfaithful and had been disciplined and hauled off to Babylon as exiles. God intended to rescue Israel from captivity, but how to atone for their sin? The answer is in the Messiah, the Servant of God. In the first verse of this chapter, through Isaiah, the Servant of the Lord proclaims, “Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! [Israelites in exile] The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (Remember the words of Gabriel to Mary? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”)
With that backdrop, we go to today’s pericope. Again the Servant of the Lord is speaking. “The one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.” You can’t but help notice God’s interest and call from the moment of conception and the beginning of mortal life which clearly begins long before physical birth (Psalm 139:13-16). Such was the case for Samson, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and every person who was ever conceived. God knows every day of every person from the moment their life began in the womb.
Though Israel failed in its role to bring blessing to the nations, God’s humble Servant stepped in and brought redemption to Israel and to the Gentile nations of the whole world even though receiving continuing rejection by God’s chosen people. In spite of this, the Servant would bring his people back to their homeland. There will again be rejoicing! He does not forget his people. Note the verbs in this passage. “I will respond, I will help, I will protect, I will reestablish.” The last sentences of this passage are so powerful. “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! Even when his children fail, as we do, God’s love and compassion for them and us remains constant and overwhelming. What a marvelous Savior!
Music: “Sing We Now of Christmas” The Singers Matthew Culloton
Bonus: (Had this one from last year. Didn’t think you’d mind!)
“Sweet Little Jesus Boy” Mahalia Jackson She is singing to Jesus and we get to listen! Don’t miss this. There was only one of her. The very best.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast, in various ways, testified and daily also dost prove how dear and precious to thee are mankind, as we enjoy daily so many and so remarkable proofs of thy goodness and favor,―O grant that we may learn to rely wholly on thy goodness, so many examples of which thou settest before us, and which thou wouldst have us continually to experience, that we may not only pass through our earthly course, but also confidently aspire to the hope of that blessed and celestial life which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ alone our Lord. Amen.
―John Calvin, Devotions & Prayers of John Calvin, p.55