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The Lord’s Servant and Light for the World

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Isaiah 42:1-10, 49:1-6, 50:4-9

Isaiah, Exile, and a New Vision for Israel and the World

We’re focusing on Isa 40-55, but in scripture it is part of a large book spanning centuries. Israel as independent kingdom protected by God. Jeremiah, that’s past, God’s judgment by Babylon. Now a people in exile, looking forward to Cyrus of Persia, God’s chosen agent for this moment.

Who are we? What is happening, coming? Son of David bearing God’s Spirit (Is 11:1-2, 61:1-2). Son of Man = saints of the Most High receive kingdom but suffer defeat (Dan 7:13-14, 18-22)

Servant of Yahweh in Isa becomes a central focus for revelation, reflection, anticipation of the new. The Servant is Israel as a whole (Is 41), object of God’s pleasure, receives God’s Spirit. How? No longer a warring nation but healing, caring servant, uncrushed, bringing justice to nations. How?

Vision of God: Creator of earth and all people. Servant is God’s agent for covenant, new creation: Light to the nations. Healing blindness, prisoners in darkness. This is God’s glory, true God, not idols. New Event brings a New Song from ends of the earth. All peoples are called to the One God.

The Servant Sings to the World: Is 49:1-6; 50:4-9

People on the Move with God – Feast of Booths

Leviticus 23:33-44

Autumn in New York

New York has 2 new years: Jan 1 and Sept. Israel also had 2 new years: Passover and Trumpets.

God gave to Israel a cycle of Festivals and other annual days: To remember the story of God’s deliverance, how God made them a people, preserved them. To have times of communal celebration and grief. To harmonize religious life with cycles of nature through the year. Three pilgrimage feasts. Often neglected till after Exile. Great power for renewal (Ps 42).

Passover and Pentecost were permanently linked to Jesus’ crucifixion/resurrection and to the coming of the Holy Spirit: Exodus the great event of deliverance and Giving the Torah.

The Fall with New Year, Day of Atonement, and Sukkoth carried the joining of penitence and celebration (Isa 55). Entering Holy of Holies (Heb 9:24-25), Booths and water in the desert.

Jesus at Sukkoth – the Feast of Booths

Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem for Sukkoth (Jn 7). People are expecting the prophet. Who is he? Messiah? His brothers don’t believe. People know about him but don’t know him. Jesus links to the Sukkoth ritual of bringing water from Siloam to the Temple.

Jesus gives Living Water (Jn 4:10)–a future unfolds of God’s Spirit/Life in us. Water in the desert!

Embracing Each Moment: Everyday Grace in the Fullness of God

Colossians 4:2-18

Fullness in Creation, Mystery, and Community 
Paul is concluding this relatively short, packed letter to the believers in Colossae, written from prison in Ephesus. It’s full of practical guidance for everyday life. Practical in the sense that Paul knows is necessary. Their roots are all alien to Paul’s message. If they’re to give their lives to this, they need to see how it makes sense of the world, their story, their relationships. Not in abstract arguments or instructions but in one person, Jesus.

Embracing Each Other: Lives Caught up by Gratitude and Love

Colossians 3:1-17

From Event and Story to Personal Reality – The New Person
Jesus’ reality means that what God did in him shapes the life of every person who trust in him.
The change is deep, becoming a new person, new creation. Deep habits and cultural customs are now seen as deadly and enslaving. We take on a new identity shaped by Jesus.

Love that Embraces – The Heart of Transformation and Maturity
Jesus’ self-giving love in the Cross shows God’s deep love. It defines the New Person in God’s image. God’s image shows in compassion, humility, gentleness, giving Grace to each other.
Love embraces all these changes. Because it’s God’s life, it is the deepest maturity, perfection.

Thanksgiving – God’s Peace shaping our Actions and Experiences
The experience of this New Person brings peace, even in hard experiences. The message/ mystery of Christ feeds our hearts and heads on the deepest level with rich abundance.
We become people of gratitude, shaped into one body, embracing each other in thanksgiving.

Embracing the Mystery of Christ: Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

Colossians 1:24-2:7

What is all of this about “Mystery”? 
Paul writes to Believers he’s never met, encouraging them to the fullness of life in Jesus. In a hymn Paul expressed its vast scope: First, all of physical/spiritual creation is embraced in Jesus as creator and incarnation. Then all of human experience, as he dies and, in God’s Fullness, brings new creation out of death to reconcile the universe to God in Jesus. 
This is a surprising, challenging event/narrative. Something pointed to but never fully seen before it became reality in Jesus, his life, teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, and meaning. It is “hidden” for ages as God’s Mystery (M, mysterion), his unique, unexpected way of embracing his creation. God’s kingdom should be glorious, overwhelming, not lowly, hidden, dying. But ironically that obscure, crucified Jesus brings God’s powerful, reconciling love to his whole world, both Jews and all nations, creating a new reality. 

Embraced in the Heart of the World: "In Him the Universe Holds Together"

Colossians 1:12-20

Letter to a New Church: Who are We, You and I? 
Paul is pacing up and down in prison (with Aristarchus, probably in Ephesus). He’s writing to believers he’s never met, a church taught by his co-worker Epaphras in the city of Colossae east of Ephesus, close to other cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea. Paul has been dealing with crises in Ephesus (2Cor 2:8-10) and in Corinth and Galatia. He is sending this letter to a Gentile community, by Tychicus (“Lucky”) and Onesimus (“Useful”), an escaped slave, now a believer, returning to Philemon, who is part of the community. A lot at stake. 
Paul could write some simple encouragements and instructions as an apostle. He does encourage and instruct, but there’s nothing superficial about Colossians.

New Jerusalem – Open for Life

Revelation 19:11-22:21

Visions moving toward Consummation 
John writes to Christians in small communities under pressure of persecution and compromise, living within the all-encompassing culture of Roman imperial culture and claims of greatness. 
John saw vivid visions of evil, corruption, and powers of Death in the Serpent-dragon/Accuser, Wild beast, False prophet, Great Harlot. Not people but embodiments of Death, deception, violence, empire, wealth, etc. He saw the fall of the Harlot, Rome’s empire, now powerful. 
His final visions show him the outcome. The Harlot, one empire. The Beast, all empires. The Dragon, all forces of deception and Death. The last enemy Death itself. Opposite God’s Life.

Destroying the Destroyers of the Earth

Revelation 15:5 - 19:10

The Passion and the Wrath of God
John’s visions lead us through cycles of 7 looking at the world in different ways, unfolding images of its deceptive appearance and deep, corrupt reality. Seeing the Gospel as Counter-Reality. 
We see a door to God’s throne, the slain Lamb. Seals reveal human destructive forces, earth’s response and what it means. Trumpets show the failure of a destructive vengeance and the pattern of following the Lamb. What does God want? His passion is to save his creation from destruction, to give life! The other side of that is to stop/destroy the destroyers of the earth. 
John sees this in the vision of the Serpent-Dragon/Satan, the Wild Beast, the Second Beast (false prophet). The dragon defeated from heaven, rages on earth. The Beast, forces of empire. The Second Beast deceives the world: Power, wealth, violence are the only reality. The mark. 
Babylon – Imperial City, Great Harlot, Riding the Beast 

A Woman, a Dragon, & a Beast from the Sea

Revelation 12:1-15:4

Woman Bringing Life, Dragon Inflicting Death – Two Kinds of Struggle
John has led us through a Vision of Jesus; Letters to 7 strong/weak, struggling, persecuted churches; Vision of door opening on God’s throne, creatures, elders, scroll, hero/slain lamb; Seals: human evils, earth’s response, cowering power, great multitude; Trumpets: failure of avenging, path of faithful witness, death, resurrection like Jesus, triumph of God’s kingdom.
Now the most vivid vision runs through second half of Rev. Conflict between God, creator of physical world and life, and all forces of death, deception, “destroyers of the earth” (11:18).

Seals & Trumpets: Tribulations & Triumph

Revelation 6-11

The Power of Visions – Sevens and Cycles

John is given visions to recount. We hear and see through his words. His visions stress Sevens: churches, seals, trumpets, visions of conflict, bowls. Are the 7s a sequence predictions– our past or our future? Deciphering a code. Neither would mean much in Ephesus, even today. Revelation isn’t a divination book to foretell events. It is vision to see again things we know.

The Seals & Trumpets suggest that the 7-visions are different ways of looking at the same great story. The Gospel is already there in the Throne vision in the Lion-hero who is a slain Lamb. The Seals & Trumpets build expectations, but the interludes redirect our understanding.

One power of extended visions is to look at the drama of God’s story from different points ofview and to play out differing possibilities. The visions challenge what John’s readers want and expect – including us. They push us to see the Gospel’s distinct truth amidst conflict.