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

A Guide in the Way of Peace

Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 1:68,70, 76-79

What Would a Prince of Peace Look Like?
In the context of Advent, the vision of a Prince of Peace may seem obvious. But in Jesus’ time, Augustus Caesar was the great prince of Peace, conquering all: peace under Rome.
Jews chafed under his appointed rulers over the land. God, not Herod or Pilate should rule. Where was Isaiah’s promise: “Your God is King”? When would “the coming one” come?
Jesus’ whole story is that coming (Advent): Birth, ministry, passion, resurrection, all of it. People thought they knew what they were looking for – their own holy, good Augustus. After all, who is a more absolute king than God? They were ready to join the revolution. Jesus comes calling followers to “the Kingdom of God.” What else could it mean?

Longing for a Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:1-7

Longing for Peace in a Fear-filled World
We focused our Retreat on the call to be Fearless. This Advent season we are centering on one of its most basic, comforting, challenging ideas: Peace. The two interact together. We start from Isaiah’s celebration of the birth of a child (Handel’s Messiah, Isa 9:6). In the NT this passage echoes in Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth, in Matthew’s description of the start of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is this “Prince of Peace.” But what does it mean?
Isaiah began prophesying in a time of powers pressing in on Judah (Israel, Syria, Assyria). Peace was a dream. A son is born in the Davidic royal family, possibly Hezekiah born to Ahaz. That child is a symbol of hope in a time of disaster. The prophet gives him the long prophetic name: Pele-yoets El-gibor Aviad Shar-shalom. Like the famous prophecy of a virgin conceiving (Isa 7:14; Mt 1:23), these words had an impact in their own time.

Living Expectantly: Expecting Tomorrow

Isaiah 40:1-11

Expecting the Unexpected Future
We’re looking into a new year that, as always, is full of unknowns. Politics, war, revolution, science, medicine, culture, economy, creativity, racial tensions, justice, decline, renewal.
A basic challenge of life is dealing with time. Our faith is very present-oriented. We are called to love and serve here and now. “I was hungry and you fed me...” (Mt 25:35) “Do not be anxious about tomorrow...” (Mt 6:34). I want to live this moment as a child of God, a follower of Jesus, and trust God for the future. Leave it in his capable hands.

Living Expectantly: Christ’s Birth & Grown-ups

Isaiah 11:1-9

A Branch from a Stump
We’re reflecting on some important passages in Isaiah’s prophecies that resonate powerfully in the birth and life of Jesus. We began with the sign of the birth of a child: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (7:14); “to us a child is born, to us a son is given (9:6). God’s unique creative power breaking in to begin new life: Sarah & Isaac...Mary & Jesus. 
But in Isaiah’s day, with faithless king Ahaz, it wasn’t enough. He wanted military help now, not God’s promises with whatever signs. It was the superpower Assyria who could bring in the god of war. Ahaz sold his nation and religion to Assyria for immediate war help.

Learning Expectation: Christ's Birth & Children

Isaiah 9:1-7

Did you grow up as a kid looking forward to Christmas?
Different cultures have different expectations. I did. Not too much religious stuff. But the tree and the gifts? Yes! We like to give and receive gifts. It's easily distorted, commercialized, but a good instinct. (Think about giving: Google "Advent Conspiracy" for a wider vision of giving gifts.)
Part of what we love in the holiday as children is the thrill of expectation. Part of what we love as parents is watching and fostering our children's expectation. Yes, it's a rather artificial ritual, but it can point to a deep truth, rich and complex: learning to live life expectantly -- in hope. Helping a child to live expectantly, creatively, in hope is a great gift. The gifts the Wise Men bring symbolize the hope and expectation that they believe are embodied in that unknown child, without status, but marked by signs for the future.

Retreat Series Week 4: The Disciplines of Rest and Delight

Isaiah 58:6-14

Bringing God's Reality into Everyday Life
It may seem strange to use Isaiah 58 as a text leading up to our retreat: "In God's Presence-Seeking Rest and Delight in Everyday Life." It's a great text about the union of faith and justice. But notice how Isaian moves to a call for Sabbath. He mentions yokes 3 times, all negative. Jesus calls us to take his yoke and find rest for our souls (Mt. 11:29-30). Jesus challenges us to release our grip of anxiety and learn to trust God and seek his kingdom.