“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)
In the period of that the prophet Isaiah was writing, his audience needed hope and something to look forward to. And as I am writing this, I am aware it sounds a lot like the sort of reflections I wrote for Advent. But we are beyond the Advent story and traveling down the path of Jesus’ ministry. But just as during Advent, I have to wonder why the people of Israel had to wait so long for their deliverer. And what & why the prophet Isaiah was prompted to write those so far in advance of when Jesus started his ministry. The obvious answer is, this is the time that Isaiah wrote in. It is the same for the other prophets, major & minor, who wrote prophecies that pointed to Jesus. The ways of prophets and their inspiration to write is mysterious. And yet it has endured for countless generations. It is if they wrote for a time capsule and each time we read scripture, the time capsule harks back to that time and we as readers a left to make of it what we can.
So, here we are, both at Isaiah’s writing & Jesus’ baptism.
“He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Verses 2 – 7)
“I have taken you by the hand and kept you” – We will read later this week the account of Jesus’ baptism. It is odd though that the Divine would say this about Jesus. If (as many belief) Jesus came as both Divine incarnate and fully human – why would the Lord God need to “keep” him in the sense that Jesus was preserved, and more called Jesus in righteousness. These scripture passages that are used as prophecy sometimes “rub” against the parameters of the prophecy fulfilled.
“I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Verse 9)
One of the reasons I identify the places where these prophecies have rough edges when used to herald a future event, and get perturbed about it, is because as a writer I do not like when what I write is misused or wrongly applied. And I try to accord the same respect to biblical writers. In years past I have been quite adamant about it, but I have mellowed. The other reason is that such writings, like this Isaiah passage, could be instruction and incentive to us to live a better Christian life. However if it is used to point ONLY to the Divine, we are left to wallow in our own human fallibility and error.
What if we could be inspired by the Divine’s Spirit, and bring about justice? Be caring, compassionate, gentle to those who are fragile? (A exhortation that I am highlighting this year.) Be resolute and fearless in the face of adversity? And be a light to those seeking the Lord God? We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Baptism was Jesus’ first step in his ministry. And baptism is often the first step in our Christian journey. It is not too much to plan to carry out the ministry of Jesus, doing as we can within our human lives. And rise above our human weakness.
As we continue to read scripture this year, let us be mindful of the calling we have from the Divine. Let us not hesitate because certain actions and results are not expected from us. Let us surge forth so that it may be said of us that we have furthered the Kingdom of God as prophesied. Selah!