The Bible's Lynchpin: Lectionary Reflections on Isaiah 49:1-7

But now comes the more expansive work that God has for the servant. "It is too trivial a thing that you should be my servant (merely) to lift up the tribes of Jacob, to restore the fortunes of Israel" (Is. 49:6a). It is too small a task to speak the word of truth and power only to those you have known and loved and whom you recognize as people like yourself in order that you might create again the community you had before the calamity of exile. No, says YHWH! That is simply too trivial in the grand scheme of my desire for the world. "I offer you as a light to the nations in order that my saving work may reach to the very ends of the earth" (Is. 49:6b).

And there you have it, the full task of the servant of YHWH, nothing less than a beacon light for the whole world in order that all may see and experience the saving of God. It is that expansive witness that the early Christians saw fulfilled in the ministry of the one they called the Christ, the anointed one of God. The servant Jesus called his followers to attend to all, not just to some, not just to those they knew and loved and recognized as "one of them." And so he calls us to embrace the world, all of it, in order that all may have the salvation, the "making whole" of God, for them as for us.

I am not a sociologist, examining practical ways to address the diversity of our cities and towns and villages. But I can see, I think, the call of the servant to extend the saving work of God to the nations, to the whole earth.

How are we light to that vast company? On Isaiah 49:6 rests the Bible's central claim that no one may be excluded from the salvation of our God. And our task is to continue to make that inclusion real in every place and time.

Author's Note: Here is another reminder of the cruise of the Baltic on September 3-13 during which I will lecture on the book of Job. We will see some of the world's great cities as well as experience some great natural beauty. I hope you can come. See for full particulars.

1/14/2014 5:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.
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