READ: Isaiah 41-43
BACKGROUND: This is a section about the greatness and the power and the goodness and the might and the mercy of God. And each one of these chapters sort of has it’s own focus within that. 41: God’s greatness over nature and all of the idols that people create. 42: God’s greatness for sending his Servant (Jesus) to save the people. 43: God’s greatness in one day restoring his people and rescuing them from brokenness to the world as he created it to be.
41:2 – Cyrus the Great of Persia. He came from the East, conquered Babylon, and allowed the people of Israel to return home to the Promised Land.
8 – Here the “servant” is Israel. Though, in much of Isaiah, “the Servant” is a specific individual whom God is going to send to save the world through his suffering and sacrifice (Jesus!).
14 – Israel is week and sinful, but God’s love is huge.
42:1 – Here the Servant is Jesus.
3 – A Hebrew phrase meaning that the Messiah will be gentle with the weak.
7 – See Jesus’ words in Luke 4.
18-22 – Israel was suffering for being deaf and blind to God’s law.
43:1 – Despite Israel’s sin, God’s love is still so big that he promises redemption, though they have to suffer the consequences first.
THINK: My dad is a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan so I listened to plenty of their music growing up. I’ll gladly admit that I love it, but the song The Sound of Silence has always particularly provoked me to think. The words, “And in the naked light I saw 10,000 people maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening…” really confused me as a kid. How in the world can we talk without speaking!?! And how can we hear without listening!?! It doesn’t make sense. But God uses the same sort of imagery in Isaiah 42:20 when he says to the nation of Israel, “You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; your ears are open, but none hears.”
I wonder how often that accusation could be leveled at me. I have seen God do incredible things in my life and the lives of others. And I know that he came to the earth and took on human flesh and became “the Servant” to suffer and die so that I might be saved and reconciled to God. And yet, knowing all that, how often am I distracted by the things of this world? Sadly, too often! A personal experience of God and a message like the gospel of Jesus should define everything about who I am and what I do. It should inspire me to be – as this passage of Isaiah calls God’s people to do – to be a light to nations, a witness to those who are lost and in the darkness, a helper to the helpless, and a liberator to the poor and the oppressed. But as I look back and track the actions of the last week of my life I’m forced to ask: do those things describe me? Do they describe you? Have you spent more time and energy over the last week watching TV, surfing the internet, texting & playing games on your phone, and stalking people on Facebook than you have sharing your faith and serving those in need? And if the answer to that question is “yes, a lot more” does something need to change?
I think that many Christians in America could be accused by God of the same thing that ancient Israel was. If I might mix the language of Isaiah and Simon & Garfunkel once more: It often seems to me that we are prone to waste our lives away worshiping the neon gods – of technology and materialism – that we’ve made, ears open but hearing nothing that really matters and eyes seeing great things without recognizing the greatness. I challenge you this week to be a light in the darkness of your world, to share your story about what you’ve seen God do in your life with a world that is blind. My prayer, for all of us, is that our testimonies and our witness would be loud in this world. Too often they sound like silence.
PRAY: Ask God to help you observe and listen. Ask him to help you focus on him – and who he wants you to be – in the midst of a world that is so distracting it can be blinding and deafening. Pray for the courage to live out something bigger and better than a silent testimony and a silent faith!