Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background The prophet Isaiah speaks to us today out of the depths of destruction and exile. Louis Stulman and Hyun Chul Paul Kim describe prophetic literature as “meaning-making literature for communities under siege.” In this mid part of the book of Isaiah, the prophet certainly has a big job of creating meaning and hope out of cities that have been under siege, families that have been separated and people displaced in a foreign land.
In this portion of the book, the prophet chooses to bring up imagery to help us navigate through times of chaos. Isaiah is constantly helping us to see what is ahead in positive terms instead of just giving up. This is where we first encounter the image of the suffering servant of God. This perfect new leader that we are waiting for is strong but not in the ways that we might hope for. When we encounter the mis use of power, most people would immediately turn towards exuding power back. In this case, the power comes out of a vulnerability that creates out of nothing.
This servant will be a “bruised reed” and a “dimly burning wick” instead of a brute force or a killing machine. The one to represent God will not create vengeance but will create justice. This will create a different kind of power. It will not scream or shout like the powers that have come through before. This power will be different and will lift up the broken. This is not a call to move inward to protect one another but to exude light from our brokenness. By becoming a light to the nations out of our darkness, we are called to be a stronger people because we are outward focused.
For this season, all of these pieces become significant as we wait for a new servant to appear and transform the world. Isaiah speaks as much to us today. There are such spots of darkness in the world that it is sometimes extremely hard to see and not want to move inward to protect our own. When life beats down on us, we will not be extinguished although we may be a bruised reed or a dimly burning wick. Life may almost blow us out but we cannot be blown out with God and community surrounding us. Through our heartache and our vulnerability comes great power that gives light. Light fights off darkness. And when light joins with other light, it becomes stronger instead of extinguishing. We must be vulnerable in our waiting this season. The prophet has declared that the world will change and we must step into waiting for it.
Quotes of the week “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown
“We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.” ― Eric Micha’el Leventhal
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” ― Anne Lamott
“When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy. ” ― Dave Barry
Isaiah 42:1-9 (NRSV) 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.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
5 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:
6 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,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.
Questions for the Week
Where do you see hope in the midst of destruction in today’s world?
Where are you vulnerable? How does that vulnerability transform you?
What kind of leader are you waiting for?