A Light To The Nations

Tuesday in Holy Week
Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)

In yesterday’s reflection we were introduced to the figure of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah. A word of promise, a prophetic word spoken to Israel. A divided Israel. A conquered Israel. An Israel that had been taken captive by Babylon and was now living in exile. The destruction of their city and temple forever etched in their minds. To this people God presented his Servant: chosen, endowed with the Spirit, humble, and compassionate, who would establish justice and bring Israel home.

That promise is reaffirmed in the second of four Servant Songs in Isaiah. The Servant was chosen even before he was born, “to bring Jacob back” to the Lord, “and that Israel might be gathered to him.”

But then the Lord speaks to his Servant and the scope of his mission is significantly broadened: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel.” In other words, “I have a bigger mission for you than simply restoring Israel and bringing them home.” What is that bigger mission? “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

From the very beginning God has the salvation of the whole world in view. The attentive reader of Scripture knows this. God choses one for the sake of blessing all. God chose Abraham so that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. God chose Israel so that through them all nations would know God’s justice. And now, here, Isaiah is saying to Israel: God does not want to just bring you back and restore you to the place you once knew but he wants to expand your borders to include everyone: “that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

That’s the gospel. That Jesus is drawing all people to himself (John 12:32). Jesus is drawing you to himself. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, Jesus wants to draw you deeper every day. And not just for your own good but for the good of those who do not yet trust Christ. Your family member, your friend, your neighbour, your colleague. Jesus is drawing each one to himself.

This time last year the destruction of Notre-Dame was etched in our minds. That beautiful Cathedral built to the glory of God, crafted by human hands over centuries, brought to her knees. As the news quickly reached to the ends of the earth we grieved, and rightly so.

Very quickly there were promises to rebuild. And so we should. But know this, God isn’t merely interested in rebuilding the tragic ruins of our history. God, now as always, is doing something new, looking to the ends of the earth having promised to bring salvation to all by his Servant.

Let us pray then, that even as that glorious cathedral is restored so Jesus Christ would restore and renew faith in our hearts and in the hearts of all.

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

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