Friday, September 23, 2011

Let the Light Loose

And he said: It is a small thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to convert the dregs of Israel. Behold, I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayst be my salvation even to the farthest part of the earth. -- Isaiah 49:6 (Doulay-Rheims)
The Old Testament witness of the workings of God among the Jewish people is extraordinary in its own right.  Monotheism in that day and time was an anomaly, so it's not surprising that the Jewish religion developed within a pretty exclusive, set-apart group of people.  The prophets began planting the seeds for opening up the closed religious society to outsiders long before God actually lit the fuse and used Judaism as the launching pad for a much larger worldwide mission, namely everyone's salvation.

The words of the prophet Isaiah can be pondered from a number of directions.  First and the most literal, taking-the-text-only-on-its-face way is these were words from God specifically for Isaiah.  Isaiah was to be the light to the Gentiles.  He was being told not to be content with just spreading God's passion for humanity among the two remaining tribes of Israel.  "Think bigger, man!"  Perhaps a lesson in that for us of not letting ourselves be bogged down in thinking too small in what God calls us to do?

The second facet we can see shimmering in these words is to imagine them into the future a little from their point with Isaiah to the words being also given to Jesus.  Jesus had been worked hard at home and in synagogue as even at age twelve he reads from Isaiah when he gets accidentally left behind.  Surely he had read these very words and felt the moving of God's intent for him!

Third, they are words that clearly grabbed hold of the Apostle Paul. The debate in the Jewish Christian church between Paul and Peter, recorded in Acts 15, reflects Paul's "getting it."  God wanted salvation and light brought out from under the bushel in which Judaism had kept it.  Salvation and light are for everyone, not just a select few.

Finally, they should be words we hear for ourselves.  The Light HAS been given to us.  We who have heard and responded to this Light ARE the harbingers of salvation everywhere we go.  What is the message you are sending with your life?

Holy God, you have stood beside humanity for a very long time.  You continue to be God to us even when we've been sinful, prideful, and petty, shrinking your grace and salvation to the size of our puny little hands.  Help us to open our hands and let out the Light you have given us in the sending of your Son, Jesus Christ, our hope and our salvation.  Amen.

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