The Promise: The Spirit and the Servant – New Things I Declare

Sermon Study Notes for Sunday 01092011 – Isaiah 42 vs1-9

Call to Worship – Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
     worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
     the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
     the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
     the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
     The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
     the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;
     and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
     the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
     May the Lord bless his people with peace!

SERMON SCRIPTURES
Matthew 3:13-17
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.
14 John would have prevented him, saying,
     “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now;
     for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water,
     suddenly the heavens were opened to him and
     he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
17 And a voice from heaven said,
     “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Isaiah 42
1 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.

The Promise: The Spirit and the Servant – New Things I Declare
Some thoughts for reflection during the week:

This Sunday we celebrate “Baptism of the Lord” in the church year.

As the church calendar is laid out, Jesus grows up really quickly – From December 25 when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, January 6 we remember the visit of the Magi, and suddenly, he’s “all growed up and makin’ a preacher” as they say in East Texas. This of course is so that we have time leading up to Easter to remember his ministry as he makes the journey to the Cross and Resurrection – as we make that journey together.

The Baptism of Jesus is a critical moment in his life and ministry. It marks the time, and may in some manner even effect the change, from secular career and focus on his family, to focus on the kingdom of God. We see in Matthew’s text a dove descend and light on Jesus, a visible sign of the Spirit resting upon him, as we read in Isaiah 42 (and again in Is 61 – see Luke 4). The voice in Matthew’s account echo’s that of Isaiah 42 – it is an announcement to others. In Mark 1 and Luke 3, the voice is spoken to Jesus – “You are my beloved Son…”

In order to understand how Jesus makes such a dramatic change, how power for healing, exorcisms and miracles didn’t just ooze out of him prior to his baptism, we might see that the touch of the spirit, and the announcement, actually causes a change in Jesus. A switch if flipped, a gate opened, something is now different. Perhaps all that power was already there, but had not yet been activated. Jesus public commitment to The Way of God marked in his baptism unleashed the Holy Spirit already within him.

Isaiah proclaims, still in the midst of a captive nation, that a servant will come to set people free. Listen to the description again:

   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.
   He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
      a bruised reed he will not break,
      and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
      I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
      I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

And listen to the responsibility, the assignment, the job, the mission of the servant:
   [the servant] will faithfully bring forth justice.
   I have given [the servant] as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
      to open the eyes that are blind,
      to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
      from the prison those who sit in darkness.

This text from Isaiah has multiple layers, even in its original setting.
“Israel” is both a person – the new name given to Jacob – as well as the nation.
“Israel” means “one who strives with God” –
isra, meaning to wrestle or strive, and – el, meaning god, as in ‘beth-el’ – ‘house of god’
Likewise, the servant is both the nation as a whole – ‘blessed to be a blessing, a light to the nations’ (cf Genesis 12 & 18) – and an individual called to lead in a representative ministry – representing God’s claims on the nation. As the Servant-individual is called to lead the people-Israel, likewise the Servant-nation is called to lead the nations.

God calls => Hebrew people, Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob to be set apart for the express purpose of representing God to the other peoples of the world, so that their hearts, minds, and lives can be enlightened with righteousness, justice, and peace.

Israel fails to live out this calling
both as a light to others, and even more importantly, they fail in their own lives to ‘be enlightened with righteousness, justice, and peace’.

Israel repeatedly ends up at war and in captivity – the consequence of their actions, which is understood also as the means of God’s punishment on them for lack of faithfulness.

The Work of a Prophet: God sends a servant, over and over again, to call the people back to faithfulness

So, the individual servant, whether the prophet of old, or Jesus, is particularly called out to accomplish the work of bringing the people back into relationship with God so that they can fulfill their original purpose – ‘representing God to the other peoples of the world, so that their hearts, minds, and lives can be enlightened with righteousness, justice, and peace.’

Notice in the description of the character of the servant the series of ‘he will not’ statements:
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

What does this say about The Servant’s way of living in the world and relating to others?

What does it mean to accomplish the mission of the servant:
   [the servant] will faithfully bring forth justice.
   I have given [the servant] as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
      to open the eyes that are blind,
      to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
      from the prison those who sit in darkness.

in that way described?

God is doing a new thing, in and through the Servant, according to Isaiah 42:9. The Spirit is upon the Servant, enabling, empowering, and inspiring this work to be done in the way it is to be done. We see in Jesus a fulfillment of this passage.

And as in the original context, so in out time the servant is both a Person and a People. The Servant-Person is Jesus. The Servant-People are his disciples, whom Paul calls the true descendants of Abraham (see Galatians 3) because they are children by faith, not by law.

What does it mean that baptized follower of Jesus is under the same anointing of spirit that came on Jesus at his baptism? What does it mean for your life of faith this year?

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