[Isa 42:1-9 RSV] 1 Behold 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 fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. 5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth 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 graven images. 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
If you were suing someone for damages done to you—what kind of lawyer would you like? If you watch the ads on TV what you want is a loud, powerful, and persistent lawyer—very much like a bulldog, one who once they get a grip of the piece of evidence that will vindicate you will never let go. You want an attack dog who will fight with all the strength they can muscle. We are thinking about this because Isaiah likes Courtroom metaphors and today we hear about one from him.
In Isaiah we have just made a great switch in tone and place, the first 39 chapters are all written in Israel predicting the destruction of Israel and the motif of a lawsuit has been used multiple times. It is God accusing his people of breaking the covenant—and thus being deserving of judgement. In chapter 40 Israel has been destroyed and anyone who was anyone has been taken away—taken out of the land to be punished for insubordination to the true ruler of the Land, Babylon. The prophesies of Isaiah take a turn also, so much so that we commonly call this second Isaiah—a different message for a different time. In chapter 40 we get a call of hope for the people of Israel, “Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God!” Then in chapter 41 we hear God opening a new court case, “Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength let them approach, then let us speak; let us together draw near for a judgement.” This time however the court case is not about Israel—but rather it will be those who have punished Israel—namely Babylon! God who first gave Israel over for punishment finds the punishment too harsh and so those who have punished will be punished, not matter what idols they call out to because the living God is too strong and too powerful to be contended with!
Now just think if you were living in captivity and the same prophecies that were about you in First Isaiah started being about your enemies in second Isaiah, I can almost hear them cheering and getting thirsty for punishment. They want their bulldog of a lawyer ready to come out here and give their enemies what they deserve! Yet today we hear about their/ our great lawyer— 1“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; (good, good closeness to God is a plus) I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations (awesome they deserve it!). 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,(wait what?) or make it heard in the street;(how will we get justice if he isn’t out there demonstrating and demanding it) 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench (whoa whoa God are you sure you have the right guy for the job a lot of reeds have to broken around here because ours were!); he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not burn dimly or be bruised till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. (Um God do you have someone else?)”
Can you feel the air let out of their/our sails as we hear about this guy? He is not a bulldog at all, but a genuinely nice guy who just is out there for justice. Now there is nothing wrong with nice guys, I tend to like them, but if we are in court don’t we want a jerk, someone who will rip the other side to shreds? Don’t we all want the person representing us to be something of a top dog predator? Yet God tells us that is not his plan at all, in fact his plan is to send someone so mild and wonderful that he won’t even break a bruised reed or put out a dimly lit candle. Yet someone who will not be dimly lit or broken himself either. Someone so wonderful he can make it that all sides win and get their justice.
Yet it is not what we think of when we want a lawyer because we are used to and live in an adversarial court system. It is one of a zero sum attitude. If their side says A, you are supposed to scream Not-A. If they declare B you swear that it is C. We are so used to choosing sides that we do it not just in the courtroom but in most areas in life. We are so used to ganging up against a side which is condemned as evil and then sacrificed that it seems the right and maybe even the holy thing to do. Yet God has seen how we work, he has seen the fights and the distress caused by our ways that he sent his own son to be the scapegoat. His son came as someone all the leaders, Roman, Jewish, Modern and Ancient could all be opposed to. After all, each wants to claim our true allegiance and Jesus tells us that it goes only to God. Jesus bore all of that pain, sin, and shame—and yet remained to see that Justice would still be served. God’s solution to our hyper-partisan world of condemnation and anger is to be condemned by it, sacrificed and then live again!
That is actually the powerful message of the servant Songs of Isaiah. Instead of power coming from the loudest and strongest, power comes from the ability to be vulnerable and authentic. When we are hurt, instead of lashing out and trying to hurt the other are we not supposed to still love our enemy? What if when we were hurt and scared instead of yelling and taking it out on others we acknowledged we don’t know if we could do it. We admitted our fragility and weakness. When the world tells us that we are not good enough or that we cannot make it on our own we do not have to stand up and yell, “yes we can” and try to prove it. Instead we can take Christ’s path and say, “Sure I am not good enough but God still loves me and with God’s help I will make it.” What a difference it would make to the world, what a difference it would make to you. After all our strength does not rest in our ability to be loud and angry—even if we manage to be louder and angrier than the next person. Our strength comes from the Lord and it will not be defeated. Imagine how much better it would be for you if you didn’t have to try to do it all but instead relied on Christ who will never be bruised or broken.
Christ came and he became vulnerable for our sakes, he took the pain and criticism when we could not, so that we could be made whole in him. This advent season we are called not to be super people and super Christians who have it all together and who do “Christmas right” this year. Instead we are called to be vulnerable to one another, admit sometimes we are too busy or too scared to pray like we should, or too embarrassed to have people see the state of our house to invite them over. We are instead called to be vulnerable and authentic with one another counting on Christ to give us the justice we are looking for. You are called as you are, fully who you are today and then with Christ’s help to go forward and work things out together. Amen.Read More