Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

My assignment: Isaiah 42:1-9, Chapter 49

42:1-9 God Introduces the Servant

In a Biblical historical sense, the servant is Israel. I also realize in a prophetic sense, (particularly among the fundies), this is also considered a foretelling of the coming of Christ. Really, I’m not really convinced the author of this part of Isaiah had a clue about THAT. He was looking at what the glory of downtrodden Israel could be. But I think for my purposes of getting something out of this exercise, I have to consider the possiblity that the servant can simply be any of us in the body of believers, and in a Lenten sense, I think I need to think about this in terms of my own identification with my own job as “a servant”--to humanity, to those close to me, and to whatever “my holy mission” is (of which, in a lot of ways, I haven’t a clue.)

So what is God saying about His servant? He puts his spirit upon us. He does not kick our butts (despite our feelings of that sometimes) but upholds us. He trusts in the skills of our heart to be emissaries of God in our own way. He takes us by the hand and looks us in the eye, and basically says, “I have made a covenant with you, “kept” you—you belong to me. You are capable of amazing things, and this glorifies me.”

49:1-6 The Servant’s Mission (and a creeping 2nd thought about it)

In this section, it’s apparent that the servant has a general understanding of the mission; to bring Israel forward. But there is a creeping little 2nd thought about this in v.4--”But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

That second thought of the servant really hits home with me. God has knowledge of all our capabilities to serve—to serve humankind, to serve him, to serve the church. This is an incredibly overwhelming prospect for me, given the fact my ability to perceive this capability is very limited. Because of things like my “anger at my own frustration” and my “failure to commend the faith within us” (to borrow a couple of the “ouch” phrases from the Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitance that always hit home with me), I catch myself spinning my wheels. I become distracted. I get bound up in details at times. I get bound up in my own anger. I get tied up with all the “jobs” this servant juggles, I feel poked, prodded, pulled in many directions. I feel incapable and unworthy of God’s love and his confidence in me.

The scary part is: How does God answer the servant’s 2nd thoughts? He sticks yet ANOTHER job on him. “Hey, not only are you going to raise Israel up, you’re going to be a testament to my powers of salvation.” AAAAGH!

That is just a glimpse, to me, of how Christ must have felt as he came into his awareness of “who he was”. He had to have wanted to run screaming in the other direction. There are plenty of times I feel trapped in something I’m not big enough to handle. I feel I have no clue on which way to turn, and it's all I can do not to bolt from the scene.

I often feel I’ve been handed a mess with my various issues in day-to-day life. A mess that if I don’t exactly handle everything right, that it will become a morass, and I will become a failure.

I wonder how many times Christ felt the same way.

49: 8-13 God Explains His Power

In this section, God reminds the servant that he has “kept” him—been with him, has answered his calls in the past—and that his power is mighty. He reminds the servant of his compassion for his people.

There are parts of my heart that know God has truly delivered me from my own distress in the past. There are plenty reasons why I should not be where I am now. Most children from drunken, abusive family situations do not get out—they just perpetuate the downward spiral. But I truly believe God heard my childhood call from the darkness of a tool shed, when I cried out, “There has to be something better than this--I don’t want to live like this forever.” In my heart of hearts, I believe God heard my lament, and in response, over many years, he put several people (and animals!) in my path who had no reason to take me to a different place, but did.

The problem, of course, is survivor guilt and PTSD. I really do, in some ways, feel I was delivered from darkness to light. Yet I find myself unable to stand in the light for any length of time without those creeping things that “hook” the dark painful parts of me and drag me toward that pit of my own despair. Rather than tend to the wounded parts of me that live in that pit, I spent many years just working on avoiding the pit. I have now reached a point in my life where I have to tend to and actually nurture some of the things in that pit if I plan on moving to the “next place” in my life. That is incredibly hard. But perhaps it helps to be reminded that God HAS successfully delivered me in the past.

49:14-26: God and the Servant Have a Chat

The servant cries out that he’s been faithful to God. In v. 16, he says “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands...” This is part of why Jews lay Tefillin, those little prayer scrolls, on their arms and head in their morning prayers. It’s why two of my three tattoos have religious significance. Sometimes, it is the outward “branding” of us that reminds us of our being bound together with God—things as simple as jewelry or clothing or whatnot. But I detect a little of the servant feeling like “I’ve been true to you, and you’ve placed this impossible task before me. WHY?”

In vv. 19-21, God points out that the servant has borne fruit (these “children”) even in the time of his bereavement. The servant is kind of like, “Whoa, where did these come from? How could these have been born in the darkest times of my life? I didn't even know about them.” But God is pointing out that the servant’s faithfulness has not been ignored. These children draw near to the servant. God promises his protection, to really be “a very present help in time of trouble”, so to speak.

I know that feeling. That feeling of being humbled by one of my own unknown or secret good deeds. To see a “child” I did not even know I had borne. That surprise when someone thought a great deal of a kindness I didn’t even think at the time was anything “out of the ordinary.” These “children” come to us to remind us, again, that God has not ignored us and loves us.

So that’s what I came up for on “week 1” of my assignment!

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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