December 21 in Advent

(If this day is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, please refer to that day

in the list of devotions.)

Isaiah 49:1-26

Enter the Servant of the Lord

We are in the season of Advent, but I think I have often become so absorbed in the passage I was working with that I forgot to make application to the season.  Forgive me.  But I am now reminded why these passages were chosen for this season as we now come upon the “Servant of the Lord” chapters in Isaiah.  These are extremely important as they refer to the Coming One, which is what Advent is all about.

Who is the Servant of the Lord?  It has been suggested that it is the nation of Israel, or at least a remnant thereof.  There is truth in this assertion.  Certainly the passage indicates as much as it speaks of gathering many children after a time of bereavement, a prophecy of the nation’s redemption, as her people return after the long exile so many Jews experienced.  There is also the prophecy of the nations coming to Israel willingly, though as conquered foes.  Thus, there is much to commend such an interpretation, and it seems certain that the original hearers of Isaiah’s message would have understood it in such a way.

I am one who believes that a passage of Scripture can have more than one reference, however.  There is no doubt that in the light of the New Testament and the gospel that the “Servant of the Lord” is also our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The entire chapter encompasses not only the nation of Israel but the gentiles as well.  The Servant was to be “a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  The Servant is also “deeply despised, abhorred by the nations.”  And then we have the beautiful, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”  Does this not anticipate Isaiah 53 where the Servant is “wounded for our transgressions?”

Speaking theologically, let us illustrate the truth of what I am saying with an hourglass.  At the top of the hourglass is the whole nation of Israel, perhaps under David.  But the kingdom was divided such that in time all that was left was Judah.  Then Judah was carried off into captivity so that all that was left was a remnant of Judah.  We see the hourglass getting narrower as it moves down.  Finally, the glass reaches the middle where all that is left of Israel is the Chosen One, that is, Christ, himself.  But since his death and resurrection, now the hourglass begins to widen again: first the gospel is received in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, then the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Christ is the Servant of the Lord and the Church gathers in the nations coming to him.  This is the hope of Advent.

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