After speaking of God’s Covenant Servant, Isaiah now turned to a different kind of servant. First, the prophet described what was wrong.
Blind and Deaf Servant
This servant was blind to the calling God had placed in their lives
Listen, you who are deaf,Isaiah 42:18-20 (NRSV, modifications added)
and you who are blind, look up and see!
Who is blind but my servant
or deaf like my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind like my dedicated one
or blind like the servant of the Lord?
He sees many things, but he does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not [listen].
Who are these people?
You would think they would be the godless idolaters, right?
The people who were so blind and deaf are actually God’s Own people. What had they failed to see?
The Lord was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness,Isaiah 42:21 (NRSV, modifications added)
to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.
God had already magnified God’s teaching and made it glorious among God’s Own people. Now, it was Israel’s mission to make God’s teaching glorious for all the world to see by showing how beautiful it is to live for God according to God’s word.
But Israel had not done that.
Instead of being the display of God’s righteousness, they looked no different than the rest of the world, and by so doing they invited God’s discipline.
Who among you will give heed to this;
who will attend and listen for the time to come?
Who gave up Jacob to the spoiler
and Israel to the robbers?
Was it not the Lord,
- against whom they sinned,
- in whose ways they would not walk,
- and whose law they would not obey?
So [God] poured upon him the heat of [God’s wrath]Isaiah 42:23-35 (NRSV, modifications added)
and the fury of war;
[God’s wrath] set him on fire all around, but he did not understand;
it burned him, but he did not take it to heart.
That is why Judah went into exile, and so often why you and I find ourselves in the circumstances we are in, too. Notice God says here, the people did not understand God’s discipline, so they did not take it to heart. That made me wonder about all the times you and I have not recognized what God is doing in our own lives.
What calling is God placing in your life and mine right now?
Do you and I see it for what it is?
Do we recognize God’s calling as holy, or are you and I blind to the honor of being the display of God’s righteousness? Do we understand God’s discipline in our lives, or are we not taking it to heart?
But Isaiah did not leave it there. The prophet next described God’s remedy
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;Isaiah 43:1 (NRSV)
I have called you by name; you are mine.
It was not because of anything they had done to now merit God’s forgiveness.
What matters the most is not what you and I deserve, but rather who we belong to, as Isaiah pointed out:
But now thus says the Lord,Isaiah 43:1 (NRSV)
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
They were God’s people and the Lord would not let God’s discipline be the last word in their lives.
In fact, they would not even have to go through the consequences of their sin alone. God would go with them through thick and thin.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,Isaiah 43:2 (NRSV, modifications added)
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah gave God’s reason for the Lord’s grace to them
For I am the Lord your God,Isaiah 43:3 (NRSV)
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
The Lord was their God, they were God’s people. Because of this, all those who are called by God’s name – “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7, NRSV) – all those God formed and created for God’s glory, the Lord would gather back together and lead into freedom. Because they were God’s people the Lord would cause the Babylonians to be conquered, so God’s people could be freed.
Isaiah’s prophecy has three layers in it.
- Return from Exile: Judah would return to their homeland in Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. This partial fulfillment verified that the future, greater fulfillment was guaranteed.
- Rise of the Church: God is now bringing together all God’s people through faith in the great redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Restoration by Christ: Jesus will return and gather all His own to reign together with Him.
Today, we call this great gathering of God’s people the church.
The Greek scriptures use five different concepts to describe the church. Here are four of those concepts, and the fifth will appear in next Monday’s post.
Company of God’s Redeemed People
Do not fear, for I am with you;Isaiah 43:5-6 (NRSV)
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
In his Revelation, the apostle John saw people from all nations and tribes, all races and languages gathered together, all dressed in the same pure white robes of righteousness, singing with one voice praises to Christ.
Body of Christ
Our physical bodies have many parts, but no matter how many parts you can name, you are still one body. Believers are, in a profound, even organic, and certainly in an everlasting way, connected intimately with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the unifier, drawing all the complex parts of the church into one single spiritual community.
Peter gave the image of a temple built of living stones, with every Christian serving as a holy priest offering their lives up to God.
Bride of Christ
Jesus invests His love and life in us,
Because you are precious in my sightIsaiah 43:4 (NRSV)
and honored and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Theologians will sometimes refer to the invisible church and the visible church:
Visible and Invisible
The invisible part of the church are all those who are redeemed: those who are now with Christ in eternity along with those still living on earth.
The visible church includes all those who are visibly involved in the church in some way, but are not necessarily completely invested, or even really believers.
Blind and Deaf
Isaiah finished this section as he began it, calling attention to the blind and deaf, who are capable of seeing and hearing, they just do not.
Bring forth the people who are blind yet have eyes,Isaiah 43:8 (NRSV)
who are deaf yet have ears!
Can any of them bear witness to anyone who is like God?
Blessed and Beloved
God calls God’s Own by name, and has created each one for glory
Every member of the body, from the youngest to the oldest, has a unique portion to share with the rest of the body, and a vital role to play for the wellbeing of the Body.
What is the portion God has given you and I to share?
What is the role God is calling each of us to fill, to build up Christ’s body?
Will you or I say yes, and share our portion? Will we say yes, and provide that vital function?