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Isaiah 42:1-9

Lesson Focus

Like Israel and Jesus, we are God’s Spirit-empowered servants who have been commissioned to go into the world enacting restorative justice. 


Lesson Outcomes 

Through this lesson, students should: 

  1. Understand that Israel is God's Spirit-empowered servant in the world, tasked with enacting restorative justice and being a light to the nations.

  2. Recognize that God’s justice is restorative, not retributive.

  3. Understand that because of our uniting with Christ through our baptism enables us to work as God's Spirit-empowered servants entrusted with the mission of delivering restorative justice in Jesus' absence.


Catching Up on the Story

By now, we should be well familiar with the book of Isaiah and his message to God’s people, Israel.  Over the last few weeks, we've seen that this old message written to people who are long dead in a faraway land still has the power to speak to us here today.  We've waited patiently with Isiah for the coming of God's anointed one, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We have celebrated the dawn of God's light coming into our dark and dreary world.  We even have dealt with the post-Christmas letdown - all the hype leading up to that big day, and then it’s all over and, what...?


This week, we turn the corner.  Advent is done, and so is the season of Christmas.  You'll notice that the colors have changed.  We're in the season of Epiphany.  We've all had an epiphany at one time or another.  It's a sudden realization of something we hadn't known before.  However, I should say that children have these experiences more than adults do. 


Every year, Baptism of our Lord Sunday sits at the beginning of Epiphany.  Every year, we tell the story of Jesus' baptism and the beginning of his ministry.  All four gospels recount this story, and we've read it today, along with the text from Isaiah. In many ways, the story of Jesus' baptism and this bit of poetry from Isiah are connected. 


The Text

Both texts have similar words from God.  The Isaiah text starts with, "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights." Meanwhile, in Matthew's account of Jesus' baptism, we find these words as Jesus comes out of the water, "This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17).


The Isaiah text's content, context, and tone have led scholars to understand the identity of this servant, who is referred to in the opening verse as Jesus.  The ending portion of this passage sounds a lot like what Jesus reads in the synagogue in Luke's gospel, with its reference to opening the eyes of the blind and bringing out the prisoners from their dungeons. 


So, we'd be on good grounds to connect these two texts, God's servant in Isaiah and Jesus of Nazareth.  At the same time, however, I don't think that's all of it. 


Let's leave Jesus out of this and look closely at Isaiah 42.  We'll return to Jesus at the end. 


To understand this passage correctly, we must go back to Genesis 12 and God’s calling of Abraham.  When God calls Abraham, he promises that Abraham's descendants will be numerous and he'll have his land in which to live. God also told Abraham that it would be through Abraham's descendants that the whole world would be blessed.  Of course, Abraham has Isaac, who has Jacob, whose name gets changed to Israel; he has a mess of sons who would be the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel, God's chosen people.