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Isaiah 42:1-9

  1. Behold, my Servant! I will take hold of Him. My whole being (nephesh) delights in my chosen One. I have given my Spirit upon him; He will bring forth justice (mishpat) for the nations.

  2. He will not cry out; He will not lift up (his voice); He will not cause his voice to be heard in the street.

  3. A crushed (Qal Pass Ptc) reed he will not break; And a glowing wick he will not extinguish; For reliability he will bring forth justice (mishpat).

  4. He will not become expressionless; And He will not abuse; Until he establishes justice (mishpat). And for His Torah, even the coastlands will wait.

  5. This is what God, ADONAI, has said,  The One who created the heavens and their extensions,  Who spread out the earth and her offspring, Who gives breath to the people upon it,  And spirit to those who walk in it:

  6. “I Myself, ADONAI, have summoned you in righteousness, And I have grasped (you) by your hand, I have kept / guarded / preserved you And I have given you as a covenant to the people; A light to the nations / Gentiles.

  7. To open blind eyes, To bring out the prisoner from the dungeon, From the house of confinement, those who dwell in darkness.

  8. I am ADONAI, that is my name!  My glory I do not give to another Nor my praise to idols.

  9. The former things, behold, they have already come! But the new things, I am declaring! Before they spring forth, I will cause you to hear them.

This Sunday, January 12, is the first Sunday after the Epiphany. It is also Baptism of the Lord Sunday, so the Gospel lection for today (Year A) is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism.

Epiphany, the season of light and enlightenment, not only sheds light on the identity and vocation of Jesus, it also opens the church’s eyes to her identity and vocation as followers of this peculiar Messiah. Today, we not only remember Jesus’ baptism, we are summoned to remember our own baptism, and rededicate ourselves to living into (and out of) our God-given identity and vocation.

We will interpret the Isaiah passage in light of the Gospel lection, since there is a deep and direct link between these two texts. But we also need to remember the original context of Isaiah 42 and let that knowledge inform our interpretation as well. The book of Isaiah makes a dramatic turn at chapter 40. Isaiah of Jerusalem (chapters 1-39) had warned the people of Judah about God’s coming judgment. The people were chasing after other gods (other lovers) and forsaking the justice (mishpat) and righteousness (tsedeqah) that the Torah required of God’s people. We must love God with all our heart, all our being, and all our excess. We must love our neighbors as ourselves. Israel has failed on both counts, so off to exile she goes.