Saturday, July 20. Isaiah 50 – 53

Chapter fifty-two brings us to the fourth of the “servant songs” in Isaiah.  In each of the previous ones, Israel has been called to a place of leadership in the world, to make God known and to live in a way that draws mankind to God.  It will be a difficult task, but Israel should determine to accomplish this mission.

In our reading however (which spills over into chapter fifty-three), it becomes obvious that Israel cannot accomplish all that God intends.  Only God can do that. While Israel can go into exile for her own sins and from there find God’s forgiveness, her exile and punishment cannot atone for the sins of others.  Only God can do that.  Specifically, only God’s suffering servant can do that, the Messiah, known in the New Testament story as Jesus.

Chapter fifty-two begins to point to that day.  It will begin when Israel leaves her captivity with the benevolent support of her very captors and the protection of the God who loves her.  Though we are not there yet in our readings, when you come to the story of the returns of Zerubbabel and Ezra and Nehemiah (found in the Bible books named for these last two figures), you will see that Israel indeed returned with all that support and confidence.  The sad part is, she once again became entangled with worldliness and never reached the potential God offered her.  But even that would not stop the plan of God.  Despite Israel’s deplorable performance, God came anyway in Jesus.

God’s deepest desire has always been that the people of His creation come to know Him and love Him and trust Him, living up to the image He created them with – His image.  To do that He has chosen a people to aid in the process.  God prefers to proceed with them.  But with them or without them, God intends to proceed.  We cannot expect to ignore His desire and arrive none-the-less with Him at His final destination.  If He proceeds without us, He will arrive without us.