The Servant: Beauty

Holy Week: Tuesday, Isaiah 49:1-7

49 Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (display my beauty).” But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—
he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,  that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Listen. Hear the call of the Servant: “You people from afar, listen.” Pay attention to the message which is being shouted with joy to the ends of the earth. (48:20; 49:6)   The role of the Servant given in the previous song–to bring his covenant to the people and justice to the nations, now shifts into full gear toward the spiritual redemption of not just Israel, but the whole world. Hear me O peoples: I will be Glorified! I will display my Beauty.

Sharp Sword. Living Word of God. This Servant will accomplish God’s will, not with military power, but by the proclamation of God’s Word.  We know from Bible drills that the sword is the “Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  Like an arrow sharpened and ready in the quiver, or a sharp sword resting on his side, the Servant is equipped and ready to accomplish the Mission. “My Word that goes out from my mouth shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isa 55:11) In John’s Revelation (1:16), he describes Jesus in Glory: “From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” Sharp Sword, Beautiful Light.

Beauty.  Glory on Display. You are My Servant in whom I will be seen in all Beauty.  The language of Isaiah (4:2; 44:23; 60:21; 61:3) richly reveals the purpose of God with this oft-repeated phrase “that I may be glorified” which means “that I may display my Beauty!”

The Psalmist’s descriptions of worship draw us into the Beauty of the Lord, as David says, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the Beauty of the Lord!” (Ps 27:4)   We are called into this Beauty: “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness.” (Ps 96:9 KJV) O Beautiful God on Display for our wonder and joy.

Light for the Nations. Chosen for All. This is an explicit mission for which the Servant is chosen—not just to be the means of God’s salvation to the world, but to be the salvation.  Jesus said of himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Open your eyes to see the Light.

Reflection. The Beauty of God displayed. Isaiah, the prophet, the man, the follower, is swept up in wonder and joy at God’s purpose to be glorified, displaying His beauty for all the people of the world to see.  Close your eyes. What images come to mind when you think of God displaying his beauty?

Especially timely for the needs of our current global health is Isa 61:3. The Spirit of the Lord is on me… “—to give to those who mourn–a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may display his beauty.” The prophet promises that the crushed spirits of the mourners will be replaced with the beauty of a garment of praise.

Take some time to trust God with whatever sadness, anxiety, or fear you may be carrying. Close your eyes and imagine wearing a beautiful headdress, an amazing garment of praise, and standing as a strong oak of righteousness. Try sketching out or journaling your thoughts.

Prayer. O Beautiful God. You are a brilliant light for the nations. The sharp sword of your Word teaches me all I need to follow you. I clap my hands in joy for the accomplishment of all your plans. One thing I do ask, and I seek with all my heart: May I dwell in your house all the days of my life, gazing on your beauty. Amen.

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