Dec 14, 2016 – The Light of the Gentiles
I love the word play in tonight’s verse.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob – and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The double meaning and double use of the word ‘light’ in this verse draws our attention to it and light becomes our focus tonight. The light of God is to be for everyone we’re told. No one is left out. Light helps to define and describe the servant of God that Isaiah is talking about.
That servant is given by God as light to everyone. It is too light for Him to only raise up and restore Israel. That is, His work goes beyond the scope of Israel. But it is for Him to draw the gentiles, the nations, the end of the earth to God and His salvation. No one, no one is to be left in darkness. The light of the world comes from Israel, but is not confined, limited or allocated only to the chosen people. In fact they are chosen just so that the world can see the light of the living God of heaven.
It was understood, it was a given, that Gentiles were in darkness and they lived apart from the living God of heaven. So for this verse and elsewhere here in Isaiah and in Genesis 12:1-3, we see the “great commission” of the Old Testament. If you look in Isaiah 51:4 and 42:6 along with today’s verse of 49:6, you read references to ‘light for the world’, for the Jews and the gentiles together. These are references to light being the salvation of God. These verses are what call to mind the great commission in Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That ‘all nations’ is the place where we gentiles find a hope and the promise of salvation. What do you do when you’re lost and without hope?
A pastor tells this story from his childhood growing up in South Dakota when, in 1952, there was a record-setting blizzard. Forecasters warned this might be a very dangerous storm, so a neighboring farmer took his jeep and rushed to town, to the one-room school house, to pick up his children and the teacher who was living with them. On his way back, the storm struck.
He tried to force his way home through the mighty, driving sheets of snow. The jeep’s engine gave out just a short distance from his house. He left his children and the teacher and he headed for the house on foot to get help. You literally could not see your hand in front of your face. He grabbed the fence line beside the road and went hand over hand toward his house. The storm roared throughout that day and the next. On the third day, after the storm quit, the farmer’s wife and friends searched for them.
They found his body in a field just fifty feet from his house. He’d let go of the fence and had wandered in circles until he dropped from exhaustion. Letting go of the fence not only led to his death, but also to the death of his children and the school teacher, whose bodies were found in the jeep.
Without the light of God’s salvation, we’re like that that man and those people in the jeep, we’re lost and doomed to death. It’s when we realize we are lost and alone in the darkness of our sin that the light of God – the salvation of God – brightens our path and guides us into the grace of Jesus. Jesus is the light, He is the servant who is salvation.
And that’s true because He bore our dark sin to the cross and under the crushing weight of His Heavenly Father’s rejection, He suffered the punishment that was ours for bringing sin into creation. At that time, when Jesus died we’re told in Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.
That means that from noon to 3, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, dying, darkness covered the land. This was remarkable, that at noon-day, darkness should take over. And knowing who Jesus is, that only makes sense. He is the light, the salvation of the world. With His death, with the light going out of the world, it’s only natural that darkness should return and again cover the land.
But, then in Matthew 28:2 when Jesus was resurrected, it says, And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.
The contrast of darkness and light in the death and resurrection of Jesus point us to the promise and hope in this verse from Isaiah tonight. Indeed, Jesus is the light of the world, He is the salvation of the world!
From Genesis and Isaiah we’ve been given the promise of God to bring light, to bring salvation, to all the world. We’re told today it is ‘too light a thing’ for the servant of God, to be the hope of only Israel. No, He is the hope, He the light – the salvation – of all people, of all time, for all time.
Only in Him is the light that pierces the darkness of sin. He alone restores the world to her creator. Darkness was, and God brings in light. There was nothing and God created everything. And what was the first thing that God said to ‘let there be… it was light!
Light is what God first spoke into creation. And light, salvation, is what the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the servant in Isaiah, brings to all people. It is that Light that we’re anticipating this advent season. He is the light that comes to the manger.
Sermon #860 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO