Friday, January 21, 2011

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 23, 2011

(GOD’s servants suffer to glorify HIM)
(Isaiah 49:1-6)

Isaiah 49:1-6 represents the second of four “Servant Songs” that are contained in the book of Isaiah. The other passages are Isaiah 42:1-17, 50:3-9, and 52:13-53:12. They are called Servant Songs because they prophesy of the coming of the ultimate SERVANT, and MESSENGER, JESUS CHRIST. However, the definition of a servant is anyone whom GOD might choose to send to represent HIM through a message, from on high, that will bring the knowledge of HIMSELF, to all mankind.
Here in Isaiah 49:5-6, we see that the rejection of the SERVANT by HIS OWN people, (the Jews), will lead to the inclusion of the Gentiles into GOD’s family as HIS adopted children and followers. Moving forward about 800 years the book of Acts, in chapter 13, about a week after the Apostle Paul had delivered his longest recorded sermon in scripture to the people at Antioch of Syria (Acts 13:16-41), Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas returned again to the synagogue, and this time, nearly the whole city came to hear them. It was on that occasion that they stood and boldly announced to the Jews by quoting from the passage here that is now Isaiah 49:6, saying, “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth”. When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad, and thanked GOD for the fulfillment of HIS message through Paul and Barnabas.
However, the Jewish leaders who were present, and were already jealous of the large crowd that had come to hear Paul and Barnabas speak, began to stir up all the influential religious women, and all the city leaders, who, in return, were successful in inciting a mob against Paul and Barnabas, and they ran the two of them out of town. It proved to be a day of trying times for the two men, during their first and only recorded missionary journey together.
Anyone who is suffering feels forsaken. It is a natural reaction to pain. For the “natural man” (man without GOD), love can only be expressed in gifts, and, what he considers to be, good things. In our “natural” way of thinking, we have a hard time seeing any painful experience as a “love gift” from GOD that is intended only to make us stronger, so that we can be better used to serve HIM, and, to serve our fellowman. Here in this passage, verses 14-16, when Israel complains to GOD, He doesn’t bother to explain again why HE has disciplined them through suffering. Here HE simply says to them, that HE has not, and will not, forsake them.
GOD’ s goal is to mold us into being the very best that we can be, because HE wants us to be able to prove to the world, through our behavior, that Christianity, when taken serious by its practitioner, really does produce the best men and women. HE wants us to be a “light” to the world that can safely draw all men out of the “darkness” of sin’s domination.
In the book of Hebrews, as it is expressed in chapter 1, verse 3, in the original Greek, the word the author uses for “brightness” is “apaugasma” (ap-ow-gas-mah). In this verse, we see the only time in scripture that this particular word is used to translate brightness. Here it describes a light source that reflects upon another object, and thereby, brings light to it. Here also, it is used as a way of describing JESUS CHRIST and HIS effect on the darkness of the world. JESUS the SON, reflects GOD the FATHER’s OWN glory to the likes of man, and HE represents an “exact copy”, or “express image” of GOD HIMSELF. In other words, JESUS reflected GOD’s OWN character precisely, first to the Jews, and then later, to the Gentiles.
Once JESUS had brought light to the Jews, they were, in effect, commissioned by GOD for a second time to be a light to the rest of mankind. And we see here in the book of Isaiah that the Jews had already failed GOD in their first commission (Isaiah 49: 6). The phrase “A light to the nations” is the Isaianic phrase that is most closely associated with the “servant” and his saving significance for the world, however, the term “My Salvation” is the most familiar of all Isaianic terms as it is seen as an act of “Divine Intervention” on behalf of justice and peace in the world.
As Christians, we must eventually conform to accept and demonstrate the same “servant attitude” that JESUS demonstrated during HIS three-year earthly ministry. We should allow HIS examples and character to reflect on us, so that, in turn, we can reflect our imputed light, on someone else. And we should always keep in mind, that, it is the light of the SERVANT’s message, and the GODly image that we reflect to others through our behavior, that will effectively make us attractive to those who are lost in the darkness of sin and death, and sorely need to be rescued into GOD’s OWN glorious kingdom.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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