This is a long post from my older blog that I imported to respond to and article that talked about the growing restrictions against the church. I stated that part of the problem is that the church has far too often hurt others in sin and already hurting, rather than trying to heal them. This is an extension of that thought. You can read the original article and comments here.
My wife and I took a flight from Madrid to Dulles last summer…it was a long flight for a lot of reasons. And as I’m want to to when I’m stuck sitting still for six hours and bored with the in flight movie, and about 10 rows away from my wife, I tend to get a little ADD. I tend to get a little ADD anyways, but man the only thing that could have made this worse was coffee, and the flight attendants took care of that for me pretty quickly.
So there I am sitting pretty much by myself, with nothing much to do and my mind running a mile a minute. And I mean I’m all over the place. I start off thinking about how planes fly and bournillie’s principle and what in the world kind of name is bournilli? Too bad he was born before the nobel prizes because he would have won a prize for coming up with his principle, I mean how do you come up with that? And Nobelaureate Bournilli sounds way better than just Bournilli.
And that’s where I stop for a second. Because that’s a title I want. I want someday to win the Nobel prize in literature. I want to be the youngest person to win a Pulitzer (although the time for me to do that is growing pretty short). It’s as if by winning those prizes I can validate my ambitions and I can prove that I’ve done something good for this world. that’s when I started to question myself. Question what it was that I really wanted and it occurred to me – after about an hour or so – There’s only one opinion that counts, just one, and it isn’t mine. It’s God’s. Now some of you might have figured that out a while ago and if you did, congratulations you’re way smarter than me because i figured it out, I mean I REALLY figured it out just a few days ago. Down here, I finally understand that. I understand that the title I want is Servant of God.
So turn to Isaiah 42. Scholars agree that this is the first song of the servant in the book of Isaiah. 42:1-7 does something that none of the other servant songs do which is why I want to talk about it: it overviews the concept of the Servant. We get a nice general picture of the Servant, the kind of person the servant is and how to understand it.
Starting at verse one.
“Here is my servant whom I uphold,” Not there, not soon to come, not even in “the last days.” HERE is my servant. Now. This is the single most encouraging line to me in this entire chapter because it means that being the servant is like receiving Grace. It is now. It is here. No elaborate ceremonies, no preconditions, all you have to do is step up to the plate, you just have to be here. I knew a guy who called it the gift of showing up: you show up and see what God needs you to do. And just that, just that little bit, just showing up and helping out, and He delights in you. What’s even better is that you don’t even need to show up to get started because the Lord has already set his spirit on you.
“I have SENT my spirit upon him…” or her. Before we even get started we’re already lined up to serve we’re already lined up for the highest honor imaginable. Fast forward real quick to 49:1 the start of the second song, “Coasts and Islands listen to me…the Lord has called me when I was in the womb, BEFORE MY BIRTH he had pronounced my name.” I don’t know if you realize it but that’s exactly what happens in Genesis 2. God breaths life into Adam, blows air into his lungs and grants him the spark of life, God speaks our name and gives us life, it is in that moment he gives us our own individual divine CPR and sets his spirit on us.
From the moment we are conceived and knitted together, from that moment wherein the Lord speaks our name His spirit rests on us and he has set aside a task for us should we ever decide to be available for it. And if you need a bit more illustration, turn to verse 5.
Now this is where things get a little dicey because the task set for us is in the next line. “I have sent my spirit upon him, he will bring fair judgement to the nations.” That’s hard. I don’t know about you but I’m about to judge anyone. Even when it’s fair, even when it’s easy to see that sadistic bastard is in fact a sadistic bastard, I’m not really prepared to judge him. Judge not lest ye be judged right? And yet there it is in black and white. “He will bring fair judgement to the nations.” It’s hard. I got to tell you when I was working on this I spent a lot of time staring at those words. How can I live up to this task? How can I bring judgement? How can I know it’s fair? I can stay in the spirit day and night, but what about when I’m not hearing? What about when I can’t feel the Presence and the Power and know that I’m doing it right? How can I judge then? How can I judge people I love? How do I reconcile a very clear call to love my neighbor and another call to judge him? How? And it isn’t a freak thing it’s all over the servant songs, take a look at them judgement is mentioned. Even Jesus is portrayed or called a judge more often than… I don’t a lover or something.
I can tell you how it isn’t done.
“He does not cry out or raise his voice, his voice is not heard in the street.” It’s not to us to stand on a soapbox and declaim the evils around us. It isn’t to us to go on a radio show and talk about the immorality of society. It IS NOT to us the task falls to to dictate the ethics or this world and mete out punishment based on our observations. We will not cry out or raise our voices on the streets, and the squares and the malls or the radio waves and TV talk shows to judge the world. It is not to us to look at a heroine addict and call them sinners and condemn them for their addiction. It is not to us to look at those in prison and say “you did evil and belong there.” We will not “break a crushed reed or snuff a faltering wick.” The easiest person to judge is someone clearly in pain from their mistakes and it is not a servant of God who calls them out. Because COMPASSION TRUMPS JUSTICE.
It is the servant who “faithfully presents fair judgement.” Judgement is for those strong enough to bear it, for those who should know better. Judgement is for the money changers in the temple who turn a house of prayer into a den of thieves, but even then, even then we do not break a crushed reed. We do not snuff out a faltering wick because compassion trumps justice. And the judgement we do bring, the justice we know, is saving justice. Verse 6, “I the Lord have called you in saving justice.” Salvation is justice.
As we have received so we give. we receive, we are called in saving justice and we give out the same. “I have grasped you by the hand and shaped you; I have made you a covenant of the people and a light to the nations” Notice these aren’t active. we are not called to deliberately remind people of covenant with the Lord, we aren’t supposed to ACTIVELY guide the people. He has shaped us to be those things without any active effort on our part. By simply being servants we are a reminder of the covenant. By serving the Kingdom we bring light to the nations. But here’s where it get’s really good.
“I have made you a covenant of the people and a light to the nations, TO OPEN THE EYES OF THE BLIND, TO FREE CAPTIVES FROM PRISON, AND THOSE WHO LIVE IN DARKNESS FROM THE DUNGEON.”
This is the work of the servant. Judgement yes, justice yes, but first and foremost a servant must serve and the service of the kingdom is in opening the eyes of the blind. It is in freeing captives from prison and bringing those who live in darkness into the light. And in case you weren’t paying attention before you don’t need to take classes on how to do it. You don’t need a workshop or a master’s degree, you don’t need anything but you and God and a willingness to serve because the very first line of the first song reads, “HERE is my servant.” HERE. Right Here. The Highest honor, the best tittle, a life worth living and a task wroth doing. Servant of the Lord, it’s all right here. “HERE is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.”