During the season of Advent, I am going to do something new on the blog. I am going to try my best to offer a daily reflection here as we journey through this season together. To help frame the devotions I have been using hashtags designed by a group with the Episcopalian church. For example, the hashtag assigned for today is #Prophet.
During Advent we often hear the words of the prophets as they proclaim the good news of the coming Messiah and the changes that God is bringing about. One of the most widely heard prophets during this season is Isaiah, in part because so many of the prophecies in the book we know of as Isaiah appear in the gospel narratives.
In Isaiah 42 we hear about the Lord’s servant who though suffering, will be first a servant who will bring justice. The passage is overflowing with social justice ideas as related to the reversal and change that God is bringing about.
Within the first nine verses we hear:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”
We hear these repeated themes of justice, righteousness, light and covenant. These are themes throughout Isaiah and the prophets. This passage is a prophecy that Christians believe at least points straight to Jesus. There’s good reason for this as the connection is directly made in Matthew 12:18-21. This prophecy is one of a servant.
In considering Matthew’s quotation of this, Matthew 12:20-21 really stands out to me. “He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” There’s that Advent theme of hope again. But also, is this distinction of the servant being someone who is peaceful in ways of bringing justice. This will not be a servant of violence, because of the non-broken reeds. This will be a peaceful servant.
This isn’t the sort of prophecy that gets picked up by the masses. Think for example today. Of those people whom popular culture might call prophets, or of self-proclaimed prophets on the sides of the road with road signs or on their own television shows, many of these people’s prophecies are big. Usually they are about some calamity or destruction, or at least some violent change. Today’s reading however, reminds about major changes without seeming to have the violence and destruction.
Do you think someone’s prophecy today about some kind of servant or love, would get as many eyeballs and sound bites? I’m guessing this may well have been the case for the original prophecy from Isaiah as well. Nonetheless, I find some hope in this, especially as we need good news and guidance to change today just as much as the nations did thousands of years ago.
So as for today’s topic, who or what is a prophet? How do they stand out? What might a prophet be proclaiming today?
For more thought provoking ideas about prophets, I suggest reading Abraham Heschel’s “The Prophets.”
Image Credit: Isaiah