Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Chosen Servant - Isaiah 42 / Matthew 12

The whole block of Isaiah 40 - 55 conveys God's desire: that people are restored, picked back up and set right. God literally sings over His people and His servant, using poetic language to express His deeply held intent. Chapter 42 is the first of four 'servant songs', conveying emotional language: 'a bruised reed he will not break, a smouldering wick he will not snuff out'.

We might feel broken and helpless, on our last dregs with no hope. But God wants to restore you, to include you, for you to be part of His purposes. Reeds can be used for building (e.g. houses or boats), but you don't use the broken ones. Those you snap and discard onto the fire ... but not God! He wants to include you anyway! Wick is used in a lamp. Of course over time the end becomes burnt and frayed. The logical thing to do is snuff it out, trim off the burnt end and start over ... but not God! He wants to fan you back into full flame!

So see how much God is for you! No matter how bruised/broken/burnt God wants to restore you. Across the country Christians are discovering that people on the street simply do not know how much God is for them. We too work with broken people, including some locked in addictions. A common characteristic they have is not realising just how much God is for them. So starting with ourselves, consider the key question:

[UP] Do you get how much God is for us?
Challenge: Ask God 'who do you say I am?'

For sure there will be things in us God isn't happy with, that need attention. But they can be resolved in the journey of healing and restoration God is willing to lead you on. The challenge is therefore to pause and contemplate, asking about our core identity as God sees it. This is not 'who do I want to be?', it is not about self, your ideas or ambition ... but what God sees in you. It is the reverse of the question we will hear Jesus ask of His disciples next week! Yet it is appropriate because our journey whereby God restores us is anchored in who Jesus is, and then knowing who we are in him enables us to minister to others.

The song conveys that God has a specific servant for this restoring work, on whom God's Spirit will rest. The role can be summed up as: to bring justice. We might think of justice as 'law + crime = penalty/punishment'. We might think of retribution (he stole, so he must lose ... they blew up, so we will blow up ...). Yet here justice is different - it has the desire to restore, and will go out to those on the margins and start there!

Two other differences for the servant: Firstly he will be about quiet revolution, not hype and popular crowd revolt. Secondly he will not fit the religious establishment, which sadly becomes a place that holds people with a distance to God rather than truly liberating them to be God's people. Matthew, in writing about Jesus, gets this. Chapters 11 & 12 dig into who Jesus is, giving the answer that Jesus is the special anointed servant of God, with the Spirit resting on Him to bring justice. He won't play the crowd, and finds himself in conflict with the establishment: Isaiah 42 is fulfilled!

Jesus came to restore, including you! Yet in Jesus restoring you, understand that it is not just about you. Yes He wants to restore you, but you are part of something bigger. Isaiah 42 continues to the bigger role of being light for those who don't/can't yet know about God. The servant will initiate this, but God wants to include you in the task!

The bruised reed and smouldering wick illustrations are not just for individuals, but collectively for His people. Five times Isaiah talks of a 'remnant': Israel is attacked and decimated, yet a remnant will remain to be restored. God wants to restore you, but it's a much bigger picture than just you. It's bigger than just us as one church - it includes our friends across the road, round the corner, even the 'establishment church' down the road! God's desire overall is to not snuff out but to restore ... to have a people following His purposes who are part of the global project of restoring any and all of who would be saved.

Matthew 12 finishes with a quirky episode where Jesus gives a new definition of family. His followers are His family - whoever comes on board with the will of His Father! Be restored, be part of the bigger picture, part of the family!

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