The 16th Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 19B (Sept. 16, 2012)
Lessons:Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 116:1-9 (9) James 3:1-12 St. Mark 8:27-38 Semicontinuous Series Proverbs 1:20-33 Psalm 19 (7) or Wisdom 7:26 – 8:1 (7:28)
Prayer of the Day O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation, and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives. Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil, take up our cross, and follow your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
50:4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9 It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
Isaiah 50:4-9a. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
God’s Word – A Source of Strength and Hope
This week we return to the prophet Isaiah, and his words to God’s people some six hundred years or so before the birth of Christ. However these words come from a different setting than last week’s. Last week we heard Isaiah’s message to those who lived in Judah before the Babylonians conquered it. He warned them that if they did not return to God, they would be destroyed. They didn’t listen, and consequently found themselves carried off into captivity in Babylon. The words of this week’s text were most likely spoken to those captives — people who longed for their homeland, and the promises of God that came with it. People who wondered if God had given up on them. People who wondered if they had any kind of a future at all.
Isaiah spoke to them as a teacher. Reminding them of God’s promises, he spoke words of strength to the weary. He gave himself to those who would strike him. He subjected himself to insults and spitting. He offered himself as a servant to them, much as Christ would some centuries later, and was not put to shame — because he knew his vindication was near. The Lord God was his strength, and would ultimately conquer any force that came against him.
One can imagine how the people of Israel and Judah, taken captive in a frightening and unfamiliar land, held to these words with their hearts. The Lord God helps me. [v. 7] It is God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? [v. 9] They memorized them. They taught them to their children. They hung them over their mantles. They posted them on their doors. For God’s captive people, these words became beacons of hope that allowed them to persevere during an indescribably difficult time. And when the whole experience came to its conclusion, they wrote those words down, that they might become a source of hope and inspiration for generations to come.
Isaiah’s message was powerful for God’s people, because ultimately the words weren’t Isaiah’s. They were God’s. And God’s word has the power to make a difference in the lives of those who experience it. That is why people have memorized portions of scripture throughout the centuries. When committed to memory, those Scriptures become part of a believer. They shape God’s people in remarkable ways.
So, like the people of Isaiah’s day, we too depend on God’s word to give us grace and comfort and guidance and direction. As we read it and study it and memorize it, may we too be changed – and find the ability to offer our lives to God in a way that witnesses throughout the world to the power of God’s word
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why did the people of Isaiah’s time feel so desperate?
- What did Isaiah say to them that gave them hope and inspiration?
- Of the words in today’s lessons, which ones must have been most meaningful to the people of Isaiah’s day?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What situations in my life cause me to despair?
- What word of God has been helpful to me in the past?
- How might I develop a plan to commit portions of God’s word to memory?