Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9
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.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
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.
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;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
We will be moving into Holy week soon, and this is one of the texts in the Revised Common Lectionary ascribed to Palm/Passion Sunday. This passage is one of the four passages in Isaiah described as a “servant song.” They are the words of a suffering servant. Many will understand the servant songs to be prophetic words pointing to Jesus.
The theme is one of listening, teaching, withstanding humiliation, courage and trusting in God. Jesus would certainly fit that description. He was closely connected to who we would understand to be the other two persons of the Trinity: God the parent and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us and the world what God is truly like. Soon, we will again walk with him on the difficult journey to the cross; a journey filled with humiliation, suffering and shame, even to the point of death. It must have been a difficult journey, to say the least.
I don’t think these words from Isaiah are meant to be calling us all to be “suffering servants” as much as they are calling us to reflect upon our faith and the upcoming events of Holy week. To me, there is good news even in this. God is a god who can be trusted, to stand with us in the most difficult of situations, where there is seemingly no hope. God never left, even as Jesus was humiliated, beaten, and killed on that very first Good Friday. Easter morning proves that.
So, perhaps, these words of Isaiah can also provide some comfort to us, when life is hard. “The Lord God helps me,” we hear from the suffering servant. The Lord God also helps us. It may not always be by taking away our suffering, but God still walks with us in the midst of it, to give us strength, and to eventually bring us to a place of eternal joy, healing and new life.
Loving God, you never leave our side, even when life is hard. May we always trust in your love. Prepare us now to walk with your son, as we get ready to enter the most difficult events of the Christian story.