Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Monday & Tuesday Palm Week, meditation on Isaiah 48-49

Monday, Isaiah 48: 17-22 & 49: 1-4 Thus says the Lord: who delivered you, the Holy One of Israel: I am your God, I have shown how to find the way by which you should go. And if you had listened to my commandments, your peace would have been like a river, and your justice like the waves of the sea; your progeny would have been like the sand, and offspring of your womb like the dust of the earth; now you would never be cut off or your name destroyed from before me. Go forth from Babylon, as you flee from the Chaldeans; declare this with a shout of joy, let this be heard; proclaim it to the end of the earth; say, “The Lord has delivered his servant Jacob!” And if they thirst, he will bring them through the desert; he will bring water out of the rock for them; the rock will be split open and water will gush out, and my people will drink. There is no joy, says the Lord, for the ungodly. Listen to me, you islands, and attend, you nations. For a long time he will stand, says the Lord. He called my name from my mother’s womb and made my mouth like a sharp sword and hid me in the shadow of his hand; he made me like a chosen arrow, he hid me in his quiver. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and in you I will be glorified”. But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have given my strength for nothing and for futility; therefore, my judgement is from the Lord, and my toil before my God.”

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If God’s people had listened to him; if we listen to him now we would be a whole world in motion, showing the power of the Creator in all things. But rescues us anyway, despite our disobedience, we can still oeby him by fleeing evil, even after it has once captured us. If we do, we can escape in exodus through the desert where God will feed us and quench our thirst. We can proclaim loudly our deliverance by God. He knows from the moment of our conception and raised us as secret weapon for his final victory. Only God can wield us and provide the strength, and effectively complete the work which only he understands he has made us for. This is the incarnation of Christ: he comes to turn his human life, and even death, into a destruction of death and the devil. That sharp sword and that hidden arrow is cross of Christ that we reach after the fast of repentance, when we flee from sin and seek the life that comes as a gift from God, in the resurrection.

Tuesday Isaiah 49: 6-10

Thus says the Lord: I have given you as a covenant for a race, as a light for nations, for you to be as salvation to the end of the earth. Thus says the Lord: who delivered you, the God of Israel, “Sanctify the one who despises his soul, who is abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers. Kings shall see him and arise; rulers, and they shall worship him, because of the Lord; for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and he chose you”. Thus says the Lord: “In an acceptable time I heard you, in a day of salvation I helped you. And I fashioned you I and gave you as a covenant for nations, to establish the land, to apportion desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out’, to those who are in darkness, “Be revealed.” They shall feed along all the ways, on all the paths shall be their pasture. They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them, for he who has mercy on them will comfort them, and through springs of water he will lead them.

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God’s servant, Israel, is given as a salvation that provides a covenant of life between God and the nations. This covenant, both “Old” and “New, ” and the servant Israel, is Christ. Jacob wrestles and is even wounded by God as he demands a blessing. God, who refuses to give his own name, gives him a name which is in the end God’s own name, a sign that Israel will see God even in his own wounded flesh, on the Cross.  Israel has served the nations as a small and despised nation, so as to prepare the suffering that is the Cross of Christ, which he mounts to reign over all: “to us who are being saved it is the power of God… that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” God waits until an acceptable time, a carefully prepared time to reveal that the mystery of what he fashions in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ: “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.” He is calling the Gentiles—a covenant to the nations in the Church and to the weak, the foolish, the sick, the dying—to “come out” and “be revealed” as the risen body of those who were hungry and thirsty for righteousness, persecuted for the sake of God’s name, but yet receiving mercy and comfort in the end of all, with God who raises the dead and vindicates those who were falsely accused and cast out and oppressed.