Lord, give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in Your knowledge. Amen.
Text: Isaiah 49:5–6
“And now the Lord says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
This Servant of the Lord, the Savior of the tribes of Jacob, and the Light of the Gentiles, is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. The aged Simeon’s song originated from our text. Christ’s Spirit in the prophets lives in him, and repeats the words in this way: “My eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luk 2:30-32).
Christ shall convert Jacob, that is, the Jewish people. But He was rejected, from His mother’s womb, and His power was with the Lord, and He must say: “‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain” (v. 4). This is both sad and happy to hear. It is sad because of Israel. O children of Abraham, “who are Israelites, to whom belong the adoption of sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and God’s service and the promises, and from whom Christ came according to the flesh,” God’s chosen, the people of His own possession, are scattered to the winds and refuse to be gathered by their own King! But it is happy for us: that much sooner we receive the salvation they rejected. When those invited reject the call to the Supper, then the lame and blind and crippled in the highways and byways are invited. The last are first and the first last.
So it is comforting for us to hear our Lord Jesus Himself lament over the futility of His work – futile, and yet not futile! O how good for us that the Lord Himself is tried by it! A true servant of the Lord is troubled over the stubbornness of his people and is zealous for their salvation. He works, he invites and calls, he urges them and prays for them before God and does not imagine that they still want to serve Satan. He must only speak the Word of life to their soul: – in vain he wearies himself for the irreverent; they do not want to repent. “But now the Lord says: It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” This will be the final result of His saving work. But in this work all His servants labor, and He accomplishes it through them when they think all is in vain. Nothing that is done for the Lord is in vain, nothing at all. Every good thought you think and every power of love and truth you consider is from God. How then can it be useless? Your uncertainty can hinder it, but the Lord also knows that and He does in wisdom what you do in foolishness. No, the good you do is not in vain, but the good you neglect. Be zealous and rejoice, the glory of the Lord is advanced by your service, and Christ’s saving grace shall go forth to the end of the earth.
In such faith make us diligent to do Your work, Lord Jesus. Amen.
For those who walk in sadness deep
With blinded souls e’er sinking
He brings the Gospel’s gladness sweet,
Enlight’ning mind and thinking.
Though unbelievers walk in night
Without the guidance of Your light,
From blesséd comfort shrinking.
Lift up your eyes and see them all,
Gentiles from ev’ry nation;
They heed the Lord’s most gracious call
And seek His free salvation.
His sons and daughters they shall be;
Their God then face to face shall see –
O wondrous declaration!
Kingo: Vær trøstig, Zion L 194:3-4 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Nun freut euch (ELH 378); alternate hymn: We give Thee but Thine own ELH 445:3-4