Covenant of Light (Isaiah 42)
- Liturgy: Divine Service 4
- Hymns: LSB #395, 405, 411, 605, 601, 398
- Location: Peace, Robbinsdale
I will give You as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations. (Isaiah 42:6)
Who is God talking to as He says these things? Is it the prophet Isaiah? It is the people of Israel? Is it someone else? If we go back to the beginning of our Old Testament reading this morning, we see Him speaking of His chosen, delightful Servant. However, that doesn't necessarily help us. Couldn't Isaiah be this Servant?
Who is this Servant of whom God says: "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen, in whom My soul delights"? We wrestle with three questions with this text:
- Does this statement apply to a single person or to a group of people?
- What does God say He will do through this Servant?
- What does this covenant meant for me?
The first question: Does this apply to a single person or to a group of people? Is this Servant a real person or just an ideal? After all, the description could be made about many people.
Everyone is a servant of God because He created them all. Everyone owes their existence to the Creator. But a chosen servant, one whom God upholds? Examples abound in the Scriptures.
- Noah was chosen from his generation and upheld with his family in the Ark.
- Abraham was chosen and upheld as he left family and home to follow God's calling into the Promised Land.
- Moses was chosen and upheld as he led the children of Israel through the Wilderness.
- David was chosen from watching his flocks to be anointed King and Shepherd of Israel.
The list can go on and on. But is this what God is talking about here?
He continues, "I have put My Spirit upon Him." Who does this apply to? Anyone called by God, including you who have been baptized. God's Spirit is upon all who believe in Him. After all, that's His job. Creating faith in the one true God.
The next thing God says is that "He will bring forth justice to the nations." That narrows it down a bunch. Justice belongs to the realm of the government. God instituted the government to pursue justice. To approve the good. To execute God's wrath on the evildoer. This brings us back to David and God's promise to him that his dynasty would last forever. So this Servant must come from David's kingly line. But even the good kings could barely bring justice to Israel or Judah. Matthew takes this to heart as he begins his Gospel with Jesus' genealogy. To show his Jewish readers that Jesus is the Servant God speaks about to Isaiah. After all, Jesus is the only one who fulfills the rest of God's description.
"He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench." Jesus gave Pilate no answer as the chief priests piled on false charge after false charge. He quietly and meekly came with the throngs to be baptized by John. Despite John's objections, Jesus humbled Himself to fulfill all righteousness. He would not break the "bruised reed" of John's uncertainty. He would not quench the faint burning of the faithful who came to John as a prophet.
So, now that we have established that Jesus is the Servant in Isaiah, we wrestle with a second question: What does God say He will DO through Him? "I will give You as a covenant for the people." People aren't covenants. People make covenants. People break covenants. But people are not covenants. Except for Jesus. He has always been the covenant. God spoke the world into existence. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. God saved Noah and his family from the Flood. Baptism gives us this same salvation. God chose Israel from all the other nations to be His treasured possession. From this nation, God brought forth Jesus. The Servant who would be "a light for the nations."
Jesus shows up as the Light throughout the Scriptures. The bush on Mount Sinai that was burning but not burned up. The Light of salvation to the nations. The glory of the LORD that rises upon the faithful. Aged Simeon's words, which we echo after receiving the Lord's Body and Blood: "O Lord, now let Your servant depart in heavenly peace, for I have seen the glory of Your redeeming grace: a light to lead the Gentiles unto Your holy hill, the glory of Your people, Your chosen Israel." Jesus calls Himself "the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life." As St. Paul defends his faith before King Agrippa, he point out that "the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles."
Jesus is the Light that breaks forth into an everlasting covenant "aglow with grace and mercy." A covenant that shines forth the marvelous Light that brings forth salvation. Therefore we celebrate Baptism. Our own Baptism. Jesus' Baptism for you in the Jordan River.
Baptism is that moment when you were transferred out of the Satan's kingdom of darkness into Jesus' kingdom of light. This began with Jesus humbling Himself "to fulfill all righteousness." Being citizens of His kingdom, we were brought into His Covenant of Light. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it. The so-longed for promised Light is finally in the world. Why does it shine? "To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." But I'm not blind. I'm not in prison. What does this covenant mean FOR ME?
That's our third question to wrestle with. You have been transferred from Satan's kingdom of darkness into Jesus' kingdom of light. You are a new creation. "The former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare." Jesus came to the Jordan to shine His covenant of Light upon all people. Those gathered on the river's edge. You gathered in this sanctuary. Everyone who has been gathered to Him in Baptism. All things are new again because the Light has shined and brought you into His everlasting covenant.
Again, what does it me for me? As a part of Christ, you shine with His Light. The Light given you in your Baptism. Symbolized by the candle that was given to you. "Receive this burning light to show that you have received Christ who is the Light of the world. Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet Him with joy and enter with Him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end."
How do you live "in the light of Christ"? The Psalmist says, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. You live in Christ's covenant of Light by being in His Word. By loving His Word. Studying it by yourself and with your fellow Christians. You don't live this Christian life in a vacuum that only connects with people on Sunday morning. You live this Christian life every day. Everywhere you go. To all the people you meet. You shine the Light that is within you.
Has your light grown a bit dim lately? Have the problems and cares of this world tried to quench it? That's nothing new. People thought they had quenched the Light completely when they crucified Him. All that did was make it to shine brighter. In this Light, we carry the only hope for this world. There is no other hope than that which is found in Christ and His covenant of Light. And it's yours to share.
The best thing about sharing the Light? It grows as you share it. Not just in others. In you as well. That's what Isaiah was doing in his prophetic career. That's what Jesus did as He came to John at the Jordan River and throughout His earthly ministry. That's what Paul and the rest of the Apostles did as they went throughout the Roman Empire, sharing the Gospel. They shared the Light of the world so that everyone, "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" might hear and rejoice in this wonderful Light. Amen.
- Isaiah 42:1
- Isaiah 42:1
- Job 12:10; Acts 17:28
- Genesis 6:8
- Genesis 12:1-3; 14:17-24; 15:1-11; 17:1-14; 21:22-34; etc.
- Exodus 3:7-12; 17:1-7; 34:29-35; Numbers 16; etc.
- 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 17:41-54; 2 Samuel 2:1-7; 5:1-16; 7:1-17; etc.
- Isaiah 42:1
- Romans 6:5
- Acts 2:37-39
- 1 Corinthians 12:3
- Isaiah 42:1
- Romans 13:1-5
- 2 Samuel 7:16
- For example: Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:41-50; 2 Chronicles 17-20), Joash (2 Kings 11-12; 2 Chronicles 23-24), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32; Isaiah 36-39) and Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35).
- Matthew 1:1-17
- Isaiah 42:2-3
- Matthew 27:12-14
- Matthew 3:13-15
- Matthew 11:9-15
- Isaiah 42:6
- Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; Hebrews 11:3
- John 1:1, 14; Colossians 1:16
- 1 Peter 3:18-22; 2 Peter 2:5
- Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:12; 26:18
- Isaiah 42:6
- Exodus 3:2
- Isiah 49:6; Acts 13:47
- Isaiah 60:1-3
- LSB p. 211; cf. Luke 2:29-32
- John 8:12
- Acts 26:23
- LSB #395.1
- 1 Peter 2:9
- Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 5:8
- Matthew 3:15
- John 1:5
- Isaiah 42:7
- Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 5:8
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Isaiah 42:8
- LSB p. 271; cf. Matthew 25:1-13
- Psalm 119:105
- Revelation 7:9