TRANSCRIPT (edited for clarity)
Welcome to Episode Two of our Advent series called Songs of the Servant. I'm Jamie Cain. In this series we're revisiting the familiar themes of Advent--hope and faith and joy and peace--by reading the prophet Isaiah's "servant songs" with Dr. Doug Beacham, Presiding Bishop of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
How does the grand plan of salvation that we discussed last week take shape in the servant's life? Well, in this second episode, we'll read the servants origin story in Isaiah 49:1-7, which highlights clear parallels to Jesus' Incarnation and his ministry. And we'll see again how God's plan for salvation extends far beyond Israel's borders. So again, open your Bible, or your Bible app, and join us in Isaiah 49, as we discuss how the faithful servant flies like an arrow to the nation's. Here's my conversation with Dr. Beacham.
We're going to read beginning in chapter 49, and we're going to begin reading in verse one. I'm reading from the New King James. Hear the word of the Lord.
49 “Listen, O coastlands, to Me,
And take heed, you peoples from afar!
The Lord has called Me from the womb;
From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.
2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword;
In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me,
And made Me a polished shaft;
In His quiver He has hidden Me.”
3 “And He said to me,
‘You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified.’
4 Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain;
Yet surely my just reward is with the Lord,
And my work with my God.’ ”
5 “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),
6 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.’ ”
And then I'm going to read verse seven, as well.
7 Thus says the Lord,
The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One,
To Him whom man despises,
To Him whom the nation abhors,
To the Servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise,
Princes also shall worship,
Because of the Lord who is faithful,
The Holy One of Israel;
And He has chosen You.”
May the Lord bless his Word to us today.
Well, I hear a lot of things in there that remind me of what we talked about with Isaiah 42. So kind of pick up that thread. Where do we see Jesus showing up here?
You know, if you didn't get a chance to listen to the one from the first Sunday of Advent, I hope you'll take a few minutes and go back and look at that. In that you remember, there's a reference to the coastlands, the coastlands come up, that's a metaphor for the Gentiles.
To those who are beyond the land, the land of Israel. And, and this is how this begins, this begins focusing on the Gentile world. And it's a message from God saying to those who do not recognize him, who do not, do not believe him. He's saying, "Listen to me, Take heed you peoples from afar." And then he goes, and now he reveals who the Messiah is. And it's really interesting. There are two references to being shaped in his mother's womb. One is that "The Lord called me from the womb; from the matrix of my mother, he made mention of my name." And then down at verse five. "And now the Lord says, who formed me from the womb to be a servant." You know, when I was reading this couldn't help but think of, of Joseph and Mary. You remember before he's born, really in the birth narratives area in Matthew for instance, where Joseph is the primary character. Mary's the primary character in Luke. But Joseph is the primary character in Matthew's account. And in the revelation that comes in a dream to Joseph, that Mary's conception, Mary's pregnancy is by the Holy Spirit. You find from the beginning, you're going to give him the name Yeshua. That Jewish name we translate in Greek, Jesus--in the English, Jesus, which means Savior. So from the matrix, the beginning of his conception and being formed in Mary's womb, you have this identity of who he is. "You have made mention of my name from the beginning." He's not born and then they figure out who he is. There is revelation of who he is. Do you remember in the episode, in Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asks the disciples, 'Who do men say that I am?" [Matthew 16:13-20] And they said, well, you're Jeremiah, you're one of the prophets, you're Elijah, etc. And he turns back to them, and he says, "Who do you say that I am?" Clarity. And Peter says, "You are the Christ, you're the Messiah, you're the Son of the living God." And Jesus comes back to him and says, "You didn't figure that out by yourself. That came by revelation." He didn't, you didn't have a lucky guess on a multiple choice SAT exam. It was revealed to you whether you understood it or not. What you just said, came from revelation.
That's what occurred for both Joseph and Mary. There was a revelation to her, by--in the Lucan account--by the angelic visitor, who brought revelation to her, had to make clear to her. And to Joseph in a dream, the Lord reveals to him, 'This, this is not, what you think it is, that she's been unfaithful to you." This is, this is the reality of God at work. And it's really interesting, you find in Matthew, Matthew will repeatedly use the word "behold." And you find it in Isaiah, you find it all through the Scriptures, that when, when that language is being used--whether it's in Hebrew, or whether it's in Greek--when "behold" is being used, it's like God saying, "Pay attention, because revelation is occurring." And so that's what's happening in this passage. Mary's role, it seems to me is really important when we think about this. I've been a bit baffled at times, that most Protestants and probably most Pentecostal Holiness are a little uncomfortable preaching too much about Mary. I understand it because of certain distortions of that. And yet, we miss part of the revelation that God has for us in Scripture. Here is probably a young woman, probably a teenager, someone who has, has an ear to hear. That's what's amazing to me. Hear it when you read, read the account, particularly in Luke, about the announcement that comes to to her and her willingness to say, Lord, let it be to me according to your word. That revelation has occurred. The Holy Spirit, the Bible tells us, the Holy Spirit will overshadow her.
It doesn't describe, by the way, when that happens. This is not like the Greek mythologies, of conceptions that would occur. This is very, very different from that. There's nothing erotic about this. This is--it's loving. But it's not--it's on a different plane. And it is, it is her willingness to say, "Lord, however you want to do this in my life." This occurs. The Holy Spirit--again, the Bible, the Bible gives absolutely no hint of any eroticism or anything of that nature. Not that that's, you know, sinful between husband and wife. That's not what I'm saying. The Bible is talking about something that is so unique in human history. That in her capacity--she's not a stupid woman. She knows what it's like to have a period. She--they're not, they're not sexually dumb. But she is able to accept that God's going to do something very different. And because of her obedience. That's the critical piece in here. She is willing to say, "Lord, let it be to me according--" and look what she said--"according to your word." She's appealing to God's righteousness. She's appealing to covenant. She's appealing to God's nature. And that's going on in this part of the story in relationship to her. And it's almost as if prophetically here, there is a sense of acknowledgement of who she is. And it's out of this woman--who is willing to be, if you please, the new Sarah, who is willing to be the one where faith arises, to believe what God has said--that, that in her womb is formed, the Savior, the fulfillment of what the Incarnation is meant to be. It's a great part of the past.
It's interesting, by the way, that all this language is used in relationship to the Gentiles. We do know in Isaiah 7, Isaiah talks about the virgin birth. "And behold, a virgin shall conceive; this will be the sign for you." The context of that passage is Isaiah talking to Ahaz. And he's talking to political rulers. And he's saying to a political ruler, "Do you have faith to believe that God will deliver you from the Assyrians?" And Ahaz has this sort of fake spirituality about him. Well, far be it from me to put God to the test." And Isaiah replies, you know, "Hey, you think it's bad enough that you frustrated me? With your false piety? You are frustrating God, too, because you won't believe. If you will not believe, you will not be established. That's what he says to him in Isaiah 7. So he's speaking to the principalities and powers represented in the political sphere. And he says, "Ask God for a sign." It's what Isaiah said to the king, "Ask God for a sign, he'll give it to you." And the guy said, "Oh, no, no, no, no, I'm not going to presume upon God." And you know, Isaiah says, "God and I have had it up to here with you. And he says, "God himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin is going to conceive and bear son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us." In other words, the promise is, "God's going to be with you. Will you accept that or not?" And, and so that promise is to a Jewish situation. Here, the promise related to the Messiah being formed in the womb of the Virgin, is to the Gentile world. And it's a great, great promise.
There's an interesting verse I wanted to tie into in verse four. Because it sort of stands in a little bit of tension with a little bit of what we saw last week. Where he says, in verse four, the servant says, "I've labored in vain. I've spent my strength for nothing and in vain. Yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work is with my God." If you remember back in the previous chapter, where we were looking at it there in 42, at verse four, it says, the Messiah "will not fail nor be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth."
Here, it almost sounds like he can be discouraged. We know in the garden of Gethsemane, that Jesus asked "Let this cup be passed from me." We know that had to be a horrible spiritual and mental anguish, for capillaries on his skin to break and sweat blood. So Jesus was not an early version of a Microsoft chip who just sort of ran on automation. We know that Jesus became frustrated with the lack of belief in Nazareth and other places. And it doesn't mean necessarily that he felt that he was a failure and those kinds of things. But it reveals his humanity. And he's he's got this reality of saying "I've labored in vain. I've spent my strength." You hear a little bit of that in the Apostle Paul. And everybody feels that way--whether it's a spiritual mission or your work or even within your family--"I've done my very best. And I feel like I've failed." It doesn't mean that God's failed. And it doesn't mean you're going to stay in that weak place. It means that it's an honest statement of our humanity where we are. And there's this promise from God that comes, you know, where the Lord says, going back to that passage earlier, from last week, "I will not fail, and I'm not going to be discouraged." That is another way of saying, "I'm not going to stop."
I'm not giving up. And that's what's going on here. "I am not giving up until God has established his purposes." And you find that at the end of verse four, "Surely my just reward is with the Lord. And my work is with God." And Paul ties into that a little bit at the end of I Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter. And it's because of the resurrection of Jesus, that Paul says that we have confidence that our labor is not in vain.
There are probably ministers who are listening to this today, and you're thinking, you know, my labor's not been successful. It's been in vain. Well, I'm telling you it's not. It's not that because I've said it. It's because Jesus has been raised from the dead, and his triumph is your triumph. "Your labor," Paul says at the end of first Corinthians 15, "is not in vain, so be steadfast, be immovable--that is, stand firm, in spite of how you feel. Stand firm, because of God's promises to you.
That's good. Well, I'm starting to see a little bit of a trajectory here. We talked last week about Jesus' eternal election in God. And now he's he's stepping onto the stage. He's putting on flesh. He's dealing with humanity. And even the being hidden away for a little while. Jesus didn't step right into ministry.
Yeah, he's 30 years old before he enters into ministry. The interesting language that would certainly be true for when this was written, and for the time of Jesus--and really up to the invention of gunpowder!--and that's bows and arrows, and a quiver. That's how you hunt. That's how you protect yourself. And he's saying I'm polished, being prepared.
You know, there's a metaphor to that in the New Testament. The language of sin, part of the language of sin in the New Testament is "hamartia," which has part of its meaning of missing the mark. It does not always imply moral failure. It implies a missing of what God's purpose was. So this metaphor and that kind of language comes from, you know, shooting an arrow and you miss the mark of it. Here the prophecy is, "I'm not going to miss the mark. I am prepared to be polished." It means, there's no rust or debris on it, that would affect the direction of the arrow once it's shot. It is smooth, it has no warping in it, no twist in it.
There's another interesting word. The word used in the Old Testament for iniquity has the sense of something being twisted. So when we talk about that there is iniquity in us, there's a sense in which something is twisted in us. That's true for all of us. This is why we need two touches in our Wesleyan understanding of God's redeeming grace to us. We need God's blood over our guilt, our actual transgressions. Forgiveness from those, which is where our sense of guilt arises from. The second, though, is we need a touch of the blood of Jesus. This is what we call sanctification, that addresses the twistedness inside of us--the way we think. And that twistedness, by the way, comes from the reality of our fallen humanity. Other factors play into it. If you were abused as a child or whatever the case may be, that adds to this twisting--even, you could call it perversion of our character. God does not leave us without hope there. And that's part of the meaning of sanctification. God addresses that. And that may be a lifelong process, in that most of us have got more twisting than we realize. But the polished arrow--"and he kept me hidden in his quiver." Till he was essentially 30 years old. We had the one episode when he's 12 years old, but he's essentially hidden until he is at this significant age of being 30 years old.
And then I really found verse six to be very interesting. "Indeed," he says--this is Isaiah 49, verse six--"It's too small a thing that you should be my servant." And I'm going to add, sort of interpretively, JUST "to raise up the tribes of Israel, just to restore the preserved ones of Israel." Your mission is bigger than that. Yes, it's to the Jew first. And that should never be forgotten. But it becomes "I will give you--" the Lord, the Lord, the creator. Father God, we would say. says to his Son, "I will give you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be my salvation to the ends of the earth."
Which ties into what Jesus said about himself. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." That is true for everybody on planet Earth. There are not multiple avenues and multiple steps to get to our Heavenly Father. Muhammad will not get you there. Buddha does not get you there. The gods of the secular society, your possessions, your education will not get you there. There's only One. His name is Jesus. He's the Son of God, who was born of the Virgin Mary. And all of that is important as we, sort of in our spirit, sing this servant song on the second Sunday of Advent.
I want to ask one last question because while you were talking, I couldn't help but think of the the Christmas hymn, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." And I think it's the last verse that talks about Christ being born in us. And so this, this passage points to Mary. It seems like it connects to us, too, that we are to bear Jesus into the world, to those countless coasts.
Yeah. You know, you mention Bethlehem. We have an IPHC church there. And twice in my life, I've been there in December, and during the Advent season, to be with our IPHC brothers and sisters in Bethlehem--Pastor Khader Khoury, and wonderful, wonderful people. And to go to Bethlehem, which is predominantly in the West Bank, predominantly a Muslim territory and city now. And it's interesting. They will decorate for Christmas, by the way, when you go there because it's a very powerful commercial time, of course. And it's a blessing to the Christian community that's there. Every time I go there, I'm struck by the topography of it. Very, very hilly, very rocky. Probably Jesus was born in maybe a cave kind of setting. Who knows for certain? But there are followers of Jesus still there. These Palestinian brothers and sisters, they--as you said in that last verse, they have said, "Let him be born in us today." And you're right. The message to the Jew and to the Gentile ultimately has to become a message that we individually hear and say, "Okay, this is for me, too." And that's the good news. Nobody has to be left out.
Well, on that note, would you pray for us?
Yeah. Well, Lord, thank you. Thank you that your amazing grace has been given for all of us. We thank you for the mission thrust, that stands behind these servant songs. For us to not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom on how to share our faith with our neighbors, to give us the insight, and the generosity, to share our resources with those who go to the ends of the earth, doing the work of the Christian mission beyond where we can go. So we pray, Lord, that even as the Virgin Mary, heard your promise to her, and said, "Let it be to me according to your word," Lord, we pray that we will pray that same prayer. That we will respond to your word to us, to say "let it be to us." And let there be birthed in us those things for our time and our generation that will reveal your glory, and the reality of your Son and our Savior Jesus, in the name of the Father, the Son the Holy Spirit. Amen.