"The Lord has honored me..." Isaiah 49:5d
It seems the Olympics have been covered live 24/7 this past week... and there is still plenty of action to go! I love watching the athletes beam with national pride when receiving their medals, recognizing their achievement as the best in the world. As I've listened to many of those competing in the games, the following phrase has often been used: "It's just an honor to be here and represent my country." I'm sure it is, and what a joy it is to see the excellence they demonstrate in their respective sport.
As a follower of Christ, each disciple is honored with an assignment. It is a race to be sure - a race against time, as we seek to expose the world to God's redemptive love and mercy. Isaiah speaks of it in today's five understandable words. They are found in an interesting section of the prophet's inspired writing:
- He calls for attention to his message. (49:1)
- He declares his qualification as being called before birth. (v.1)
- He recognizes the power of his words as being a sharp arrow in God's quiver. (v2)
- He echoes God's message to the nation of Israel. (v.3)
Isaiah cries out for attention to a message given to him by God. He specifically addresses those in distant lands - those who are "far away" (v.1). People oftentimes think the Bible has no relevance for those in the world today. Nothing could be further from the truth. This message from Isaiah is directed to us: "people of a distant land". Then he echoes the sentiment with the phrase, "you who are far away". It seems to ring with a spirit of reconciliation. God wants those whose hearts are far away from Him to draw near to Him, and He will reciprocate the action (read James 4:8).
There was no educational pedigree cited as his qualifying authority. Instead, the prophet simply states that God had called him from before his birth. It's hard to get my mind around that phrase. It seems to say that not only does God number our days (read Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16), but it gives credence that God is more involved in our life's direction than we may think - especially if one is called by God to deliver His Word of life. Isaiah leaves no doubt that he had been commissioned by God in verse three, describing God's call on his life: "You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory." It seems that one person may be called to represent a nation to God, so God might represent Himself to that nation through that one person. What greater honor could there be for a person? Thus the significance of today's five understandable words: "The Lord has honored me." (v.5) Perhaps, though, the real calling is to the nation Israel... just as it may be to us today: to bring God glory through our lives and our worship.
As God's messenger, Isaiah did not shrink from his calling, acknowledging God's power to anoint the message he was to carry. It appeared, though, that Isaiah was very human: at one moment he declares himself as a sharp arrow in God's quiver (v.2), only to shrink back in doubt stating his work as being useless. I can relate... verse four echoes loudly in my heart: "But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose." Have you ever felt that way? Maybe I'm the only one. However, after Isaiah's brief 'pity-party', he states he will leave the results to God - trusting in His reward. God strengthens Isaiah by reminding him of the calling he received while still in the womb of his mother (see v.5).
Isaiah then provides the full scope of the message: he was to restore the people of Israel and to be a light to the Gentiles - bringing God's salvation to the end of the earth. That's the big picture, folks... it embodies Jesus' Great Commission to the disciples and to us today: we are to be intentional in the message each of us carries, for it will echo to the nations by those arriving on our shores and who live within our borders.
The honor is to represent our Lord, just as the Olympic athletes represent their respective countries. The prize is greater than gold! It's eternal. It can never be taken away. It will be given to each personally, so run this race of life to win others to the eternal prize.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." (1 Co. 9:24-25)
steve (John 3:30)