I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. Isaiah 49:6
A few weeks ago, one of our Epiphany scriptures was also from Isaiah: “Arise, shine, for your light has come; and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
This passage, combined with the one above (Is. 49:6), conveys a clear vision of sacred intimacy along with full participation in God’s purposes for the world. Isaiah’s idea of light and salvation is highly spiritual; and, the image he provides also visibly practical, having much to do with structures, attitudes, and proactive inclusion in daily life. In both passages, we can almost hear the rhythm of God’s heartbeat for humanity pulsating with the hope of holy connectedness for all creation.
The Meaning of Salvation: Best translated “wholeness,” or “wellness,” this biblical idea of salvation presents us with a divine challenge of this universal connection.From Isaiah, God’s hopeful dream re-emerges with Jesus, continues with the Early Church and still propels the soaring imagery of modern prophets. Persevering for peace and working for justice remain longstanding biblical callings. And while sometimes appearing elusive in our day, this sacred challenge to be “God’s light for the nations” on behalf of God’s salvation persists as a bedrock principle.
Understanding, Appreciation and Respect: Earlier in Isaiah, in the nineteenth chapter, the prophet paints this dramatic image of a highway connecting Assyria, Israel, and Egypt. These were three bitter enemies and eternal rivals. But in Isaiah’s image of God’s ultimate vison, they would speak the same language. They would worship the same God. They would have the same goals of unity and prosperity. In other words, they would begin the hard but fulfilling task of learning to understand and appreciate one another. As a result, they would also begin to respect each other. This divine dream is nothing the prophet imagines happening by chance, but by a dramatic in-breaking of God’s blessedness where erstwhile enemies become passionate friends. And for the vision to come alive in the real world, God’s inbreaking also needs willing women and men of faith willing to serve in this risky but awesomely rewarding love that God’s light and salvation convey.
For this month, then, with the power God’slove, feel the light of God in your life. Honor God’s presence in all you do; let God use you, and trust the grace and blessedness of what happens next will be in the strong, steady, saving hands of God. And be ready to shine with the light of God’s salvation! Amen.
Ironically, Isaiah’s words emerge from the traumatic events of exile and displacement (597-539 BC). Jerusalem lay in ruins. The temple had been destroyed. God had seemed by many to be distant and silent. And yet, some of the most hopeful words in the Bible were inspired from these most difficult of times.