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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 14, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 50:4–9

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. (NRSV)

How do your mornings begin? So often when our feet hit the floor, many voices compete for our attention as they seek to direct our path at the dawn of each new day. So to whom should we first bend our ears?

In this passage, the third of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” the prophet styled as the servant of the Lord, begins the day by listening to God. “Morning by morning” the prophet is awakened by God who instructs and guides this representative of Israel exiled in Babylon. After listening, the prophet is given a message of divine comfort and challenge to boldly proclaim. In these words from Isaiah, we meet someone who is humble and patient in seeking the voice of God above all else.

Yet listening for the clarion voice of God rather than competing influences comes with a cost. The prophet is asked by God to “sustain the weary,” to renew those persons whom scripture often calls the downtrodden, the grief-stricken, the poor, or the vulnerable. To do this, however, the prophet will likely also need to challenge the secure and comfortable, who may find themselves troubled by his message. Nevertheless, Isaiah’s prophet is willing to persist and bear the possible rebuke of these powerful opponents. Here we see glimpses of the approach Jesus commends to his disciples in the Beatitudes: turning the other cheek and forgoing the use of evil against evil. This approach is not to glorify undeserved suffering; rather it is an unwavering commitment to listen to God and to the voices of our suffering neighbors, trusting that through such actions God’s redemption will be made visible.

As each day unfolds, are we willing to engage in such deeply attentive and potentially costly listening to God and neighbor? If we are, this passage reminds us that, despite the troubles that may come, through our faithfulness God’s love will be made visible and real.

Loving and just God, may our spirits sing at the sound of your voice. May our minds be receptive to your thoughts and ways. Help us to listen to you and the cries of our neighbor, so that we may boldly proclaim your promises to those who are near and far. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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