Posted on January 9th, 2013
Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar!
The glory of Isaiah, and the glory of Epiphany, is the beautiful manifestation that Jesus the Jewish Savior is a gift also for the nations – for the coastlands and the peoples from afar.
This gift was planned from the beginning:
The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.
In Isaiah there is a series of “Servant Songs,” and what we hear tonight is the voice of that Servant, namely, the Son of God, incarnate for our salvation. From the womb of the virgin the LORD called to His Servant, His Son; while still within the body of blessed Mary He was named JESUS through the angel.
He is named JESUS, Yahweh is Salvation, but His salvation is a painful and costly rescue:
He has made My mouth like a sharp sword … and made Me a polished shaft.
The Words He speaks to us are truth, but it is a violent truth, “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow.” His Word is truth, and that truth declares we are atrocious sinners, despicable rebels, not worthy of any mercy or kindness. It is a hard truth speaking of death and destruction, both for our bodies and the world. It announces the death of our pride, the failure of our ambitions, the folly of our heart and the lewdness of our lusts.
But behold, in that violent truth from the sharp sword and well-made arrow is hidden the medicine for our wounds:
In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me … In His quiver He has hidden Me.
Elsewhere Holy Scripture reveals that the quiver is the family and children are arrows. In the beautiful family of Joseph and Mary, fashioned by mercy and led by grace, is hidden the God-man, JESUS. The naked eye sees a child cradled by a young mother, protected by a pious carpenter. But the eye of faith sees with the Magi a Child worthy of worship, the Creator come into His own creation.
He wrought mighty miracles, He showed kindness to the downcast, both Jews and Gentiles alike were blessed by his merciful deeds and rejoiced at the good news of God’s welcome, as a Father receiving home His lost son. But then, the One chosen from the matrix of His mother seems to end in futility. As the cries of derision rain down upon Him, and the spear thrusts up to disembowel Him, the Servant of the Lord says:
‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain.’
But precisely in this act, in the vanity and futility of the crucifixion, comes healing for the nations. In the darkness of that death came Light for all lands.
Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob … I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’
Thus what we celebrate at Epiphany is that God in man is manifest. But if the Man Jesus were only manifest as God, what would it benefit us? Or if He were the Savior of the Jews only, what good would it be for us?
But God was not willing that any, Jew or Gentile, should perish. Thus the Redeemer of Israel becomes also our Redeemer, and we, together with kings and princes, hail Him as our Savior, chosen by God not for merit but in mercy. And the purpose of our church is to confess Immanuel as God still with us, for the mercy of our community. And one last thing: as we approach that dark day commemorating forty years of the slaughter of the innocents in our land, let us declare in every place that every child is also called by God from the matrix of the mother’s womb, and seek to hide and welcome them in the quiver of our homes and school and church.