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God’s light-giving purpose for God’s people

October 30, 2023

Daily Scripture

Isaiah 42:5-8, Isaiah 49:6

Isaiah 42
5 God the LORD says—
    the one who created the heavens,
    the one who stretched them out,
    the one who spread out the earth and its offspring,
    the one who gave breath to its people
    and life to those who walk on it—
6 I, the LORD, have called you for a good reason.
    I will grasp your hand and guard you,
    and give you as a covenant to the people,
    as a light to the nations,
7     to open blind eyes, to lead the prisoners from prison,
    and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.
8 I am the LORD;
    that is my name;
    I don’t hand out my glory to others
        or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 49
6 He said: It is not enough, since you are my servant,
    to raise up the tribes of Jacob
    and to bring back the survivors of Israel.
    Hence, I will also appoint you as light to the nations
    so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Tomorrow and Wednesday we’ll read texts in which Jesus spoke of his followers as lamps spreading light in the world. But as with most of his other key teachings, Jesus did not make up those images out of thin air. Instead, he “harvested” (so to speak) the very best parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. Just as the “greatest commandments” he named came from the Hebrew Scriptures (cf. Mark 12:28-33), so his images of lamps and light drew on the prophet many mainline scholars identify as “second Isaiah.”

  • Today’s verses spoke to Israel’s return from exile, created as God worked through Persian king Cyrus (cf. Isaiah 45:1-4). In Isaiah 42, God called Israel back to God’s original purpose for them (cf. Genesis 12:1-3). Jesus read very similar words from Isaiah 61 to define his own mission, when many Israelites seemed unwilling to be a light to the nations (cf. Luke 4:16-21). Why did the prophet need to remind his hearers that God’s purpose reached beyond their national interests?
  • Isaiah 49 more plainly emphasized the depth of God’s call to returning Israel. “It is not enough,” the prophet said on God’s behalf, “to bring back the survivors of Israel.” God’s goal, as it had always been, was for “my salvation to reach to the end of the earth.” How does Resurrection create opportunities for you to take part in that mission? To learn about local initiatives, click here; for the range of global ways to spread the light, click here.

Lord, when the world around me seems dark and dismal, help me not to cower away from the darkness. Send your Spirit into my heart and move me to share the light you give me with others. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel was born, raised, and attended college in California. Her Master of Divinity degree is from Duke Divinity School. She was ordained in the Rio Texas Conference, serving as an associate pastor in the Austin area and San Antonio. From congregational care and welcoming guests to leading in worship, Valerie loves the ministry of the local church. She feels blessed to have served as a pastor since 2011. She juggles ministry with being a mom to Caleb (born 2012) and Jacob (born 2015), friend, avid reader, lover of the outdoors, beginner to the world of CrossFit, and foodie.

We go through some experiences we will never forget. No matter what is happening in our lives, the memory is always just quietly there. When we allow the memory room to breathe, we can remember what we saw, how we felt, and what we thought as it was happening. I was in college working at a Christian summer camp when something happened that broke my heart wide open. I remember after it happened that I went outside and lay in the grass, flat on my back. I didn’t have words. I was so sad for the one who was suffering. I couldn’t believe that the world could be so terrible. I couldn’t understand why God allowed what happened.

As I lay there looking up at the sky, I knew God was with me and the one who was in pain. Romans 8:26 came to my mind: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Even as I didn’t have words to pray, I knew that God knew what was in my heart. I knew God cared more deeply for me and for the one who was suffering than I could ever understand. I didn’t need words to cry out to God and God didn’t have any simple answers for me.

I confess that I don’t often watch the news. It overwhelms me. I can read some news, but I selectively choose what to read about current events. I don’t want to be immobilized by the suffering and pain of the world. But I also don’t want to ignore what’s happening. When I hear about tragedies and wonder what is my work to do, I start with a passage like Isaiah 42:6 and remember that it is God who reaches out to grasp me. It is God who first loves. It is God who first acts. It is God who makes life and grace and salvation possible. God has called me. God has called you. God has called Resurrection, a United Methodist Church. Then I remember that God has created us to share God’s love with others. Each of us has been given gifts to share with others. And when we work together as a church we can do more than we can on our own.

When the pain of the world feels like it is too much to bear, I take a few deep breaths and wait until my mind is clear enough to remember God’s grasp. And then I look around and join with others in sharing hope with those who need it through our prayers, words, and actions. I remember that God has invited us to join in the good work of bringing hope when things feel hopeless. God’s Spirit is with us. And I cling to the good news that the Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.