January 13, 2014

The Identity and Mission of God’s People

By Upper Room Books

Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions is a beloved resource published by Upper Room Books every year. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages from the lectionary for that period. On Mondays the initial reading for the week will be posted. We’d love to hear what you think about the week’s readings and prayers. Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following this post.

Read Isaiah 49:1-7

I live in the Rocky Mountain Front Range of Colorado. As I drive over a mesa into work each morning, the rising sun illumines the Boulder Flatirons, the foothills, and the Continental Divide to the west. In the right light, I see the layering of these geographic features; I appreciate the depth of this stunning profile. Foreground, middle-ground, background—what majesty!

I’ve come to view Old Testament prophecy similarly. When the prophet receives a word from the Lord, there’s usually a foreground: an immediate application in that specific time and place. The Lord comforts and challenges Israel with a word for its historic situation. It’s the Flatiron formation in my vista—vivid, immediate, and compelling. In our Isaiah passage, this is God’s servant, the prophet, or even Israel personified. He is—Israel is—God’s messenger to the world, God’s light to the nations.

But then, as we read deeper into the Bible, moving into the New Testament, we watch the fulfillment of Israel’s story in Jesus Christ. This is the middle-ground, the Rocky Mountain foothills, in my analogy.

In our passage, Isaiah’s Servant finds ultimate identity for Christians in Jesus, the one described throughout John’s Gospel as “the light of the world” (8:12). As we press on in the biblical narrative, the story moves even further, this time to the background: Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant of God, the Light of the World, calls his people to join him in his mission. He sends us out, declaring, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).

In Christ, we now proclaim God’s salvation to the end of the earth. As breathtaking as my morning commute is, the biblical vista is even more stunning: In the right light, we see God’s depth of layering, the centrality of God’s work in Jesus Christ, the church’s challenge to take God’s mission to the world.

Lord, thank you for the sweeping story of salvation, for the light of the world, Jesus Christ. Amen.


Carl S. Hoffman is associate pastor for spiritual formation and discipleship, First Presbyterian Church, Boulder, Colorado.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock



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