Servant Songs

When I worked as an Episcopal Service Corps member at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA, I took a deep interest in the prophet Isaiah, and within that prophet’s book, I became fascinated by the “Servant Songs.” There are four or five of them depending on whom you ask, I personally like the fifth one but it was probably written significantly later, and they are traditionally views by Christians as prophecies about Jesus.

Take a minute and go read them: Isaiah 42:1-4, Isaiah 49:1-6, Isaiah 50:4-7, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and maybe Isaiah 61.1-3.

As I was reading, reflecting, and researching them, I began to wonder what Jews of the past and of today think about these passages, and I came across one of several interpretations that I really like. Instead of applying these prophecies to one person, they think of them as a calling to the Jewish People as a whole. The People are called to lights to the nations, and suffering servants, and bring good news to the oppressed.

And that got me thinking. I think the life of Jesus, which is an embodiment of those songs, calls us to see ourselves as participants in God’s saving plan for the world. We, like Jesus, are called to take on those songs for ourselves. We are to become lights to the nations, suffering servants, heralds of the Good News of God’s victory. Through our share in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have been restored to the true core of human nature, being made in the image and likeness of God. When we read the Servant Songs, we should be able to place our name where the word “Servant” is. Then, we will be participating in God’s plan of salvation.

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