Lectionary Week: Sixth Sunday of Lent
Focus Text: Isaiah 50:4-9
Words of Comfort Come From Those who Truly Listen
Isaiah 50:4-9 is often referred to as the third “Servant song” (compare Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6 and 52:13-53:12). We do not, however, find the word “servant” in this passage. In verse 4 this person is called “the learned”. The word originally used can also refer to a disciple.
Verse 4a tells us that this learned one or disciple is someone who can teach in such a manner that the weary is encouraged.
The next two phrases (verses 4b and 5a) tell us what is significant about this person: the disciple has an ear to listen. This readiness to listen and learn in verse 5 is followed in verse 6 by a willingness to suffer.
In verses 7 to 9 we find some answers to the question of where this willingness to suffer comes from: the disciple trusts in God as helper and defender.
There seems to be some connection between this disciple’s eagerness to listen and this disciple’s willingness to suffer.
Is it not true that we can only truly listen, truly learn and eager to be taught when we are also open to whatever the cost may be? Is it not true that a new understanding of the Kingdom of God and the broken world we live in does not come without a price? Is it not true that this price often entails a willingness to become involved in the brokenness of the world, and therefore to become involved in suffering? Jesus’ life is the paramount example of this truth.
I think there is a correlation between this disciple’s eagerness to listen, willingness to suffer and his or her gift to speak words of instruction and encouragement: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary” (verse 4a). This disciple can speak words of wisdom and comfort because he or she has learnt through listening as well as through suffering.
This week Christians all over the world are focused on the “Way of the Cross”. If we do this with an eagerness to learn and a willingness to follow, we will have words of instruction and encouragement for those who are weary.
To think about: What mechanisms do I (we) use to shield myself (ourselves) from any form of suffering? What does Isaiah 50:4-9 say about these mechanisms?