GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
26 April 2023
SOMETHING LIES BEYOND THE CRISIS
Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
In Singapore , several of our 27 parish churches have buildings that are sited on parcels of government-owned land that carry a 30-year lease. When the lease renewal is up , there can be somewhat of a crisis for the church . Will the lease be renewed and will the church have enough funds for payment of the new lease ? This can divert quite a lot of attention from the main task and ministries of the church. The diversion is often far worse when there is a leadership crisis or a moral scandal or a doctrinal controversy in the church . A crisis has a way of diverting our attention from our main goal.
The crisis of the Exile
The exile that scattered the people of Israel throughout the Babylonian empire was a major crisis for the people of Israel. It was the Lord’s judgment upon a people who forsook their Redeemer-God for other gods, disobeyed His commandments and persisted in their sinfulness, having no regard to the covenant God had established with them ( Ex 19: 4-6 ). Within the wayward nation there was a holy remnant that was whole-heartedly committed to be faithful to their covenant relationship with God and to trust in His ultimate salvation. The people in the holy remnant had to go through the Babylonian exile with the rest of the nation ( Is 39:6-7; Mic 4:10 ) but they received the promise of restoration ( Is 40-55 ). The promise was that they would return to their homeland and that this would lead to a world-wide turning to the Lord , signified by the remote ‘coastlands’ hearing and responding to the word of the Lord ( Is 49:1; 51:5 ).
The role of the holy remnant
It is clear from our passage ( Is 49:1-7 ) that the holy remnant has a calling from God “ to bring Jacob back to him and that Israel might be gathered to him” ( v 5 ). That is to say , as ‘the servant of the Lord’ (v3) the holy remnant is to boldly proclaim the sharply-dividing word of God and call the people to repent and return to God . This task is demanding and would often seem pointless ( ‘ I have laboured in vain’ – v 4 ), but the Servant is reminded that his just reward is with the Lord and that he is honoured and sustained by the Lord ( v5cd ). Then comes the punch line. The Servant is told that this task of turning the nation back to God does not exhaust his calling ( ‘ It is too light a thing ‘ – v 6a)
God has something more
The holy remnant , functioning as the Lord’s servant , is not only to call large tracts of her own people back to God. She has a much larger destiny in God’s purpose. God promises to make her ‘ a light for the nations, that his salvation may reach to the end of the earth ’ ( v 6cd). This calling of ‘the servant of the Lord’ is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And the risen Lord then hands this calling to His church whom He sends into all the world ( Lk 24:45-47; Mt 28:18-20; Lk 24:45-47; Acts 13:47). The whole perishing world is on God’s heart . We his faithful people, saved by his grace and being transformed by His Spirit , are to bring Christ’s light into a dark and broken world.
That is our full calling as the family of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches : to be a light to the nations.
We are not just to survive or address the present doctrinal crisis in the Communion, which has reached a new height with the recent Church of England decision to introduce liturgical prayers that allow their churches to bless same sex unions. In this regard , we need to remember that the crisis is not over a single-issue item , namely sex and marriage , but the crisis is over the authority and clarity of Scripture which is the basis of our faith . So yes , like ‘the servant of the Lord’ in Isaiah 49:1-7 , we must with humble boldness and tears continue to call for the revisionist parts of our Communion to return to the God who speaks through holy Scripture and to embrace with a repentant heart ‘ the faith once for all delivered.’ ( Jude 3 ).
But the time has come for us to go beyond this role to take the Gospel with all its wide-ranging healing and transforming power to the nations. We must fulfil the latter without neglecting the former. That is the central message of this passage ( ‘ And now the Lord says …”I will make you as a light for the nations…” ‘- 49:6 ). There are countless people in our broken world who need the light and love of our risen Lord . What lies beyond the present crisis is our calling to be ‘ a light to the nations .’
With the Lord’s calling comes the Lord’s promise : when we set our hearts to fulfil the goal beyond the crisis , He will be at hand to empower us ( ‘ I will make you ‘ ) . Being a light to the nations will not be easy . It will commonly involve being deeply despised, rejected and even persecuted ( v7 ). But like our Lord Jesus Christ , we too will experience being sustained by God , vindication in the end and the joy of the fruit of transformed lives.
Take a moment to reflect on whether you have lost sight of the Lord’s larger calling on your life. Could it be that some crisis or preoccupation has deflected or dissipated your pursuit of God’s purpose ? Is God saying to you at this present time , “ It is too light a thing that you should (just) … I will make you as a light to the nations …” ? Be encouraged for our passage ends by reminding us that the Lord who is faithful has chosen you!
The Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah
GSFA Exec Secretariat