By Michael Sherer, ITS director at Goshen College
Reprinted from Lenten Devotions
Confidence. We know it when we feel it. We know it when we see it in others. But where does confidence come from? For the writer of Isaiah 50, his confidence comes from knowing the Lord, from serving the Lord. It’s really an amazing recital, bordering on boastful. Who among us could say anything quite like it? The prophet is confident in his gifts and vocation, confident that he is listening to God, confident that he is following the Lord, steely in the face of persecution and abuse, dauntless in his belief that God will help and sustain him. But the passage goes far deeper than mere confidence. The prophet’s confidence is buttressed and buoyed by the following attributes:
Mission. Confidence without mission is aimless. The prophet’s determination grows out of knowing that God has something important for him to do. Who among us would endure persecution and danger for no particular reason?
Righteousness. The prophet is confident in his righteousness. His persecution is not deserved. On the contrary, he wears it as a badge of honor, evidence of his persistence in the face of opposition and suffering.
Determination. The prophet is a rock. He has ‘set his face like flint.’ You can feel his grit and determination oozing from every line of this passage. He’s going to get the job done or quite literally die trying.
Spiritual sensitivity. According to the prophet, every day God wakens his ear “to listen like one being instructed.” My first impulse when writing this devotion was to focus on the first four attributes. Imagine a world where all of God’s people were suffused with confidence, mission, righteousness and determination. We would be an unstoppable force and so much good would be accomplished! But much damage might also be inflicted by God’s people in the absence of the spiritual sensitivity that comes from listening to God daily, continuously.
God, this Lenten season, like the prophet, we pray that we might be equipped with the confidence, righteousness, determination and mission to do your work in the world. But we also pray for the spiritual sensitivity to do it with the grace, wisdom and compassion that comes from listening to you daily. Amen.
Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)