A Light to the GentilesFr. Barnabas Powell
At every Vespers service I am blessed to say the prayer of St. Simeon: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people Israel.” I love praying this prayer done by the elder Simeon as he held in his arms the Christ Child in the Temple. I love it because it is prayed by a man who was promised by the Lord that he would see the Messiah before he died. I love it because he prays this prayer BEFORE the Lord does one miracle, dies on the Cross, and rises from the dead. I love it because it proves God has always intended to save the world!
Look at our Lesson today in Isaiah 49:6-10:
Thus says the LORD: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, ‘Come forth,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.
The prophet Isaiah reveals God’s comforting word to the People of the Promise by first reminding them of His promise to our father Abraham when He first called Abraham. God promised Abraham that God would make Abraham’s name great; that God would make Abraham’s offspring as numerous as the sands of the seashore; and that God would make Abraham a blessing to the whole world. So, the consistent message of God since the beginning is a salvation meant for everyone, not just this tribe or that tribe. In fact, the whole purpose of a chosen nation was to display how this nation was meant to be the example and light for all nations. The salvation of God has never been intended to be kept only for a special few, but was always meant for the whole world. Always. Without exception. Period!
But notice that the prophet reminds the people first of the promise and then he encourages them that their current circumstances of rejection and persecution will not be stronger than God’s promise. The fact that there are now dark times, difficult times, and discouraging times, can’t and won’t snuff out the light of God’s promise and His purpose for the people. They ARE going, and in fact now are, a blessing to the whole world! And part of this worldwide blessing is how they refuse to give up on God’s promise to them even in dark times!
Let’s face it, we could all be swallowed whole by times of pain and sadness. We could easily allow hard times to knock us down and wallow in self pity and sadness. But we’ve been made a promise by One Who never fails. He never forgets His Word to us. And, by His grace and love, even these present hard times are incorporated into His blessings by our faithfulness during these times! If there is one, overriding message in the face of the Lord’s own suffering and death, it’s that the power of God’s grace and His purpose even takes moments of pain and sadness and fills them up with hope and meaning. And we can take note of this wondrous Truth every time we are tempted to surrender to our sadness or despair!
Today, God’s salvation is meant for all people, and His salvation is so comprehensive and complete that those of us with the humility and courage to embrace His salvation become a light for all around us. So, why not allow the unchanging faithfulness of God and His love for you to strengthen you in your daily focus and be an illuminating presence for everyone you meet today? Why not embrace being Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. As we move ever closer to Holy Week, your beautiful Orthodox faith has treasures galore for your life during this season. Help me share the beauties of Orthodoxy with everyone by going to www.JourneytoFullness.com and making this parish outreach tool available! Thank you.