Tuesday of the Baptism of our Lord – Isaiah 42:1-9

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
    I tell you of them.”

“Participating in this program is designed to bring justice to marginalized and oppressed communities of color and gender.” The speaker was a student at the local university where I am adjunct professor. I teach one class which introduces students to the Bible. The speaker was a student who was recruiting her fellow students to research project hosted by the theology department. She had asked to visit my classroom and make a ten-minute presentation. I fear her somewhat strident tone and hyper-sensitive language befuddled most of the students in the room. The rest, those who knew what she was talking about, tuned her out.

As I listened to her, I wondered just what she meant by that word justice. I guess that her meaning for that word and mine would have considerable overlap, but there would be a number of critical points of divergence. From her little talk it became clear that tolerance and a full-throated acceptance of homosexuality were all a part of her idea of justice.

Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit of God, sees the servant of the Lord bringing forth justice to the nations. I want my sense of justice to match His. I will have to listen to Him to be sure that it does, but I am also struck by how He brings forth that justice. He is gentle. This is not a justice which flows from a riotous mob or the teargas of the police who quell the riotous mob. This justice-bringer does not quench the dimly burning wick or break the bruised reed. He opens eyes and frees prisoners. In the same way that our Lord’s justice has a real content, it also has a way in which it works. I will not be serving His justice by violating His methods. It may well be that sin at times requires a forceful response. God also provides us with government and the rest of the left-hand kingdom. I do think we need those police who bring another sort of justice to those who break laws, sometimes quite forcefully. Such a response, however, will never bring Jesus’ justice to the world. That will only happen His way.

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