A Light to the Nations
Isaiah 42:6-7 (ESV) — 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.
At the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), mankind is unified in its language, customs, and culture. But it also united them in their sinful rebellion against God. People have sought to live life apart from Him and erect structures to signify their greatness. This brings God’s judgment against them, and He scatters them across the world. He confused their languages. He established new cultures. This developed new customs. Different skin colors developed over time in relation to their proximity to the equator. He formed new nations.
The next chapter (Genesis 12) established the call of Abram and God’s covenant to make him His own. They will be His people, and He will be their God. But this choosing of a people did not mean God was turning His back on the nations. No, it is through blessing Israel (Abraham’s descendants) that God’s blessing goes to all the nations. God’s ultimate plan of redemption included the nations. And how would that redemption come? Through the Jewish Messiah who would come as a light to the nations. Isaiah 42 opens by saying, “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.” Jesus is that servant.
Our passage today anchors the hope of the nations to the coming Messiah. He is a covenant for the people, meaning, through Him people are grafted into God’s salvation and promises. He is the light for the nations. He leads and directs them on the path to righteousness. Only in Him do the nations have their eyes open and find freedom from their imprisonment in darkness.
Left in sin, the world sits in darkness. But Jesus is the light that leads us out. In Christ alone the nations find reconciliation to God. All nations find their inheritance as children of Adam. We all descend from the same family, and we all suffer with the same sinful nature inherited from our first parents. But the Light of the Nations leads us home. Jesus’ birth into the world was not only good news for the Jews. The Jewish Messiah came to reconcile every nation, tribe, and tongue to their Creator. This Advent season is about rejoicing in the rescue from the darkness through the chosen servant who leads us by His light.
Questions for Reflection:
- Why is it important that the Old Testament promises that Israel’s Messiah will be the world’s Savior?
- What does it mean that the Messiah will be a light to the nations? Why is that image important in understanding the Messiah’s role?
- When did the light of Jesus shine in your life? Describe how you came to see the light of Christ.