First Reading:  Isaiah 49:3, 5-6


The Call of the Servant


Who or what informs you of the day's events?


3 The Lord said to me, “You are my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”


5 Now says YHWH who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered to him (for I am honorable in the eyes of YHWH, and my God has become my strength); 6 yes, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”


World English Version


These verses come from the so-called "Servant Songs" of Second Isaiah. The author wrote these verses during waning days of the Babylonian exile. Persia was on the rise and the conquest of Babylon was immanent. Despite the possibility of return, the exiled Jews lived in a city not their own, and among a strange people.


In this new environment, Jews faced a crisis of faith. What sort of God did they worship? Before the exile, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was only one God among many, but he was the only God that mattered for the Jews. Now, Jews, as a minority in a foreign city, had to face strange gods head on. Their response was simple. Theirs was the only God. All other gods were not only false. They really didn't exist. Many scholars believe this answer was the birth of Jewish monotheism.


But, this view also gave the Jews a new responsibility. They had the duty to "enlighten" the nations to the true identity and mission of God.