One of my favorite lines from the Old Testament is found in this morning’s lesson (Isaiah 49:1-12): “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 give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” It is too light a thing… In that verse, I hear God saying, “That which you thought was important is far more significant than you could have ever imagined. My plan is even bigger than you dreamed it would be.”
Countless moments in my life pass by without me ever grasping their significance—either before or after they occur. But other moments come along that I realize are important—a conversation with a grieving widow, an assistance check to help pay someone’s mortgage, a hug for a tired friend on a bad day. When those instances present themselves, I unconsciously prepare for them. “This is a big moment,” I don’t actually say to myself, but I feel it. “Don’t let this opportunity go by without making the most of it.” A little kick of adrenaline or an extra shot of sympathy help me approach the moment with the right attitude.
But in truth, I have absolutely no idea what’s really going on in those instances. I pretend that I do. I operate under the illusion that I have knowledge of how everything will play out and what role I play in fulfilling God’s plan for that moment, but I don’t. I’m not even close. I might, on occasion, be an important actor in a particular situation, but I rarely—if ever—am able to appreciate that before or during the event in question. After it’s over, someone might come to me and help connect the dots by confessing how a conversation or a sermon or an otherwise passing moment left a lasting impression in their lives, but I can’t anticipate that. I can’t plan for it.
As God’s chosen and beloved people, Israel was being delivered from their captivity as part of God’s repeated plan of salvation. But there was more to it than that. In the moment, being set free from their oppressors felt like enough. That alone was sufficient to merit labels like “important” and “substantial.” Yet, even in the midst of the miraculous, God had something else in mind. “It is too light a thing…” Something else was going on whether anyone could see it at the time. That’s true time and time again.