Isaiah 49:1 Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3 He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor." 4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God." 5 And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- 6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." 7 This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."
The national jobs numbers came out last week. Experts were expecting 200,000 jobs to be added, but were severely disappointed to learn that only 74,000 jobs were added to the American workforce last month. How many people do you know who have lost their jobs? Are you fearful for yours? Have you had your hours reduced? A pay freeze? Benefits cut? Is there pressure for early retirement or have you experienced corporate layoffs?
No doubt, unemployment remains a huge problem. But there are also other problems for those who are employed. A growing dilemma is the number of people who have jobs but dread going to them. They can’t wait until the workday is over. They can’t wait until the workweek is over. According to studies, two big reasons why some workers dread their job is 1) they’re not the right person in the right seat, and 2) they receive no encouragement from above.
When we examine Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 49, though, we see that Jesus loves His job as God’s Servant. According to the Scriptures, Jesus is the right person in the right seat for His job, and He receives encouragement from above.
Jim Collins, author of business books like “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” teaches the business world that there’s more to success than having good people. It comes down to getting the right people in the right seats. He writes, “First you figure out if you’ve got all the right people on the bus, then you figure out where to drive.” Collins is talking about positioning people where they can perform in their greatest skill with their deepest passion.
Jesus loves His job because He’s the right person in the right seat. Speaking through Isaiah’s prophecy as the Servant of the Lord, Jesus says, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he made mention of my name.”
It is a difficult thing when your baby grows old enough to start taking her to look at colleges. She has to decide what she wants to be and do when she grows up. Jesus had no such difficulty. Even before time began, God had decided that His Son would save humanity. God told Adam and Eve that the Seed from Eve’s womb would be their Savior. God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their Offspring would come to deliver them from death. God promised to David that a King would be born from his royal line to rule on David’s throne forever. Jesus knew what He was going to be and do before He was even born. He knew it when He was a 12-year-old in the temple and when He performed His first miracle. There was never a moment in Jesus’ life when He was not sure of being our Savior.
To make sure He would remain the right person in the right seat, the Father equipped His Son with powerful tools and talents. Jesus continues, “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword…he made me into a polished arrow.” God provided His Son with something so powerful that it could slash open any human soul to perform spiritual surgery and save life eternally, it could pierce through a heart hardened by unbelief and plunge into it God’s life-saving forgiveness. What is that tool? “The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Wielding the eternal Word, preaching to the crowds, telling parables, promising forgiveness, speaking to us through the Scriptures, Jesus loves His job, as both Message and Messenger.
Tools in your toolbox can become dull and rusty from disuse. But you can easily spot the tools you use most often – they are polished and sharpened and ready to use. Jesus describes Himself as a “sharpened sword” and “polished arrow” meaning that God has used His Servant well to accomplish His purposes.
The best honor we can give Jesus is to “use Him” by faith as our Savior.
Jesus is the right person in the right seat. But do you ever feel like you are the wrong person in the right seat when it comes to your Christian living? You no longer have a passion to fight off the temptations of lust. It is too hard to stay positive or at least neutral in the verbal battles at home or among your classmates. You no longer receive a thrill at studying God’s Word and applying it to your life situations. Worshiping God becomes more like a mundane assignment than a joyous endeavor. You want church membership to be more of a spectator sport. You find that your faith feels contained inside the walls of the church and doesn’t impact your real life in ways you would like.
You have become the wrong person in the right seat. That doesn’t mean you should “get off the bus.” Rather it means that Jesus needs to change you back into the right person. He wants you on the bus. He has a seat reserved for you. He wants you heading in the direction of heaven. You cannot change yourself. Jesus must do it for you. He takes His sharpened, polished and well-used surgical tools and performs open heart surgery on you. That lust you are dealing with … He cuts it out and replaces it with pure desires. That caustic tongue that gets you in trouble … He cauterizes it and seasons your speech with salt and light. That lazy mind that fails to see the importance of worship … He shocks you by showing you the fiery hell your sins deserve but then soothes you with the salve of His heaven He has undeservedly won for you. That unloving heart that ruins your relationships with your family members … He exchanges it for His heart that bled and died for people who refused to love Him.
When you think you are all wrong for God, Jesus, God’s Servant will make you all right in Him. He makes you the right person in the right seat at the right time.
Study after study shows that the single most important factor for job satisfaction is making progress in meaningful work. And to help work have more meaning, managers should facilitate accomplishments, provide feedback, and recognize everyday contributions. The other reason Jesus love His job as God’s Servant is because He is encouraged from above. The Lord said to His chosen Servant, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” The Lord repeated this promise as His Servant stood in the Jordan River, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
But the task of saving the world would not be an easy task. The Servant replied, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” When the Servant says, “I have labored to no purpose,” He is not speaking of His redeeming work for sinners. Rather, He is speaking about His ministry to a people who rejected Him. He fulfilled His work as our High Priest, but His work as our Prophet was not filled with rampant success. In the Garden of Gethsemane, all appeared lost. Eleven men surrounded Jesus; the twelfth led a band of soldiers to arrest Him. After three years of ministry, after all the sermons and all the miracles, it seemed that only death awaited Him. From all human perspectives, the Messiah’s mission had failed.
Jesus experienced the same hurt a pastor feels when He has invested much time into a new family in the church, only to see the family fall back into old habits. Jesus experienced the same hurt parents feel when one of their children turns away from the Lord to a life of sin. Jesus experienced such pain in His job of preaching and teaching that He wondered, “Have I spent my strength in vain and for nothing?”
Though Jesus’ earthly ministry among the Jews was not much of a numerical success, His redeeming ministry for all nations was accomplished. Though the Savior hanging dead on the cross and His corpse lying in the grave did not appear to be much of a success to the world, that is what needed to be done to win humanity’s salvation and accomplish His Father’s will.
Jesus loved His job and never gave up, whatever the struggle He faced, whatever the sin He bore, whatever the suffering He endured. Encouraged from above, He is “honored in the eyes of the Lord.”
Do you want to love your job more and honor the Lord? I’m not just talking about your career, but any other calling God has assigned you. Parent, child, husband or wife; single, student, or separated from loved ones; divorced, widowed, or just beginning to fall in love; accountant, engineer, manager, musician, or teacher. Then begin by believing that you are already “honored in the eyes of the Lord.” With unique skills and interests that God weaves into your being, He equips you for special tasks you can do better than most others. Leverage God’s gifts, using them for His glory like Jesus did, and you’ll learn to love whatever you do whenever you do it.
Secondly, listen for your heavenly Father’s encouragement from above, and then don’t be surprised when your Father says to you like He said to His own Son, “It is too small a thing for you to … bring back those of Israel … I will also make you a light for the Gentiles.” Jesus loves His job, not as the Light to those inside the Church, but as the Light of the World. And He commissions you to let your light shine to not only church people … but to all people. Look at your workplace as your personal mission field. Bring Christ’s Epiphany light to those living in the darkness of unbelief and in the shadow of death.
In today’s economy fewer workers have the option to quit a bad job and go find a better one. The job market is just too risky. Instead, some suggest that those who dread their jobs can often think about their work with a different approach. That may not solve everything, but it can help. We Christians call that faith.
So, what is the most difficult job in the history and future of this world? It’s not yours, and not mine. It’s being the Lord’s Servant and our Savior. God gave Jesus the hardest and dirtiest job of all – to take away the sins of the world. Yet the Servant says God has honored Him with such a task! He says, “I am honored in the eyes of the LORD.”
Perhaps you have known some model servants and fellow workers in your life. You could always ask them to do something, because they never said no. In fact, they weren’t happy unless they were carrying twice their load! So God says it was too small of a job to ask the Servant to save only the Jews. God asks Him to save the Gentiles (that’s us!), too.
No matter how difficult or dirty or thankless or big the job was for Jesus to save sinful Jews and Gentiles, He did the job. That’s because Jesus loves His job as the Lord’s Servant. When you find yourself in a difficult or dirty or thankless job, work for Jesus. Serve the Servant. Then you’ll love your job, too. Amen.