1st Reading – Isaiah 50:4c-9a
The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
The passage from Isaiah that we read today is a portion of the third Servant Song, which we also read on Passion (Palm) Sunday.
Isaiah offered words of hope to the Israelites while they were in exile in Babylon. He also helped them find meaning in the suffering they were enduring. In this context, the suffering servant Isaiah writes about is the nation of Israel; however, before this poem found its way into the Book of Isaiah, it may well have existed independently and have been referring to the prophet himself.
Whether we think of the servant as the nation in exile or the prophet, the lesson is the same. Rather than avoid the suffering he is facing, he accepts it and professes confidence in God.