4The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. 7The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said?
- Why is this happening/being said?
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean for us?
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
Reflection: This Scripture passage, though written before the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, points us toward the suffering of Jesus, preparing us to view the cross in a particular perspective. We read that despite the suffering that Jesus was to encounter, his vindicator and helper would be the Lord GOD. Though Jesus would suffer, his suffering would not consume him. The suffering of Jesus, though real and difficult, would lead to a new understanding and experience, for us and the world, of God’s justice, faithfulness, and redemption. Take a moment to gaze into the eyes of the the image of Jesus, who is portrayed in the stained glass as being in the midst of his suffering. Let those eyes gaze deeply into you and connect with the suffering of Jesus. Why did he suffer? Did he suffer there for you? Through his sufferings, can you receive God as your helper and vindicator? Can anything you face consume you when you place yourself in the shadow of the cross?
Prayer Focus: Use your prayer time this week to prepare for the upcoming Holy Week. In view of the cross, confess your sins. Be honest in the assessment of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to search you and help you confront the realities of sin in your life. Offer up your infirmities to God as a freewill offering of trust. Seek out God’s justice for the injustices you experience and witness in the world around you. Ask Jesus to carry your sin to the cross and to allow you to fellowship with him in his sufferings. These are not easy prayers, or prayers to take lightly. But to enter into the power, peace, and grace of the resurrection, we must first journey with Jesus to the cross.
Meditation Focus: In our Scripture passage, the author bears witness to how God reveals himself to us and how we experience God through the senses. The author wakes in the morning with ears open to hear God’s word, and then is able to open his mouth to speak God’s sustaining truth. Through the sensation of touch, the author feels the sharp pains of suffering and persecution as his back is broken and his beard pulled from his face. But it is in the midst of this suffering that the author experiences God’s help and vindication. Finally, the author sets his face like flint, or fixes his gaze, on his helper and vindicator, so that he might see the God who delivers him. Take time today to cultivate an awareness to what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. How does God use those senses to awaken you to his presence and grace? How is God connecting to you through these sensory experiences? How might you come to a deeper awareness of God’s movement in your life through that which you sense today?
Journaling Focus: We have all experienced suffering. In a powerful way, the harsh reality of the cross of Jesus Christ is both a divine recognition of and participation with the human experience of suffering. Just as powerfully, the cross is a witness to God’s ability to redeem suffering. There has never been an experience of suffering more unjust than the crucifixion of Christ. Yet, the work of Jesus on the cross, and God’s subsequent vindication of Christ through the resurrection and ascension, brings healing and redemption in the face of all human suffering. In other words, through the cross of Jesus Christ, God both affirms and redeems our suffering. This week, write about a struggle of suffering that either you (personal suffering) or a community you were a part of (communal suffering) experienced. In view of the cross, where was God during your experience of suffering? How does the cross affect how you draw meaning from your struggle? How might God have brought redemption to that situation?
Breath Prayer: Father, be my (our) helper and vindicator.