Who will you encourage or sustain today?

“The Lord has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” (Isaiah 50:4)


The quote above is from the third of the four “servant songs” in Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-6, 50:4-11, 52:13-53:12).  In the original writings, the servant seems to be the nation of Israel.  But after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, it didn’t take take long for those in the early church to identify the servant as Jesus - the Messiah who had come to fulfill various prophecies from the Hebrew scriptures.  As such, the servant songs are featured prominently during Holy Week, especially since the servant in these passages is often portrayed as a suffering servant.

This Suffering Servant brings healing to others - by his words, by his sacrificial love, by his passion (that is, by his willingness to be acted upon by others, for the ultimate benefit of the world.  The witness of Jesus is once again counter to the ways of the world:  it is not might and violence that redeem and reconcile, but a non-violent love that is willing to suffer and also forgive.

The Suffering Servant offers special words… words that are a balm to the body, the mind, and the soul.  This was always true of Jesus’ ministry on earth:  His words brought healing to others.  Even when he confronted people, it was done in love.  HIs confrontational words were designed to break through the defenses of men and women, so that they could be healed of their blindness and reconnect with the God who loved them.

Our words are SO important!  With our words we can urge people to do great destruction and violence; with our words we can bring peace, healing, forgiveness, encouragement, understanding, and reconciliation.  Jesus brought John and his mother together while he hung from the cross.  While there, he also offered forgiveness!  He demonstrated that - even in the worst possible circumstances - we always have a choice about how we speak… how we use our words.

We are followers of Jesus.  As we proceed through this Holy Week, pay attention to your words.  Who can you encourage?  Who can you sustain with a word?  Who can you forgive?  Who can you offer up to God in prayer?  To whom can you listen and offer your healing and peace… as you utter hardly any words?  To whom will you offer a generous appreciation, a heart-felt thank you, or words of deep gratitude?

When we use our words in ways that build up and heal, we are being teachers, too.  We are modeling something for our children and grandchildren, as well as for our peers.  We are demonstrating the truth that words can bring healing and love - any day, at any time, in any situation.