Twelve Days to Christmas
42:1 “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delights- I have put my Spirit on him. He will bring justice to the nations. 42:2 He will not shout, nor raise his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. 42:3 He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice. 42:4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, until he has set justice in the earth, and the islands will wait for his law.” 42:5 Thus says God Yahweh, he who created the heavens and stretched them out, he who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it, he who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk in it. 42:6 “I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and make you a covenant for the people, as a light for the nations; 42:7 to open the blind eyes, to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison. 42:8 “I am Yahweh. That is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to engraved images. 42:9 Behold, the former things have happened, and I declare new things. I tell you about them before they come up.”
In this chapter we have what is almost universally called “The 1st Servant Song”. In this book of Isaiah, one of the key words is “Servant”. In the previous chapter, Isaiah 41, the nation of Israel is also called a servant of God. Isaiah himself has been called a servant of God (Isaiah 20v3). However, here in chapter 42, it is as if the phrase “Servant of God” has taken on a new meaning – someone who is unique, special. God Himself is speaking, and announcing “my Servant”. By looking further into what God says, we know it cannot be Israel. If anything, Israel is the bruised reed or dimly burning wick. Remember Israel was to be a light to the nations and reflect God to the whole world. In chapter 41, Israel is described as always complaining resentfully, fearful, discouraged and embittered. Later on in chapter 42, Israel is seen as blind, deaf and disobedient. So this is not an ideal that Israel was to aspire to, but rather one person who would be God’s response to Israel’s failure and weakness. So what does the rest of this passage tell of the identity of the Servant, the Messiah whom God would send?
We get a clue in verses 1-4. This Servant will bring God great delight! This servant will be gentle, quiet, faithful, and encouraged. This Servant will have God’s Spirit upon him, and this shows that the Servant will not do anything in his own strength, but rather rely on God’s strength to persevere. All the things Israel were to be and do, but had not. Therefore this Servant was the opposite of Israel.
The key word for this Servant, is justice. He will bring God’s justice to the nations (Isaiah 42v1); faithfully bring God’s justice (Isaiah 42v3) and set in place upon all the earth, God’s justice. (Isaiah 42v4). Justice, in this context, is God restoring order to the whole world against the ravages of sin and decay.
Additionally, this Servant will be a covenant and a light as he is called out in righteousness. This covenant implies that God will provide welfare for all people and by the light of this Servant shall all the spiritually blind see, the spiritually dead made alive, those captive under the power of sin will be freed and those in spiritual darkness will see the light. Through this Servant, God will reverse all damaging effects that sin has caused the world since it entered into existence way back in Genesis 3. This servant will provide freedom, self-respect and justice for all. Firstly for Israel itself and then to the whole world.
Identifying Jesus Christ as this Servant?
Perhaps the best example to use, looking back with New Testament eyes, is when Jesus was baptized. Jesus went to John the Baptist, and presented Himself for baptism. John at first refuses to do it (Matthew 3v13-15). He knew that Jesus of Nazareth was the perfect Son of God who had no need to repent of sin.
Through His baptism, Jesus identified with all sinners that He came to save. why did Jesus get baptized? In replying to John’s initial refusal to baptize him, Jesus said “…it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt.3v15). This looks forward to the cross, because it is only through the baptism of suffering that Jesus endured on the cross, that God is able to fulfill all righteousness. The “us” referred to means the Father Son and Spirit. When Jesus came up from the water, the Father spoke from heaven and identified Him as the beloved Son of God, and the Spirit visibly came upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The voice from God the Father ratified Jesus as the Son of God. Not a son of God as some may claim, but the one and only Son of God. This harks back to Isaiah 42, where God called the Servant a delight and the Spirit coming upon Him.
Tomorrow, we will skip forward to Isaiah 49:1-26 and discuss the mission of this Servant Messiah. You may like to read this passage beforehand.