Isaiah 42:1-4 ESV
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Every builder of houses knows that a building must rest on a firm foundation. If the foundation is defective, the building will eventually have other structural problems that will lead to an inevitable collapse. In the same way, every local church must be built on the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul (1 Cor 3:9-11).
For this reason, we as a gathering of believers in Christ and as individuals need to pay careful attention to these words of God about Jesus Christ. In this text, God the Father lifts up the Son and calls everyone to look at his Son, who is his Servant. He tells us that his Servant is his Chosen One, that he delights in him, and that he has put his Spirit on him. Today, let us listen carefully to the mission or task that the Father sent his Servant to accomplish.
I. The task assigned to God’s Servant (42:1d)
A. The meaning of “justice” – Certain words are difficult to translate from one language to another. The Hebrew word for justice is more comprehensive than our English word. Every word must be translated in its context with other words. This is what can make word studies very dangerous, especially when they try to tell the meaning of a word from its supposed roots. Use word study tools, including concordances cautiously. In the general context, Isaiah uses the word “justice” three ways.
1. God’s order in creation (40:14). God made everything according to his own counsel and wisdom.
2. In 40:27, it speaks of the judgment or legal decision that God’s people expect when they present their situation to the Lord. They expect the Lord to bring his holy order into their lives.
3. The Lord invites the nations to come to him for a hearing about who is in charge of history (41:1). In this hearing, the Lord asserts his rule over all, and that his people can trust him (41:8-10). When the Lord’s justice comes, people live in peace.
4. What is very surprising in our text is that the Servant of the Lord will brings the Lord’s justice or order to the nations. All might seem chaotic as Cyrus and his Persian armies conquer many nations (41:2-3). But Cyrus and his empire is not the goal of history; instead, the Servant and his accomplished mission will be mankind’s ultimate destiny.
B. God’s purpose in this mission
1. This text is part of the unfolding of the story of God’s glory in Christ. Think of a paper road map or a trail map for hiking in parks. As you hold it in your hand neatly folded, you can’t see much of the trail or road system. But as you unfold it, you can find the way to your destination. God gradually unfolds his plan in the Scriptures, but he has one great eternal purpose (Eph 3:11). Our text is part of the unfolding plan, which God increasingly make clear (Gen 12:1-3; Ps 2:7-9; 117:1-2) until the Lord Jesus accomplished eternal redemption and his apostles explained it in the New Testament Scriptures.
2. All this leads to the new humanity that God would bring about in Christ and his people (Eph 2:11-16).
Apply: We need to keep God’s plan before us. God’s “unfolded map” has been given to us, so that we won’t lose our way in the foggy times of our lives.
II. The manner of the Servant (42:3c-4a)
A. His faithfulness
1. The Hebrew word used here presents the idea of certainty and dependability. It is used of God’s nature (Ex 34:6), God’s words (Ps 119:142), and his rescue and protection of his people (Ps 91:40).
2. Here it points out that Jesus the Servant of the Lord is faithful to the mission that the Father gave him. At the end of his earthly ministry he could say that he had completed the work that the Father had given him to do (Jn 17:4). He faithfully obeyed God by always doing what pleased him, and by being the perfect and final sacrifice for sin. In the same way, Christ will be faithful to his people (2 Tm 2:11-13).
B. His endurance in the work God gave him to do
1. His strength in contrast to the neediness of the people – The words translated “grow weak” and be “discouraged” in verse four pick up words that are translated “bruised” and “smoldering” in verse three. Though the Servant would have to face the same pressures as his people, he triumphs where we fail. We can see this at various points in the Gospels. Jesus sleeps in the boat while his disciples are filled with fear (Mk 4:38). Jesus has compassion on the crowds when the disciples wanted to send them away (Mk 6:34, 36). Jesus cast out a demon when the disciples couldn’t (Mk 9:25-29). Jesus welcomed the children when the disciples wouldn’t (Mk 10:13-16). Jesus prayed while the disciples slept (Mk 14:32-41). And he conquered the devil and temptation while we often fail (Heb 4:15).
2. His persistence in the face of difficulties – One of the biggest failings all of us have is to become discouraged, depressed, and to quit or want to quit in the face of hardship and opposition. Jesus kept on when the people of his hometown tried to throw him down a cliff (Lk 4:29), when the Jewish religious leaders became critical (5:21-26), and when all the people of an area asked him to leave (Lk 8:37).
3. Jesus would not quit when people laughed at him (Lk 8:53), when the Samaritans wouldn’t welcome him (Lk 9:53), and when Jerusalem rejected him as king (Lk 13:34). He persevered when only one man said thank you (Lk 17:17), when a prospective convert walked away (Lk 18:23), and when he saw his Father’s house turned into a den of robbers (Lk 19:46). Most of all he endured while he was mocked, beaten, spit on, scourged, crucified, and forsaken by all. Praise God, the Lord Jesus did not grow weak or become discouraged! His love was so great that he endured all to save us!
Apply: This is an excellent time to bow and to ask the victorious Jesus to save you. If you are saved, say “Thank you, Jesus!”
III. The result of the Servant’s mission (42:3c, 4b)
A. The establishment of justice
1. He acts in a big theater of operations: “on earth”. For nearly 1800 years, it looked like Jesus was only at work in western Asia, Europe, and North America. Then suddenly, he started to shine his light in other places for about the next 200 years. Now, all around the world people from every tribe and language are coming to the Lord and Savior, Jesus.
2. Christ told Peter that he would build his church (Mt 16:18). This prophecy expresses that same certainty. His justice will be brought to earth, because God’s appointed goal is to make a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1-2; 22:1-5).
B. The establishment of hope
1. The idea of the Hebrew word is “to wait” or “to hope”. The word can mean either. Here I think the second is better because of Matthew’s use of hope in his use of the LXX translation (Mt 12:21). The islands, the most remote places of the earth, will have hope or confident expectation.
2. The basis of this is the Servant’s instruction (torah). One of the great truths of the Gospels is that Jesus is the great Prophet or Teacher. He is God’s final revelation (Heb 1:1-2); he is the Word or Message. His instruction about God’s saving reign becomes the basis for our hope. He has revealed the Father (Jn 17:6-8). Believing his message is the way to life (Jn 5:24). To believe his instruction means the difference between eternal wisdom and eternal foolishness (Mt 7:24-27).
Apply: Don’t be foolish! Build your life on Christ and his instruction!
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.