Isaiah 42: Two Servants

Transitioning from the rebuke of idols in the last section of chapter 41, chapter 42 begins with a prophetic description of Jesus Christ. The first nine verses of chapter 42 are a description of, and an address to the Son of God.

By reading verses 1-9, we can easily see how much God loves His Son and that the hope and trust God has in Jesus is unwavering. The phrase, “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street,” could mean that Christ will not cry out in distress. This idea of the Savior being in distress is new in the chronology of the chapters of Isaiah. We have read many prophecies of His coming and that He would redeem the lost to God, but this is the first we have heard that the Savior would be in distress or that He may even be rejected. This same idea is explained in greater detail in Isaiah 49:4: “Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD, And my work with my God.’ ”

Another interpretation of the phrase “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street,” could be that Christ would not be a rabble-rouser in the streets but rather would call His followers to Him through humility and humble acts.

Verse 3 explained is also quite interesting: “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.” This verse means that He will not be a burden to the poor (symbolized by a bruised reed) and that those who have almost lost their faith in God (smoking flax) will not ultimately lose their faith but will have it renewed.

Verses 5, 8 and 9 affirm God’s status. But in between these verses, we have verses 6-7 which are endearingly addressed from God directly to Jesus and show us God’s compassion, care and love for His Son: “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” We also get an idea of how God will save the faithful. In these verses, blindness is ignorance of God’s will and the prison is sin.

Verses 10-13 are praise to God, not only because of how great He is but also because of how He will save the world. There is no question that God will vanquish His enemies, both physical (sinning nations/nations warring against Israel) and spiritual (sin and Satan).

Verses 14-20 contain God’s assurances that He will punish the misdeeds as well as save the faithful remnant. Verses 16 echoes verse 7 with the idea of providing sight and knowledge to the blind. Making “crooked places straight” refers to increasing the righteousness of the faithful through the new covenant with Jesus Christ. The final three verses of this section are a direct address to Israel. Notice that God refers to Israel as “My servant.” Recall how God referred to Jesus the coming savior as “My Servant” in verse 1?

We should understand that God is referring to both Jesus and Israel as His servants in this chapter because they both are His servants. Jesus, of course as the perfect Servant, is described in flawless terms in verse 4: “He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Compare this with how God’s servant Israel is described in verse 20: “Seeing many things, but you do not observe; Opening the ears, but he does not hear.” Israel very often was told and reminded of God’s will for them, and they, as a nation, ignored or disregarded God’s Word as known either through the old law or through the mouths of prophets. Even when Christ did come, many Jews, as well as the Jewish leadership, remained blind and deaf to Christ’s teachings. Israel was God’s imperfect servant.

Verses 21-25 reveal the loving kindness that God has towards His chosen people the Israelites as well as the rest of humanity. This passage is written in a way that makes certain God’s wrath at sin. The language of verse 22 references sin as a prison again and Israel is lamented as a people who will not listen and whom God has given up to other nations to be plundered. Let us look at the final two verses: “Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, Nor were they obedient to His law. Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger And the strength of battle; It has set him on fire all around,” Let’s pause here and recognize God’s fury and wrath at sin. It has built up and been poured out onto Israel. Yet, God’s love for His creation is strong, such that He still has left room to make us a way to escape through salvation in Jesus: “Yet he did not know; And it burned him, Yet he did not take it to heart.”

Letting the tone at the end of this chapter sink in, we quickly realize that Israel should be surprised at God’s punishment of them only if they have not been listening. If they had listened to the prophets’ warnings and followed the commandments He gave from the first, there would be no punishment because there would have been no trespass. They were made aware of the cause and effect of sin and punishment and would only be surprised at the punishment if they had ignored God’s commandments and instruction.

However, for those that knew and trusted God, that faithful remnant, they had obeyed God’s Word all along and had only to wait on Him to deliver them. Sound familiar? It should.

If we study and obey God’s Word, we too will be like the holy remnant. We need only to rest in God’s shelter, using our faith to see us through our troubles.

When we know what God expects of us, we should not be surprised if we experience consequences for disobedience:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” Colossians 3:1-7

If you are a baptized believer in Christ, it is upon you to follow Him. As those that have been cleansed of our sins in the waters of baptism, we need to take it upon ourselves to learn, study and know God’s will for us. In this we may assure our salvation and save ourselves from the flood of regret and despair that inevitably follows sin.

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