At times, the way Christians speak about issues, and sadly the experience some have had of pastoral care suggest at best a carelessness to the most fragile and hurting amongst us. It’s not mant to be like that.
Read Isaiah 42
God points to one coming and encourages the people to “behold”, see or watch out for him. We’ve already been told that one will come and the focus has been on him as a righteous ruler and king, now we are told that the one coming is a servant specifically, YHWH’s servant. He is the one who will act to do God’s will and fulfil his purposes. As we’ve seen before, this chosen one will have God’s Spirit and will bring justice (v1). We are then told a series of things about him. He won’t draw noisy attention to himself, he will not hinder, injure or oppress the vulnerable and fragile, He will not give up on his mission or tire of his calling until he has completed the task of bringing justice (v2-4).
God now addresses the servant through Isaiah. He speaks as the creator God, a reminder of the faithfulness and dependability of his word. He is the one who calls and who gives life, he is the one who has called and commissioned the servant. He will keep the servant “in righteousness” or in a right relationship with himself. He will guide and lead them. He will give the servant “as a covenant” to his people, in other words as the sign and seal of his new agreement to them (v5-6). Through he servant he will heal the blind and release captives, this language points to a coming year of Jubilee (v7).
The Lord reminds us that he is unique and without rival. He won’t share his glory, he wont allow worship to go to rival deities. Yet, there seems to be a suggestion here that he is willing to share his glory with the servant. This raises questions about who this person is (v8). So, the coming of the servant will mark a new era, God is doing something different, he is promising a new covenant (v9).
The right response to the coming of the servant is praise and thanksgiving to God. So, Isaiah calls people from all parts of the earth, from fertile coastlands to desert cities to sing (v10-12). This is becauseGod is on the move, he has chosen to act, if it seemed he was silent before, he now cries out with a loud voice, compared here to the cries of a mother in labour. This reflect both a sense of the volume and that God is motivated by anguish like grief at evil. And God will act bringing judgement on his enemies, mirroring the plagues upon Egypt (v13-15). This provides a precursor to the new Exodus as God leads his people out of darkness and blindness into a new place, into light (v16). It is crucial though that Israel put their trust in God and not in idols (v17).
If God is about to lead out blind captives, then this describes the state of his people Israel. They have been blind and deaf to God, like their idols (remember chapter 6). The result is that they have been “plundered and looted”, in fact, they themselves have become the plunder as they’ve been led away into captivity -something already happening to Israel and something that will happen to Judah in the future but Isaiah writes prophetically about with a present tense feel to emphasise its imminence. Their own rebellion has brough judgement upon them and that is why they need God’s mercy and salvation (v18-25).
Who is the servant?
There has been much discussion amongst scholars over the identity of “the servant”, elsewhere Cyrus, a future Persian emperor will be described as the Lord’s servant but the wider prophecies seem to point beyond a pagan king. Is Isaiah himself God’s servant? Well yes, he is there to serve God, but again as we push into the prophecies, we see that the servant is one who takes sin on himself but also as we allude to here, there is a sense that he is given a share in God’s everlasting glory too. Israel may also be seen in some senses as the servant and indeed the idea is that the nation were meant to be a witness to the world around them, God’s ambassador. Perhaps too, their judgement and banishment has a representative feel to it. However, the New Testament makes it absolutely clear that these prophecies point specifically to Jesus. He is the one promised upon whom God’s spirit will rest.
Meditate on this promise concerning Jesus
“A bruised reed he will not break”
- In what ways are you and me like the bruised reed?
- What examples can you give of Jesus’ tender care for you?
Thank you Lord Jesus for your humility, that you came not to be served but to serve. Thank you that you treat us with kindness and compassion. We are sorry that at times we have allowed others to try to grasp a share in your glory. Help us to worship and trust in you alone.