Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 7 2019 - Isaiah 42:1-17 – The Servant of the Lord

Isaiah 42:1-4 is the first of the four "Servant Songs" found in these chapters of Isaiah (see also 49:1-6; 50:4-9 and 52:13-53:12). Isaiah speaks of "the servant of the Lord" throughout chapters 40-55. Often it is a title used of God's people as a whole (e.g. 41:8-9, and in verse 19 in this chapter as well as elsewhere). But at times the servant is a specific person from within Israel, distinct from the rest of the nation and called to act on God's behalf for the salvation of Israel and of the wider world. This mysterious figure finds its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus who is a descendent of David according to the flesh but also the living God, come to save his people. He both identifies with and represents God's people while also acting for their salvation.

Jesus is the Servant of the Lord, the one in whom God delights (Matthew 3:17; 17:5 etc.). He was filled with and empowered by the Spirit of God for his servant work (Matthew 3:16 etc.). In the context of nations in turmoil, he is the hope of the world; the only hope for the establishment of a truly just world. But unlike Cyrus, whose ruthless power would overthrow that of Babylon, the Lord's Servant would be marked by a quiet and gentle Spirit. The lovely description of the Servant, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out" (along with the previous verses), is quoted of Jesus in Matthew 12:15-21 in the context of his ministry to the crowds who followed him and his healing of the sick. In his tender compassion for the weak and the despised of society Jesus displays the heart of God for he acts as the Servant of the Lord.

The Servant's ministry will not be for the blessing of Israel alone, he will be a light to the Gentiles – he will open eyes of the blind, free captives from prison and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness (v.7). He will be the foundation for a covenant of grace between the living God and all the peoples of the world.

In the light of these things, the ends of the earth are called to sing a new song of praise to the Lord (v. 10). God is marching out to save his people and lead them home in triumph (v.13). He will not allow any difficulties to obstruct their return (v. 15), but will lead his people by the hand and will "turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth" (v.16). No idol-god could do such things for those who trust in them (v. 17).

We also are called to sing a new song of praise to God for the blessings of our salvation freely given us through the Lord's Suffering Servant. More than that, he not only identifies with us in our sin and need and acts to save us, he also makes us his disciples and calls us to join his mission towards a lost world. The Servant of the Lord is called to be a light to the Gentiles and bring God's salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), but in Acts 13:46-48, Paul quotes these words in connection with his own ministry and his decision to leave the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to focus on preaching the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. Paul understood Christ's mission to bring salvation to the ends of the earth had become his mission; Christ was continuing his mission in him and through him. This is precisely what Jesus had said to his disciples when he, the Light of the world (John 8:12), told them that they also were to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

This is our mission also. We are those who have seen "the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). We are now called to bring this same light to those in the darkness that comes from knowing nothing of the glory of God's grace and goodness.

Father God, give us a fresh vision of your saving purposes in the Lord Jesus – purposes of love that have embraced us and would embrace the whole world. Fill us with songs of praise to you and a burning desire to make Christ known. By your Spirit, continue your work in us and work through us for the extension of your kingdom and the glory of your name. As you would permit no obstacle to prevent your salvation of us, so may we refuse to be deterred by the obstacles that we face in bringing the light of your salvation to those in darkness. Shine Jesus shine.

Peter Misselbrook