ISAIAH CHAPTER 42
THE SERVANT OF GOD
As we move into chapter 42, we are presented with a dramatic contrast to these statements about false gods and misguided leaders. We are introduced to God’s Servant in whom His soul delights.
Isaiah 42:1-4, NAS
1 "Behold, My servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one 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 out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street.
3 "A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 "He will not be disheartened or crushed, until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."
Here is the wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6) contrasted with the speechless counselors in chapter 41. Verses 1-9 of chapter 42 give us the first of four servant songs referring to the Messiah, Jesus. We find the others in Isaiah 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13—53:12. They speak of the Servant’s gentle manner and worldwide mission. Verses 1-3 describe the first coming of Jesus.
Israel and Messiah are often both called servant. Israel as God’s servant was to help bring the world to a knowledge of God. Israel failed over and over again, but The Messiah, Jesus, would fulfill this task and show God to the world. Clearly the Servant is now an individual rather than the nation of Israel as a whole.
God is delighted with Jesus (Matthew 3:17). As the Chosen One, He was to be the King of God’s elect people. He would be especially empowered by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2). The Chosen One reveals a character of gentleness, encouragement, justice, and truth. When you feel broken and bruised, or burned out spiritually, God won’t toss you aside as useless, but He will gently pick you up. These loving attributes of God are desperately needed by humankind today. Avoiding all manner of self-display, Jesus would carry on a quiet and unassuming ministry, even though multitudes, as we now know, would flock to him out in the fields and hills. The quiet and submissive qualities of Christ at His first coming fulfilled these words of Isaiah (Matthew 11:28-30) which were spoken 700 years before Christ actually came.
Jesus will be particularly tender to the poor as well as to the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3), who are as fragile as a “bruised reed.” And to those with hardly a spark of hope, like a flickering lamp in which the wick has all but burnt out, Jesus will bring comfort and encouragement to the weak and oppressed (Isaiah 40:11; 50:4; 61:1).
In verse 4 Isaiah looks beyond Jesus’ first coming to His second coming, when He will rule all the earth in perfect justice with “a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:8,9; Revelation 2:27). He would have a ministry to all nations, bringing them judgment. The Hebrew word for “judgment” used in verses 1 and 4 is mishpa¯t?, and the meaning here implies the principles of divine holiness and truth. These standards that Christ will bring will take permanent root and spread throughout the world. Jesus, at His second coming, sometime in the future, we know not when, will bring righteousness for all people and nations throughout the world.
The mission of the Servant of the Lord is to establish justice on the earth (verses1-4) and to be “a light to the nations” (verses 5-9).
Isaiah 42:5-9 NAS:
5 Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it,
6 “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations,
7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
8 “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
9 “Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”
In verse 6 the Servant, Jesus, is a covenant in that He provides the blessings of salvation which God promised to all people. Jesus will open eyes that are blind and release the prisoners from the dungeon of unbelief. Part of Jesus’ mission on earth was to demonstrate God’s righteousness and be a light to the nations. Through Christ, all people have the opportunity to share in His mission. We must, however, first seek Christ’s righteousness before we can demonstrate it to others. We must first let His light shine in us before we can become lights ourselves.
God had given the prophecy in verses 6 and 7 and He will not let idols take credit for it (Isaiah 41:21-24). In view of all that God had already done for Israel (the former things) these new things (Isaiah 48:6) of which He had been speaking would certainly happen. No other god can foretell such things. Isaiah was affirming that God, unlike idols, can tell the future. And this divine ability adds to His glory (verse 8).[fn]
We need to give particular heed to verse 8. This is an eternal principle. It was stated in the first and second of the Ten Commandments. It was true in eternity past when Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and it will be true in eternity to come—in Heaven. We see throughout Scripture that the person who exalts himself or herself and takes the glory due to God is sooner or later destroyed.
The Church needs to pay close attention to this verse as well. It is too easy for a ministry to become man-centered or leader-centered. It is too easy for churches today to use business principles to run their affairs and never consult God. And when those marketing procedures increase the attendance at the church, someone writes a book about how to do it. But watch out! The Church is God’s and is to be run by the Holy Spirit and to follow Scriptural principles for church growth. “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another.” Not even to marketing principles. Or here is another scenario: Joe Blow has won hundreds to the Lord; Joe Blow has thousands in attendance at his church every week; Joe Blow has written best-selling books; Joe Blow is on TV every week. But if Joe Blow does not humbly acknowledge it is all God’s doing, then all the accomplishments are as nothing. God will not share His glory and no one of us is to take the glory that belongs to God. “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another.” That is one thing to properly fear.
Isaiah 42:10-13 NAS:
10 Sing to the Lord a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them.
11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices, The settlements where Kedar[fn] inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela[fn] sing aloud, Let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord And declare His praise in the coastlands.
13 The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.
Verses 10-13 represent the Gentiles as singing praise for their deliverance and conversion, and rejoicing with faithful Israel over God’s conquest of all His enemies and His overthrow of empires and intellectual systems that have scoffed at His authority and truth. When God is on our side, we have nothing to fear because He will conquer. People everywhere will sing and shout to the Lord because of His victory over His enemies at
Jesus’ second coming.[fn] When Christ first appeared on the scene He came as a meek and lowly servant. When He returns at His second coming, He will come as a man of war judging the entire world. The culminating conquest, of course, will be the final conflict of Armageddon.
Isaiah 42:14-17 NAS:
14 “I have kept silent for a long time, I have kept still and restrained Myself. Now like a woman in labor I will groan, I will both gasp and pant.
15 “I will lay waste the mountains and hills And wither all their vegetation; I will make the rivers into coastlands And dry up the ponds.
16 “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.”
17 They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame, Who trust in idols, Who say to molten images, “You are our gods.”
We have God here portrayed as a mother, gasping, panting, and crying out in the pain of child birth. This is a verse a person should seriously consider if they think God is of the male gender only (see also Deuteronomy 32:18; Genesis 1 and 2; Deuteronomy 32:11). Here in Isaiah 42, as in Romans 8:22, we see that the birth of a new age is painful, especially for the one giving birth.
We need to be aware as we read these verses that several words for “love” and “compassion” in Hebrew are related to the word for “womb,” and have in them the concept of a mother’s love. After all, God is the mother and father of us all. He is not confined to one gender, it took two genders to fully express the image of God.
Having restrained himself during Israel‘s time of discipline, that is their exile to Babylon, God would now burst forth in judgment upon the powerful nations of the world, symbolized by these mountains and hills, and the various water barriers of Babylonia that would keep the Jewish exiles in captivity (verse 15). The unbelieving and wayward Jews were about to be led through suffering in order to abandon their idolatries and return to God. For their long night of disgrace and sorrow, the Lord would give them spiritual renewal, and he would smooth out all of the difficulties obstructing their return to Palestine. But those who refused to turn to God, the idolaters who clung to their false gods would be destroyed. God will care for His people. But those who still insist on trusting in false gods will be turned aside to the path that leads to Hell. These verses could very well also refer to what will occur during the end times, just before Jesus’ second coming, when God re-unites the Church as He gathers all believers, both Jews and non-Jews, back to Israel where they will be protected during the final days of destruction (Isaiah 43:7).
Isaiah 42:18-25 NAS:
18 Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see.
19 Who is blind but My servant, Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, Or so blind as the servant of the Lord?
20 You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears.
21 The Lord was pleased for His righteousness’ sake To make the law great and glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and despoiled; All of them are trapped in caves, Or are hidden away in prisons; They have become a prey with none to deliver them, And a spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this? Who will give heed and listen hereafter?
24 Who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel to plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, And in whose ways they were not willing to walk, And whose law they did not obey?
25 So He poured out on him the heat of His anger And the fierceness of battle; And it set him aflame all around, Yet he did not recognize it; And it burned him, but he paid no attention.
Isaiah 42:10–25, describes a singing nation, giving praise to the Lord, and a silent God who breaks that silence to become a shouting conqueror (verses13–17). God is patient with sinners, but when He begins to work, He doesn’t waste any time. The “servant” in verses 18–25 is Israel, blind to their own sins and deaf to God’s voice (Isaiah 6:9–10); yet the Lord graciously forgave them and led them out of bondage. Now God says to the Babylonians, “Send them back to their homeland in Israel!” (Isaiah 42:22). How sad it is when God disciplines us and we don’t understand what He’s doing or take it seriously (verse 25). Israel’s Captivity in Babylon cured the nation of their idolatry. They would never again worship gods made of wood or stone, but it did not create within them a desire to please God and glorify Him.[fn] How typical of their behavior century after century. Is it possible that the United States, by its failure to desire and please God, could be headed for a similar punishment? Possibly, and that may strike fear to your heart. But if it is we can still live with the hope that one day all believers will be called to Israel to rule from there with Christ during the Millennium in a perfect world, and then afterward live in the glory of Heaven for eternity.
[fn] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures . Victor Books: Wheaton, IL
[fn] (kee'duhr; Heb, ‘dark’), a confederation of Arab tribes based in the north Arabian desert. In Gen. 25:13 and 1 Chron. 1:29 Kedar is one of the twelve sons of Ishmael.# In the Bible the military might of the Kedarites is indicated by reference to their archers and warriors (Isa. 21:16-17). Thus, although they dwelt in the eastern desert in dark tents (Isa. 42:11; Jer. 2:10; 49:28; Ps. 120:5; Song of Sol. 1:5) and were herders (Isa. 60:7; Jer. 49:29), their ‘princes’ traded with Tyre, which lay on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea far to the north and east (Ezek. 27:21). Their being singled out in Isaiah and Jeremiah as objects of oracles shows their importance and corresponds to what we know of them from nonbiblical sources.
[fn] Se’lah, rock, the capital of Edom, situated in the great valley extending from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea (2 Kings 14:7). It was near Mount Hor, close by the desert of Zin. It is called “the rock” (Judg. 1:36). When Amaziah took it he called it Joktheel (q.v.) It is mentioned by the prophets (Isa. 16:1; Obad. 1:3) as doomed to destruction. It appears in later history and in the Vulgate Version under the name of Petra. “The caravans from all ages, from the interior of Arabia and from the Gulf of Persia, from Hadramaut on the ocean, and even from Sabea or Yemen, appear to have pointed to Petra as a common centre; and from Petra the tide seems again to have branched out in every direction, to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, through Arsinoe, Gaza, Tyre, Jerusalem, and Damascus, and by other routes, terminating at the Mediterranean.”
[fn] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Victor Books: Wheaton IL
[fn] Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1992. Be comforted. An Old Testament study. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.