Isaiah 42 = God’s Servant
Bible Background: The book of Isaiah is rich in poetry and promises, and was likely written by more than 1 author over 100 years. This “servant poem” comes from what most scholars refer to as “Second Isaiah” (because of the timeline involved.) The mystery in this poem is “who is this servant?” Is it one person? Is it the little nation of Israel as a whole? Is it Cyrus, king of Persia-whom God will use to bring the Jewish people back from exile? Is it pointing to Jesus who would not be born for another 600 years? Are we to be God’s servants in these ways too? Good questions!
Digging Deeper: 1. “Here is my servant…whom I uphold…who I delight in” says Yahweh. “I will put my spirit in him. He will bring forth justice to the nations.” The big assignment for God’s servant seems to be justice-and for all nations! Keep in mind the biblical idea of justice is much more than a person or a nation getting what they deserve. It is not mainly about crime/punishment or sins/retribution. It’s about right relationships and wholeness and peace between people and between people and God!
2. Then there’s this list of things God’s servant will not do: “will not cry out with a loud voice;” “will not break an already bruised reed;” “will not quench and already dimly burning wick.” This is not exactly the kind of messiah of Jewish expectations! They wanted someone who would overthrow their oppressors; who would display great power and might. But this servant sounds decidedly gentle! Another thing he will not do, is give up! This servant of God has a mission, and it’s for the good of all the earth.
3. The second part of the reading is where Yahweh reminds them of Yahweh’s claim on them: “I Am the LORD!” there isn’t any other! “I have called you!” “I have taken you by the hand.” “I have given you as a light to the nations!” Remember the promise to Abraham and Sarah included the idea that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through them?
4. For God’s servant, whether this passage is about the prophet, or Cyrus, or Israel, or Jesus, or us-the work is to be transformative: eyes of the blind-opened! Prisoners-freed! New things to be done! There’s a huge amount of hope in this passage….including the hope that God hasn’t given up on this world or God’s people, or those who ‘sit in darkness’. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.