Isaiah 42-44 Servant Song: Behold my servant whom I uphold and delight

From Isaiah 42-44

23 Isaiah kneeling thumbThere are four passages in the Book of Isaiah that are usually referred to as the “Servant Passages” or ‘Servant Songs”. These are Is 42.1-7; 49.1-12; 50.4-11, and 52.13-53:12. Today we will look at the first.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, 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 aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. (Is 42:1–4)

The LORD is speaking about his ‘servant’. He upholds and delights in him above all others. He has been empowered and marked out by the LORD’s Spirit. In the Old Testament, people with special roles were given the Holy Spirit so they could do the work the LORD set for them. He will bring in the LORD’s kingdom by establishing justice. He will be opposed, but he will not falter or give up. All the people wait for his law. The giving of the law is part of a covenant where a conquering king defined the way his subjects should live.

5 Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
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 take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations, (Is 42:5–6)

The LORD’s actions involve both creation and covenant. The LORD creates the universe and gives everything life. He then as king and covenant maker calls the servant (the ‘you’) in righteousness. Like a few other passages the notions of righteousness overlap. Here the LORD demonstrates his Kingly justice and Covenant faithfulness in looking after the people he has created, which includes all nations. That is, the Gentiles.

7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.” (Is 42:7–9)

The servant will bring about salvation. The salvation described leans on the spiritual side. People see rightly again and are freed from captivity and darkness. Before there was a time of sin and idolatry. But the LORD will not share his glory with false gods. This age will pass. The coming of the servant will begin a new age.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

If we continue along in the reading we can see this new age has yet to be inaugurated. Speaking about Judah, his unfaithful servant, the prophet says;

18 Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,
or blind as the servant of the Lord?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21 The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this,
will attend and listen for the time to come?
24 Who gave up Jacob to the looter,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25 So he poured on him the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all around, kbut he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart. (Is 42.18-25)

They had to wait for the coming of the true servant. The promised Christ.

Story of Jesus

After he was born, Mary and Joseph took the little baby Jesus to Jerusalem.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 as it is written in the Law of the Lord,

“Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”

24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord,

“a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. (Lk 2.22-33)

Jesus is the promised Christ. The servant of the LORD spoken about in Is 42.1-6.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.