My last post made a brief reference to Isaiah 42. I have been studying Isaiah with great appreciation over the past couple of years. It’s pretty deep, I’m not done, and I have a feeling I’ve only scratched the surface. But with all humility, here are some results of my study on the Servant of Isaiah 42. Some have given Isaiah’s Servant the title "Suffering Servant" linking other passages such as Isaiah 53, which I don’t think is out of line at all. But for the immediate context of Isaiah 42, I think the title of "meek and mild" fits better than "suffering". Before going any further, please read Isaiah 42:1-7.
The foundation which should be understood before delving into "Behold my servant", is the complete inadequacy of idols in comparison to the LORD God. In 41:23, the LORD issues a sort of challenge for idols to prove that they are gods. This is not the last time the LORD will give this challenge in Isaiah’s prophecy. Notice in 41:28 that the LORD is looking amongst these works of vanity for something, or someone to be a counselor to give some type of good tidings to Jerusalem. But the LORD does not find in all the array of these idols one single counselor that when asked could even answer one word. It is a sad sight as God looks at all the idols in Israel and not one of them is a true counselor for Israel.
Then in response to this search for someone to give some type of answer, we have the phrase which seems blurted out of nowhere, "Behold my Servant", which means "Look at my Servant!" In response to looking for someone to give an answer, God responds and says, "Look at my Servant!" God is saying, here is the One who is the Answer, my Servant. The characteristics of this Servant are quite simple. He will have the Spirit of the LORD upon Him. He is One in whom the LORD delights, or should we say, is well pleased.
Now for the things that He will NOT do. He will not cry out, raise His voice, or cause His voice to be heard in the streets. In short, He will not come to cause riots or gain public attention. He will not break off a bruised reed. The imagery here is that the bruised reed, through gentleness, may yet be healed and restored. Although others might consider the bruised reed to be beyond healing, the Meek and Mild Servant will not break that bruised reed holding out hope for its restoration. He will not quench a smoking flax. The imagery here is that the smoking flax, through gentleness, may yet burst into flame again. Although others might consider the smoking flax to be beyond the place where it will burn brightly, the Meek and Mild Servant will not quench that smoking flax holding out hope for its rekindled light to shine once more. What gentleness it would take to restore a bruised reed! What carefulness it would take to rekindle a smoking flax! And He will not fail nor be discouraged until He has established justice in the earth.
What will He do? He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. The coastlands will wait for His law. The ministry of the Meek and Mild Servant seems to be primarily focused, not on Israel, but on the nations throughout the earth, the Gentiles. The Servant will come with meekness and mildness, not forcefully, and through His gentle ways will bring judgement to the Gentiles. Establishing justice resulting in the coastlands waiting for His law assumes a relationship of trust. The Hebrew word "yachal" translated "wait" is also translated "hope" and "trust" in other places, and carries the basic idea of hope. The Servant will establish this relationship with the Gentiles, not by conquering the nations, but through inobtrusiveness and uninvasiveness. He will not fail nor be discouraged in His meek and mild ways until He has brought forth justice to the Gentiles.
In verse 6, the LORD is speaking to the Meek and Mild Servant saying, "I have called You… I will hold Your hand… I will keep You, and I will give You for a covenant". This last phrase is the one I want to focus on for a bit. God said to His Servant that He would give Him for a covenant to the people, the context here would be Israel. Then the following phrase is "for a light to the Gentiles". So this Meek and Mild Servant will be given as a covenant to Israel, then as He is given as a covenant to Israel, He shines as a light to the Gentiles. Verse 7 continues the thought of verse 6, it being one sentence. The light is shining upon the Gentiles in order to open blind eyes and to bring out from a darkened prison those who cannot see due to being kept from the light. From this passage, we can fully expect that a Spirit-filled, Meek and Mild Servant will be personally given for a covenant to the Israelites, at which time a light goes forth to the Gentiles who sit in darkness.
Now from our New Testament perspective: Matthew quotes this very prophecy as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Matthew 12:15-21. Matthew’s placement of Isaiah’s prophecy here in this context shows the relationship of the rejection by the Pharisees to the trusting of the Gentiles in His name. Christ withdrew Himself since He did not come to cause riots or gain public attention. It would be through meekness and mildness that He would bring justice to the Gentiles. It is no wonder that Matthew brings out the deeper meaning of Isaiah 42 and adds the phrase "And in His name shall the Gentiles trust", Matthew 12:21. Matthew’s gospel gives the plan of salvation for the Gentiles, knowing that these Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled within the church. Right in the midst of Christ’s ministry to the Israelites, Matthew states that the Gentiles will trust in His name. This is far from what a strictly "Jewish" gospel would proclaim.
Our New Testament theology must reflect these truths. Far from some hidden age that the Old Testament prophets knew nothing about, we are currently in the time of the salvation of the Gentiles. The Meek and Mild Servant has been given as a New Covenant, or New Testament for Israel, and the light is currently shining amongst the Gentiles, just as prophesied. The sinful nations are not being conquered, but are being shown mercy. The spiritually blind Gentiles are having their eyes opened and are being brought out from their dark prisons. Through meekness and mildness, Jesus Christ is winning a people for Himself from among the Gentiles. He will not snuff out any candle that may yet burst into flame. He will not break off any bruised reed no matter how damaged it may look. No one is beyond His help as He looks to win us through inobtrusiveness and uninvasiveness.
This passage is of great importance to me, since I am one of those blind Gentiles who has trusted in the Meek and Mild Servant of Isaiah 42. Our methods must agree with Christ’s methods. If He will not break a bruised reed, who are we to assume that authority? If He will not quench a smoking flax, can we not hold out hope for someone’s flame to be reignited as well?
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman