Text: Isaiah 42-44
Observe We meet the first of four “Servant Songs" in Isaiah that focus on the call and work of "the Lord's servant"(42:1-9). This poem unveils the One to "bring justice to the nations" (42:1). These few verses reveal much about this unnamed Servant.
‘He will not break a bruised reed or snuff a smouldering wick’ (42:3). Faithfulness permeates His strong, gentle rule. His determined justice will spread through His creation (v.4). His leading out of exile reveals the Servant is a light to the world (6,7) opening the eyes of the blind, freeing captives, renewing, restoring, because ‘I have put My Spirit upon Him’. (42:1b). He is glorious, unique, powerful (8). In righteousness, the Servant heals blindness and softens hard hearts (recall the oracle against Babylon in chapter 14); forgettable “former things” yield to the new. (9) The chapter ends with God’s burning wrath against Israel, yet…
… the first two words in 43:1 shift us onto another plane: ‘But now … I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… ‘ He does not promise ease, but His Presence in exile (Fear not…), the I AM with them. As at the Red Sea, He leads through waters (the image of chaos in Genesis 1:2) to safety, for I am doing a new thing.(19) He brings His people through fire; like the fiery pillar in Exodus, it does not destroy but lights the way to life (43:2c).
Yahweh as the only God is made clear. ‘I am the First and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no god.’ (44:6) We hear distant echoes in Rev. 1:8 where Alpha and Omega, eternal God, is declared – ‘who is, who was, and who is to come’. An abrupt change from poetry to prose (44:9-12) mocks the manufacture of wooden idols that provide … kindling. The return to praiseful poetry speaks God’s restoration of Jerusalem, and again Cyrus, God’s agent, is mentioned in v.28.
Interpret In the ancient Near East, establishing justice was a principal kingly function, but ‘ justice’ was often brutal containment of conquered people. In chapters 40-66, (“Second Isaiah”) the Lord grounds messianic kingship in mercy, a new justice – and suffering love.
Jewish readings of these chapters see Israel as the [Suffering] Servant, bringing not only Godly justice, but a wellspring of hope for the nation of Israel; the early followers of Jesus read the Servant as Messiah Jesus (Mark 10:45). Isaiah writes Gospel – in the Hebrew Bible! We have his prophetic foretelling of Jesus and His purpose, revealing relentless faithfulness, offering redeeming grace to all who follow Him, making all things new (42:9,10,16; 43:18;44:3,22), removing fear (43:1b; 44:2b, 8). Humanity turns from Him time and again, yet He repeatedly offers salvation to His recalcitrant people.
Deep love is shown in these beautiful and moving words: ‘… you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you…’(43:4) Precious: of great value, highly esteemed, cherished – made for a King. He blots out sins like a cloud… like a mist when they/we, precious in His sight, turn to Him in repentance and faith. (44:22)
Apply As we look closely at the poetry of the coming Messiah, short phrases introduce and recall for us His significant promises: ‘But now…” “Fear not…”; “… I am doing a new thing”; “I will pour my Spirit…”; “I am the Lord…”.
Isaiah foretells our wonderful Saviour and forthtells His purposes. As we respond with quiet wonder, God gazes lovingly at us; we too are those ‘whom I created for my glory…’ (43:7). He delivers us from our personal exiles because He knew exile – didn’t Jesus leave His Father’s glory for the Cross? He did this, our Servant King of wondrous love, our Servant King of saving grace.
Ask Let me be still and quietly gaze at you, Jesus. I am precious to You, am I not? (How can this be?) And are You truly with me, always? (Even in my dark times?)
Pray Lord Jesus, as Your Spirit breathes Your life into mine, I realize (so pitifully slowly) how utterly precious You are. We flourish under Your suffering, renewing, transforming love, in humble thanksgiving.
Song: What Wondrous Love Is This Michelle Tumes
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.