Isaiah 42: Let Me Introduce You
Updated: Jun 13
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)
To this point, Isaiah has been prophesying the coming of a kingdom of great glory and the reign of a righteous, benevolent king. Now the Voice behind the prophet reintroduces that king, not dressed in a flowing royal robe but in the knee-length tunic of a servant. He’s God’s servant, not because God needs a servant but because this servant desires to serve. God calls him “my chosen,“ not because he was selected as the most qualified, but because he was the only one qualified to reveal the Father’s heart. This loving one’s willingness to enter a hostile world brought the Father great delight. As the coming King, he will bring righteous justice to the earth, but first, he comes to bring God's holy love to mankind.
To those at the end of their strength and on their last breath, the broken reeds and the smoldering wicks, he brings strength and rest. Never faltering and never discouraged, he never loses patience with those who are. What odd characteristics for one sent to bring justice to the earth: patient, faithful, good. Resolute, and joyfully so. Meek. Not in a panic. With a quiet strength—the best kind.
“In his teaching the islands will put their hope,” the Sender says. Given there were no accurate world maps in Isaiah's time and God was the only one who knew the earth was round, landmasses in the distance probably looked like islands from where Isaiah was standing. So the humble servant’s teaching is not just for the islands, thank God. But that little geographical clarification isn't the key to understanding this verse anyway. With apologies to the many modern Bible translations, I think it was the Greeks who got it right: “And His name will be the hope of all the world.”
So the One doing the introducing reminds us first of all who He is—Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything on the earth—and then He lets us listen in as He speaks to His chosen (verses 5-9).
At times, his task will seem unbearable (Luke 22:42), so the One who chose him reminds him of this—He will be with him through it all, empowering him to complete his calling: to fulfill the covenant promises God made to the Jews, to establish a new covenant to include the gentiles, and to reveal himself as man's mighty Deliverer from the bondage and blinding of sin.
He reminds the idol worshippers and anyone else listening that He is Yahweh—the great I AM—and He will not give His place to any other, be they wooden or metal or rock or flesh.
Then He bursts forth with this good news: things are about to change. That “about“is the God-kind of “about.“ He's talking about a time after the Babylonian captivity to a people who have yet to experience the Babylonian captivity about things that have yet to be fulfilled even now.
“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
We love new things, don’t we? These new things aren’t things we put in the cupboard or park in the garage, but things that will change the entire course of history and the destiny of all of mankind! What other response can there be but an outburst of terrific praise!
It’s here, in these anonymous respondents’ song, that we begin to see the mysterious, majestic identity of the chosen Servant-King. The Creator introduced him as a servant, but the wise will recognize him as the conquering King:
The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.
All who love Him and look for His coming will be singing this song at the end; it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start singing it now.
So who is the “I” in verses 14-17? Creator God or conquering King? I think the answer is “both” because the purpose of Yahweh and the task of the Servant-King are one, and together “they” reveal their excitement about things that will finally come to pass.
Have you ever thought about the Father’s disposition through centuries of waiting? If we think it’s taking a long time to see His deliverance, just think of Him who has been waiting to deliver it!
For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.
I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.
I’m not sure why the devastation of the landscape is required to bring the blind to their place of promise. Maybe because old things have to be cleared away for new things to come? Regardless, the result of it is deliverance for those He is leading and the destruction of those who oppose.
At this point, the prophet steps back from the future to address those standing right there: the leaders of Judah.
The servant he speaks of in verse 19 is obviously not the servant He spoke of in verses 1-4. Rather, He’s speaking to His blind and deaf servant Israel, who was chosen to announce the coming Kingdom to the nations, but didn’t.
“You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back.”
Of those living in oblivion after the Assyrians were turned back and clueless to the coming of the Babylonians, Isaiah asks, “Who is even paying attention?” (verse 23)
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned?
For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand, it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.
Interesting that Isaiah included himself with the congregation of sinners, but not in the plight of the disobedient. Back when the Lord asked, “Who will go for Me?“ Isaiah was paying attention. He answered, “Here am I; send me,” separated himself from the disobedient, and stepped into the role of God’s prophet, at significant cost to himself.
The nation of Israel, ears stopped up and walking blind, also paid a price: the violence of war, the loss of their homeland, and a long walk to Babylon. They spent seventy years among an idol-worshipping people and lost their identity as God’s own.
But God hasn’t forgotten them.
Tune in next time for more beautiful promises to the servants who wouldn’t serve, all compliments of the One who did.