2014-09-25 - The Servant of Isaiah 42
Author's Note: This message was based on a sermon preached 8/20/2009. I was asked specifically to preach on this chapter, as a church in a neighboring community was going thru the book of Isaiah - chapter by chapter, for 66 straight messages.
Chapter 42 of Isaiah opens with the first of four servant songs. They can be found in Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, and 52:13-53:12. Berhard Duhm coined the term "servant songs" in his German commentary on Isaiah published in 1892. This whole passage talks of the servant - his purpose on Earth and the source of his power in Heaven.
Isaiah 42:1-9 (NKJV)
The Servant of the Lord
- "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
- He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
- A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
- He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law."
- Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
- "I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
- To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
- I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.
- Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them."
First let's examine the Servant's Purpose. In 42:1, notice the servant's relationship to God. He is able to carry out his God-given ministry, because God's Spirit is with him. The servant's mission was not to deliver Israel from captivity and exile, but rather to deliver justice to the nations. In 42:2-3, we see the unique manner of the servant's ministry to bring justice to the nations; he will not come as an obnoxious, loud conqueror. He won't come in shouting orders; he will be gentle and meek. 42:3 goes on to add that he will exercise his power in such a way that he doesn't damage the hurting reeds or disenfranchised flax. I didn't understand this verse to mean anything more than the Servant would be gentle, until I ran across a message on the internet by a preacher named Larry Brincefield; then it made a lot more since.
"Reeds have hollow stems. They are quite fragile.
In fact, many times when you see reeds by the waterside many of them are knocked over.
They can be knocked over by the wind
by animals that come to the water's edge to drink
In marshy areas, you may see some reeds standing tall
but you will also find many broken down.
Once a reed is broken, it can't be fixed.
Other plants can repair themselves and spring forth fresh growth but not reeds.
In our text, Isaiah isn't talking about reeds
he is talking about people.
He is telling us that people can become bruised
In our world, there are many hurting people.
They can be knocked over by the forces of living
by other people
by disease and sickness
by the thoughtlessness and carelessness of other people.
There are many people that are bruised
they are all around us
they live next door to us
they shop where we shop
they play where we play
they are even here tonight."1
Have any of you ever let a candle burn all the way down? I have. I remember one time, one burned all the way down and caught the wood shelf of our headboard on fire. When a candle gets almost down its flame flutters and it gives off more smoke than normal. This is kind of what Isaiah is talking about with the smoking flax.
"Flax was used as a wick for an oil lamp
the message communicated by this phrase is a little different than the bruised reed.
Suppose you were in your home during the evening hours
before the days of electricity
your only source of light came from oil lamps.
As the day grew dark, you would light the oil lamps scattered around the house
If you forgot to fill one with enough oil to last the night you'd notice it begins to flicker
The light begins to grow dim.
Before it goes out it starts to smolder
and with that smoke would be a bad odor
If you were close enough the smoke and smell might bother your eyes and nose.
Most people put out the light, and just use the other ones that are still burning or go on to bed.
But not the servant he will do what he can to keep it burning.
Like the reeds, the smoking flax represents people too.
These are people who started out well in spiritual things. Their lives were burning brightly
At one time, they had a good relationship with the Lord.
At one time, they were on fire for God.
But over time
the oil begins to go out
the light begins to flicker
the joy of salvation is lost
and their relationship with the Lord dies down to dim flickering little flame… threatened by the slightest of winds
There is some spiritual life left
but not much
it is just about to go out.
It definitely doesn't have the strength to endure any hardships
The servant is not going to just put out the light and go to bed
It is not His desire to destroy what little faith is left in us.
It is His desire to
trim the wick
to add oil to the lamp
fan the flame
not to quench the light
but to bring it back to greater strength than ever before.
There are different ways that our relationship with the Lord may begin to flicker
Maybe sin creeps into our lives
maybe pride or selfishness creeps in
maybe people begin to hang around with the wrong crowd
Maybe it is neglect of spiritual duties like prayer
and Church attendance.
But for whatever reason that our spiritual life begins to flutter." (ibid)
The servant can restore to us the joy of our salvation. The servant will succeed in his mission. In 42:4, we see he will administer God's justice to all the world. Moving on to 42:6, God will help the servant accomplish his work. The servant will be a covenant to his own people and a light to the nations. God does this because in 42:8 he will get the credit not idols. According to 42:9, the old way was using Israel to glorify God before the nations but now he will use a new way using the servant. God no longer uses a nation to reach people but now he uses people to reach the nations.
Larry Brincefield, Introduction of the Servant
All scripture references are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.
CFD | September 2014
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