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Lowell Brueckner

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The Servant Christ


39. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 42

A Messianic prophecy

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights” (v.1). Having shown us that He is able to raise up a servant, who will restore the Jew to his homeland, God is now saying that He can and will do more for His people. Here is One, who will carry out the purposes of God incomparably beyond what Cyrus can do. He comes to this earth, as a Servant, meek and lowly of heart. “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil.2:6-8). The apostle Paul, of course, speaks of Jesus Christ.

This Servant will bring to pass the eternal will of God, conceived before the foundation of the world and designed to extend into the countless and measureless eons, after time will be no more. He is chosen and upheld in the heart of a delighted God: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17). It was proclaimed by the Father at His baptism, when the Holy Spirit came upon Him. His ministry began and continues as a work of the trinity and just so, it is prophesied in our first verse. “I (the Father) have put my Spirit (the Holy Spirit) upon him (the Son).” It is our pleasure to consider a chapter, which begins with an unmistakable reference to the Messiah. The Jew today joins us in the conviction that this passage refers to the Messiah, although, of course, he is still awaiting His coming.

In his Gospel, Matthew quotes directly the first four verses of this chapter, showing that the inspired writer is satisfied that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled them. The message and demeanor of the Christ will not be aggressive (v.2), something which we should take into account, concerning our evangelistic and missionary efforts. We can take personal comfort in the fact that Jesus will not break the bent reed nor put out the lowest flame, but in compassion will straighten and strengthen them both. He was not a revolutionary, mustering the strong to fight, but a Savior, calling the weak and wounded to His side (v.3). 

The full scope of Jesus’ ministry

We must become accustomed to the fact that Isaiah takes in the full scope of Jesus’ ministry, something which we should do, as well. However, we understand further that it will be accomplished as the result of two advents, one of which has already taken place and the other is to come. It is at His second coming, when He will bring perfect justice to all the nations (v.1, 3, 4).

The biblical account of creation must be believed by all those who will receive the gospel. Creation is established in the first chapter of John’s Gospel: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… The world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (Jn.1:3,10). The Creator and Lord of the universe became the Savior. God, the Lord, is established by Isaiah as the Creator of heaven and earth in verse 5, and upon that authority, He calls forth a people. He gives breath and spirit to them and thereby claims righteousness in doing as He pleases with them.

The chosen ones should see themselves as highly favored, because they come under His own special care. He takes them by the hand and keeps them; He who calls them is their Keeper, given to people, who cannot keep themselves. The Servant becomes a covenant in Himself; the God/Man establishes, in Himself alone, the covenant between God and man. The New Testament is not something, but Someone. Those who come to Him, come under the covenant, and He that has the Son, has the eternal life, provided by the eternal covenant. Life and light is not given apart from Christ, but in Him. “I am the light of the world,” He said and in Him, “You are the light of the world” (v.6 with Jn.8:12; 9:5 and Mt.5:14).

So states the Gospel of Isaiah, the prophetic gospel, upon which the four New Testament Gospels are built. Christ is the One, who opens blind eyes, both physical and spiritual. He delivers from material prisons and from the prisons of spiritual darkness (v.7). The glory goes to the Lord, to whom alone it belongs (v.8) and the man, who claims it for himself, is a thief. An idol, formed by man’s religion or by his technology, should receive no praise. There are many man-made gods, before which modern people bow down and serve.

The new song

We saw in the last chapter that history is possessed by the Lord and is fulfilled prophecy, while He alone declares the future through prophecy. The old things are prophecies that are already fulfilled, while the new things will come to pass in the future. There is no new truth or new doctrine; there is only unfulfilled prophecy, which God has already declared and which He formed entirely, before the beginning of time. The new is established and built upon the old (v.9)

The new song is sung by those, who have uncovered the gospel, hidden and yet declared through the prophecies of the Old Testament. It is sung, not only by the Jew, but also by the Gentile. Heaven will manifest the full redemption of body, soul and spirit that was gained through the old, rugged cross (v.10). “And they sang a new song, saying, worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev.5:9-10). One hymn states…

And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
Twill be the same old story that I have loved so long.

God’s plan includes specific plans, which must be found and followed, in every part of the earth, resulting in conversion and praise to Him. Isaiah specifies the sea-faring people, abundant in the Mediterranean territory, who obtain their living by fishing and trade. Add the inhabitants of the coastal areas and the islands. Far inland, from the desert and its cities, from the northwestern part of the Arabian desert, Kedar (21:16), to an area near Petra, that is Sela (16:1), proper names are used to emphasize the Lord’s individual attention concerning them. Everywhere and at all times, God implements His purposes to call people to praise and glorify Him (v.11-12). In our days, we must remind ourselves constantly that the preaching of the gospel is not only to save lost sinners, but ultimately has the goal of giving glory to God.

The Man of war

“The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes” (v.13). He is the Lord of Hosts, who musters armies to carry out His will. He is a conqueror, who vanquishes foes: “For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh” and those slain by the Lord shall be many” (66:16). This is the only way to deal with a mutinous race that rises up in rebellion against its Creator. Every individual that surrenders to Christ is a conquered enemy. When we join His church to fulfill His will in our lives, we enlist in an army dedicated to the battle for truth. We hear little of this theme in our times, but many old hymns carried a battle tone, including Luther’s famed “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”.

Using another analogy, the Lord compares Himself to a woman, who, after nine months of waiting while a child formed in her womb, is suddenly brought into the throes of labor. He has kept silence, while wrath built up within, but now He says, “I will gasp and pant” (v.14). Then literally, “I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools” (v.15). The Lord gasps and pants in the delivery of His judgment upon His enemies.

The next verse is interjected to show that in the midst of His warfare, God remembers the helpless and guides them through the battle. He pauses to assure them that they are not forsaken. These are humble enough to admit their need for a Guide, because they have not come this way before. He is their light, who otherwise are blind, and He levels the rough places, where they might stumble (v.16). Could this also point to a time, when the Jew, still in spiritual blindness, is led back to his homeland, first from Babylon, and then from many nations in the end times?

Throughout the Scripture, idols are shown to be a huge offense to the true and living God (v.17). They are weak and disgusting substitutes for His glorious strength and infinite care. I will continue to maintain that idolatry goes beyond religious statues, and includes man’s technological images, created by his own hands, in which he trusts. Only those spiritually blind and deaf to the reality of God can fall into this kind of ignominious deception. The Lord calls them to hear and to see. He is especially speaking of Israel in Babylonian captivity and Israel today, scattered among the nations, called His messenger and His servant, is fiercely dedicated to his religion (v.18-19).

In verse 20, we see again a theme brought up by Isaiah, which carries into the Gospels. “He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear”. This is the condition of man that breeds hypocrisy and false religion. Through his independence and pride, he is unaided by the Holy Spirit, doomed thereby to the limitations of mere human thinking, however clever and creative they may be. Jesus saw this in the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

The Department of Justice

The Kingdom of God has its Department of Justice; we cannot be mistaken about it. “The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious” (v.21). The law was a manifestation of God’s glory and delight. However, Paul states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro.3:23). Two verses later, the apostle states a vitally important doctrine to sum up the necessity of the cross: “(Jesus Christ) whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood… This was to show God’s righteousness.” The holy law of an angry God demands the irrevocable sentence of death upon the offender. God demonstrated His righteousness by the death of Christ, through the shedding of His blood, by which the righteous sentence was carried out and God’s wrath was appeased. This was a substitutionary death for the sins of the world and it was the horrible cost of our salvation.

Take Jesus Christ out of the picture and through Isaiah, God portrays the resulting condition because of their sin, first of Israel, but also that of the entire world. “This 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!’” (v.22). Listen carefully now; we are confronted with great theology here: “Who among you will give ear to this, will attend and listen for the time to come?” (vs. 23) It is repeated at the beginning of Isaiah 53: “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Another question follows: “Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Who condemned him, not only to the captivity of Babylon, but to the fires of eternal punishment? The answer is given very clearly: “Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk and whose law they would not obey? So he poured on him the heat of his anger and the might of battle; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart” (v.24-25).

Let us consider the implications of this text for the sake of our understanding of the work accomplished, which brought about our salvation. The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the following: Who plotted and caused the death of God’s Son? Was it the Sanhedrin or the Roman governor? Was it Satan and his cohorts? First of all, we must recognize that it is no other than God Himself, who has pronounced divine sentence against us.  Jesus warned, “Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Lk.12:5).

However, because “God so loved the world”, He supplied a Lamb as a substitute, therefore, The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all… yet it pleased (Hebrew: khaw-fates’ – to incline to, to be pleased with, desire, delight, favor, like, move, be pleased, have pleasure, will, would) the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief… the pleasure (Hebrew: khay’-fets, derived from khaw-fates’ above, meaning desire, acceptable, delight, things desired, matter, pleasant, purpose, willingly) of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (53:6, 10 KJV). We want to be very clear here; the sacrifice of Christ, was not only brought about by the Father, but it was His pleasure! The death of Christ was not only brought about to bring salvation, but also… and in first place… it removed the displeasure of our sin from the heart of the Father.

Because Israel stubbornly refused to understand and make this a matter of the heart, because he would not obey his God, judgment fell upon him, as described in these last two verses. However, we are looking ahead to chapter 53, to contemplate the Substitute for Israel’s deserved condemnation… and ours. The same language is applied to Him: “So He poured on Him the heat of His anger.”


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