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Remember the Messianic prophecy that Isaiah had delivered in 9:1-7, chap. 11. What a tremendous prospect to look forward to: the advent of a Messiah who would rule on the earth in justice and righteousness . . . Who would deliver God’s chosen people from their oppression and affliction.

In order to comfort Israel as they face the approaching hardship of the Babylonian Captivity, Isaiah focuses their hopes back on this same promise. No matter how bleak things get, no matter how much injustice reigns around you, God will ultimately send His servant Messiah to triumphantly usher in this reign of justice on earth.

Look at current events that cause us to cry out for justice on earth:

– ISIS beheading of Japanese hostage

– Yemen coup

– Etc.

The false idols exposed in chapter 41 are powerless to call the shots. But God always calls the shots and He will fulfill all of His promises as He intervenes in history to accomplish something totally new and wonderful.

David Thompson:


Servant Songs: Isa 42:1-7; 49:1-9a; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12; [61:1-4 ??] — the appointment and empowerment of God’s Servant; His characteristics; His mission; His suffering; His victorious accomplishment

Parunak: Vv. 1-4 speak of the servant in the third person, while in 5-7, the Lord addresses him directly. This passage is quoted of our Lord in the NT, and also understood Messianically in Jewish tradition.

Constable: Earlier (41:8-16) the servant was Israel, so the readers would naturally assume that Israel is the servant here too. Other references to Israel as the servant of the Lord are verse 19; 43:10; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; and 48:20. Only later does it become clear that this Servant must be an individual, namely: Messiah. The context and the characteristics ascribed to the servant in each reference to him dictate his identity. That the Servant is not Cyrus is clear from the contrasts between them. He will be the ideal representative of Israel who will accomplish for the Lord what Israel did not regarding the world (cf. Gen. 12:3). Matthew quoted 42:1-4 as finding fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Matt. 12:18-21).


F. Duane Lindsey: The emphasis of the passage is on the introduction of the servant and the out- come of His completed task. The servant is called to accomplish His work. The poem thus predicts the servant’s faithfulness in fulfilling the mission for which He was designated.


5 Reasons for the Successful Mission of Bringing Justice to Earth

A. (:1a) Divinely Appointed with Approbation

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.”

Approbation: commendation, praise

Emphasizing more the mission of God’s Servant rather than His identity at this point

Young: turn their thoughts away from the idols of vanity to the One who can bring salvation to His people

“uphold” – grasp by the hand, grasping securely e.g., Exod. 17:12 (Aaron and Hur supporting the hands of Moses during the battle with the Amalekites)

God delights in His chosen servant – Matt. 3:17; 17:5 – testimony of the Father at His baptism and on the mountain of Transfiguration

F. Duane Lindsey: Election by Yahweh made a person His servant (cf. 1 Kings 11:13, 32-34; Ps. 105:26; Hag. 2:23). The servant’s task cannot be performed by just anyone—it can be accomplished only by Yahweh’s “chosen one.” Election and service go hand in hand (43:10-12, 21; cf. 41:8-9). The expression “my servant” is not only a title of honor, but also, since Yahweh is viewed as the King of Israel in the immediate context (41:21; cf. 43:15; 44:6), a description implying royal characteristics. . . Not only is the literary genre of the passage similar to a royal designation oracle (as already indicated), but the task of establishing (“a just order”) is a characteristically royal responsibility. . . The entire expression (“my servant whom I uphold”) is tantamount to saying, “He’s mine— no power can overcome Him!”23 How can He not succeed in His task of causing a just order to prevail in the earth?

[Source: BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 139 (553) (Jan. 1982): 12-31.]

Scott Grant: Verse 1 contains echoes of 1 Samuel 16:13, where David was anointed by Samuel and the Spirit came upon him. The links to David in verse 1 show that when Isaiah speaks of the Servant of the Lord, he’s also speaking of a king.

B. (:1b) Divinely Anointed to Execute Justice

“I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.”

Young: To endue the servant for his work, God has placed His Spirit upon him. The Spirit is a divine force and supernatural power who equips the recipient to perform his task.

Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism in the form of a dove

(cf. 11:2-4; Num. 11:16-25; 1 Sam. 16:13; Ps. 33:6; 139:7; Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18-19, 21).

Cf. 61:1-3

Does He primarily proclaim judgment or execute judgment?

Matt. 12:18ff this passage is quoted in the NT – sense of proclaiming justice

Calvin: Christ was sent in order to bring the whole world under the authority of God and under obedience to him.

The primary meaning of the noun “justice” is that of a judicial decision or sentence

Motyer — “Justice” – mispat — In the light of the foregoing court scene it must retain its meaning of “judgment at law” .. also a righting of wrongs, the establishment of a just order – a prospect associated with the Lord’s own coming to reign (Pss. 96:11-13; 98:7-9).

Constable: connotes societal order as well as legal equity.

Oswalt: This is that life-giving order which exists when the creation is functioning in accordance with the design of its Lord. . . It is through the Servant that the lordship of God will be made effectively available to everyone.

Parunak: In the most common idiom, bringing “judgment” refers to the statute itself, rather than the resulting action, and the idea is that God provides his righteous laws to people. This meaning fits the context well. The Psalmist recognized that the knowledge of God’s judgments was a privilege for Israel, not originally accessible to the Gentiles:

Psa 147:19f He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them.

The Servant extends this knowledge to all nations, as prophesied in the Messianic vision of ch. 11,

Isa 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

F. Duane Lindsey: The servant’s task is to make right within history all aspects and phases of human existence -whether moral, religious, spiritual, political, social, economic, and so forth -so that the prayer will be fulfilled, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). . . the kind of life that will prevail on earth when all nations are brought under God’s rule, to be accomplished through the instrumentality of God’s servant

Fits best with a premill interpretation where there is a millennial kingdom on earth

C. (:2) Divinely Dependent with Meekness and Humility

“He will not cry out or raise His voice,

Nor make His voice heard in the street.”

Young: He stands in sharp contrast to the loud worldly conqueror who proclaims to all his deeds.

Motyer: Such service is first unostentatious and unself-advertising.

Parunak: This verse explains why “he … charged them that they should not make him known.” The Savior did not promote himself, or try to generate “buzz.” He did not come to promote himself:

David Thompson: God’s Servant came an entirely different way than the world’s political leaders. He had no pomp or circumstance to His first coming. Think of how opposite this is to our world. When some major political leader goes anywhere, they travel in a fleet of limousines and in a caravan that announce their presence to the whole world. Even actors and actresses love the limelight of red carpet treatment. Here was God in the world and what a contrast.

Jesus Christ would not initially come as some boisterous world conqueror the first time, which is what Israel wanted, instead He came quietly and unobtrusively. He did not try to make a public spectacle of himself. He did not seek notoriety or prominence. He was not here to make a big name for Himself, even though this was the greatest Person to ever walk on the face of this earth.

He was here to save sinners.

* * * * * * * * * *

Illustration: Harry Ironsides: Personally I was so under the power of legality that I felt guilty if I rode in a street car without immediately rising to give my testimony.

As soon as we left the corner I would get to my feet and say, “Friends, I want to give my testimony for Jesus Christ, and I want to tell you how God saved me.”

The conductor would come and say, “Sit down. We didn’t ask you to come in here to conduct a church service.”

Then I was rather rude to him. I said, “Well, I’ll sit down if you say so, but you’ll have to answer at the judgment-bar of God for preventing these people from hearing the gospel.”

I would do the same thing in a railroad train. As soon as we got away from the station, I faced the passengers and began to give my testimony. I felt I had to do it, or be responsible for their souls. I did not realize that this was rude. . .

The devil either tries to keep you quiet or makes you think you must do what is unreasonable. What delivered me at last and showed me there was a golden mean between indifference and rudeness was this very passage.

* * * * * * * * * *

F. Duane Lindsey: The more probable interpretation of these verbs indicates that the servant will not seek publicity (v. 2) or promote violence toward the oppressed (v. 3a). An alternate view that the servant will not utter lamentation in His distress is a definite possibility and merits some attention. . . the statements may simply be the figure of speech called litotes (a negative, minimizing statement used to emphasize its opposite), thus indicating the meek, humble, gentle character of the servant (cf. Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5).

He not only shall come quietly but he shall deal gently.

D. (:3a) Divinely Compassionate with Gentleness and Mercy

“A bruised reed He will not break,

And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;”

Young: refers to broken men, whose hope is extinguished because of outward oppression and perhaps also because of inward disillusionment with the life of this world.

Alan Carr: When Jesus comes, His faithful people will be weak and their flame nearly extinguished. He will not break them down or snuff them out. He will heal their weaknesses. He will bind them up and restore their usefulness. He will rekindle their flame so their light shines bright again. The Messiah will not fail in His mission to redeem and restore His people. . . flax threads were used as wicks in oil lamps. A piece of thread would be placed in the oil. After the thread had been thoroughly soaked with the oil, it would be lit and would serve as a wick, drawing the oil from the lamp, producing light. . . The “bruised reed” has lost its strength, its stability and its soundness. A “bruised reed” is unreliable and unusable. . . The “smoking flax” has lost its light and its glory. A “smoking flax” has become unusable. . . The Lord sees the weakness and the uselessness of the “bruised reed” but He does not reach out in anger to finish it off. He does not come to the “bruised reed” to destroy it, but to mend it, to repair it, reinforce it and to restore it. . . The Lord does not snuff out that smoldering wick. He does not finish it off without a care. Instead, He comes to rekindle its weak flame. He comes to make it useful again. He comes cause it to shine its light one more time.

Brian Bell: They used a simple oil lamp to light their homes. It was a small clay vessel with the front end pinched together to form an opening. A piece of flax, serving as the wick, was inserted through the small hole until part of it was submerged in the oil. When the flax was saturated, it could be lighted. It would then burn with a soft, warm glow. But when the oil in the lamp was consumed, the flax would dry out. If it was ignited again, it would give off an acrid, dirty smoke, making the vessel offensive and useless.

Oswalt: God’s answer to the oppressors of the world is not more oppression, nor is his answer to arrogance more arrogance; rather, in quietness, humility, and simplicity, he will take all of the evil into himself and return only grace. That is power.

E. (:3b-4) Divinely Focused on Executing Justice – Persevering Through Difficulty

“He will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not be disheartened or crushed, Until He has established justice in the earth;

And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

Parunak: In a derivative meaning of bringing judgment to somebody, the recipient is often a poor or oppressed person. Bringing judgment to such a one means to exercise the law on their behalf, to vindicate them.

Ps 103:6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.


Motyer: the Lord confirms the world-wide task of his servant and pledges its outcome

3 stanzas – each introduced by a statement of self-identification

A. (:5) Superior as the Creator of Heaven and Earth and Mankind

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it,”

B. (:6-7) Superior as the Faithful Promise Keeper and Savior of All

1. Sovereign

“I am the LORD,”

2. Righteous

“I have called you in righteousness,”

3. Powerful

“I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you,”

F. Duane Lindsey: Yahweh’s action on behalf of the servant emphasizes strengthening guidance and securing protection. The language and concepts are similar to that promised to the servant Israel in 41:9-10, especially the clauses “I took you…, I called you…, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

4. Purposeful

a. Faithful Promise Keeper to Israel

“And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people,”

Young: He in whose hands lies the origin, formation, and sovereign dispensation of the covenant has also called the servant through whom the bestowal of the gracious provisions of the covenant will be administered and in whom the covenant will realize its full and true embodiment.

Motyer: The covenant was Israel’s distinctive privilege, from its inception in Abram (Gn. 15, 17) to its climax in Moses (Ex. 2:24; 24:7-8). It is God’s free decision to take and keep a people for his own possession, drawing them to himself (Ex. 6:2-7), constituting himself as their God and Redeemer (Ex. 20:1-2) and bringing them into a life of freedom and obedience (Ex. 20:3ff).

F. Duane Lindsey: He is the mediator of the New covenant with Israel, elaborated in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and referred to in numerous other prophetic texts (cf. Isa. 54:10; 55:3; 59:20-21; 61:8; Ezek. 16:60-63).

Scott Grant: Jesus became the “mediator of a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6), a new covenant that offers God’s salvation to all people. In essence, Jesus himself is the covenant, with his body and blood being central (Matthew 26:26-30). We relate to God through Jesus Christ, but Jesus is himself God (John 1:1).

b. Light of All Gentile Nations (Acts 26:17-18)

“As a light to the nations,”

Parunak: Usually, when Isaiah associates “people” with “nations” or “Gentiles”, both are plural, and refer to all of the world’s population, with “people” emphasizing their cultural and ethnic identities and “nations” their political organization.

This passage is one of only three places where Isaiah uses singular “people” alongside plural “nations.” When this happens, it is reasonable to understand “people” of an individual nation, in contrast with the rest of the nations.

Noting this contrast, we recognize this prophecy behind the words of righteous Simeon in the temple, when he saw the infant Messiah,

Luk 2:28-32 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Simeon understands the singular “people” to refer specifically to the covenant nation, in contrast to the Gentiles. Based on Isaiah’s prophecy, he realizes that the Messiah comes for both.

c. Savior of Both Jews and Gentiles

“to open blind eyes,

To bring out prisoners from the dungeon,

And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”

C. (:8-9) Superior as the Only One Worthy of Worship –

the Predictor/Controller of the Future

1. Majestic by Virtue of Who He Is

“I am the LORD, that is My name;”

Parunak: We may paraphrase:

“I am the Lord. That was the name by which I brought Abraham out of Ur to the land (Gen. 15:7). That was the name by which I brought Jacob home from Haran (Gen. 28:13). That was the name by which I brought Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 6:2-8), and that is the name by which I shall bring you back from dispersion.”

2. Majestic by Virtue of What He Demands

“I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.”

F. Duane Lindsey: Yahweh first directs glory to Himself by asserting His uniqueness. He affirms His name—“I am the LORD; that is my name!” Then He asserts His refusal to share His glory—“I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (cf. 48:9-11). Yahweh’s intolerance of all rivals is absolute. He will put an end to all idolatry.68 The glory of which Yahweh is so jealous is that of being recognized and worshiped as sovereign Ruler and righteous Deliverer.

3. Predictor/Controller of the Future

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things;

Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Constable: “Behold” concludes this passage as it began it, forming an inclusion

Remember the bona fides of deity that had been put forth earlier

“former things” = prophecies related to God’s judgment and captivity in Babylon

“new things” = prophecies related to deliverance from Babylonian Captivity and return to the Promised Land in the near term with the ultimate fulfillment in the salvation the Messiah will bring and ultimate restoration in the millennial kingdom


Oswalt: These two verses (8-9) confirm that this “Servant song” is intended to be read in the context of the previous two chapters. God’s glory lies in his capacity to do all the things the idols cannot. Because he alone transcends the cosmos he alone can explain the course of history; he alone can turn that course in a whole new direction and tell the world in advance that he is going to do it. Whatever and whoever this Servant is, his ministry will be a confirmation that God, whose character is epitomized in the name Yahweh, is the only God and only Savior.