Put yourself in the shoes of an Israelite captive in Babylon
Imagine being an Israelite captive in Babylon in the year 530 bc. You are born in a foreign land. For the past 70 long, hard years, your people eat Babylon food, answer to a Babylon name, work as servants, and live under the Babyonian law. You have never seen the walls of Jerusalem. You only have heard of the Temple courtyard. The most difficult part of being captive is that you are unable to practice your faith. You are surrounded by pagans who worship false gods and live unholy lives, Your heart’s desire is to worship the One True God of Israel.
Despite the dismal conditions, life is without hope. In your hands is the Isaiah scroll, written 200 years beforehand. You are familiar with the scroll. You read it and dream of the future. It helps you persevere.
Then, one day, an amazing thing happens. You hear of a king making his way across the nations. He is a mighty conqueror. He is moving through Babylon. He is the king of Persia and his name is Cyrus. You know that name. It is written in the Isaiah scroll. Imagine your excitement knowing that Cyrus is a king raised up by God who is destined to deliver you from captivity.
Excitedly, you talk to your Jewish neighbors and relatives. You exchange information about Cyrus. Your faith in God’s word becomes strengthened. You read from the Isaiah scroll, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
You and your Jewish friends are giddy with excitement as you anticipate returning to the Promised Land. You will know what it is like to see priests worshiping God in the temple. You will sing songs and celebrate the Passover. In Jerusalem, you will openly praise God without restriction.
The fulfillment of the Cyrus prophecy is an incredible boost to your faith. You read the Isaiah scroll with more excitement. God promises to send Cyrus, and He does. What else may we look forward to God doing? For it speaks of an even greater deliverance of God’s people.
You read in chapter 40 that God has infinite, unlimited knowledge and power. He uses His power to control the planets and stars. He uses His power to move kings and armies from one place to another. You know this is true because God raises up Cyrus. God uses His knowledge to wisely and providentially control all things. God is gloriously wise and powerful (omniscient and omnipotent)
As you continue reading, you see in chapter 41 of Isaiah, God proves that He is above all other gods. There is no god comparable to His sovereign control of the universe. God knows the future and the past for He alone is sovereign. Your heart says, “Amen!”
You continue reading the scroll. Chapter 42 talks of a future deliverance for the people of God. Because God proves Himself with freeing His people from Babylon, you have undaunted faith that He will one day deliver all His people to the Promised Land of eternity where the Messiah will reign on David’s throne.
Imagine being in the shoes of that Israelite. Now, let’s fast-forward to today. In this century and in this nation, we also read God’s word with excitement and faith. The future promises of Isaiah are for us today just as they were for the Jews of 530 bc. We know of God’s fulfilled prophecy for the nation of Israel, we know of the prophecy of the first coming of the Messiah, and we know of God’s prophecy of the Second Coming.
With this in mind, we approach chapter 42. God is speaking to us, His people, intent on stirring up hope. God doesn’t want us to look anxiously about us with fear. He wants us to know everything is under His control and that our final outcome is one of gladness and joy. Soon, our Savior will deliver us from captivity in this world of Babylon.
God delights in Christ who brings justice
The chapter begins with God speaking.
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
Forget Cyrus. Behold God upholds a great deliverer.
Imagine going to God’s house, He invites us in, and He says, “Come here, there is someone I want you to see.” We look upon God’s face, and it is beaming with joy. God upholds His Servant for us to see. It is obvious the Servant makes God happy. He wants us to share His joy and behold Christ and delight in Him.
Behold! See and witness the One God chooses as His Servant. Contemplate His Son, Jesus Christ. Marvel at the One who God favors. Christ the Messiah is God’s preferred One who brings God much pleasure. When we behold His Son, we will find nothing unpleasant about Him.
The reason we find nothing unpleasant in God’s Servant is that God’s Spirit is in Christ. Every aspect of God’s character and nature dwells within Him. We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Christ is incomparable just as God is incomparable.
As we behold the Servant, we also behold the glory of the Trinity. We see the joy that they share in One Another. There is a beautiful relationship of submission to One Another. God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son are in perfect unity. They share the same purpose. They work together and delight in One another.
God chooses His Servant to accomplish a task. Only God’s chosen Servant can bring forth justice to the nations of the earth. The Hebrew word for justice encompasses much more than making sure laws are enforced. True justice is a restoration of societal order as God decrees.
Ever since the fall, the earth does not enjoy the justice of God. Our society is in disorder. God’s command of loving Him and loving others is not taking place on the earth. There is no order nor justice. There is only chaos.
God is using His wisdom and authority to bring about His kingdom. As Isaiah says repeatedly, God’s perfect plan is to bring all things under the authority of the Messiah Who will sit on David’s throne eternally at the end of the age.
The Conquering Ministry of the Messiah
The way God’s Servant conducts ministry is very different from the way we think. Almost always, an escalation of force is man’s solution to bring about justice and societal order on earth.
But, from God’s viewpoint, the answer to oppression is not more oppression. Jesus way of bringing about justice is foreign to our fleshly nature. Jesus brings justice by turning the other cheek and being like a silent lamb before the slaughter.
Jesus overcomes evil with the power of love, humility, mercy, and grace. Isaiah describes His ministry.
2 “He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. 3 “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.
Jesus way of bringing about justice is through meekness. His character is humble. He cares for the disenfranchised and the poor and weak. But, don’t confuse His meekness for weakness. Don’t believe being humble makes Him ineffective. It is just the opposite.
Jesus never fails. As Isaiah writes, He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth. Jesus is God’s Servant who delivers people of every tribe and nation from captivity. The justice He brings is to have the kingdom of God in full force upon the earth. Those who God chooses wait expectantly for Jesus to bring about His kingdom law.
God emphasizes that He is the One who speaks these truths.
5 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, (Isaiah 42:5)
The words, “Thus says God the Lord” ought to make us sit up straight and take careful notice. Of all the voices in the universe, God’s voice is the most important. God the all-powerful Lord speaks and only a fool will not listen. People who do not listen to the voice of authority will find themselves in deep trouble.
The one who creates the heavens and the earth speaks to us. The God who gives us life and breath desires for us to know how He, the God above all gods, works His purpose and plan in the universe He creates. God wants us to see His glory and majesty and to know His nature. He is good and is not like us. He is incomparable to anything in the entire universe. He is working all things, not for His benefit and advantage, but for us. He is delivering those who are like grass that withers and fades and who are like worms and grasshoppers.
God is using His authority and power to bring about justice in the earth, and His Servant is how He will accomplish His purpose and plan.
God’s Calling of the Messiah
Again, God says, I am the Lord. We can’t help but see the emphasis on the word Lord. God is the Lord. There is no other lord we are to obey. There are no other lords who have authority and power. God is Lord.
The Lord God is calling His beloved Son to establish justice and bring about His kingdom. God is calling Jesus according to His righteousness. In other words, God knows what is right. Calling on the Messiah is right. Holding His beloved Son by the hand and watching over His ministry is right.
God calls upon Jesus and says to Him, “You are appointed as a covenant to the nations.” There is no other agreement we may strike with God to make a deal. Jesus is the only covenant. He is the way to be in a right relationship with God, and there is no other way.
Justice is freedom from dwelling in darkness. Jesus is a bright light. People who live in darkness see the light approaching. We who are loved by God come to the light and see all the colors of a radiant God.
Justice is freedom from blindness. Our eyes are opened. We no longer live with blindness, but now we may see. We see the glory of God and all His beauty. We see that there is good and that God’s goodness overcomes the evil of this world. We see that there is hope for our future.
Justice is freedom from captivity. We are redeemed. That means we are purchased by the blood of the Messiah. He pays the debt of our sin with His life.
The Servant is not alone. His work is part of a greater work done by the Holy Trinity. God the Spirit indwells Him giving Him power and God the Father calls the Son, holds the Son by the hand, and the Father appoints the Son as a covenant to the people. The Son is a light Who opens blind eyes and sets prisoners free. Each part of the Trinity has a special role in the salvation of people.
When we see a verse like this speaking about Jesus obeying God, we need to understand the idea of subordination within the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit all have the same divine nature and divine attributes. Subordination in the Trinity is not one in which the Father is greater than the Spirit or the Son. The Trinity is not composed of one greater God and two lesser Gods. The subordination in the Trinity is a relational subordination. There is one God existing eternally in three co-equal Persons.
The subordination in the Trinity is relational. The three Persons of the Trinity voluntarily submit to each other and respect one another’s roles. The Father sends the Son into the world, and He willingly and joyfully obeys. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and “proceeds from the Father” to testify of Christ. The relationship of subordination is a joyful recognition of each Person.
The Lord’s Glory
Again, God expresses that He alone is the Lord. It is His name. Everything God does is for His name’s sake. God wants us to know that He is incomparable.
God does not give His glory to another. And, why should He? God can do what idols cannot. God proves Himself as all-powerful and all-knowing. He shows Himself to be sovereign. Only God may tell the world in advance what He will accomplish.
God does not want us to look anywhere else for satisfaction and help. He is our best source for all that we need. We glorify God by desiring, delighting, enjoying, praising, thanking, and finding our satisfaction in Him. Nothing else is comparable to His ability to meet our needs.
Most important, the glory of God is that He provides forgiveness and mercy. His grace opens our eyes. His grace delivers us from our captivity in the dark dungeon of the enemy.
The idols of our world do not provide forgiveness and mercy. They do not deliver us, but they hold us captive. Idols dangle before our eyes with the attempt to blind and divert our eyes from the glory of God.
Again, God tells us, “behold.” First, He desires for us, to behold His Son. Now, He tells us to behold a new thing He will accomplish. The former thing comes to pass. Therefore, we may know that the new things will also come to pass. The new things are the freeing of God’s people from the darkness and transferring them to the kingdom of God’s light.
Redeemed to Praise
God’s purpose in having us behold His Son and His work of Redemption is that we give Him the glory.
MAIN IDEA: Give glory to the Lord, for His Servant establishes justice in the earth by redeeming His people.
We get excited about a lot of things. We shout for joy when our team wins. We praise the talents of our favorite singer or actor. We tell everyone how much we enjoy our favorite food.
What we need to be most excited about is that God rescues us from eternal condemnation. We are redeemed by the blood of God’s Beloved Son. That is why we gather together on Sunday’s. We give glory to God. We recognize He alone deserves our praise. There is nothing we do to earn our salvation. It is all because of His Servant.
God decrees that the proper response to our redemption is to sing songs and praise His name. God desires the whole earth praise Him. From the depths of the sea to the islands, wilderness, and the populated cities. Everyone on the earth is to praise Him for His grace.
What is interesting is the mention of Kedar. Kedar is the son of Ishmael. Isaiah speaks about the Ishmaelites who live inhabit Sela (Petra), which is what we know today as Arabia. It is significant that God specifically mentions the land of the Arabs. This takes on even more meaning in our day and age when we consider that this area is primarily Muslim. It is an area which hates Jews and Christians the most. God desires that one day, even those who were once numbered among the Muslims will praise His name.
The Apostle Peter references the book of Isaiah four times in his letters. He does so three times in 1 Peter chapter 2. Although these verses are not taken from Isaiah, they definitely express well what Isaiah says in verses 10-12 (of chapter 42).
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
We have received mercy. We are redeemed from a dark dungeon. We are given sight and we may behold the risen Messiah who gives us life. God saves us that we may glorify His name.
We began by imagining ourselves in the shoes of an Israelite in Babylon. Now, let’s look at the reality of our situation.
For our entire lifetime we live in a foreign land as aliens. We don’t live in a place which exclusively follows the laws of God. Often, the law of God is mocked and ridiculed. We have no idea what it is like to look upon the walls of the New Jerusalem. We have never seen the Throne Room of God. When we practice our faith, people think it is odd. All around us are pagans who worship false gods and live unholy lives while our heart desire is to worship the One True God.
Despite the dismal conditions, life is without hope. In our hands is the Isaiah scroll, written 2700 years ago. We read how it’s prophecy comes true. We know about Cyrus. We know about the first coming of Jesus. Our Savior is born in a manger. He lives a perfect life. He dies on the cross for our sins. He rises from the grave.
We read in the Holy Scriptures how His death on the cross delivers us from captivity in this world of Babylon. We are free. The only thing left is for our Savior to come again and bring us into the New Jerusalem and we will live forever in His perfect kingdom.
Excitedly, we talk to our neighboring Christian. We exchange information about Jesus. Our faith in God’s word is strengthened. We read from Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” We have hope. We persevere. And, we give glory to the Lord, for His Servant establishes justice in the earth by redeeming His people.
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.