The Lord's Chosen Servant
Topic: Default Passage: Isaiah 42–42
We are in the second week of our Advent series. Ericson started us off last week and this week we are still in Isaiah, but over in chapter 42. This is the very famous prophecy by Isaiah of the one who would come to save Israel and bring justice to the nations.
This passage is about God’s servant that he would send to save Israel. But, this was a very different kind of servant than they were expecting. I think we all know we need a savior, but we tend to seek out the wrong kind of saviors. Over the past ten years, we have seen some very public and very spectacular pastoral falls. Orlando has certainly had our fair share. Some of them have even turned into chart topping podcasts. I know many of you are listening to the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. If you don’t know what that is, Mars Hill, pastored by Mark Driscoll, was one of the most influential churches in America in the early 2000s and had dozens of campuses and tens of thousands of attenders, millions listening online, and almost overnight, the whole thing collapsed. There are some things I appreciate about the podcast and some critiques that I have as well, but in, in I think the first episode, the question was posed, “Who killed Mars Hill?” And the answer in some part was: us.
The people were the problem. Nothing can succeed if the people don’t buy in. The people who saw the red flags and still consumed the good. The people who gave time, money, and clicks when the warning signs were so clear. And, I’ll tell you, I was one of those people in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I’ve thought a lot about my contribution to that disaster as well as the contribution of others to many other church disasters both far and near. And what I keep coming back to is this: We want a king like other nations. We want a savior conformed in our image. We want someone who fits the 21st century Western niche. Charismatic, gregarious, charming, wooing, and successful. Nevermind if there are obvious problems in character or calling as long as people are coming in the door, money is coming into the account, and souls are being saved.
To me, this is a picture of what is going on in this passage. At this point in Isaiah, the people are exiled and in great distress and they actually challenge God. Has he been just to them? Has he taken away a right that they have? This is why God says in chapter 40, Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, h“My way is hidden from the LORD, iand my right is disregarded by my God”? - Is. 40:27
Chapter 41, then is a defense of God’s sovereignty and justice. God says that the Israelites are an idolatrous people. God says, “I’m the one who caused you to be conquered. I create history, I steer history, and I interpret history. You have no wise leaders. No counselors that can get you out of this. Speaking of the wisest among them, God says at the very end of chapter 41, dBehold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.
This is about as bleak an end as you can imagine to chapter 41. Then, comes the first verse of chapter 42: eBehold fmy servant, The Israelites have no one who can help them and they don’t deserve any help from God, but now God is telling them that he will send them someone. I hope given this context, you can see how big this word ‘behold’ is. Despair is setting in and… behold…the answer.
Do you see how this connects? The people are following leaders who are no more than kings like other nations. They want success in the eyes of the world more than they want God himself. And now in our passage, God is going to show them his chosen servant and he isn’t going to be anything like what they expected. So, I want to walk through this passage and see what Isaiah says about this servant and how this connects to Christmas.
- What Isaiah says about the servant
Isaiah shows us four things about this servant. His qualifications, his job, his method, and his success. First, his qualifications. Verse 1: eBehold fmy servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, gin whom my soul delights; hI have put my Spirit upon him; - Is. 42:1 His main qualification is pretty simple: God delights in him. That is something that no human being has ever done. All of us have rebelled against God, but there is going to be one in whom God delights.
Think about times you have delighted in someone else. When you dated someone and just couldn’t stop looking at each other because just staring was so pleasurable. You couldn’t see any sin or selfishness because infatuation hid all of that. Or if you’ve ever held your child for the first time. They haven’t thrown up on you yet or disobeyed you. You just look at that child as close to perfect as you can imagine. There is such joy simply from holding and staring at this child. That’s delighting in someone. But, again, this is just a glimpse, because if you marry that man, he’ll leave the lid up at midnight and you won’t delight in him. That sweet child will become a teenager one day and you won’t delight in her. Even so, it’s a helpful picture. A glimpse at how God will feel about this chosen servant.
That’s the qualification. God delights in him. An eternal delight that will never go away. He’s not qualified because of how charismatic he is, because of his military training, or worldly success. He’s qualified because he is a delight to God. That is a very different qualification than the Israelites were looking for, although I don’t think they would have realized this yet.
Second, we see the servant’s job. This is at the end of verse 1: ihe will bring forth justice to the nations. “Well, this sounds great!” The Israelites would have thought, “Sure he will! This servant will restore Israel to its rightful place in the world and judge all those who have opposed her.”
The word for justice here means making things the way they ought to be. And this means so much more than Israel’s misplaced hope of being a superpower. It means making all things right in the world. No more pain, no more grief, no more strife, no more loneliness, no more fear, no more evil, no more sin. All will be right in the world, the way God designed it to be.
We talked a lot about this in our last few sermons on Acts, but God’s plan in Genesis was always for the nations. He started the work in Israel, but the plan was always for the ends of the earth. But these Israelites can’t hear the grandeur of the scope of God’s plan for this servant, because they can’t get their own glory out of their minds. They see this servant coming for the glory of Israel, not seeing that this servant is coming that the whole earth might glory in him.
Those are the qualifications and the job of the servant. Now, we see his method. This is where I think heads would start to turn. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
How does someone come to restore the glory of Israel to the world…but not lift his voice, not break bruised reeds, and not put out faintly burning wicks? This is where this makes no sense. Every great ruler has to lift his voice, has to break some people down, has to quench pesky fires. But, somehow, this one will not. How do you establish justice to the nations and not raise your voice or put someone down? He is kind and tender and cares about people as weak as a faintly burning wick. He is powerful, yet meek and humble?
Imagine someone running for Sheriff of Orange County and his campaign slogan was “Grace and mercy for all!” You’re not going to vote for that guy because it sounds counterintuitive to what he’s supposed to do as Sheriff. But, this is what is being prophesied about the servant.
Then, lastly, we see the servant’s success. Verse 4: 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged1 till he has established justice in the earth; and lthe coastlands wait for his law. He will not grow faint or be discouraged. Do you hear what this is saying. He won’t quit. There is nothing that will stop him or slow him. None of us can say that. When I officiate a wedding one thing I often point out is that there is a reason the bride and groom make vows. You have to vow to do the hard things because we do grow faint and discouraged in the hard things. We grow weary in the most basic things in life we grow weary in loving each other and believing the best. We require verses in the Bible that say, ‘Do not grow weary.’ That is what we do, but this servant will not grow weary in bringing justice to the earth. He will not fail. He will not turn back until his mission is accomplished. Who in the world is this person?? This is what brings us to the Christmas season.
- How it connects to Christmas
On Christmas morning, over 2000 years ago, this servant came into the world. Now, it almost definitely was not on Dec. 25th, it was probably in May sometime, but there was a real first Christmas morning where God’s chosen servant, Jesus, the Christ, came into the world and that is what we celebrate this time of year. Only Jesus checks all four boxes that Isaiah is prophesying about.
Let’s go back through them. Start with the qualification. God will delight in this person and put his Spirit upon him. Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism? Exactly this! 13 kThen Jesus came lfrom Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.14 mJohn would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”(Jesus means to fuflill what Isaiah said) Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, othe heavens were opened to him,3 and he psaw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, qa voice from heaven said, r“This is my beloved Son,4 with whom I am well pleased.” - Matt 3: 13-17.
Anyone else have God audibly tell the world that you please him in all that you do? Anyone else receive the Spirit in a way that everyone can see? No. Only Jesus checks that box. But not only does Jesus delight God. Jesus is making us a delight to God as well. That brings us to the servant’s job.
What is the job of the servant? Bring justice to the nations. God told Abraham that through his descendants, one would come to bless the nations. Not condemn the nations, but bless them. Then the promise was reiterated to Isaac, then Jacob, then King David and here we are.
Jesus came here to restore peace between humanity and God. We are all naturally under condemnation. We have all rebelled against God and chosen a life of enmity with God. Our greatest problem isn’t relational strife, pain, or fear. Our greatest problem is that we are under God’s just condemnation for our sin…and that is what brings about all these other problems in this fallen world. That main problem is what Jesus is coming to fix. John writes: 17 For lGod did not send his Son into the world mto condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 nWhoever believes in him is not condemned, - John 3:17,18
To desire all to be right in the world, but not desire a right relationship with God is like having cancer and to only asking the doctors to fix the symptoms and not the disease that causes it. Jesus came to do what we can’t. Only Jesus is truly delightful to God. This is why only he could be an acceptable offering for all of us. Imagine the only person to truly delight God going to a cross to not only die in our place, but to receive all the wrath of God that we deserve.
And for those who believe in Jesus and who are made right with God and we delight God in every way because God looks at us and sees Jesus! Jesus accomplishes what we couldn’t and in trading places with us, we become delights. And everything else flows from that. Second box checked. Jesus accomplishes the job of the servant.
Now, what about the method? I really was tempted to do a whole sermon just on this. Remember, the servant is going to establish justice in the world through grace and humility. Just start with how the servant comes into the world? As a baby. A baby without a proper home to live in. Not a king with a great coronation. Is there anything more defenseless than a human baby? I mean, some animals are born biting and clawing right away. If you walked down Park avenue and you heard the noise of a dog or a cat, even baby ones, you would approach it with some measure of caution. If you saw a grown man in the bushes, you would run. But if you saw a human baby in there, you would have no caution at all. You would grab it. Because there is nothing threatening about a human baby. That’s how Jesus came. This is why we sing Silent Night and not Loud Night or Crazy Night.
Matthew makes it super clear in Matthew 12 that Jesus is this servant. Jesus is healing people and doing miraculous things and the Pharisees, feeling threatened, decide to conspire to kill Jesus. But, instead of speaking up or challenging them, we read this: 15 Jesus, aware of this, owithdrew from there. And pmany followed him, and he healed them all 16 and qordered them not to make him known. Why? 17 rThis was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18 s“Behold, my tservant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. uI will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 vand in his name the Gentiles will hope.” - Matthew 12:15-20.
And this is what Jesus continued to do as he was arrested and sent to the cross. Jesus could have spoken up. He could have come off that cross, but God so loved the world that he stayed. And because of this, the rest of the prophecy is true. A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench. This is often misunderstood. Remember, without Jesus, we are naturally and deservingly under condemnation. We are basically a candle that has been extinguished. What Jesus accomplished in his job is lighting that flame again and he will never let it go out.
You might have the smallest flame right now and that flame might be hard to see for all the smoke, but Isaiah tells us that Jesus is the one who lit your flame and Jesus will not let your flame be extinguished. Some of you are bruised reeds. You feel beat down. You feel the judgement of the world on you. Maybe you have made some truly bad decisions. Look at how Jesus deals with the woman who was caught in adultery. She was about to be stoned for her crime by the Pharisees, but what did Jesus do? He didn’t break her or put out her flame. After running off the men who were about to stone her, He asked, “Where are those who condemn you?” She responded, “I don’t see them.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” He didn’t snuff her out, he set her free.
This is what the Pharisees and so many others could never get their mind around. How can anyone make things right in the world without breaking us down or raising his voice? Only Jesus can. That’s why he’s the prophesied servant.
I also want to point out that Jesus picks up this language of us as candles. In his sermon on the mount Jesus says that the church is made up of a lot of small candles and together we are that city that lights up on the hill as the sun sets. No candle is meant to shine by itself dimly in the valley. Jesus has made us to shine together as a church. All of us need a church community. We need regular corporate worship. Our children need it. My kids go to a Christian school, they memorize and recite verses, they have weekly chapel services, and I’m thankful for that, but none of that accomplishes what the gathering of God’s people in the local church does. It just doesn’t. This is where they see the generations come together to sing God’s praises and celebrate the sacraments. Jesus has given the local church means of grace that do not exist outside of it. Can you be a Christian and not go to church? Sure, but that Christian will be the dimly lit candle in the valley and not the brightly lit city on a hill.
Then, lastly, what about Jesus’ success? He will not grow weary or be discouraged in his mission to redeem humanity. At Jesus’ ascension, he went to be physically present with God the Father to continuously intercede for us. If you remember the movie Superman Returns, there is this scene where he’s up kind of on the edge of space and listening and he can hear every cry for help from every human and he responds to the most desperate ones. But even Superman can only handle one at a time. Jesus is hearing everyone and responding to all of us at any given moment through his Holy Spirit. He has no limitations and will continue to do so until the end of time when justice is established. When everything is finally and fully made right
This is what John witnessed and recorded at the end of Revelation: Then I saw ya new heaven and a new earth, for zthe first heaven and thefirst earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw athe holy city, bnew Jerusalem, ccoming down out of heaven from God, dprepared eas a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,fthe dwelling place1 of God is with man. He will gdwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.3 4 hHe will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and ideath shall be no more, jneither shall there bemourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And khe who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I lam making all things new.” - Rev 20:1-5
Nothing is stopping Jesus. Nothing is slowing Jesus. Nothing is wearing him down or fatiguing him. This is why his gospel has made it all around the globe and why there are more Christians living today than have collectively ever died. It may look bleak in the West where people are leaving the church right and left, but Jesus’ mission is gaining speed. Honestly, I look at the church in the West and I just see it being purified from all the cultural contamination that happened in the 19th and 20th century.
Jesus is the servant Isaiah tells us about. He is the only one who checks any of the boxes and he is certainly the only one who checks all the boxes. Is he your King? Is your relationship with him a flame that will never be extinguished or are you still under God’s condemnation?
Are you seeing the servant for who he really is or are you creating a servant in your own image the way the Israelites did in Isaiah’s day. Are you looking for a king like other nations the way the Pharisees were in Jesus’ day? Or do you rightly see Jesus for who he is and willingly submit every area of your life to him. I hope this Advent season can be a renewal for you. A renewed understanding of and love for God’s chosen servant Jesus who came to make everything the way it should be in our hearts and in this world.
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