Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:1-12
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock (Sela) sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.
A missionary shared this story: ‘I prayed for God to bring new hope and new life after my wife’s death. I agonized in prayer, devoted myself to Bible study and sought every way I knew how to get hope and direction for life. I almost gave up. I decided I was to be lonely for the rest of my life with no way to understand what God was up to with me or with the death of my beloved companion. Finally I went to a grief group because I knew that was what a person in grief is supposed to do. There I found people with the same emotions, complaints, sorrows, and questions that I had. I thanked God that at least he had shown me I was not crazy. I was responding to grief just like everyone else did. Then God surprised me. He led my employer to begin a program of mission trips. I joined the first one to Kenya. There I found new involvement in God’s work and discovered God was still using me to minister to others and lead them to know him as Savior. All when I had just about given up on myself. God surprised me again. He led me closer and closer to a member of the grief group until he led us to new marriage commitments. This one came with a ten-year-old daughter attached. Through a new wife, a new daughter, and new Mission field God brought me back to life. In a real sense He redeemed my life and made me his servant.
Similarly, Israel felt near death. In exile under foreign rulers surrounded by foreign worship, Israel felt alone, deserted, forsaken, worthless, and hopeless. Psalms 137:1 describes exactly how they felt. It says, ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.’ Despair hovered over everything. Then they heard the promise God had given his prophet long ago. Now the prophetic word had a new ring and a new reality. God was calling Israel to a new mission, new worship, and a new experience of salvation. He was calling for a New Servant.
How about you? Maybe like that missionary, or Israel, you felt death surrounding you. You had almost given up hope. Your life is no different from one that is an outcast. Your neighbors surrounded you with other worships and belief, different from yours. You felt unaided, empty, valueless and despondent. Hopelessness hanged over everything. It is so interesting that while in the midst of preparing this sermon, I felt that way. A spirit of lifelessness and deadness, hopelessness suddenly overwhelmed me. It was this week that I felt that way. And to feel it in the midst of Christmas mood is really surprising. I was sharing this defeating thought with my wife. She told me that I did not take care of my mental health. Then I realized that YHWH can bring me back to life and made me his servant. This morning I want to share about the calling of a New Servant. This servant is far from perfect. Well nobody is perfect when they are called or even in the midst of the ministry. Moses had a speech impediment, Paul had problem with his eyes, Daniel and the three Hebrew children are probably Eunuch, Elisha was bald headed, Elijah had periods of depressing streak. Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him. Jephthah was an illegitimate child. You probably can add your name inside there.
Isaiah 42 is actually a poetry or a song. It is introducing a new theme and it has to do with us. In the midst of deadness, YHWH is introducing a new servant with a new energy, a new righteousness, a new covenant with a new charge and new things. And all this has to do with us. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
1. A New Servant
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”
The title servant is a title of respect and calling. It is a calling and YHWH had respect to this person whom He called. The servant has both a corporate and individual orientation. This title can be used in a collective sense; for instance the Patriarchs as a group, the prophets, Israel as a nation. So Etab as a corporate body can be that called group. But also it can be that ideal individual; an ideal Israelite or the ideal priest. It is ironical because in spite of your imperfection, YHWH says you are that ideal person that He wants to use. The word ‘ideal’ means he is perfect, the right person, a model for imitation. He will be an individual accomplishing YHWH’s will. He will be that light; a metaphor for spiritual deliverance. In the Septuagint it refers to National Israel where YHWH says ‘Jacob is my servant; I will help him; Israel is my chosen.’ But more importantly it refers to an individual; like David, Caleb, Moses, Joshua and you. The word servant in Hebrew means ‘ebed’ which can refer to a slave. So in all these cases, the term refers to a person characterized by dependence and servitude. This person totally depended on God in life and he labored as one belonging to the property of YHWH. Here it is describing the nature of this servant: dependent on God and a servant to YHWH. So you have to say, ‘YHWH, please take over my life; I want to be used by you.’
2. A New Spirit
Notice the things that YHWH has done and will do for His special servant. Three truths are mentioned in verse 1 which says, ‘Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him’.
Whom I uphold
In Whom My soul delights
I have put my Spirit upon him.
We need to understand that He is God’s chosen one. God takes great delight in him and God upholds or support him. He is YHWH’s ideal servant. His missions is to not to deliver himself from captivity and exile. Many a times we think that God’s purpose in my life is to deliver me from captivity, bondage and from being an outcast. But this new mission is for the nations. This is where we all got it wrong. Our missions is for those outside of this church and for nations. Foreign missions is definitely part of the Agenda of God. In the past we always go out to all part of Philippines because we thought that was our missions but now God’s missions is for the nations.
I want to concentrate on the third point; ‘I have put My Spirit upon Him.’ Again it is describing the nature of this servant. This refers to the Servant being anointed and equipped for a task. This servant gained power from the divine Spirit. YHWH will invest in this New Servant by enduing him with His Own Spirit. Actually the phrase ‘my elect’ means this servant is handpicked by God. This is a very important truth in which I want to dwell on. God says, ‘I will put My Spirit upon you’. This has reference on the personhood of the Spirit. This is not just another spirit. This is God’s Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for the ‘Spirit of God’ is ‘ruach’; a force which accomplish YHWH’s purpose. Also there is a little hint that it was personal, that is, an Old Testament monotheism. It is an Old Testament God coming upon you. However in the New Testament the full personality and personhood of the Spirit is revealed. What about this Spirit.
He bears witness
He convicts, guides
He can be grieved
He can be quenched
He can be resisted
He advocates for believes
He glorifies the Son.
Although the Greek word ‘spirit’ (pneuma) is neuter (referring neither to male or female), when referring to the Spirit, the New Testament often uses masculine demonstrative adjective. This Spirit is a male figure. God the Father has always been a manly quality. The Spirit is linked to human activity. At the very beginning of Acts, the Spirit’s role is emphasized. Pentecost was not the beginning of the work of the Spirit, but a new chapter. Jesus always had the Spirit. His baptism was not the beginning of the work of the Spirit, but a new chapter. That is what God wants to do with us. This Spirit wants to begin a new chapter in your life. The Spirit is the effective means of the Father’s purpose for the restoration of all humans made in His image. I realized how much I need YHWH to put his Spirit upon me. We must be filled with the Spirit and do the ministry in the power and flow of the Holy Spirit if we want to be effective. I want that anointing, that unction. I remember when I was a young Christian, I wanted my Christian name to be called Elijah. And I have a friend who made fun of me when I told her my desire to be called Elijah. Because Elijah was so different from other prophets. The Spirit of God would come upon Him and He would accomplish great task. He was bold, authoritative and powerful and what He declared would be accomplished. But Elijah was also as human as anyone of us. The bible says he was a man of like passion as anyone of us. I think the thing that interest me concerning Elijah was the Spirit of God upon Him. Notice the things the servant will do when He had God’s spirit put upon Him.
A. He will bring forth justice to the nations
B. He will not cry cut
C. He will not raise His voice
D. He will not make His voice heard in the street
E. He will not break a bruised reed
F. He will not extinguish a dimly burning wick
G. He will not be disheartened
H. He will not be crushed.
I. He will establish justice in the earth
That is the calling of a person in whom the Spirit of God dwells. ‘He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street’ means he will not draw attention to himself. I think 90 percent of ministers of today draws attention to themselves. But not this servant. Rather his is more on actions than his voice. This doesn’t mean that he never spoke loudly. Rather it refers to his gentle, lowly heart and actions. He doesn’t make His way by bluster and loud, overwhelming talk, but by the Spirit of God upon Him.
‘A bruised reed will he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth’, describes the nature of his ministry. A reed is a fairly fragile plant, yet if a reed is bruised, he will handle it so gently that He will not break it. And if flax, used for tinder to start a fire, does not flame but only smokes, He will not quench it into extinguishing. Instead he will gently blow on the smoking flax, fanning it into flame again. The way this servant accomplish his task is also surprising. He would not be a street preacher or political rebel inciting the population, nor a royal messenger reading the king’s proclamations. Rather he would exercise that God given power in such a way that he would not damage anything – not even a broken reed that appears useless or a wick so used up it could no longer produce fire. Still this servant would succeed. The word for faithfulness should be translated ‘he will bring to reality’. He will be faithful until all the prophecy of God comes into reality. This servant would not suffer the fate of uselessness, rather the hallmark of his ministry would be ‘mission accomplished.’
Yet in the midst of his ministry he shall bring judgment unto truth, meaning he will give full justice to those that has been wrong. It also described a ministry of compassion, understanding and patience to those who have somehow been wounded and stressed. He will not oppress those that has been beaten down and weakened. YHWH is saying here that He will give you justice.
Why do we need the Spirit of God upon us? Because Isaiah 42:2 says, ‘He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.’ He shall not grow faint because he is supported by the Spirit resting upon him. Because we will not fail in anything, we set out to do. Rather we will accomplish whatever we set out to do. Also we will not be easily discouraged. We have a spirit of courage, a different spirt and will press on until we set judgment on earth. David had this spirit. The bible says David had a different spirt. This spirit is God’s Spirit. People will wait for the Law of God through us. It means the Gentiles will wait for the Gospel to be preach to them. Like the people of Macedonia that cries out, ‘Come over here. We want to hear the Gospel’. I remembered the dream of Pastor Lily. She dreamt that she had purchased three big bibles and was having problem holding them. Then a stranger just approached her and wanted to hear the Gospel because he wanted one of the bibles. He said that he had two other friends and Pastor Lily could give the bible to his two other friends. So he brought Pastor Lily to them and three of them will hear the Gospel and receive the big bibles. The bible says so clearly, ‘people will wait for the Law of God through us.’
We have to have the Spirit of God to counteract the lies and deception in this world, who changes the law and ordinance of God. We counteract them with truth, with the Word of God. We cannot keep silence but speak until truth and righteousness prevails. One of the hallmarks of Jesus is to establish truth in the land. The person with the Spirit of God will restore the damaged image of God in mankind and allow for the intimate fellowship of Eden to be restored. The image of God has been badly damaged in the world. Only one with the Spirit of God can restore the right image of God. Mankind has been disfellowshipped with their creator and this servant is able to bring them back intimate fellowship of mankind with God.
Notice Isaiah 42:5 which says, ‘Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.’ YHWH says he gives ‘Ruach’; his Spirit to people. So you have to ask for it like Elisha who says, ‘O that a double portion of thy anointing be upon me’. What Elisha wanted was the Spirit of God. It also means that this servant gives back the abundant life to mankind.
3. A New Covenant for the Countries
This is describing the task of the servant.
Isaiah 42:6 says, “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;”
This servant has a gospel message for the Gentiles. That is what I like about Isaiah. I think the only prophet that really talks about us the Gentiles is Isaiah. I think practically all prophets’ concentration has been the Jews. But Isaiah is talking about us; the Gentiles. This servant will be a light to the nations and a covenant to the people.
He is to open blind eye, to bring out prisoners from prison and those that sit in darkness out of the prison house. Where is the scope of this servant’s ministry? Isaiah 42: 11-12 says, “Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. “Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands.”
Three places are mentioned here. Kedar, Sela and the islands.
In the bible Kedar is almost synonymous with Arabia. Kedar is possibly referring to the Arab nations. They are the nomadic Arabian tribes and descendants of Ishmael. Sela on the other hand means ‘the rock’. This is referring to Petra, the capital of Edom. This is located in Jordan today. I believe the Gospel will be preached to the Moslem nations. I believe that there is going to be a revival among the Muslim nations in the world. And this servant will be tasked with that. Because of the CNA media, a Muslim donated some money to the support of the Indigenous people in Barotac Viejo. Of course I cannot reject it because I may be accused of receiving selective support. Then he came to Iloilo. Last November 28 Carlos brought him to Barotac Viejo and that evening we had dinner with him and his family. I had a good conversation with him. I found out that he is a police inspector in Singapore; a high-ranking job in the police force. In the midst of our dinner, we accidently serve him vegetable with pork. You cannot do that in Singapore because they will be very angry and offended with you. You don’t give pork to them. I keep apologizing to him but he was nice. He said he understand and was not offended. In the conversation he told me he may want to migrate here in Iloilo and look for a new business venture. Well after he went back to Singapore, he wrote in the messenger thanking me for his hospitality. I wrote an honest reply to him, telling him that a police inspector is an honorable job and secure job that pays very well and he should think twice about quitting. He thanked me for that advice for hopes we can keep in touch. He also starts to address me as pastor. I was surprised. Who knows; an impossible may become possible for him to come to know God? I think YHWH specifically mentioned about salvation coming to the Muslim world too.
The third group is to the islands. The isles refers to coastlands and to the Gentiles countries. Of course it encompasses all countries when this servant declares his praise in the islands. I believe God is speaking directly to his servant through a prophetic oracle, giving him the breath of life, which is His Spirit and making him a beacon of light. This servant will bring light into darkness and help for the helpless, sight for the blind and freedom for the prisoner.
4. A New Thing YHWH Will Do
Isaiah 42:13-14 says, ‘The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.”
YHWH has endured the suffering of the outcast of his covenant people for too long and with deep emotion. He has kept quiet and held his peace and had been silent. He is saying, ‘you have felt despondent long enough, the spirit of an outcast and hopelessness has to end. You will not die and be alone but I am doing a new thing. I want to make you a New Servant. Now he is stirring up jealousy. I feel that the time has come for YHWH to act for His people and make changes to this world concerning who He is. YHWH has kept still and restrained himself. He has waited in anguish like a woman in labor. A woman in labor groans, grasp and pant. But now YHWH is coming with his aid and coming for his returning covenant people. Having prepared this message, I believe there is coming a revival but YHWH needs his servants. He is preparing a smooth and level highway for the return of many Gentiles to God. It also describes his care for these returnees. Verse 16 describes YHWH’s sure commitment to act
A major question remains unanswered. Who was this servant commissioned by YHWH? At one time, it may have a definite historical reference to Cyrus. Or it can be a remnant within the nation of Israel. Of course, commentators point to Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is the God man who has taken such a commission seriously and brought it into reality. But honestly within the written Scripture it became a promise of God’s future action through a people (corporate body) or an individual whom would accept the commission of God.