Chapter 42: Behold my Servant

The Messiah in Isaiah Bible Study

Chapter 42: Behold my Servant

by I Gordon


Alright... we are back in the book of Isaiah and is this study we are looking at chapter 42. Before we get into chapter 42, I just wanted to give you a little bit of a background to this whole section of Isaiah chapter 40 - 66. Isaiah foresaw a time of great difficulty of God's people Israel. He saw a time when they would be exiled from the land and would be exposed to all sorts of practises and false religions and false gods in those Gentile nations to which they were exiled. And these were nations that cared not for the true God or for His ways. So Isaiah writes and prophecies and he warns them of the dangers and the snares that would come their way. But he also wrote to give them hope that someone is coming, someone who could right the wrongs and establish righteousness and justice in this earth. As I was reading this and thinking about it I could not help but notice the parallels to today. This world has some major escalating issues and the U N. isn't going to help. It's a kind of a strange world... In one sense we have technological advances that occur at unprecedented rate and devices invented to control every aspect of our lives to try to make things simpler and yet at the same time the world spins out of control. Yes, knowledge increases but at the same time so does lawlessness, violence, disrespect and ungratefulness. So God's answer to such a condition is the same today as it was in the days of Isaiah - 'Behold my Servant - He will bring forth justice to this earth'.

Context context context...

So what we are going to look at today is the first four verses in chapter 42. But to understand the context of what led up to these four verses, let's do a real quick summary of chapter 41. If you have a look in your bibles turn to verse one of chapter 41. It starts off with

"Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, And let the peoples gain new strength; Let them come forward, then let them speak; Let us come together for judgment.

So it is God Himself who is speaking and He is actually talking to the Gentile nations, all the coastlands, and He is actually saying come forth and we are going to sit down in judgement together. What God was doing in this whole chapter is surveying the entire religious and spiritual thought and actions of these Gentile nations and He was seeing if there was any merit to it. If you have a look in verse 21 of that same chapter you get this glimpse of a court room scene where God has got the Gentiles on trial! He says

Isaiah 41:21-24 "Present your case," the LORD says. "Bring forward your strong arguments," The King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold, you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.'

Look also at verses 28 and 29 how this chapter ends... This is God speaking, and He says:

Isaiah 41:28-29 "But when I look, there is no one, And there is no counselor among them Who, if I ask, can give an answer. "Behold, all of them are false; Their works are worthless, Their molten images are wind and emptiness.'

So that's basically God's assessment of the best that these nations could offer - It's wind and it's emptiness! And if God were to survey the Gentile nations today what would He find? He would find the New Age, He'd find atheism, He's find evolution, materialism, humanism... and He would say it is total wind and emptiness - there is nothing to it! There is nothing that can help the soul of man in any of that... ultimately it is simply emptiness. So that's the background. God examined the philosophies of the nations and is presenting a case against the Gentile nations. And that is what leads us into chapter 42 for in chapter 42 you have God's answer! You have got something that does amount to something.

God's solution to the emptiness in the Gentile nations

Isaiah 42:1 "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.

So straight away God says 'Behold My Servant' Who is this? This is actually the first mention in the book of Isaiah of several passages that describe the coming one who Isaiah calls 'the Servant'. And it starts in verse one with God's command to this failing world. God's command to His people and His overriding theme and purpose of the entire Bible is really summed up in this verse here. 'Behold My Servant whom I uphold'. As we go forth in the book of Isaiah and look at some of the other chapters that talk about the Servant what we shall see is that the Servant is the promised Messiah - the only one that can bring peace to the heart of man and peace to this world. So it starts off 'Behold My Servant' What do you think 'Behold' means? Behold means to look intently, to fix your gaze. It also means to consider and to perceive. And the whole Christian life is really based around this 'Beholding'. The Christian life begins with this looking unto Jesus. It's what John the Baptist said when he first saw Jesus - 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. But the Christian life doesn't just begin there. Every aspect of coming into what God has for us is a new beholding of His Son - the Servant, the Messiah. The New Testament says that we are changed as we behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord. So as we look at the glory of Jesus Christ through His nature and character, who He was then and who He is now and who He is in us, well that is how we are actually changed. [1]

So the world is looking for answers but unfortunately in many wrong and different directions. But only a few are actually following God's command to 'Behold His Servant'. Now if we were to Behold Jesus Christ what would we see? What do we see from Isaiah 42? First of all I want to point out that we would see someone totally unique... someone who came to do the will of God 100% of the time - twenty four seven. You know the first thing we learn in Isaiah about this one, this Messiah, is that it says 'Behold My Servant'. Jesus was a servant. [2] He was a bond Servant of the Father. He only did and said that which came from the Father and He could not be distracted from this. He couldn't be distracted by praise, by fear or by temptation. And we see here in Isaiah that it gives God's testimony of His servant. He says:

'He is my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him .'

Do you know what delights God? What delights God's heart is when we delight in delighting Him. [3] When we make it our aim to want to be pleasing to Him... When we offer ourselves (even when we are broken and useless in many regards), when we offer into His hand all that we are, to be used and to make something of - that is what delights Him. Jesus Christ offered Himself up 100% and that delighted the heart and soul of God.

The Servant - The Ultimate Non-Showman

Isaiah 42:2 "He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street.

Now this is not saying that He was not going to speak! We know that Jesus did. He did go around teaching, instructing and helping people. What this is trying to bring out is that He was the ultimate non-showman! In contrast to the Pharisees, Jesus Christ did not need to be noticed, or recognised. He never put on a show!

Let's look at one example of this. It is in Matthew 12 verse 15-21:


So Matthew quoted the passage that we are looking at today - Isaiah 42:1-4. So firstly he knew that this passage was about Jesus. But he also knew that it was fulfilled in the fact that Jesus warned people to actually not say who He was! He was not there to be a showman, to whip up a crowd or anything like that. He never, ever drew attention to Himself, put on a show or tried to entertain or please the masses. He was there solely to do the will of God. Full stop! The man who comes to do the will of God doesn't have to resort to fleshly efforts to please the crowd. [4] Jesus gave the Word that God the Father had placed on His heart and He did not ever try to please the crowd. But look at what we have got today... the surveying of non-Christians to see if the church service is right for them. It's just a load of nonsense. Let's go back to the book of Isaiah and look at verse 3.

Are you a bruised reed or a smouldering wick?

Isaiah 42:3 "A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.

Another reason why that this Servant was unique is the type of people that He ministered to. Verse three speaks about 'bruised reeds and smouldering wicks'. [5] Jesus Christ did not come just looking for perfect reeds. He came looking for those who knew of their need for Him. Nor did He come looking for those that were already burning brightly. [6] What this marvellous passage in Isaiah 42 is telling us that a lot of us are like broken and bruised reeds or we are like a dimly burning wick that is just giving of a tiny bit of smoke and a little bit of light... but Jesus isn't going to extinguish us or throw us away! [7]

This world is actually leaving more and more people battered and bruised and with little light. All of us feel this way at times. Maybe you do today? There are some problems in this life that only Jesus can deal with. But thank the Lord that God has sent One to this world, to live, to minister, to die and to be raised again so that He can come into our hearts and grant us the hope, strength and encouragement that we need. He is not one that will ever turn His back on us.

The Servant will never quit the ministry !

Isaiah 42:4 "He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."

This verse says that He will not be disheartened or crushed. It is the same Hebrew word that is in verse 3 where it is translated 'bruised'. It basically means, cracked, broken, bruised, crushed or discouraged. What it is saying is that there will never, ever come a time when Jesus Christ says 'I have had it with you, you've blown it too many times'. There will never, ever come a time when Jesus will just give up. [8] He will not be disheartened, or crushed until He has established justice in this earth. Praise the Lord that this is His ministry as our High Priest as well. He will ever intercede for us. This is the one who has said that He will never leave or forsake us. That's God's servant, that's the One who God asks us to behold. And God is in the business of restoring damaged reeds so that we can make some pretty good music again. The Bible says that we 'have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be from God and not from us.' So yes, that means that we will be battered from time to time. We will be bruised, we will be cracked but that is actually God's will. Why? So that something of God's character, something of God's life can come forth through our life.


Jesus Christ is God's absolute unique 100% Servant. He is unique in His commitment. He is unique in His compassion. Has wasn't attracted to people who looked like they had life sussed and everything was working just as they had planned. He wasn't attracted to the perfect looking reeds down by the river side. What actually attracted Him were those that He ministered to and spent time with. They were battered reeds and smouldering wicks... many of whom society had totally given up on! But praise God that He is also unique in His endurance. Jesus Christ will not give up, He will not back down, He will not change plans, He will not be discouraged until He has established justice in this earth. And that is what He will do. That is what we long for. That is what we hope for. There is a day coming when this earth is going to be transformed by the coming again of the Messiah and the setting up of His Kingdom where justice will reign from one end of the earth to the other. That is the hope that we have and that is what we look for... but until that day we need to behold the Servant of God. We need to behold Jesus Christ. We need to behold His character. We need to turn our eyes and look into His face and to see who He is in us and through us. Amen.

[1]  A.W. Tozer in his great book called 'The Pursuit of God' talked about this 'Beholding'. I just want to read a little bit to you: He said - 'While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves - blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the Perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things that he has for so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.' And he carries on and just says this about faith and beholding and he says this - 'Now if faith is the gaze of the heart at God and if this gaze is but the raising of the inward eyes to meet the All Seeing eyes of God then it follows that it is one of the easiest things possible to do. It would be like God to make the most vital thing easy and place it within the range of possibility for the weakest and the poorest of us.'

[2]  I was thinking about this, just as a bit of a side note... You know we, as Christians, are called servants of the Living God as well. And I was thinking about our prayer life and specifically my own prayer life. How do I pray? What am I saying to God? Is it as a servant saying 'What would you have me to do?' Or, like the spirit of this age, am I saying 'Here is what I would like you to do for me God'. While it is fine to present your requests to God we have to be careful if we get to the stage where unlike a servant, we are continually just telling God what we would like. We need to be careful not to make ourselves the master and God the servant.

[3]  Just before I get off this point, Bob Dylan has a song about servant hood that I like. It is called 'What Can I Do For You'. I will just quote some of the lyrics

You have given everything to me
What can I do for you?
You have given me eyes to see
What can I do for you?
You pulled me out of bondage and you made me new inside
You filled up a hunger that had always been denied
You opened up a door no man can shut And you opened it up so wide
And you have chosen me to be among the few
What can I do for you?

And that is the attitude of a servant. What can I do for you?

[4]  I read an email during the week about a pastor in America who put an advertisement in the paper and was basically asking for people who were not Christians to come and review his church service. The advertisement basically said that he was after people aged between 20 and 35, who do not currently believe that Jesus Christ is God but are not mad at Christians. He wanted them to attend the church service anonymously and complete a survey. He basically wanted this so he could get their impression of the whole service - how was the music? How was the lighting? What was the sermon like? Did it meet your needs? So he was asking non-Christians to survey a church service. Can you imagine Jesus doing that!! Can you imagine Him giving the sermon on the Mount saying 'Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth etc' and then at the end He says - hey guys how did that sound? Wasn't too harsh was it? You didn't get too bored with what I was saying? Shall I make it shorter? Would it come across better if we had a bit of music before I gave the sermon? How stupid! how ridiculous! Like I said previously... the man that has come to do the will of work only needs to be concerned that their message is from the heart of God. No preacher or pastor is here to put on a show.

[5]  I was doing a little bit of reading about what that really means and one person that was commenting on it said the following: The reeds were growing down by the river side and one of the things that these reeds were useful for is that they made good flutes. So the Israelites would actually cut them down, hollow them out and make flutes out of them. The river banks were full of these reeds and many of them were less than perfect. So if they came across one that was cracked or bruised they would just break it in half and toss it away. After all they needed reeds of a certain quality in order to make a flute that would play well. Cracked or bruised reeds were worthless. And what this verse is saying is that a bruised reed He will not break.

So the Israelites who would go down to find a reed that they could make a good flute out of, they were just looking for perfect reeds and they would just throw the others away. This is not the way with God's Servant, the Messiah Jesus. He is actually attracted to those that are damaged because they realise their need of Him!

[6]  This commentator went on about this burning wick analogy and he said that Hebrews homes of course did not have electric lights. They had to light their homes with oil lamps. Most had open tops and the bowls were filled with oil and they contained a wick made of flax or linen and as long as the wick stayed moist with the oil it would burn, but occasionally when the oil would burn out the wick would smoulder and burn and give off smoke and the only thing to do was to extinguish it and toss it away as there was plenty of flax where the first wick had come from.

Well, Jesus does not throw smouldering wicks away or put them out... He helps and encourages them until the start to shine!

[7]  I have recently become a proud home owner and I have been amazed at how much I am getting into gardening! But sometimes you see a struggling plant and you kind of think - well okay, I could care for it, water it, nurture it - or I could just pull it up! Be assured that Jesus is the kind that cares and nurtures those that are His which is what this verse 3 is telling us.

[8]  Someone once said that Jesus will never have a breakdown and resign from the ministry!