The Servant Songs of Isaiah – Chapter 42, pt.2

Tonight we will be reading through excerpts of Isaiah 40:1-42:18 with an emphasis on the Servant Song of Isaiah 42:1-4.  If you have a study Bible or commentary on Isaiah, please bring those with you tonight.  I have attached a brief commentary on these verses from Christopher North’s book The Suffering Servant – An Historical and Critical Study. (pp.139-143). North provides a good discussion as to the identity of the Servant that the prophet anticipates.

As we read through this Servant Song, there are three key points to the identity and character of the servant. First, the Servant is God’s chosen one upon whom his Spirit shall rest. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the spirit of God alights on various people – the seventy elders at Sinai (Num. 11:25), the judge Othniel (Judges 3:10), or the prophet Ezekiel (cf. Ezek. 2:2).  More specifically, however, it is David whom the Scriptures describe as the Spirit coming mightily upon (1 Sam. 16:13), and it is David’s offspring whom Isaiah prophesies will share in that same spirit (Isa. 11:2). According to North, and others, it is David’s descendant of which the prophet speaks. 

Second, this Servant will pronounce judgment (mishpat) tempered with righteousness (tsedakah).  He is to bring forth the judgment of God and yet he will not break a bruised reed nor snuff out a smoldering wick.  In other words, his judgment is tempered so as not to cause injury to the weak and needy.  Within the Hebrew Scriptures the word “justice” and “judgment” has the sense of setting things right. This is used not only in the juridical sense that wrongdoers must be punished (which sets things right) but also encompasses the social sense of making things right within society as a whole. Therefore, those verses following the Servant Song (Isa. 42:5-10) go on to describe the justice of the servant – breath to the people, opening the eyes of the blind, bringing out the prisoners from the dungeon and darkness, and giving a new song of praise.  I have attached the chapter on “Justice” from Heschel’s The Prophets which provides a deeper understanding of the Biblical meaning of this word. (pp.249-281).

Finally, the Servant comes not only to Israel but to the nations.  This is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Gen. 17, Rom. 4.  And this is the importance of these verses to us – that God’s Servant is not limited to a particular people at a particular time, but rather he is sent to the entire world.

For the Gospel writers, this description of the Servant proclaims Jesus.  First, we see Jesus as the Servant in his baptism.  It is here that God’s beloved, his Son in whom he is well pleased, receives the Spirit of God. Matt. 3:16-17.  And, of course, it is Jesus who is the descendant of David. Matt 1, 9:27. We also see Jesus as this Servant in his healing ministry. Matthew makes this specific connection that Jesus’ healing of those around him fulfills these verses. Matt 12:15-21. Finally, we see Jesus going to and sending us out into all the nations of the world. Matt 15:21, Matt. 28:19.  It is Jesus who ultimately fulfills the prophet’s words.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is roast pork with a cranberry-beet agrodolce. Discussion about 6:45. All you need to bring is a Bible, and you do not need to have read anything to participate. Hope to see you here and please bring a friend.

He chose David his servant, *
   and took him away from the sheepfolds.
He brought him from following the ewes, *
   to be a shepherd over Jacob his people
   and over Israel his inheritance.
So he shepherded them with a faithful and true heart *
   and guided them with the skillfulness of his hands.

Psalm 78:70-72

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