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Jesus Through Isaiah’s Eyes | The Servant King

February 18, 2024
Isaiah 42:1-9

1Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

2He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

3a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

4He will not grow faint or be discouraged

till he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his law.

5Thus says God, the Lord,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people on it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

6“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;

I will take you by the hand and keep you;

I will give you as a covenant for the people,

a light for the nations,

7to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

8I am the Lord; that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to carved idols.

9Behold, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth

I tell you of them.”

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, keep your household the Church continually in your true religion; that those who lean only on the hope of your heavenly grace may always be defended by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 86

Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;

No deeds can compare with yours

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord;

They will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds;

You alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;

I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your love toward me;

You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Summary and Connection

This is the beginning of a new sermon series called Jesus Through Isaiah’s Eyes. It’s about an unlikely prophet with an unlikely mission. Two and half millennia ago, a man named Isaiah stood in the Temple in Jerusalem and heard God calling him to be a prophet. He was told to preach God’s word boldly, but he was also told that no one would listen to him. No one, that is, except for the most influential human being to have ever walked the earth: Jesus of Nazareth. 740 years later, Jesus read Isaiah, meditated on Isaiah, and understood his own ministry and calling in the light of Isaiah. As a result, the New Testament quotes Isaiah more than all the other prophets in the Bible combined. But not only did Jesus look back down the long centuries to learn from Isaiah, Isaiah looked ahead and saw Jesus.

Isaiah 42 is the first of Isaiah’s four famous Servant Songs. These are songs describing a servant of justice (42:1-9), a servant of prophecy (49:1-6), a servant of counsel (50:4-11), and a servant of suffering (52:13-53:12). Though these servants can refer to Israel as a people, “servant” in this part of Isaiah often refers to an individual who is part of, though distinct from, Israel as a whole. In these cases, the servant is the ideal Israel represented in a single person.

The first servant song follows a major transition in the Book of Isaiah, the change from chapter 39 to 40. For 39 chapters, Isaiah has predicted the future exile of Israel for her sins, and now he pivots to a predicted return and salvation. In chapter 40, the prophet ceases to condemn and instead calls out, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (40:1). This is where the servant of justice soon appears. That is why Isaiah says, “Behold!”

This servant is not like the rampaging armies and military rulers that will take Israel away into exile. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice in the street. He is so gentle that he will not even break a bruised reed or snuff a smoking wick, but he is so determined that nothing can stop him from establishing justice from one end of the earth to the other. That’s what it means for him to go all the way to the coastlands, and to never grow faint or discouraged, which interestingly, in the Hebrew, is the same word as “bruised.”  

As one commentator writes about this surprising servant, “The source of his strength will be the Spirit of God. The instrument of his rule will be the word of God (literally, torah). His manner will be gentle rather than overbearing, and there is more than a hint in the opening line of verse 4 that his mission will involve him in personal suffering.” As we discuss this passage, let us try to behold what Isaiah saw when he looked down the centuries at Jesus.

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?

  • Read verses 2-4. What contrasts do you see? What surprises do you see?
  • What does this passage tell us about justice?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • Have someone read Matthew 12:15-21. What does it mean to behold this servant once we know that this servant is Jesus?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • Read verse 9. This is an encouragement to trust what God is saying. What do you behold to remember that God is trustworthy, both in what he’s done and in what he will do?

4. Looking at Our World

  • Read verses 1-4, and 6-7. Note the parallels between bringing justice to the nations and bringing light to the imprisoned. What might this mean for our vision of justice in New York City, where we live and work? 


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1:

    Question 1a. This servant is chosen by God, delighted in by God, equipped by God, and commissioned by God. God elects (or chooses) the servant, upholds him, gives him his Spirit, and gives him his charge: Bring justice to the nations. Or, literally, bring justice to the Gentiles. That, right there, is a little surprising. Even though Israel’s identity was supposed to be deeply rooted in Abraham’s call to be a blessing for the nations, Israel had taken their close relationship to God for granted, and forgotten that they were blessed to be a blessing. This is an explicit reminder that for Israel’s destiny to be fulfilled, God’s servant must bring justice to more than just Israel. Justice must come to the entire world. Out to the coastlands means as far as it is possible to go. Yet, there is a contrast between the scope of the mission and the means of the mission. This servant seems a little quiet for someone whose mission is a world-spanning work of justice. He seems slow, careful, and maybe overly concerned for the weak and shattered. Unless, of course, that’s exactly what true justice requires.

    Question 1b. This is a reminder that most of us need to better familiarize ourselves with the full scope of what biblical justice means. It means fulfilling all of our responsibilities to God and to our neighbor in perfect accordance with God’s law, and where this type of justice is not the case, it means doing all that is required to set things right. Or, as Fleming Rutledge writes:

    When we read about the righteousness of God, it also means the justice of God, and, most important, it means the action of God in making conditions and relationships right. “Righteousness” has the force of a verb rather than a noun; it is not a static quality but a continual going-out in power to effect what it requires. Nor is it an abstraction; it can only be understood in the context of the community called into being by God, which is itself the image, however flawed, of the new humanity. This understanding of the righteousness of God affords a greatly enlarged perspective on the cross and resurrection.

    Question 2: It may help to know that “aware of this” in Matthew 12:15 means that Jesus was aware that the Pharisees were trying to kill him (verse 14). This passage is the longest quotation of an Old Testament passage in Matthew. But Isaiah 42 is also referenced in Matthew 4:16, Luke 2:32 and 7:22, and John 8:12. Jesus is the surprising and inevitable combination of the servant’s meekness yet boldness, and his patience yet perseverance. As one commentator puts it, “Matthew has evidently latched onto Isa 42.1–4 because it serves so remarkably to illustrate the nature of Jesus’ ministry in Israel. Jesus is the unobtrusive servant of the Lord. God’s Spirit rests upon him. He does not wrangle or quarrel or continue useless strife. He seeks to avoid self-advertisement and to quiet the enthusiasm that his healings inevitably create. He has compassion upon all, especially upon the ‘bruised reed’ or ‘smouldering wick.’ And he brings salvation to the Gentiles.”

    Question 3: This is a personal application question. God is telling his people to remember the former things that have come to pass. What was predicted has happened, just as God had promised. And that means that the new things that God declares are also as good as done. Help the group to meditate on what God has done for them, and to behold what God has done for them, so that they are encouraged. This can include personal stories of their own lives. Ultimately, however, the former things all go back to this: God promised to send a servant of justice, and he kept that promise. God promised to send a savior, and he kept that promise. God promised to send Jesus, and Jesus never gave up until he had established justice between God and us by the blood of his cross, so that we, most of us Gentiles, could be set free from the prison of sin and death and given new life. And God promised to raise Jesus and he did so, and that means that we can trust in God’s future promise to raise both us and this whole broken world. We can trust that Jesus is coming back. These promises, fulfilled and foretold, are our encouragement, and they allow us to follow our servant savior as we now live to serve others.

    Question 4: This is a personal application question that applies to mission. Note that even opening the eyes of the blind is likely related to bringing light into dark dungeons and bringing captives out of prison. This is Isaiah’s image for setting Israel free from exile, but must mean something about setting the world free from sin and injustice. Also note this thought-provoking comment: “The persecuted Jesus does not seek justice by taking his cause to the public. Neither should his persecuted disciples. Like him, they are to proclaim justice, not seek it.”