Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth.
He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.Isaiah 42:1-4 ASV
The certainty that it is Jesus Christ the Messiah who is actually prophesied here has been known for ages.
Only the rebellious perversity of deluded and hardened minds could be responsible for the regrettable fact that today one finds the true meaning denied by a few.
The ancient Chaldee version translates the first line here: `BEHOLD, MY SERVANT, MESSIAH.’
In the New Testament, Matthew quoted this whole passage verbatim in Matthew 12:18-21, stating that the prophet Isaiah had written this, and applying every word of it to Jesus Christ.
Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; Neither shall any one hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, And smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles hope.Matthew 12:18-21 ASV
The last sentence of this quotation gives the sense but not the exact words of Isaiah 42:4.
The bruised reed and dimly-lighted lamp are symbols of weakness and feebleness of faith, applicable in this place, no doubt, to the general spiritual condition of the Gentiles, but also a pledge that Christ does not despise the faith of any of his children, however weak and ready to perish.
The bruised reed is a symbol of the soul, broken and contrite on account of sin, weeping and mourning for transgression. HE WILL NOT BREAK IT.
That is, he will not be severe, unforgiving, and cruel. He will heal it, pardon it, and give it strength.
The metaphor of the smoking flax referred to the string-like fabric, or wick, one end of which was contained in the bowl of ancient lamps, and the other end lighted.
Flax was the material of which such wicks were made. “Smoking flax” indicated a lamp, nearly out of fuel, and almost ready to go out.
There is also in this place a contrast between worldly conquerors and the Pharisees, on the one hand, riding rough shod over the weak and helpless.
On the other hand, the lowly Christ, withdrawing from popular clamor, solicitous for the bruised reed or the smoking flax.
But make no mistake.
Christ, not the Pharisees, was THE VICTOR.
Look to the last word of the quotation from Isaiah.
He will send forth judgment “TO VICTORY”!
Christ will continue in the way of the meek and humble.
His methods did not lead to nor tend towards defeat. Far from it. Total and final VICTORY was, and ever shall be, his.
Reference is here made to other writers regarding their comments on this passage: Only Christ fulfills the assignment here; all others fall short.
The Messiah-Servant is presented here as the tender Prophet; and clearly the Servant is here presented as an individual, not as the nation of Israel.
This speaks of Christ the antitype of Israel, and also the antitype of Cyrus.
Christ, the Servant, here is closely related to Israel.
The mention of God’s Spirit given to Christ upon the occasion of his baptism (Matthew 3:17) emphasizes that the Servant is an individual, standing out from the mass of Israel, a fact strongly emphasized again in Isaiah 42:18.
The portraiture has so strong an individuality and such marked personal features, that he cannot possibly be merely a personified collective.
No matter how undeniable an interpretation may be, the diehard critics will not have it so.
Isaiah 42:1-4 means that Yahweh has called Israel, taken him by the hand, made him a covenant and a light to the nations, to bring them forth from the prison-house of glimmering darkness.
It is charitable to suppose that some critics ever read the rest of this chapter, where it is unequivocally stated that the nation of Israel was both blind and deaf!
In our Introduction to Isaiah, we pointed out that splitting Isaiah once by no means solves any problem.
Bernard Duhm (we do not know if this last name is pronounced Dumb or Doom!) published a commentary in 1892 and revealed that he had isolated four `Servant Songs’ (Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12), alleging that they were so different from the material in which they were embedded that they must have been written, not by their imaginative Deutero-Isaiah, but by someone else!
Such a ridiculous error as this is due to the failure to recognize the close relationship between Christ and the First Israel and also between Christ and Cyrus, our Lord being undoubtedly the antitype of each of these.
The most deplorable error of interpretation with regard to the Old Testament and to Israel particularly is that of the failure to distinguish `which Israel’ is meant.
The stupendous error of the critics in supposing that the nation of physical Israel is “the Ideal Servant” of Jehovah is due to their confusing the sinful kingdom of Israel with the “Servant” in whom the Lord was delighted, and who is here promised that Jehovah will uphold him, etc.
That Israel is the “True Israel”; and just who is he?
The apostle John quoted Jesus himself on this, and he said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1).
The physical, secular Israel was never, for a moment, the “TRUE VINE.”
Christ only is the True Vine, the True Israel.
Who is the Old Israel?
Jeremiah tells us what kind of vine Israel became: “To Israel: Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate branches of a vine foreign unto me?” (Jeremiah 2:21).
There are literally countless passages of the Old Testament that dwell upon this tragic truth; and yet, throughout the Old Testament, God continually reiterated the truth that all of the sacred promises to the patriarchs were yet to be fulfilled.
In the spiritual Israel, of course!
In this very chapter, the two Israels are dramatically presented; and without the information conveyed here, no understanding whatever is possible with reference to whole sections of the Old Testament.
The first Israel came up out of Egypt, being called forth from Egypt by God.
Christ the True Israel also was called out of Egypt (See Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15).
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.Hosea 11:1 ASV
and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt did I call my son.Matthew 2:15 ASV
The birth of the first Israel as a nation was accompanied by a wholesale slaughter of innocent babies by Pharaoh who sought to destroy Israel.
The birth of the True Israel (Christ) was likewise accompanied by the wholesale slaughter of the innocents by Herod the Great.
All of the first Israel were descended from Abraham; so was Jesus Christ the True Israel (Matthew 1:1).
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.Matthew 1:1 ASV
The first Israel, namely, Jacob, died; and Joseph begged the body of the first Israel from Pharaoh for the purpose of burying it.
When the True Israel (Jesus Christ) died, another Joseph begged the body of Pilate in order to bury it.
This is an extensive subject; but these few lines will demonstrate the validity of the type-antitype relationship between the two Israels.
Note what is said here of the character of “The Servant.”
God’s soul delighteth in him (the prophetic present for the future verb).
Could this refer to the “nation” of the Old Israel?
Ezekiel stated that the secular nation had become worse than Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezekiel 16).
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. The Old Israel absolutely refused to do this; and they are still refusing to do it in the case of the shamefully displaced Palestinians.
It was primarily because the physical Israel understood Jesus’ intention of saving Gentiles that they rejected him and engineered his crucifixion.
It is an actual fact that the cry for redemption runs through the whole human race.
They are possessed by an earnest longing, the ultimate object of which is, however unconsciously, the Servant of Jehovah and his instruction from Zion.