Isaiah 42 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
III. Salvation (poetry), ch. 40-66
A. Peace assured through knowing the LORD God... (The God of Peace), ch. 40-48
3. Who sends His Servant (Messiah) to justify His blind servant, 42:1-25
1. 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
{ie., justice} to the Gentiles.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench:
he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth:
and the isles
{ie., coasts, gentile nations} shall wait for his law.
behold my servant...- This servant is identified as the Lord Jesus Christ, in Mat 12:15-21,
     with specific application to His first coming.
Here, in Isaiah ch.42, the Messiah's first coming is in view in v.1-7, and His second in v.8-17.
Three 'servants of the LORD' are mentioned in Isaiah:
...mine elect {ie., my chosen one} - whom my soul delighteth...- Mat 3:17; 17:5; 2Pet 1:17
...I have put My Spirit upon Him...- cp. Mat 3:16; Joh 3:34
Observe that three Persons are intimately involved in the work of the Servant:
     'I...' (God the Father), 'my Spirit...' (God the Holy Spirit), 'Him...' (God the Son); cp. Php 2:6,7
...He shall not cry... shall... not break... shall... not quench...-
The usual understanding of these words is that, at His first coming, the Messiah would be gentle. In what specific ways would this gentleness be exhibited?
  • He shall not cry...- ie., He would not be a rabble rouser crying out against political wrongs.
  • a bruised {HB=ratsats, crushed} reed shall he not break...-
    This expression occurs only here and in 2Kin 18:21, where it refers to a gentile nation upon which Israel leaned to its own hurt. When Jesus came, Israel was under the umbrella of the Roman Empire and cooperating with flawed rulers like Herod and Pilate. Yet, Jesus did not seek to overthrow them.
  • the smoking {HB=keheh, dark, dim} flax {wick} shall he not quench...-
    Isaiah speaks often of the failing light of Israel's religious leaders, who were bringing spiritual darkness upon the nation through disregard of the light of God's Word (eg. Isa 8:19,20; 9:1,2). The situation was the same when Jesus came (see the context in which this passage is quoted in Matthew ch.12). Yet, Jesus did not extinquish the dim light of Israel's spiritual leaders.
...He shall bring forth judgment {justice} unto truth.-
Although Jesus did not right the political and spiritual wrongs of His day (Joh 3:17), He did come to exercise judgment unto truth (cp. Joh 9:39; 14:6). By what means did the Servant of the LORD accomplish this? (see Mark 10:45; 1Pet 2:24)
...He shall not fail {HB=kahah, grow faint, become dim} nor be discouraged {HB=ratsats, be crushed, be broken}...-
Notice that words used in v.3, concerning the condition of sinful men, are applied in v.4 to the Savior.
     The One who would not break the bruised reed, would Himself be bruised and broken (1Cor 11:24-26). The Light of Life (Joh 1:4,5), who would allow Israel's dim lamp to continue smoldering, would Himself be extinguished (to the eyes of His enemies). Yet, He is neither dim nor broken, for He lives and the light of His glory is all the brighter, for those with eyes to see.
...till he have set {established, accomplished} judgment {ie., justice} in the earth.-
This will be fulfilled at Christ's second coming to earth, in the Millennial Kingdom (Isa 2:1-4).
The foundation, essential for His Kingdom of righteousness, was laid at His first coming, at the appointed hour, when He offered Himself as the propitiation for sin (Rom 3:23-26). (See v.6 below, and references.)
5. 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:
6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness
{cp. Heb 1:8,9},
and will hold thine hand
{eg., Luk 22:42-44}, and will keep thee {eg., Joh 7:30},
and give thee for a covenant of the people
{Mat 26:28; 1Cor 11:25; Heb 9:15},
for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison,
[and] them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
Thus saith God the LORD... I the LORD have called thee...-
These words of encouragement are directed from the Father to the Son.
and give thee for a covenant of the people... of the gentiles.-
The new covenant in Christ's blood is God's provision for the salvation of Jew and Gentile, alike (Joh 3:16; Luk 2:30-32; Acts 13:47,48).
to bring out the prisoners...- The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation,
delivering sinners from bondage to sin, Satan, spiritual blindness and death. Compare v.6,7 with the Lord's commission of the apostle Paul to preach the gospel, in Acts 26:17,18. Also cp. Rom 1:16,17; 1Cor 6:9-11; Col 1:13,14; cf. Joh 9:39-41
As we saw in v.1-7, the LORD's Servant (Christ) would not correct cultural wrongs, at His first coming. The condition of the "bruised reed and smoking flax" (worldly political and religious entities) would continue "till He send forth judgment unto victory" (Mat 12:20). This will occur at His second coming, as described in v.8-17.
8 I [am] the LORD: that [is] my name:
and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass,
and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
10 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.
11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up [their voice],
the villages [that] Kedar doth inhabit:
let the inhabitants of the rock
{HB= Sela} sing,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory unto the LORD,
and declare his praise in the islands
{ie., coasts, inhabited lands}.
13. 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.
14 I have long time holden my peace;
I have been still, [and] refrained myself:
{cp. 2Pet 3:9,10}
[now] will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.
15 I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs;
and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
16 And I will bring the blind by a way [that] they knew not;
I will lead them in paths [that] they have not known:
I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.
These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
17 They shall be turned back,
they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images,
that say to the molten images, Ye [are] our gods.
I am the LORD: that is my name... (v.8) -
By this Name, He identified Himself as the Creator of the universe (v.5).
By this Name, He called and commissioned His Servant (Christ), in v.6,7.
By this Name, He identified Himself to Moses as...
  • the eternal "I Am" (Ex 3:14)
  • the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex 3:15)
  • the Guarantor of the Abrahamic Covenant and the Deliverer of the children of Israel (Ex 6:1-7)
  • the only God of Israel, who commands their obedience (v.8; Ex 20:2,3)
the former things... new things do I declare: before they spring forth...-
Isaiah's contemporaries knew that God had fulfilled many prophetic promises (eg., relating to Israel's Exodus from Egypt, their planting in the promised land, and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom).
     From our perspective (near the end of the Church Age), numerous prophecies, which were still future in Isaiah's day, have subsequently been fulfilled (eg., regarding the captivity and dispersion of Judah, and concerning the first coming of Christ, v.1-7). We can be absolutely certain that God's Word, concerning future events, will come to fruition (cp. 2Pet 1:19-21).
These prophecies of 'new things' include:
  • the conversion of the Gentiles (v.10-12).-
    The region of Kedar and the city of Sela (Petra) are within modern day Arab lands.
    The Gentile nations, even in the most remote and spiritually dark regions, will sing praise to the LORD, when they are released from bondage to false christs and false prophets.
  • the judgment of God's enemies (v.13-15).
    At Christ's second coming in judgment, He will 'cry' {ie., shout the alarm} and roar against His enemies (as in Joel 3:16; Isa 63:1; Jer 25:30; Rev 19:11–21). He will utterly destroy the powers (mountains and hills) that oppose Him.
         (Contrast His first coming, when He did not 'cry' {lit., call together} to assemble opposition against the corrupt powers of that day. v.2,3)
  • the redemption of Israel (v.16,17), which will be cured of spiritual blindness and idolatry.
    The LORD will open the eyes of a believing remnant, in the last days.
    Yet, at the present, He commands Israel to open their eyes and look (in v.18)...
18. Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
The nation is to consider the LORD's Servant, who perfectly fulfills His Will (v.1-7 and v.19-20 below).
19 Who [is] blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger [that] I sent?
who [is] blind as [he that is] perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant?
20 Seeing many things, but thou observest not;
opening the ears, but he heareth not.
21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake;
he will magnify the law, and make [it] honourable.
The character of the LORD's Servant (v.19-21) is in stark contrast to the present state of Israel (the nation which is also called God's servant, Isa 41:8-10), as shown in the following verses.
22 But this [is] a people robbed and spoiled;
[they are] all of them snared in holes,
and they are hid in prison houses:
they are for a prey, and none delivereth;
for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
23 Who among you will give ear to this?
[who] will hearken and hear for the time to come?
24 Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers?
did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned?
for they would not walk in his ways,
neither were they obedient unto his law.
25 Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger,
and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about,
yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid [it] not to heart.
Who is blind, but my servant?... he that is perfect...-
In some passages, it is difficult to discern which 'servant' of the LORD is in view.
It is clear that this chapter mentions both servants: the Messiah, and the nation of Israel.
In v.19-21, some see Christ, while others see Israel in her final perfected state.
Here is a brief discussion of the two possibilities:
  1. Christ is God's only 'perfect' Servant.
    • He opens the ears of the deaf physically and spiritually (eg., Isa 29:18; Mat 11:5).
    • He fulfilled the Law (Mat 5:17; Rom 8:3,4).
    • In Him, the LORD was well pleased (Mat 3:17; 17:5).
    • He was totally committed to fulfilling the Father's purposes (Isa 50:4-7), and was, therefore 'blind and deaf' to every distraction from that purpose (as His followers ought to be: cp. 2Cor 4:18; Heb 11:27 (re: Moses); 12:2-3).
  2. Israel will be made perfect, when they receive their Messiah.
    • Elsewhere, the blind and deaf servant is Israel (Isa 6:9; 29:10-14; Rom 11:25).
      Although Christ became 'dumb' before His shearers (Isa 53:7), no other passage refers to Him as blind or deaf (on the contrary, His understanding of, and obedience to, God's will is perfect, Psa 40:7-10; Isa 50:4,5).
    • But how can blind, deaf, and disobedient (v.24) Israel be called 'perfect' (v.19)?
      Because by the New Covenant, established in Christ's blood, Israel will be transformed, when they receive Him, at His second coming. See v.6 (spoken to Christ); Jer 31:31-34
      • The word 'perfect' is HB= shalam, 'at peace.'
      • This word is used of debts satisfied, and promises fulfilled.
        Thus, it looks forward to Israel's restoration. In that context, this word appears in Isa 44:26 ('performeth'); Joel 2:25 ('restore'); Nah 1:15 ('perform').
the LORD is well pleased for his righteousness...-
Through the righteousness of the Servant Messiah (cp. v.1-7), the servant nation will someday become righteous and pleasing to God. cp. Rom 11:25-27; Php 3:4-9; Heb 8:10
but this is a people robbed and spoiled... (v.22-25)-
Meanwhile, persisting in rebellion and willful ignorance, Israel continues to feel the heat of God's wrath (though they fail to recognize it as such). The LORD has allowed the nations (to which Israel looked for help) to prevail against them, leaving them with no one to rescue them from their enemies, or to return them to their former place of favor... until that future day, when they will look to Him.

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