Advent Reflection: Isaiah 42
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:1–4)
King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father are all names the prophets give to God’s chosen one, his anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. These are majestic and magnificent names that give hope. Strength and power are his. He rules with his right hand. He is above all. He is worthy of our worship.
Isaiah uses another term used in the Old Testament that points to the longing of the hope of God’s people: servant.
serv·ant /ˈsərvənt/ Noun 1. A person who performs duties for others, esp. a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.
In Isaiah’s day, this servant was the messenger of God who declared God’s justice in the midst of turmoil in Jerusalem, in exile, in political and religious oppression. The islands are the coastlands that will be most impacted by justice in Jerusalem. There is a ripple effect: what God does here will have an impact there. This passage also points to the Messiah’s coming to bring the message of God’s Kingdom coming. What happened in Bethlehem, in Judea, in Galilee, in Jerusalem would have an impact on the whole world.
Jesus fulfilled the role of the servant. On the night he was betrayed he took a towel, wrapped it around his waist and he washed the disciples feet.
Jesus served at the request of the Father. He did only what the Father told him to do. He deferred to the Father’s will: not my will but your will be done. And he laid down his life.
But Jesus was an empowered servant. He had the blessing of the Father (in whom I delight), the power of the Father (I will put my Spirit on him), the mission of the father (I will bring justice).
Everything Jesus did pointed to the Father’s plan to bring all of creation under the lordship of this servant leader. His teaching, his life, death, resurrection all pointed the fact that God was doing something new in Jesus. He was changing the world as they knew it, bringing about justice in the courts of the world, and bring about justice in the heavenly courts. We are set free because of our faith in Jesus. Our hope is in him. He has paid the penalty for our sins. We are released. We are free.
And our freedom calls us to become servants ourselves. The apostle Paul calls himself a servant or a slave for the gospel and calls us to have that mind that was also in Christ Jesus, who took on the form of a servant. Scripture says:
Wash one another’s feet, just as I have washed yours.
Have this mind that was also in Christ Jesus…
who took on the form of a servant.
"...Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28)
It’s not the title we always look to, but it’s a title that brings hope. That God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself. That he took on our sin. That he submitted to the will of the Father and laid down his life for us. Jesus is the servant, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
That is our ultimate hope. And that is our hope for today.