The Servant Of The Lord

Tonight we continue with our studies in the book of Isaiah. And we come to chapter 42. How should you read the Old Testament? When Jesus "opened the scriptures" and made them clear to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus,he began ...

with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures [the Old Testament] concerning himself (Luke 24.27).

So when you go to the Old Testament you should find out how it relates to Jesus and God's great plan of salvation in Jesus. That is the first thing you should do in reading the Old Testament. But then listen to Paul in Romans 15.4:

everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul is referring to the Old Testament and saying it has a lot to "teach us". So when you go to the Old Testament, don't say, "I know better. This is just a primitive book. We've got past that kind of thing in the modern world. I am just going to pick and chose what I want to get from it." That is not the attitude of a learner. Paul says it was "written to teach us." We are not to "teach it". And it is not meant to be just academic teaching. It is meant to give us "hope", "endurance" and "encouragement". Paul says the Old Testament is to help you endure when the going is hard in the Christian life and give you encouragement when you might get depressed. I want us to keep those thoughts in mind tonight as we look at Isaiah 42. And you'll see that my headings tonight are first, THE SERVANT OF THE LORD (vv 1-9); secondly, THE GLORY OF THE LORD (vv 10-17); and thirdly THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD (vv 18-25). First, THE SERVANT OF THE LORD (vv 1-9). What has Isaiah been teaching about God so far in this second half of the book of Isaiah? In chapter 40 he teaches that God is the almighty creator of the universe. In chapter 41 he teaches that God is the sovereign Lord of history. Now in chapter 42 he teaches that God saves. Isaiah's own name means, "The Lord saves". Isaiah now teaches about the salvation of God. Everyone if they are honest, every ideology and every religion has to admit that the world as it is, is not as the world as it ought to be. There is a fundamental gap between what is, and what ought to be - to put it philosophically. That gap is why salvation of some sort is needed. Everybody has to try some method of salvation. Some choose drink, some choose sex, others money, others various religious experiences, others hobbies - I saw a man on TV this week who had spent 20,000 hours making a scaled down working model of a Ferrarri [it was wonderful]. People were trying the same sorts of things in Isaiah's day. But as now they did not give long term satisfaction. Peoples' lives remained in a mess spiritually and materially. They didn't get what they wanted out of life - far from it. The reason was simple. They ignored the root problem. What was that? Isaiah had told the people, way back in chapter 1:

They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Until they returned to the Lord and had their sin and disobedience dealt with, there would be no real salvation and real hope. Oh! These were nice people. They were respectable citizens of Jerusalem and the areas around. The educated ones would have been cultured and civilized. But they were sinners destined for destruction. Why? - because they thought they knew better than God - it was (and is) as simple as that. Who tonight thinks they know better than God and what he has revealed in his word, the bible? Be warned. These people of Israel and Judah experienced the destruction of their property and political exile, for real. Isaiah is now assuming they have learnt their lesson. That is why he is trying to give them hope and encouragement. He is telling them that God saves - and God wants to put things right. So the first thing Isaiah talks about in chapter 42 is the Servant of the Lord. Look at verses 1-4:

"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. {2} He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. {3} A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; {4} he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

We have the advantage of hindsight. We know who that servant was. Matthew 12.18 tells us that Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of this "servant" prophecy. Now the Servant of the Lord immediately tells us three things about God's plan of salvation. One, it takes time. Isaiah was prophesying 700 years before Christ. God doesn't always work instantly. He hasn't worked instantly in history. He doesn't always work instantly in our own lives. Two, God uses means to bring about salvation and especially he uses people. And the people he needs and uses are "servant people". The servant is essentially someone who fulfills his master's will. The "servant" is a concept you meet on several occasions in these chapters of Isaiah. The "servant" can be Cyrus; or the people of Israel themselves who are supposed to be faithful but aren't; or, as here, a special human figure who is God's suffering servant. And in these opening verses you have this special servant of the Lord. So God takes time, he uses people, and his great work of salvation focuses on the suffering servant, who we know is Jesus Christ. But if God uses people, the question for today is this: are you willing also to be a "servant of the Lord"? You say, "what is involved?" There are five things. First, God's servant is chosen by God and filled with his Holy Spirit. Verse 1:

my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him.

God's Holy Spirit has to work in your life first before you can serve him. At a basic level he has to show you that it is only through Christ and the cross where Christ died in your place to bear your sin that you can have new life. And you receive that new life by faith in Christ. Who needs to turn by faith to Christ tonight for forgiveness and new life? If you want to serve God you need the work of the Spirit of God in your own life first. Two, the servant of God is to be concerned for "justice" - verse 1 again:

he will bring justice.

What is "justice"? That is a big word in Isaiah. In Isaiah 40.14 it refers to the order God has given to the whole universe by his creative acts. In Isaiah 40.27 it refers to Israel's special relationship with God. In Isaiah 41.1 it refers to God silencing the false claims of other religions. This term "justice" refers to God's salvation in history, through Israel first but now in Christ. It is the whole gospel. It covers the whole of life. It is not just social "justice", though it includes that. Rather it is wanting to make known that God is Lord of all; that he alone is the sovereign creator; that alone is the Lord of history; and that he alone is the saviour of men and women. Three, God's servant is to "bring justice to the nations" (verse 1) - these were the people outside Israel. The servant was working for people who did not know the true and living God. Is that what you do? That is how God works his salvation in the world - as people tell others who do not know about his plans and purposes that were fulfilled in his special servant, Jesus Christ. Four, God's servant (verse 2) ...

will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.

God works through people who get on with things quietly. Others will think that nothing is happening. But they are so wrong. It is like the seed that grows silently. If you think that by being faithful to Christ, you will get the headlines, you are wrong. Sometimes that happens. But so much Christian work is out of the limelight. That is true in this church. There are so many people doing fantastic work - among young people, caring for others, helping here, helping there. It is unsung and unrecorded. That is the mark of a true servant of the Lord. Jesus tried to be like that as we heard in Matthew 12. Are you wanting to be praised and made a fuss of? Be careful. Check you are really seeking to serve the Lord and not your own interests? Five, it was said of the servant of the Lord (verse 3) ...

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

The people Jesus was concerned with were the poor in spirit; people who had no hope and nowhere to turn. They were bruised and battered. Who feels like that tonight - a bruised and broken reed? It may you are broken morally - you have made a mess of your life alright. Well, Jesus will not break you. He wants to build you up again and he will do, if you only let him. Or perhaps you once had a real faith in Christ; but now it has all but gone. You have drifted. Or you have no spiritual assurance. You are full of doubts. You are like a "smoldering wick". Do you have that problem of lighting candles at Christmas time? There is always one that won't light properly. The wick won't burn Do you feel that is just like your faith? Well, the good news is that Christ will not "snuff out" any tiny spark that you have. If you let him, he will help you fan it into a flame once again. So if you want to be a servant of the Lord, you should find yourself working with people the world ignores; people who are like "bruised reeds" and "smouldering wicks". The servant of the Lord works with such people and seeks to help them. Six, the servant of the Lord perseveres (verse 3b):

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; {4} he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.

Jesus was attacked, misunderstood and eventually crucified. But in his earthly ministry he did "not falter" nor was he "discouraged". If you seek to serve the Lord, you will be attacked and misunderstood. It may be your parents who are not Christian that misunderstand you. It may be some friend. It may be at work that your commitment to Christ is a threat to some of your colleagues. Deep down they know they are being disobedient and rebelling against God. And they make life difficult for you. What do you do when you get attacked? Sadly some give up. But the true servant will be like Jesus, and in his strength "will not falter or be discouraged". Like the Servant of the Lord here in Isaiah you, too, can trust that promise in verse 6: "I, the LORD ... will take hold of your hand." Let's move on to my second heading tonight. Secondly, THE GLORY OF THE LORD (vv 10-17). What is to be the response to all this? Look at verse 12:

Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands.

This is the very opposite of denying God. The bible says there are people who ...

although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom 1.21).

Do you glorify God? Do you give him the glory? You say: "what does it mean to glorify God - singing songs that say, 'we glorify you!'"? No! Fundamentally, the glory of God is the clear and revealed reality of God and that reality was seen supremely in Jesus:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory (John 1.14).

Glorifying God starts with admitting the truth of God and his love for you in Jesus Christ. God may work slowly to change your character. But he will accept you immediately you admit his verdict on your life - that you are a sinner - and you then turn to Christ by faith for forgiveness and new life. So Isaiah told these pagan people to "give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praise." But then they needed to realize that although God works gently and patiently, he is not weak. He has an implacable hatred of sin, verse 13:

The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.

And they needed to realize that God is exclusive. So they couldn't have any "All Faiths Services" or any other blasphemous forms of syncretism you now even find in churches and chapels. Look at verse 8:

I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.

"Idols" stand for other Gods - Gods other than the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - Yahweh/Jehovah. I had literature this week advertising an All Faiths' Service in a local church. What would Isaiah have said? Look at verse 17, God says:

those who trust in idols, who say to images, 'You are our gods,' will be turned back in utter shame.

Finally, THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD (vv 18-25). I must be very brief. Chapter 42 ends with a warning. And we need to hear it. Yes, we ought to be encouraged. God has worked through his Servant, Jesus Christ. Yes, we ought to seek to follow his example of service. But God's people can so easily drift. They begin by being means of grace, people that God works through to bring salvation to the world. Then they can drift. And Israel in Isaiah's time - God's servant as they are called here in verse 19 - had drifted. Verse 24, the people ...

would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law.

Oh, they said "we will change the rules on sexual morality [they were doing that, there is nothing new under the sun];" and they said, "we will say it is both/and - both Jehovah and the insights of idol worshippers. What did God do? Verse 25:

he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

Is God vengeful? No! These people - God's people - when they ignored him were particularly dangerous. So God had to do something. It is still the same today. When you have God's people, and especially Church leaders, "not following God's ways and not obeying his laws," it is dangerous. Such people, are blind leaders of the blind. Verses 18-20:

"Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! {19} Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD? {20} You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing."

We must be warned of the judgement of the Lord on his own people - people who claim to be servants of the Lord, but who are blind leaders of the blind. I must conclude. Let me summarize some of the lessons of chapter 42. God uses people who are willing to be servants. Jesus was the supreme servant; but you and I are to follow in his footsteps. Remember those five essentials for a servant: Be alive by and filled with the Spirit. Be concerned for "justice" - the whole plan of God. Be concerned for those outside. Be willing to go unnoticed. Be concerned for the broken hearted. And persevere - stick at it. Then seek God's glory - be concerned for his truth and the reality of Jesus. And remember that God's glory goes with his hatred of sin and his exclusive claims - there is no multi faith option. And we warned of the danger of being a blind leader of the blind. And you avoid that danger by focusing on the true Servant of the Lord - Jesus Christ.

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