Isaiah 42 is a prophetic picture of Jesus, and it contains not only Old Testament words that pointed to the future Messiah, but words actually spoken by Jesus in the New Testament as He launched His ministry and fulfilled this passage with His incarnation and sacrifice.
The historical context of this chapter is incredibly important, and very interesting!
The Messiah was seen by Isaiah as God’s alternative to our idols. Unlike Cyrus, the great Persian King who would trample on rulers and nations, God’s servant (His one and only Son) would be different. In fact, He would be… delightful. He would be just. When Jesus came, He did not even break “a bruised reed”, or quench a “faintly burning wick” (verse 3).
Jesus came… healing people. Restoring people. Loving people.
A key word in these first four verses of chapter 42 is JUSTICE. It appears three times, in verses 1, 3 and 4. Here, Isaiah is using justice in a much greater sense than simply legal correctness as we know it in our own culture. Isaiah is saying that Jesus will usher in the Kingdom of God in a real and beautiful way, with justice, but defined differently than how we would define it within our current understanding and culture. To Isaiah, justice meant a human society with no corrupting idolatries – with nothing that would pull our attention away from the values of God’s Kingdom ways.
I once read a story about a famous actress that worked hard to not expose her children to any Thanksgiving decorations. In fact, she usually took her children out of the country, not wanting to “taint them” with a celebration by a country that had (from her view) unjustly
stolen the land from the Native Americans.
No question – America is not perfect. That is more evident today than ever. But America will never be perfect, and neither will any other society, because every culture mixes its good intentions with its idolatrous ones. We should all work hard, and give our very best for society. But what so many miss is the humility that recognizes that peace and salvation will never come through the culture or its justice system – as much as we should strive for it, and as far as we will get with it – it will never be complete, because true justice, lasting justice, will only come through God and His just servant, Jesus.
Isaiah had eyes to see this, even before the Son of God was born as a man in that manger!
Our cry to this servant should include our desire for God to help us destroy our own idols, our own injustices, and declare that He alone is our hope and salvation.
Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers. In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader. As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.