Isaiah 42:21
The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) The Lord is well pleased . . .—The tenses require a change: The Lord was well pleased . . . He made His law great and glorious. This had been His purpose, and he had not failed in it. He had done all that it was possible to do. (Comp. Isaiah 5:4; Romans 9:4.)

Isaiah 42:21. The Lord is well pleased, &c. — Although thou art a wicked people, that rebellest against the clearest light, and therefore God might justly destroy thee suddenly, yet he will patiently wait for thy repentance, that he may be gracious; and that not for thy sake, but for the glory of his own faithfulness, in fulfilling that covenant which he made with thy pious progenitors. He will magnify the law — He will maintain the honour of his law, and therefore is not forward to destroy you, who profess the true religion, lest his law should, upon that occasion, be exposed to contempt. Thus the verse may be interpreted according to the present translation. But it may be rendered differently, as it is by Vitringa and Dr. Waterland, thus: “The Lord took delight in him for his righteousness’ sake; he hath magnified him by his law, and made him honourable.” God liberally provided for his people whatever was needful or useful, in order to their salvation and the stability of their state. “He had given them excellent laws; he had increased and honoured them; had made, and was willing to make them glorious among their neighbours. But they had been wanting to themselves, had despised his laws, and incurred his just vengeance.” — Dodd.42:18-25 Observe the call given to this people, and the character given of them. Multitudes are ruined for want of observing that which they cannot but see; they perish, not through ignorance, but carelessness. The Lord is well-pleased in the making known his own righteousness. For their sins they were spoiled of all their possessions. This fully came to pass in the destruction of the Jewish nation. There is no resisting, nor escaping God's anger. See the mischief sin makes; it provokes God to anger. And those not humbled by lesser judgments, must expect greater. Alas! how many professed Christians are blind as the benighted heathen! While the Lord is well-pleased in saving sinners through the righteousness of Christ he will also glorify his justice, by punishing all proud despisers. Seeing God has poured out his wrath on his once-favoured people, because of their sins, let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should be found to come short of it.The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake - There is great variety in the translation and interpretation of this verse. Lowth renders it:

Yet Yahweh was gracious unto him for his truth's sake;

He hath exalted his own praise, and made it glorious.

Noyes renders it:

It pleased Yahweh for his goodness' sake

To give him a law great and glorious;

And yet it is a robbed and plundered people.

The Septuagint renders it, 'The Lord God determined that he should be justified, and magnify his praise.' The Chaldee renders it, 'Yahweh willed that Israel should be justified; he magnified the doers of his law, and comforted them.' The Syriac, 'The Lord willed on account of his righteousness to magnify his law, and to commend it.' Vitringa explains it, 'God has embraced the Jewish people in his love and favor, and regards them as acceptable to himself, not indeed on account of any merit of theirs, or on account of any external advantages, but on account of his own truth, fidelity, and equity, that he might fulfill the promises which he made to their fathers.' This seems to express the sense of the passage. According to this, it refers solely to the Jewish people, and not, as is often supposed, to the Messiah. The phrase, 'is well pleased,' means that Yahweh takes delight in his people, or looks upon them with an eye of tenderness and affection. He finds pleasure in contemplating them as his people, and in regarding and treating thorn as such.

For his righteousness' sake - Not for the righteousness of his people, but on account of his own righteousness; that is, his own goodness, clemency, mercy, and forbearance. It is not because he sees in them anything that should win his love, or excite his favor, for he says Isaiah 42:22 that they are robbed, and plundered, and hid, and bound in prison. But Yahweh had selected their fathers as his own people. He had made them precious promises. He had designs of mercy toward them. He had given them a holy law. He had promised to be their protector and their God. On this accouter he was pleased with them still; and it was on account of his own fidelity and plighted protection, that he was delighted in them as his people. The word 'righteousness,' therefore (צדק tsedeq), is used to denote God's purpose to do right; that is, to adhere to his promises, and to maintain a character of fidelity and integrity. He would not fail, or violate his own pledges to his people.

He will magnify the law - The word 'law' bore is used to denote the entire series of statutes, or legislative acts of God, in regard to the Jewish people - including all his promises and pledges to them. And the meaning is, that he would so deal with them as to make that law important in their view; so as to show that he regarded it as of infinite moment. He would adhere strictly himself to all his own covenant pledges in that law, so as to show that he regarded it as sacred and of binding obligation; and all his dealings with them under that law would be such as to magnify its importance and purity in their view. The Hebrew is, 'he will make the law great;' that is, he will make it of great importance.

And make it honorable - Or, make it glorious, by himself showing a constant regard for it, and by so dealing with them that they should be brought to see and feel its importance. According to this, which is the obvious interpretation, the passage has no reference particularly to the Messiah. It is true, however, that the language hero used is such as would appropriately describe the work of the Redeemer; and that a large part of what he did in his public ministry, and by his atonement, was 'to magnify the law and make it honorable;' - to vindicate its equity - to urge its binding obligation - to sustain its claims - to show that it could not be violated with impunity - and to demonstrate that its penalty was just. The whole effect of the Redeemer's work is to do honor to the law of God, nor has anything occurred in the history of our world that has done so much to maintain its authority and binding obligation, as his death on the cross, in the place of sinners.

21. his righteousness—not His people's, but His own; Isa 42:24 shows that they had no righteousness (Isa 45:24; 59:16). God is well pleased with His Son ("in whom My soul delighteth," Isa 42:1), "who fulfils all righteousness" (Mt 3:15) for them, and with them for His sake (compare Isa 42:6; Ps 71:16, 19; Mt 5:17; Ro 10:3, 4; Php 3:9). Perhaps in God's "righteousness" here is included His faithfulness to His promises given to Israel's forefathers [Rosenmuller]; because of this He is well pleased with Israel, even though displeased with their sin, which He here reproves; but that promise could only be based on the righteousness of Messiah, the promised seed, which is God's righteousness. Is well-pleased, to wit, with you; or, as this word is most commonly used, hath a good-will to you or to this people; which may be understood out of the following verse, as is very usual in sacred Scripture. The meaning seems to be this; Although thou art a wicked people, that rebellest against the clearest light, and therefore God might justly destroy thee suddenly; yet he is very unwilling to do it, and will patiently wait for thy repentance, that he may be gracious unto thee. For his righteousness’ sake; not for thy sake, for thou deservest no such thing from him, but for the glory of his own faithfulness, in fulfilling that promise and covenant which he made with thy pious progenitors for themselves and for their seed.

He will magnify the law, and make it honourable; he will maintain the honour of his law, and therefore is not forward to destroy you, who profess God’s law, and the true religion, lest his law should upon that occasion be exposed to contempt. The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake,.... This may be either understood of what the Lord had done for these people in time past, and which is mentioned as an aggravation of their stupidity, disobedience, and ingratitude; he had delighted in them, and chose them above all people upon the earth, and distinguished them with his favours, which he did for the sake of his own righteousness or faithfulness to his promises made to their fathers:

he magnified them with the law, and made them honourable (a); gave them a law which made them great and honourable in the esteem of others; see Deuteronomy 10:15 or it may be interpreted of what the Lord would do hereafter, either in a way of grace and favour; that though they were now so ignorant and disobedient, yet in the times of salvation, in the days of the Messiah, these blind shall see, and deaf shall hear, not for their sakes, but for his righteousness sake; when he will magnify his law and make it honourable, and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of him; this way go the Jewish commentators: or rather in a way of judgment, that the Lord would be well pleased in glorifying his justice or righteousness, in the rejection of such a blind and stupid people, who refused to receive the Messiah, against so much light and evidence; and would "magnify the law", and support the authority of it, and "make it honourable", by punishing the transgressors of it; but I am inclined to think that this has respect to a remnant among these people, according to the election of grace; or to the Lord's people in common, whether Jews or Gentiles, with whom he "is well pleased", or in whom he delights. The Lord is well pleased with his Son, and with him as his servant, as Mediator, for his righteousness sake, as in Isaiah 42:1 to which there may be some respect; and he is well pleased with all his people as considered in him; the love he bears to them, is a love of complacency and delight: the choice he has made of them; the things he has laid up for them; the care of their persons in Christ, and salvation by him; the marrying of them to him, and the taking them into his family, show how well pleased he is with them: he delights in them, as they are regenerated and sanctified by his Spirit; the exercise of their graces, and the performance of their duties and services, are acceptable to him through Christ; his presence with them, the fellowship with himself he grants unto them, the account he makes of them as his jewels, fully demonstrate his well pleasedness in them: but this is not on their own account; for they are polluted and loathsome creatures in themselves, guilty of sin, deserving of wrath; and not for any righteousness of their own, which is imperfect, filthy, and not answerable to the law; which, instead of being made honourable, is dishonoured by it; there is no justification by it, and no acceptance with God through it; but for the sake of the righteousness of Christ, which is perfect, pure, and spotless; which justifies from all sin, and makes comely and beautiful, and glorifies the justice of God, as well as his righteous law, as follows:

he will magnify the law, and make it honourable: that is he for whose righteousness sake God is well pleased: the law of God is great and honourable in itself, from the author, matter, and usefulness of it; and it becomes more so by Christ the Son of God being made under it; by his perfect obedience to it, and by his bearing the penalty of it, in the room and stead of his people; and by holding it forth in his hands, as a rule of walk and conversation to them; by all which it receives more honour and glory than by all the obedience of creatures to it, angels or men, though ever so perfect.

(a) "magnificabat (eum) doctrina et reddebat magnificum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "magnificum illum ficit lege et condecoravit", Vitringa.

The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. The verse reads: It was Jehovah’s pleasure, for His righteousness’ sake, to magnify instruction (or, Revelation) and glorify it. (see R.V.) Righteousness is to be understood exactly as in Isaiah 42:6; and the verbs “magnify” and “glorify” are subordinate to “was pleased,” expressing that which Jehovah was pleased to do. (see Davidson, Synt. § 83, R. 1.) The only question is whether the reference is to the past revelation in law and prophecy, by which Israel has failed to profit; or to the future glorification of religion by its diffusion among the nations (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 42:6). The last is probably nearest the truth. The verse is not an explanation of the “many things” that Israel has seen and failed to see, but introduces a new thought. It expresses the great purpose which Jehovah had cherished with regard to Israel—to make it the instrument of extending the knowledge of His will to the world. This is the true “glorification” of the Tôrâh of Israel (Isaiah 42:4).

22 ff. shew how this design has hitherto been frustrated by the necessity of imposing chastisement on Israel, till it should learn its true mission.

But this …] Rather, But it. snared in holes] This is no doubt the sense, although a change of pointing seems necessary in the verb, making it a passive (read hûphaḥ for hâphëaḥ). The metaphor is for the captivity, but it is only a metaphor; the prophet does not imagine that a large proportion of the exiles were actually incarcerated in dungeons.Verse 21. - The Lord is well pleased; rather, the Lord was pleased, or it pleased the Lord. For his righteousness' sake; "because of his own perfect righteousness." He will magnify the Law; rather, to magnify the Law - to set it forth in its greatness and its glory before his people. It is not the original giving of the Law at Sinai only that is meant, but also its constant inculcation by a long series of prophets. Israel's experience (ver. 29) had included all this; but they had not profited by the instruction addressed to them. The delivery takes place, and the whole world of nature undergoes a metamorphosis, which is subservient to the great work of the future. "I make waste mountains and hills, and all their herbage I dry up, and change streams into islands, and lakes I dry up." Here is another example of Isaiah's favourite palindromy, as Nitzsch calls this return to a word that has been used before, or linking on the close of a period of its commencement. Jehovah's panting in labour is His almighty fiery breath, which turns mountains and hills into heaps of ruins, scorches up the vegetation, condenses streams into islands, and dries up the lakes; that is to say, turns the strange land, in which Israel has been held captive, into a desert, and at the same time removes all the hindrances to His people's return, thus changing the present condition of the world into one of the very opposite kind, which displays His righteousness in wrath and love.
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